We live in an age where we not only yearn for miracles but have in some cases come to expect them. Consider the Homer Simpson classic wherein Moe is marveling about how his new deep fryer “can flash-fry a buffalo in 40 seconds,” and all Homer can offer is a whiny “But I want it NOW!“
In light of that, perhaps my first thank-you item should be that Homer’s not real — well, I mean, he’s “real” but he’s not an actual carbon-based life form.
So why would anybody be grateful for the cloud? Isn’t the cloud just giant data centers and flashy new applications? Some people say the cloud’s not even a new idea, that it’s been around for decades under the name “time-sharing” and so on.
Well, I think that misses the whole point of not only the cloud but what the cloud has come to mean in our lives. So please I hope you will please allow me, at this holiday time, to try to explain why I think the cloud has nothing to do with the ancient art of “time-sharing” and why it is much, much more than data centers and snazzy apps.
The cloud has become, I think, a state of mind, an outlook, an attitude. An optimistic perspective on life and what’s possible. An expander of ideas, an accelerator of dreams, a crusher of pessimism, and the kryptonite for cynicism.
Because the cloud has changed and continues to change our view of what is possible, what is impossible, and of the boundary separating the two. Here’s what I mean:
1. Pharmaceutical Development.
For decades, we allowed ourselves to believe that an immutable law of physics mandated that new drugs take a minimum of 10 years and $2.5 billion to develop and get to market. But the Covid vaccine was developed in less than 12 months, in large part because of the unprecedented power of cloud computing and advanced analytics and the innovative ways in which researchers could circumvent the old ways of doing things. As this new capability is deployed more broadly, think of the lives that will be saved, extended, and enriched.
Not so long ago, one of the “moats” that giant companies could build around themselves to ward off smaller competitors was to simply spend far more on advanced information technology (IT) than those other companies could. But the cloud has overthrown that brittle model and ushered in the opportunity for companies small, large, and in-between to tap into mind-blowing computer power and innovative tools and insights. That means the customer wins, and that’s a very good thing for everybody.
3. Supply-Chain Miracles.
Yes, over the past few years we all dealt with some supply-chain disruptions that ranged from inconvenient to disastrous. But I marvel not so much at what was broken, but at the ways in which big and small companies across industries and across the globe used cloud-based technology to not just rebuild what they had but to re-imagine and optimize new global supply chains purpose-built for the Acceleration Economy. And it sure as hell didn’t take five years, the way such huge projects used to — in many cases, the fixes were made in less than five quarters, and most are self-improving as they go.
4. From Imagination to Expectation.
I don’t want to overdo the Homer Simpson thing noted above, but I think it’s good to take a moment now and then to reflect on the ever-shrinking gap separating what we can dream up, and what we can do or have in a remarkably short period of time. From food to medical products to new educational opportunities to transportation options to financing, we have unbounded options at our fingertips. The cloud has been the delivery instrument for all that unbridled human imagination and innovation.
5. Possible and Impossible.
Back in prehistoric times when I was in 10th grade, we spent eight weeks in biology class memorizing the names of 50 types of birds pictured in two pull-down charts. Now, who’s to say I have not been enriched by being able to recall that the cowbird was just to the left of the ovenbird? Because my goal was not to really learn the birds’ names but to be able to put down the right answer when, at exam time, the teacher pointed to one of the little feathered darlings. Imagine what extraordinary adventures 10th-grade biology students can have today, thanks to modern technology, into the lives of birds and other animals and humans as well. Now, that’s enriching.
6. Access to Opportunity.
Kids around the world have these same new adventures at their fingertips in not just biology but math and coding and literature and art and music. And in entrepreneurship connected across villages, cities, and even countries.
7. Better Health for Billions.
The cloud is enabling more people in all parts of the globe to tap into new types of medical services and expertise and is also playing a huge role in the transition from treating illnesses after they happen to preventing them before they have a chance to cause harm. We are only beginning to get a glimpse of what’s possible here — imagine the benefit to countless numbers of people in the next several years!
8. Unleashing Entrepreneurship.
The cloud offers incredible access to not only unlimited computer power but also to ideas, to possibilities, to funding, to connections, to customers, to distribution channels, to marketing, and to new partnerships. And I find it immensely uplifting to watch the emergence of an entrepreneurial community where the big differentiator is what you can do versus whom you know or how much money you have.
9. Quantum’s Dawn.
I think most people would look at the stuff outlined here and think, “That’s a lot of innovation, and a lot of potential, and a lot of reason for optimism.” But by this time next year, we will begin to get glimpses into the staggering power of quantum computing, which will be both humbling and awe-inspiring. But without the cloud, the power of quantum computing would be locked away to all but a few giant organizations around the globe, and would be as distant from you and me as the next galaxy. The cloud will deliver the power of quantum to all of us, and in ways that are still unfathomable.
10. The Power of Optimism.
We certainly face a number of challenges in this complex world of ours and the media-saturated environment of 2022 can make it seem like this is the worst of times. But none of the challenges we face is new — generations before us have faced up to and overcome much worse. So as we step up to do the same, I believe that having the cloud in our toolkit is a reason for great optimism, spurred by all the points I’ve raised above. As what was impossible gives way to being possible, as what we could only dream of becomes real, and as the opportunities formerly available to only the few become readily accessible to the many, well, if that’s not grounds for optimism then I don’t know what is.
Happy Thanksgiving, my dear friends, and may you and your families and friends have an unforgettable holiday.
To see more Cloud Wars content, including all recorded sessions from June’s live Cloud Wars Expo, please register here for your Cloud Wars Expo on-demand pass. The on-demand pass, which is included with your Acceleration Economy subscription, gives you access to approximately 40 hours of invaluable educational content from last month’s event.