No, the cloud is not dead

If you think cloud hype is bad, cloud-is-dead hype may be worse. There’s nothing like declaring something dead to get attention. For example, this recent article in Wired. I’ll give Jeremy Hsu credit: he probably didn’t write the headline. Nonetheless, it’s an article in search of conflict.

TheĀ Wired article introduces the concept of edge computing to its readers. The idea behind edge computing is simple in concept: move the computation closer to where the consumer is: the edge of the network instead of a central data center(s).

Edge computing has great benefit in certain situations. Latency-sensitive applications such as mobile augmented reality (e.g. Pokemon Go) do better the closer the compute is to the user and their data. In fact, if all the computation can happen locally (e.g. on the user’s phone), that’s the best scenario. I don’t like Hsu’s example of self-driving cars, though. Cars that require a network connection to avoid running into things are cars that do not belong on the road.

But even with edge computing having solid use cases, that doesn’t mean a thing for the idea of cloud computing. First of all, there are still plenty of cases where edge computing doesn’t make sense. Centralization allows for greater economy of scale, which is great for many applications. Secondly, compute demand doesn’t decrease. More computing at the edge doesn’t mean less computing at the core, it means more computing total.

Now the rapid growth in cloud usage (and thus revenue) can’t go on forever at the current rate. At some point, it will level off and reach a steadier rate of growth. That’s the nature of the market. But it’s a mistake to equate maturity with death.

Disclosure: my employer is a leading public cloud provider.

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