Benedict Evans on the Digital Transformation enabled by Mainframes and Machine Learning.

From Mainframes to Cloud: How Computing is Changing Again

The transition from renting mainframe computers to owning client-server architectures marked a significant turning point in computing. Not only did it change the way data was processed and stored, but it also resulted in the emergence of standalone businesses that focus solely on software. Fast forward to today, as more and more companies move to the cloud – owning hardware is replaced by renting, and this shift is revolutionizing the way software is acquired and used.

The Cloud: A Gateway to a Wider Arsenal of Software Solutions

When a company buys software, it now involves acquiring a URL, a login, and a corporate credit card. With cloud technology, this process no longer involves getting on the IT department’s deployment schedule for the next three years. Instead, businesses can now leverage a broader range of software offerings from different companies. Some larger organizations, such as Okta’s clients, have an average of 175 different apps in use. This number could even be an understatement, as up to half of the software used by big companies is not even acquired through their IT department.

Solving, Discovering, or Creating New Problems

With a wider variety of software resources available, businesses now have a greater potential to solve, discover, or even create new business problems. Most enterprise software effectively tackles workflow challenges in specific industries or departments. These issues would never have come to light if experts with particular knowledge did not raise them. Furthermore, modern technologies and concepts are repeatedly being deployed, with value realized from both fresh and long-established innovations. Adobe’s acquisition of, which captured current trends in productivity, is one example of this.

From Giant to Startups: Generating Opportunities for Innovation

Because of the prevalence of cloud technology in various industries, it is forcing even big players to think and act as startups. For example, Vodafone, with its millions of customers and services available in several countries worldwide, has to pay for 2.6 million invoices every year. Though its processes are digital and probably run on Oracle software, what would be accomplished if Vodafone started from scratch today? How many opportunities would this generate? Other giant companies have similar stories, and Google is likely to be one of those. Speculations suggest that Google has already ceased using Oracle in favor of SAP.


The shift to the cloud is changing how businesses acquire and use software. However, with a wider range of software products available, companies have a better chance of solving problems, discovering new opportunities, and developing new frontiers in innovation. This shift has led to big companies like Vodafone thinking and acting like startups. As cloud technology evolves beyond its capabilities today, we can expect more significant developments in the future and more exciting shifts, which we hope to see in the years to come.

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