What can we expect from the cloud technology landscape in the coming year? Quite a lot. Here are a few (four to be exact) cloud technology predictions.
1. “Good enough” security will still be the order of the day
In August of 2014, hundreds of high-profile (ahem) intimate photos of celebrities were published following a targeted breach of Apple’s iCloud photo storage service. In October, SnapChat was hacked, exposing data that users of the services were promised wasn’t permanent. In November, Sony Pictures Entertainment was breached, to the tune of 47,000 employee social security numbers, countless embarrassing executive emails and an international incident that affected relations between the US and North Korea. And that’s before we talk about repeated theft of financial data in 2014 that spanned nearly every major retailer in the US, from Target to Home Depot and dozens of other companies in between.
And yet, we continue to share more and shop more and store more in the cloud every day. The public barely batted an eye at all of these high-profile data breaches because, in the case of financial data, it was the retailers and credit card companies that bore the cost of the fraud. And in the case of exposure of personal data, unless it was your data exposed, the average person considers such exposures just another display of celebrity garishness. Nude celebrity pictures obtained by software hacks as opposed to paparazzi with telephoto lenses are a distinction without a difference.
So it will all happen again.
Yes, cloud vendors don’t want to have data exposed, if only for liability purposes. But the security necessary to make cloud services effectively bulletproof from breaches will make those same services much more onerous to use. Consumers and business users alike already complain about password strength requirements, and almost no one uses the two-factor authentication already on offer. Making cloud accounts more secure will also make them less popular, and more expensive to support. Odds are, risking the occasional breach that the public barely notices will be better for business than rolling out a truly secure authentication process that the public hates every time they log in.
If you want a secure cloud account, you’ll want to add some third-party tools to your system. And that won’t change in 2015.
2. Vendors will try to compete on features, not price
The last thing that cloud service providers want to become is what Internet service providers already largely are—dumb pipes bringing in a commodity. The last thing Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure want is to become interchangeably equivalent systems that are forced to compete on price. Each more sophisticated front in this battle—Google Apps vs. Office 365, Box vs. Dropbox, Salesforce vs. NetSuite—will remain an escalating battle of features. The alternative is a race to the bottom, and every cloud vendor will do everything they can to avoid that fate in 2015, and every year going forward.
3. Voice interfaces will be the biggest enterprise feature in the quality war
Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, Amazon just brought out Alexa and Google has had, well, “Ok Google” for a while now (on the inside, they call her Majel, which is a pretty great joke if you’re a Star Trek nerd). All of these consumer-facing voice interfaces will make inroads to the enterprise in 2015, with voice-print biometrics gaining ground in security systems, voice-based analytical search popping up in the CFO’s office, and employee training systems incorporating voice quizzes in their online courses. Above all, cloud systems will start letting companies offer voice interfaces on their own websites and apps, making it possible for Siri and Alexa to find your products faster via voice search, and Cortana or Google to offer your data-rich services at the merest word. If cloud vendors want to avoid becoming dumb pipes, they’ll need to learn how to listen better and speak well in 2015.
4. The big players will continue their acquisition sprees
Continuing the notion that cloud vendors want to be feature-rich at every turn, the recent trend of every major cloud corporation—from Amazon to Facebook to Google to Apple to Salesforce to Microsoft and beyond—to acquire every upstart cloud app and service in sight. Salesforce bought RelateIQ last year, Facebook bought WhatsApp and Oculus VR, and Google acquired Nest Labs and Songza. While not every app in the Google Apps Marketplace and the Salesforce AppExchange will be bought by Salesforce or Google, many will, and the apps that do their best to play well on any platform may find themselves platform-exclusive in 2015, especially if they’re any good at what they do. Be prepared to migrate your data off a service on your favorite platform, because it may become monogamous with another cloud vendor. That’s just another reason you want a separate copy of your cloud data at all times.
Those are some of our predictions for the cloud in 2015? Agree, disagree or have a prediction of your own? Share it in the comments section.