By now, you’ve heard about cloud computing. Your email server lives in some rural datacenter. Your IT operations team has had a shrinking budget for 10 years straight. You are living and breathing cloud computing.
You’ve probably heard about the “internet of things” (IoT) buzz/trend, too. Your refrigerator should be able to order milk from Amazon.com when you’re about to run out. Your car should drive you to work, and not vice-versa. Etc.
The two trends – cloud computing and IoT – have created similar misconceptions about what’s new and what’s business as usual.
For both cloud computing and IoT, from a user perspective, one could argue that nothing has changed in the past 30 years. After all, notwithstanding The Matrix, only “things” have ever been connected to the internet. I can’t plug my finger into an RJ45 connector. So what’s so special about the Internet of Things?
Similarly with cloud computing: it’s not all that different from the Unix time sharing systems that Bill Gates and Paul Allen got started on in the 1970s. So what’s new?
One thing that’s different and notable about the cloud computing and IoT trends is scale. That is, it’s not special that computers are connected or that some run here and some run there. What’s special is that the number of connected computers is increasing exponentially.
Another thing that’s different is that the relative cost of computing is falling. Cost structure is, in essence, the foundation of cloud computing. And cost (surprise! it’s all about money) is one of the themes that relates cloud computing to IoT. Lower cost, and the continuous miniaturization of integrated circuits, is allowing computers to be manufactured at scale in more shapes and sizes. An example of this is the “wearables” trend – you can have an internet-connected computer woven into your socks.
Finally, what do you get when you increase the number of internet-connected devices by several factors? A security challenge! Sadly, despite the best efforts of researchers, security and connectedness are not bedfellows when it comes to the internet.
So, when you read about cloud computing and IoT, sift through the hype, and keep in mind what’s actually changing: cost and scale.