Ultra-fast computing for everyone?
How a new era of enhanced cloud computing is rendering many devices obsolete, says Colin Thornton, MD of Turrito.
For those who haven't noticed, Internet connectivity is getting faster. Just how fast and robust the connection is always depends on where you live and work. But, worldwide, Internet speeds are accelerating.
According to a 2018 report by Ookla, an Internet analytics company, the world's average mobile download speed of 22.82 Mbps increased by 15.2% in 2018, while mobile upload speed increased by 11.6% to reach 9.19 Mbps. Additionally, the world's average download speed on fixed broadband was 46.12 Mbps, 26.4% faster than in 2017; while upload speed increased by 26.5% to 22.44 Mbps.
For both businesses and consumers, faster Internet speeds are propelling a global shift towards enhanced cloud computing and a diminishing reliance on 'traditional' hardware. Indeed, the faster connectivity gets, the less intelligent and complex hardware and devices need to be. We can already see this happening in the online gaming world, with Google's new cloud gaming platform Stadia. The platform, dubbed an early beta of the future of gaming, will stream games from the cloud to the Chrome browser, Chromecast and Pixel devices. Stadia's processing power will sit entirely in the cloud (ie a data centre) as opposed to in the gaming hardware itself.
This is nothing short of revolutionary because in the past, gamers have needed very expensive machines with top-end graphics cards, lots of RAM and powerful CPUs to have the kind of experience that Stadia will offer. The same applies to graphic designers, video editors, architects and more. So, as sophisticated cloud computing becomes more entrenched, the need for complex hardware across use cases will decrease. On the other hand, ultra-fast Internet connectivity will become essential.
Rethinking the hardware equation
There can be no doubt that the growing reliance on cloud computing will change the face of the traditional IT hardware industry. Already, businesses have to begin to think differently about their hardware procurement and Internet connectivity solutions. This cloud-driven transformation can enable huge increases in productivity, while also decreasing costs, provided that businesses plan ahead intelligently.
So what needs to change?
To begin with, many businesses still choose their connectivity solutions based on the advertised speed (eg 100 Mb). However, as reliance on the connectivity speed increases, this will no longer be good enough.
Businesses should be asking their Internet providers (ISPs) how contended the line is, ie How many other users share it? Another key consideration is latency: How long does it take to send and receive data from a specific place?
When having these discussions with their ISPs, businesses must have a clear understanding of their most critical applications and where they sit in the overall IT equation. For example, if an architectural firm intends using Amazon Web Services to host and process their CAD software, then they'll need to choose connectivity which has the lowest latency to Amazon.
Investing in a cloud-based future
Although this fundamental shift in computing will not immediately be tangible in the South African context, it will probably start becoming more relevant in early 2020. As a result, businesses must take the cloud revolution into account when considering any expensive hardware purchases and long-term connectivity contracts.
Arguably, businesses should look more carefully at cheaper and less powerful machines/devices. And with the threat of rolling blackouts (load shedding) always ominously present, choosing micro computing devices and less power-hungry hardware is a smart move.
From a cost perspective, IT support costs will likely decrease because managing the hardware on-site will become simpler. That said, the cost of having ultra-fast Internet (which is managed properly) should be factored in.
Powerful computing for everyone
Looking ahead, the era of enhanced cloud computing and sophisticated streaming capabilities will transform the way we work and learn. In the past, hardware costs limited accessibility. Soon, that will no longer be the case.
Within video editing and production companies, for example, there is often just one very powerful machine in the office for rendering video. Now, everyone can potentially have this computing power at his or her fingertips.
The same can happen with architects who render high-res 3D images of their building designs. And the effect on education could be enormous, as suddenly a school can offer these types of practical applications to students (without having to purchase hundreds of expensive and power-hungry desktop computers).
As with any major technology shift, however, organisations have to buy into the long-term vision in order to truly reap the benefits.
About the author
Colin Thornton founded Dial a Nerd in 1998 as a consumer IT support company and in 2002 the business-focused division was founded. Supporting SMEs is now its primary focus. In 2015, his company merged with Turrito Networks, which provides niche Internet services outside of the local network. These two companies have created an end-to-end IT and communication solution for SMEs, from supplying a laptop right through to designing and delivering a fibre connected geo-redundant hybrid-cloud solution. This type of end-to-end service was typically only possible for enterprise customers, but now SMEs, mid-market organisations, homes and schools can benefit too, for a fraction of the cost. Thornton has subsequently become the managing director of Turrito.