Everyone has heard the story that public cloud services will totally destroy enterprise IT, leaving data centers vast, presumably cooled, wastelands. Everyone except perhaps the cloud enthusiasts also know that's certainly not true today, nor is it likely to be true even in 10 years. Still, public cloud services will wreak some massive changes in networking and IT, and it won't take a decade for those changes to show up in planning and budgets. They'll not be exactly what you expect, either.
Anyone who looks closely at cloud services developments over the last year will see that we're redefining what the cloud is. It's not a replacement data center, or even a separate one, but a new IT model that subsumes all hosting into a common pool of resources and distributes applications across the pool based on performance and pricing policies. Want an easy way to visualize the "cloud of the future?" Think of it as a giant virtual computer, one that absorbs all applications and resources and starts just inside the network connection of every user.
Networks no more?
The first impact of this giant-computer model, since it starts where the users connect, is that it absorbs all of the network. What's a company VPN for if not to connect its users to IT resources? Well, in our giant-computer model, there's nothing to connect. In a cloud-modeled enterprise, all of the resources are, virtually speaking, right at the user's edge and all the network connections are either access connections to the cloud or connections within it.
This model will develop for two reasons. First, as worker empowerment shifts to exploit mobile broadband, public Internet connections will create the last mile to users. Second, cloud providers will gradually begin to work with network operators to first connect with VPNs and second to interconnect themselves across high-QoS trunks. This will gradually shift enterprise "VPN" service to being a connection to this multicloud "connection bus." In effect, the result is a virtual-network-operator (VNO) model for wireline networks, with the cloud providers being the virtual operators for future services.
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