The Cloud Journey: Moving from Adoption to Greater Optimization and Utilization
Cloud computing has become the virtual bedrock for today’s business and consumer applications as well as future offerings on the service horizon. Cloud plays a pivotal role in digital transformation and has literally reshaped global data centers. While this is widely understood, I believe the real challenge for cloud providers, businesses and consumers in 2016 and beyond is not just about cloud service adoption. We’ve already seen tangible improvements in data center efficiency and increased scalability, business users benefitting from more economical “as-a-service” delivery models, and billions of consumers moving their content to cloud storage solutions. Cloud computing has become a preference (not just a standard) in many IT environments. The challenge is not adoption, but realizing the full potential and breadth of what data center virtualization and cloud technologies can enable. As we move into a significantly more connected world, where we want to support many new “things” and applications, we are starting to see a greater need for computing and connectivity capabilities closer to the users and the things. The industry continues to explore the possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) as they move toward connecting and utilizing disparate IoT devices. Ultimately, this will require more innovation at the network edge with higher performance capabilities from fixed and mobile access
Major strides are being made with PaaS (Platform-as-a-service), IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-service) and SaaS (Software-as-a-service) on cloud platforms. PaaS is the set of tools and services designed to make coding and deploying those applications quick and efficient. IaaS is the hardware and software that powers it all – servers, storage, networks, and operating systems. Containers and virtual machines are being used to utilize more and more applications into the cloud. SaaS applications are designed for end-users, delivered over the web.
Machine Learning and Big Data are changing how developers build smart applications to customize user experience. Cloud computing is making the job easier for everybody, both web/mobile developers and data scientists interested in building complex data workflows.
To understand cloud readiness further, numerous factors that influence end-user behaviors and Internet access are examined in the Cisco Cloud Readiness paper. There are many intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence the adoption of cloud computing, and make some countries and regions more cloud-ready than others. As more and more applications are served to the end users, the focus shifts to the end user readiness as to how many of these applications they are able to consume with the broadband capabilities available to them. End users armed with a plethora of devices and things are mostly unaware of where their data travels to, is processed, stored and returned from. End user mobile and fixed broadband download and upload speeds and latency are therefore key to the optimum end user experience.
We don’t generally use cloud applications in a singular fashion, but rather in random and concurrent ways as part of our daily online routines. With the Cisco Cloud Readiness Tool update as a part of the Cisco Global Cloud Index (GCI) study, one can select a number of cloud applications from the list available to see which country networks are able to deploy those applications with an optimum end-user experience. This year, two new applications were added, Augmented Reality (AR) gaming in the “Intermediate” applications category and Virtual Reality (VR) streaming in the “Advanced” applications category. The category definitions are available in the “Concurrency” tab of the tool. More number of countries are able to support advanced cloud ready applications compared to the prior years.
From a fixed networks perspective, there has been tremendous progress made from 2015 and 2016 in end user network performance, and 132 countries have met the single advanced application criteria for the fixed networks compared to 119 countries last year, as seen in Figure 1.
And this progress has been steady over the past years.
Nearly 300 million speed test records from over 200 countries have been analyzed based on data collected from Ookla’s speedtest.net. There has been a steady increase and growth in average fixed download speeds and average upload speeds as well better average latency performance across the board. Below is a sample set of leading countries from all regions, with increase seen in experienced average fixed download speeds from the years 2011 to 2016:
Figure 2: Average Fixed Download Speeds in Mbps (2011-2016)
All the major trends that are much talked about this year, AR, VR, IoT, big data, analytics, rely on the end user cloud applications and readiness experience. As the plethora of IoT devices come into use, one of the measures of understanding the quality of the IoT/broadband/cloud connection is not just the average speeds and latency, but also the median speeds which is also a common descriptor of the typical broadband user’s experience in a country. We also observe an increase in median speeds over the past few years, across the board. For example, in looking at the United States’ 2016 distribution of speed tests along with a sample scenario of three applications in concurrent use and comparing it to the 2015 average and median speed test distribution along with a different sample set of three applications, the improvement from 2015 to 2016 is evident.
Figure 3: 2016 Average and Median Fixed Download Speeds – United States; Sample scenario of three applications in use
Comparing it to the speed tests distribution in 2015, there has been improvement in experienced median speeds as well as average speeds in Mbps.
Figure 4: 2015 Average and Median Fixed Download Speeds – United States; Sample scenario of three applications in use
Similar strides have been made in the mobile networks performance over the past years, the Cisco Cloud Index (GCI) study delves into deeper details and findings.
Are these network improvements enough? Think about your own experiences. Do you still have experience slurred/degraded calls on cloud-based VoIP connections? Have you gotten delays in downloading videos served from the cloud or lags during online cloud gaming sessions? Even in advanced, mature Internet markets, these things still happen. More investments and improvements need to be made for the up and coming connected car vehicle-to-vehicle communication, smart cities, healthcare with robotic surgeries, immersive VR streaming and other applications where tactile Internet capabilities with higher speeds and lower latencies will need to be ubiquitous. Tremendous progress has been made and we continue to stand on the shoulders of the Internet pioneers that have built the networks of today. From this foundation, new approaches and solutions will support fresh waves of innovation that will disrupt every industry and connect people and things like they have never been connected before.