Why today’s cloud news is tomorrow’s table stakes

Something I thought about a lot while writing about OpenStack yesterday is how much OpenStack democratized access to cloud computing in just a year. Whereas cloud choices were once limited to a handful of service providers and software products, OpenStack opened the doors to many providers of both products. Now hosting providers and software vendors can leverage the work done by the OpenStack community to get the foundational cloud elements they need with little to no investment, and they can expend their resources on adding value.

With access to cloud computing software being made available to everyone, more providers can get in on the tremendous amount of revenue that the cloud will generate. We’re already seeing such offerings pop up from Internap, Citrix and others. Presumably, customers will reap the rewards of OpenStack usage in the form of lower costs because their service and/or software providers were able to get into the game with less up-front investment on non-differentiated capabilities.

Of course, the reality in all this is that cloud computing itself, pre-OpenStack, was all about democratizing access to computing power. Companies and developers no longer had to invest large amounts of capital up front to pay for servers that might only see action during heavy-traffic periods. And departments no longer had to wait three weeks for IT to provision and configure a new server for a test application — they could get one, or dozens, in just a few minutes.

Software-as-a-Service products have proliferated because cloud computing lets startups get a business started for next to nothing, relatively speaking, and it lets business grow organically.

But OpenStack is just one example of how cloud computing, much less information technology overall, is undergoing a period of arguably unprecedented democratization. As I put together my quarterly news wrap-up and analysis for GigaOM Pro over the past few weeks, I noted this trend on a macro scale, too. In just the past few months, open-source and enterprise-grade Hadoop distributions came to market at a rapid pace, cloud providers lowered their prices even more and SaaS and PaaS offerings of all types kept emerging, offering once-expensive software and services for next to nothing. Facebook even made building your own data centers and servers a do-it-yourself project.

What comes next is anybody’s guess. As cloud computing and big-data technologies and resources become both ubiquitous and free (or as close to that as you can get), they will enable an incredible amount of opportunity. At some point in the near future, the stories will stop being about technology and will instead be about entirely new applications and business models built atop that technology.

We will only know that Hadoop exists under the covers of a new consumer smart-grid application, for example, because geeks like me will care to ask. But like the LAMP stack for web applications today, we will probably be able to assume it’s there. To provide the capabilites and costs that tomorrow’s end users will require, Hadoop, cloud computing and other new technologies will likely have to be there.

You can read the entire quarterly wrap-up — and draw your own conclusions from the past three months of infrastructure news — here.

Image courtesy of Flickr user bjornmeansbear