What is the cloud and why are so many companies moving to it?

Nov 8, 2016

A lot of ink has been spent talking about the Cloud over the last few years. From a simple innovation in the late 2000s, the Cloud has become an everyday tool, both for individuals and for enterprise users.

 Many IT leaders have gone all-in for the cloud, giving it a huge boost via massive investments.  They have all done so in their own way with clearly distinct objectives, but always aiming to achieve scalability in order to keep up with the exponential growth in online-transferred data. An analysis shows that companies are slowly, but surely, moving everything to the Cloud.

Public Cloud: the leaders

Google has developed its Cloud offering by aiming it at high-growth startups. Effectively, Google has a presence at virtually all major tech conferences, promoting its suite of tools aimed at developers. Google decided to bet the farm on young hot shots with entirely web-based business models that experience runaway demand for data in order to keep up with their companies' growth.


Evidence of this comes from the fact that three out of six start-ups studied experienced hyper-growth: Spotify, Snapchat, and Wix.


For its part, Microsoft has developed a Cloud offering that (out of necessity) integrates its suite of tools, including Office 365 and Microsoft Workplace. As such, Microsoft's main targets are companies that run on Windows. Surfing the wave of a monopoly that it built on the back of its operating system, which, itself, was built into every PC on the market, Windows targets lesser start-up focused companies that are a little bit more mature than those targeted by its rivals at Google. For a company that already uses Windows, the Microsoft Cloud is therefore an attractive tool. There's a reason why the Microsoft Cloud has earned its place as one of the three leaders in a market worth hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide.


AWS Hosting: a godsend for e-commerce hosting

Finally, the third-market leader came along thanks to a good story in the way the internet usually manages to come up with them. The story is that of Amazon, the world's first global e-commerce website, which needed to strengthen its internal infrastructure to  address its constant growth and the servers it had to procure.


A little flashback to the year 2000, when Amazon's executive team decided to recruit a few engineers to enhance their infrastructure. After bringing together all internal projects aimed at improving their server management, then appointing an experienced manager to oversee it all, Amazon developed its first Cloud to manage its traffic peaks - a familiar issue in the world of e-commerce. Therefore, its infrastructure became flexible and on-demand as far back as the 2000s, which really set them apart in their sector. Without really realizing what it had done, Amazon had unwittingly developed one of the first e-commerce clouds ever (if not the very first - which would make the story even better!)

As Amazon's servers were hyper-optimized, the leading e-commerce site found itself stuck with a number of unused servers. So, why not resell this space to other online retailers or other companies that needed their own Cloud? That was the origin of Amazon Web Services, one of the world's leading Cloud providers. Today, AWS is a company in its own right, with annual revenue of 10 billion dollars, and is growing even faster than Amazon's retail business. The strength of AWS lies in its ease of use, but also in its resilience its rapid scalability, just how it was envisaged sixteen years ago. Amazon is therefore one of the best providers to support your journey into the Cloud.

The benefits of the Public Cloud

At the outset, the purpose o the Cloud was to manage traffic peaks and to outsource data storage to make life easier for IT departments. Today, the Cloud has entered a mature phase. Businesses can use the Cloud from their inception in order to manage all development in an agile, collaborative manner.

This is demonstrated by Forrester's estimate that the value of the Cloud market will reach 191 billion by 2020, whereas it was 58 billion in 2013.


This explosive growth is explained by the extensive benefits that the Cloud offers.

According to a KPMG study carried out in 2014, of 539 senior managers who were surveyed, cost control was cited as the number one reason for adopting Cloud technology. The second reason is linked both to a change in the nature of the labor market and the technological emancipation of employees. In effect, modern employees are mobile and want to access their work documents from anywhere, at any time.

This means being able to work remotely and send a document to a client via a smartphone following a business meeting or, quite simply, increasing employee satisfaction with their working environment, and these are just some of the reasons that drive companies to use Cloud computing in their IT strategies.


After adopting a Cloud solution, the companies that were surveyed deployed this technology for a wider audience, citing significant improvements in terms of performance, automation and, once again, cost control.

The challenges facing the Public Cloud

The Cloud offers many benefits, but there are some challenges to overcome when an enterprise adopts technology of this kind.


Unsurprisingly, security and data theft are the primary concerns in relation to the Cloud. Let's not forget that the Public Cloud, at its heart, is no more than sharing of servers. In other words, the enterprise is putting its trust in infrastructure where it will host all its data.

The three leading Clouds under discussion do not give rise to any particular security issues as, historically, they are companies that have always made cybersecurity one of their priorities. On the other hand, a little known and little used cloud can have vulnerabilities. Happily, there is a solution for this, and customers can add their own security layers. A relevant example is when a part of the AWS infrastructure encounters a problem, a plethora of well-known websites experience downtime.

AWS architecture: why is it so innovative?

In the early days, AWS was of interest to SaaS companies or online retailers with their teams of developers who were always at the cutting edge of new technologies in order to improve their daily operations. Since then, AWS has made a monumental effort to attract major international corporations. The most striking example is Veolia, which has decided to migrate 80% of its applications to AWS by mid-2017.

Pierre Kerrinckx, Veolia Water Technologies' Cloud transformation manager, explains the reasons for the change: "We have gained performance and we also believe we've improved our security. It would be difficult to obtain the level of reporting on the topic provided by AWS with a local application."

Beyond the Cloud, AWS now offers applications that replace well-known software packages. For example, Veolia was won over by Redshift, which replaces Oracle. A few years ago, that too would have been inconceivable. Veolia also rated AWS's Glacier service highly, which is of particular interest for major corporations that need to store large volumes of rarely used data. The cost of storage is very low and, on the other hand, the customer can transfer the desired data in a few hours.

In other words, AWS provides virtually everything that a corporation needs, always with a view to gaining scalability and flexibility - which is a huge boost for behemoths such as Veolia, Airbnb, Slack, Vodafone, or even Adobe, all of which are satisfied AWS customers.

The Amazon Web Services infrastructure is leading a revolution in the Cloud computing sector. The revolution started with classic, on-demand server virtualization a few years ago, and continues with new innovations that attract the interest of major corporations. Cloud computing has now become a standard approach. Flexible, scalable, and cost and resource-effective, this technology is a must-have for all IT companies but also for major corporations which can regain crucial agility that they had lost. So what if big corporations became sexy again? AWS isn't far from making that crazy bet pay off.

Aymeric Aitamer

Aymeric Aitamer

CEO & Co-Founder at Artifakt, Aymeric is ex-CTO of the web agency DND and has 10 years of experience in web development.