Are You Ready for the Bottomless Cloud?

Imagine for a minute that I’ve just transported you back to 1958. There are barely a handful of computers in the world and perhaps a few thousand users. These are enormous computers with glowing vacuum tubes, wires tangled about like an old fashioned telephone operators mega sized switchboard that take up entire rooms. Now what if I had told you, in 1958, that by 2020 we would have more than ten billion computers – more than one for every person on the planet, and—wait for it—over seven billion would fit in your pocket or purse?

What would your response to me have been? Or would you have been writhing in the floor, convulsing from laughter at my ridiculous view of the future?

And yet, here we are, at exactly that place!

So, what will the next 70 years look like? Well, in The Bottomless Cloud, my co-author Tom Koulopoulos and I show that if we continue on our current trajectory, the same one we’ve been on for the past 70 years, we will end up with 100 times as many computing devices as there are grains of sand on all the world’s beaches! Outrageous, right? And yet, I’d claim that this is less of a stretch than to have projected where we’d be today in 1958.  Computing chips are being embedded in everything from thermostats, cars, cameras, appliances… even my fridge has several microprocessors. I haven’t counted the number of devices in my house that create data, but it’s dozens at least.

Amidst all the discussions about smart devices, autonomous vehicles, mobile networks, and automation, one thing that isn’t often discussed where all that data is going to be stored.  The sexy part is in the creation of the data. And equally exciting are the opportunities presented by AI and data analysis. But not so sexy, but fundamentally important, is the storage of the data, particularly the cost of storage and speed with which data can be ingested.

The creation, storage, and analysis of data will be the fuel of innovation for nearly every major technology advance to come. From facial recognition, to predictive  maintenance, to advertising, the promise of AI and machine learning is transforming our lives. But without the ability to store enormous quantities of data at ever lower costs is the foundation on which all of this depends.

The first generation of cloud storage, what we call “Cloud 1.0,” is too slow and too costly to meet the exploding demand for capacity.  And it’s too slow. 10 years ago when products like Amazon S3 were designed, the rate of data production was a fraction of what it is today.  As we point out in the book,, the cost of data storage associated with a fully autonomous vehicle could exceed the cost of the vehicle itself by 10x based on today’s storage costs.

That’s because we are still using an industrial age lens, built on the economics of scarcity, to view the opportunities that the cloud creates for a future of limitless data; it’s the equivalent of trying to compete using waterwheels to power a modern factory.  For example, I can remember not too long ago my CIO would blow his lid any time my email consumed more than 100MBs of storage.  This is the “scarcity” model where the storage of data is viewed as something to be minimized. The new way to look at is to keep everything and focus on ways to extract value from knowing that everything is there forever. Data storage becomes the new electricity – a cheap and abundant resource that powers everything. We call this “The Bottomless Cloud.”

In the same way that electric power and the evolution of utilities fueled the growth of industrialization and the incredible innovation of the 20th century by allowing companies to focus on what they were best at rather than the generation and management of power, The Bottomless Cloud makes data storage an easy to afford pure utility.  It’s cheap, simple, reliable, and easy to use. Complexities like multiple tiers of storage, punitive egress fees, and nickel and dime usage charges – all typical of Cloud 1.0 storage – will give way to a far simpler and cheaper Cloud 2.0 model.

The Bottomless Cloud challenges the scarcity-driven mindset by taking a hard look at how industrial age business models are failing us by regarding data as a cost that needs to be constrained, rather than an near infinite resource that can be mined to build entirely new sources of value. From Uber, to Nike, to Netflix, The Bottomless Cloud is defining the tenets of success in the 21st century by changing the way we view data.  Data is moving from being a byproduct of business to being the source of value that drives new business.

I’m thrilled to have teamed up with my long-time colleague Tom Koulopoulos to write The Bottomless Could and to provide business leaders with a clear and straightforward understanding of the incredible power of the cloud and a world of data abundance; it’s an entirely new way to think about the value and the role of data in building tomorrow’s enterprise.

The Bottomless Cloud provides a compelling vision of a future in which data abundance will alter nearly every aspect of how we live, work, and play.

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