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How The Cloud Ends Obsolescence
Breaking the cycle of maintenance, upgrades and capital replacement with cloud services

By: John Shepler

Managing technology is a lot like trying to swim upstream. Stop for even a breather and you start getting dragged backwards. Wait too long and you look up to see all your competitors way upstream while you’re moving downstream toward the waterfall.

It's Always Going Obsolete
This is the thing about technology. It’s moving like that stream. As soon as you buy any device or any system, it is already going obsolete. The longer you use it as-is, the farther out of date it gets. At some point you find that what you have is no longer being supported or that it only partially works anymore. Oh, the hardware is just as good as the day you bought it. The problem is that you can’t access the latest resources or that your perfectly functional hardware platform hasn’t got the horsepower touse the most up to date software.

The PC Experience as History
We’ve went through this for a generation with the PC. Every few months, the next model came out with more RAM and a faster processor. Everybody talked about how many Mbps and then Gbps their CPU clocked. My first PC was an 8-bitter that could only address 64 KB of RAM. Wow, did I feel powerful when I got all the memory sockets loaded with that much memory. That euphoria lasted until the 16 bit machines hit the market and raised the bar from KB to MB. Now, memory is in GB and disk storage is in TB and processor speeds have flattened out around 2 Gbps, with more processors on-board to increase throughput.

Have you noticed that things have slowed down a bit in the PC wars? The machine you buy this year isn’t necessarily going to have 5x or 10x the number of cores as last year’s machine. You won’t be moving up from 2 GB to 10GB or 100GB of RAM any time soon. Anybody entertaining the necessity of a 10 or 100 TB hard drive on their desktop?

Enter, The Cloud
What’s happening is that the battle is moving to another front. PCs, tablets, smartphones, and laptops & notebooks are at the point where they can support what you need to do with a shift in the model of how its done. Software is on the way out, apps are on the way in. Overreaching all of this is doing everything remotely in the cloud.

Shifting the center of activity from the PC or other device to the cloud doesn’t reduce the computing or storage requirements. It just shifts them to a central point where they are easier to provision and maintain. Your local computing device becomes a computing device in name only. The bulk of the work is being done elsewhere. You simply need the resources to properly display and interact with the system in the cloud.

Bandwidth Issues & Solutions
The battle that is going on right now is the battle for bandwidth. Connectivity is the new choke point. Whatever near-infinite capacity the cloud has doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get to it. Your Internet, SIP trunk or dedicated line service has to have the capacity to become transparent in the process. As long as you can perceive a latency or congestion in the path to the cloud, everything will run no faster than this weakest link.

Bandwidth, particularly mobile bandwidth, is what has cloud services stymied and both carriers and the FCC in a near-panic. It is starting to dawn on individuals and companies alike that the cloud is the place to compute everything, store everything, access everything, and even do functions like telephone switching. If the cloud service provider takes care of maintenance, updates and provisioning capacity, you can get out of the business of technology management. No more worrying about upgrades, patches or adding hardware resources. It’s all being handled invisibly behind the scenes in the cloud. Now, if only we could get to the cloud.

The wireless bandwidth issue is going to be on a steep learning curve for a long time. The near term solution will be a mass migration to LTE and its advanced versions. It’s going to be years before everybody has enough bandwidth available that they stop fretting over how much bandwidth they have available. Carriers will bring fiber to the cell towers as fast as they can get it installed. The FCC will divert bandwidth to the wireless industry as fast as they can pry it loose from other services, even if that means paying license holders to sell their claims for auction.

For many businesses, the connectivity issue isn’t that dire. Bonded T1, Ethernet over Copper, Ethernet over Fiber and SONET fiber optical services are more available than ever and muchlower in cost per Mbps than only a few years ago. If you are eyeing the cloud with the thought that you’d be better off with hosted services than trying to keep up with managing all the technology yourself, you’ll be happy to know that getting there is a lot easier and less expensive than you might expect.

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