Looking into the crystal ball, I see a few things happening with cloud by 2020: call it 5 years out.

First, cloud will transform into more of a utility and a grid of computing power. Second, we’ll see a much deeper manifestation of the core characteristics of cloud computing, especially with regard to flexible capacity, consistent access, and high portability. Third, I anticipate a lot of activity in machine-to-machine transactions and communications (call it IoT if you like). Fourth: superesilient applications. Fifth: compute traded as a commodity. And finally, within 5 years, I think IT and the overall business will come together to actually take advantage of these technologies. Read on for more detail.

Cloud Computing in 2020

1. A utility and computing grid

In 5 years, large companies will still hang on to their datacenters to run some services. However, with security more robust, I think that corporations will make available their own computing resources as much as they consume cloud resources – just like some households generate their own electricity and sell it back to the grid. I think Cisco’s Intercloud concept has an angle on this.

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The Cleveland Clinic is beginning a pilot program with a cloud service based on IBM’s Watson cognitive computing technology to aid its research into new cancer treatments.

IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty, speaking Wednesday at the 2014 Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit, said researchers at the clinic will use IBM’s Watson Genomics Analytics to advance the use of personalized medicine based on the patient’s genetic makeup.

With better analytics and cloud access to information, scientists and oncologists are hoping to be able to deliver personalized medicine to patients. By cutting through the daunting big data challenge of genomics, researchers can uncover new individualized cancer treatments based on patients’ specific DNA mutations.

“The potential for leveraging the capabilities of Watson’s cognitive computing engine in personalized medicine could not be timelier,” said Dr. Charis Eng, chairwoman and founding director of the Lerner Research Institute’s Genomic Medicine Institute. “Clinicians will benefit from the knowledge and insight provided by Watson in the care of their patients,” Eng said.

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The Department of Homeland Security plans to try a novel identity check model that lets citizens put a freeze on their Social Security numbers.

That comes after lawmakers have pushed for a mechanism that locks down SSNs, so they can’t be used by immigrants to steal identities and fake work eligibility to gain employment.

The MyE-Verify tool became available Oct. 6 in select states and should be rolled out nationally by the middle of next year, officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Friday.

Now, in a twist, the agency is seeking a cloud-services provider — such as an Amazon or Microsoft — to host the backend of the ID verification system, while DHS runs the public website.

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For the longest time, small businesses felt like little Davids as they tried to compete with the corporate Goliaths of the world. With smaller staffs, budgets and tools, it was hard for the small guys to stand up to the giants. However, tech advances like cloud computing in recent decades have helped level the playing field, and the Davids are now able to ditch the sling and stones for some much better equipment.

One of the greatest keys to an organization’s success, big or small, is its ability to foster a culture of creativity. Adobe recently conducted a survey of global companies throughout various industries and found that one of the greatest indicators of a company’s success was its ability to innovate.

Many companies recognize the importance of innovation, and are trying to incorporate innovative ideas and practices into their culture in the hopes of motivating and inspiring their employees. The hard part is finding where to start. The smaller guys wonder what they can do to improve their culture and the effectiveness of their employees, without spending a fortune. It’s a fair question, as they are still struggling to create their own identities and develop their cultures. One benefit the little guys have over Goliaths is their ability to adapt. Large corporations are often blocked by structure, tradition and bureaucracy, leaving them less able to react to emerging trends. This kills innovation. Without these hurdles, smaller companies can quickly embrace new technologies and trends in order to gain an upper hand.

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Cloud computing isn’t merely changing the way much of the technology business works. Now it is changing itself, and putting even more computing power in more places.

On Monday, Microsoft, which operates one of the biggest so-called “public clouds,” or large and flexible computing systems available for remote rental, announced several changes to its data storage and processing services that will make them more powerful.

Microsoft also announced a partnership with Dell to sell a kind of “cloud in a box,” or hardware and software that created a mini-version of Microsoft’s cloud, called Azure, inside a company.

