Here, There, and Everywhere
Certification Magazine|October 2020
Distributed cloud computing is bringing the cloud closer to all of us
REENA GHOSH

The growth of distributed cloud computing is one of research and consulting firm Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020. Gartner defines a distributed cloud as “the distribution of public cloud services to different physical locations, while the operation, governance, updates, and evolution of the services are the responsibility of the originating public cloud provider.”

This implies a geographically dispersed network of small clouds outside the cloud provider’s data center, with the provider being responsible for operating, managing, and securing cloud services across the distributed cloud network. The distributed cloud model thus enables a network of multiple clouds with processing capabilities outside the cloud provider’s central data center.

Distributed cloud provides for the extension of cloud services comprising a combination of hardware and software, such as applications, tools, platforms, security, services, and infrastructure, to customers’ data centers and devices at the edge. Computer resources, storage, and other components at these sites are linked to the provider’s cloud data centers.

According to Gartner, the cloud provider in a distributed cloud model is typically responsible for designing, architecting, distributing, managing, and updating these hardware and software components. Gartner expects that, by 2023, major cloud providers will develop a “distributed ATM-like presence” to deliver a subset of their cloud services for applications for which latency is critical.

Conception and growth

The emerging distributed cloud model represents an evolution of traditional centralized cloud computing to regionalized or geographically spread-out cloud computing services located as per application needs. Why is there a need to decentralize cloud computing services?

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are changing the enterprise IT environment. Increasingly, organizations are moving some of their data processing operations, along with required infrastructure, from traditional enterprise data centers and single clouds to other on-premise data centers, multiclouds, and the edge in order to improve performance and security.

Currently, organizations deploy most of their workloads at enterprise data centers and in the traditional cloud, with roughly 10 percent of enterprise data processing taking place outside these locations. Gartner expects this to increase to over 50 percent by 2022. This trend toward distribution of cloud solutions is growing.

With edge-based computing on the increase, enterprises need to enable data processing at or near the point where data is generated on IoT-enabled or other devices at the edge. This can be challenging for enterprises with a vast national or global network. The distributed cloud model, with its network of small clouds that enable local processing, addresses this problem.

Distributed cloud computing is still in its infancy. Most experts predict that the distributed cloud model will develop in three phases:

Phase 1: The cloud provider will adopt a like-for-like hybrid approach to deliver some services in a distributed mode.

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