Businesses large and small, governments new and old all had to completely change what they do and how they operate. Helping us to manage this dramatic change was technology. Whether it was Blackboard continuing our children’s education, Zoom becoming our business boardroom (and our pub), or Netflix being our night out at the movies, we relied on technology to help feed our families, teach our children, collaborate with co-workers, even entertain ourselves after yet another day in the house. Rather than slow us down, 2020 accelerated our shift to a digital world and I anticipate we won’t go back any time soon. Thanks to this acceleration, from my vantage point, 2021 is going to be a launchpad for all kinds of change, and here are some of the areas that will be driving it.
Prediction One: Cloud will be everywhere
The days of all cloud capabilities being centralized in data centers are beginning to disappear. You can find cloud-based applications helping to boost the performance of ships out at sea, aircraft traversing the sky, and in our cars and homes. Access to the compute and storage of the cloud is spreading out of dense data centers and reaching into rural communities, remote wilderness, and even nearearth orbit. Practically speaking, the cloud is going everywhere.
Today, AWS has regions and Points of Presence (PoPs) that enable cloud technologies to be closer than ever to customers across the world. Customers are deploying devices like AWS Snowball to gather petabytes of data from the slopes of volcanoes in Hawaii and research centers in Antarctica. AWS Outposts, which extend cloud infrastructure and tools into our customer’s buildings, and AWS Local Zones, which put select infrastructure close to where customers need it, are helping those in urban areas to rapidly shrink their cumbersome datacenters. With AWS IoT Greengrass, edge devices can connect with each other, whether that is from inside someone’s kitchen or from the handlebars of a cycle in the gym. As 5G networks expand, operators are deploying Wavelength Zones so application traffic from 5G devices can take full advantage of the low latency and high bandwidth. And when fast connections to the cloud are pushed to the farthest edges of the network, great things can happen.
By removing latency, and conducting more of the compute on the device at the edge of the network, we are beginning to overcome the one limitation that still faces all technology on earth, the speed of light. Those operations that require very low latency—from autonomous driving, to natural speech processing and translation, and the active management of vital infrastructure–no longer need to conduct round trips from remote corners of the earth to a central server. Tasks can now start to happen where the results are needed most. The outcome? Driverless cars become real. You can start to have more natural conversations with services like Alexa. Our factories, homes, and office spaces become increasingly efficient and resilient. And if gaming is your thing, not only will you no longer need to worry about lag hampering your experience, your skills will also be at full strength, wherever you are.
As the cloud extends out of centralized locations and into the environments that we live and work in every day, what we will increasingly see is the same software that runs in the cloud will run close to you, and that will lead to improvements in all aspects of our lives, from healthcare to transportation, entertainment, manufacturing, and more. In 2021, this push to the edge will accelerate.
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