The idea is that a company could work with its own version of Azure, then easily move up to the giant version Microsoft has to handle big workloads. Hewlett-Packard may be after something similar with its effort to create a private-public cloud business based on the HP cloud, which uses a kind of open source software.

What all of this means is that cloud computing, which makes it easier to tie more things to computers and more easily manage software, is starting to appear in even more forms and types. Within each corporate proposition, including Google and Amazon, as well as Microsoft, HP and others, there appears to be an increasing trend toward offering more flexibility. Generally it’s done by abstracting what were functions of specialized hardware into more easily altered software.

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The Government Printing Office aims to complete a migration to Microsoft cloud email services by the year end, the agency’s chief information officer said Tuesday.

GPO is the first legislative branch agency to make the move to the cloud. The printing office will use Microsoft 365, which is already in place at numerous executive branch agencies.

Legislative branch agencies — which include GPO, the Government Accountability Office and the Library of Congress, among others — are not required to comply with executive branch directives, such as the cloud-first policy.

This could be a reason these agencies have been slower to adopt cloud email.

“I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before other agencies in the legislative branch also move to cloud email,” the printing office’s CIO Chuck Riddle told Nextgov. “Obviously, the legislative branch is quite a bit smaller, but we talk about trying to incorporate best practices like this.”

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Boston University announced plans to develop a smart-city cloud platform designed to streamline and strengthen multiple municipal functions. The Smart-city Cloud-based Open Platform and Ecosystem (SCOPE) project aims to use cloud and big data technologies to improve transportation, energy, public safety, asset management and social services in the City of Boston and across Massachusetts.

“Today’s cities are increasingly being challenged – to respond to diverse needs of their citizens, to prepare for major environmental changes, to improve urban quality of life and to foster economic development,” said Azer Bestavros, director of the university’s Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science and Engineering and SCOPE’s principal investigator.

“So called ‘smart cities’ are closing these gaps through the use of technology to connect people with resources, to guide changes in collective behavior and to foster innovation and economic growth.”

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Californians will soon be able to text 911 during emergencies. 

A bill recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will allow people to send videos, photographs and messages to 911 dispatchers instead of calling them. 

The California Office of Emergency Services believes being able to text 911 will increase safety for all Californians. States such as Vermont have already implemented text 911. 

Officials say that calling 911 is still preferable to texting, because dispatchers are trained to gain information over the phone that would be difficult to get from text messages, such as background noise. However, there are certain situations where texting would be better than calling. 

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Seven years ago, the state of Delaware started moving computer servers out of closets and from under workers’ desks to create a consolidated data center and a virtual computing climate.

In doing so, Delaware, nicknamed the First State, became the first state to move to cloud computing, in this case storing its data, operating systems and applications on centralized servers and giving agency employees remote access to the servers via the Internet. But this system is about to run its course as the state’s servers reach the end of their useful lives.

Delaware now is about to take another big step into the cloud. It’s looking at relinquishing management of its computing infrastructure and turning it over to an outside company to handle for a monthly fee. It’s a leap to the so-called “public” cloud, where the computing is done by a third party. The First State’s foray into the cloud is one many other states are undertaking, as officials increasingly shed their skepticism and yield to the promise of the cost savings.

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Open data-powered innovation programs are well established in cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco, but state governments have been slower to join the movement. The size and structure of state governments — along with limited direct contact with citizens — has made it harder for them to engage civic hacker communities.

But growing state interest in data analytics and data sharing also is sparking more state-level open data initiatives and civic hackathons. Data-oriented topics were front-and-center at the NASCIO Annual Conference this week in Nashville, and a number of state CIOs are launching open data efforts intended to drive innovation in service delivery and spur economic development.

For instance, Minnesota CIO Carolyn Parnell says she’s expanded her focus on open data and innovation. Speaking on a NASCIO open data panel on Monday, Parnell said her state established an open data portal in 2011, but the information sat largely unused. “Someone had set it up so we would have a site, but it was pretty meaningless,” she said.

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