Our heads are all in the clouds these days. And, like the clouds above us, a few patterns and formations have begun to dominate. However, unlike the cirrus and cumulus formations we see in the sky, the shapes in cloud computing trends look an awful lot like what we’ve seen in tech over the past decade. Uber began redefining transit, particularly in urban areas, seven years ago; next came food delivery services, which saw an increase in use during the pandemic; and now, we are seeing this on-demand model transform into a variety of cloud-based services.
On-demand logic is easily translated into the computing space. Unless you’re a billionaire, it’s unlikely that you can afford a private driver who will wait for you and/or bring you food. For the rest of us, we use interfaces like Uber Eats and SkipTheDishes to get on-demand delivery services. It’s not only less expensive, but it’s also more practical and available exactly (and only) when you need it.
Computing power is roughly equivalent. Do you really require it all the time? Yes, large financial institutions conduct stress tests every night at midnight—and yes, they require their own servers. And they have the means to do so. However, most businesses do not require that level of power all of the time, so it is preferable for them to pay for it only when it is required.
What does this “need” entail? For the sake of argument, let us define “us” as those who are not affiliated with the Big Three (Amazon, Microsoft, and Google) or Fortune 500 corporations. Most smaller and/or newer businesses find it difficult to predict when they will require additional computing power; it all depends on the project at hand. Following an on-demand, surge pricing model simply makes more sense when companies have more episodic activity.
When it comes to handling your company’s computing needs, you generally have three options. The old standby of on-premises, or running your own computing, comes first. Second, you could use a hybrid approach, which combines on-site base load computing prep with on-demand cloud scaling. Finally, you could do everything on-demand, which is generally preferred for companies that have a lot of compute-intensive tasks with a defined start and end, such as AI machine learning or render jobs. Whether you use the cloud or not, it’s nice to know it’s available. And cloud-based high-performance computing (or HPC), which allows for complex calculations and data processing at high speeds, is a versatile option. Businesses decide when and how much processing power they require.
The explosion of data over the last few years has been astounding. Both personally and professionally, we are constantly processing, interacting with, sharing, and creating data. Common tasks, such as film editing, necessitate an extraordinary amount of compute power—but as a discrete project with a clear beginning and end, you would only require that power for a limited time.
Because of the proliferation of big data, HPC—or the ability to easily crunch that data—is the cloud’s next big trend. The cloud was all about storage (e.g., your iPhone’s photostream) and hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions—applications delivered via the cloud rather than downloaded locally, such as Adobe’s Creative Cloud or even Netflix—a decade ago. Cloud computing is the next step in evolution. As more new businesses with smaller granularity and budgets emerge, they require more flexible computing solutions. We’ll see a greater reliance on less expensive, on-demand options that don’t require staffing to implement and run.
Here are some compelling reasons why small and startup businesses should consider using the cloud to scale their operations, particularly for compute-intensive tasks.
1. There’s Room for David, Not Just Goliath
The cloud is currently similar to the early internet in that democratization is making it accessible to the masses. The cloud is no longer exclusive to Fortune 500 corporations. On-demand cloud computing empowers startups and entrepreneurs. Lower costs equal better enablement, and this applies to both mature and new businesses.
2. There’s Space for Underdogs
The oligopoly must fall. There is a strong push toward an antitrust movement that could go up against the Big Three in the United States—who have their fingers in far too many pies—sometime soon. This paves the way for smaller businesses to break away. Fairer fights result from technological advancement: The cloud is so vast that it allows for niche expansion.
3. The Supply-chain Problems Are Here to Stay
These issues affect everyone, from gas to air travel to shipping. The cloud provides an opportunity to create something stable and viable in an uncertain world, with the potential to outwit a volatile economy. The supply chain’s geopolitical vicissitudes create a demand for safer data spaces. The global unrest is not going away, and we must devise growth strategies to accommodate it.
Ultimately, even if only used in reserve, on-demand cloud compute is a valuable addition to your toolkit. It liberates you from the labor-intensive, cost-prohibitive constraints of building an on-premise compute-intensive cluster, allowing the next brave startup to scale to a disruptive level. Keep your heads in the clouds, innovators. If it fits your business model, you may want to consider moving your computing there as well.