Since the advent of the internet, digital technology has changed life and work more than any other factor. Today, businesses of every type, shape and size are told they must “transform.” And while that means something different for each business, during the past decade the cloud has evolved to provide capabilities of the kind we expect from the applications we enjoy in our personal lives.

Of course, the cloud itself has little value. But when used in conjunction with other advances changing the face of modern technology — such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and quantum computing — the cloud enables innovation to happen more easily and quickly than ever before. The nature of its scale, flexibility and speed to deploy make it powerful for solving business problems that have traditionally been difficult or even impossible to master.

Innovation can simply mean getting better at what you currently do, or it can mean whole new products, revenue streams or business models. That’s a lot to consider, but the major benefits fall into two distinct areas.

Freedom from legacy architecture

The reason we need all of this functionality from our applications is to access and analyze data, and our capabilities to do that are increasing at warp speed.”

The purest forms of cloud allow businesses to simply “rent” an application or resources as needed, providing them with new, albeit external, services on the spot. For those integrating with existing systems, serverless architecture is the latest advance, giving a company’s developers the ability to create and deploy applications without thinking about legacy infrastructure.

Serverless goes beyond the concepts of containers and microservices to adopt a model in which the infrastructure is truly abstracted. It makes applications more efficient and easier to develop and maintain, because they are only executed when triggered by a specific event, and then de-provisioned. That also means faster deployment cycles and significantly lower total costs, making them an attractive way to experiment with and roll out new applications. Yes, servers will need to be involved somewhere, but many enterprises may opt to delegate the ownership of any type of infrastructure to their cloud provider full scale.

Superior data intelligence

The reason we need all of this functionality from our applications is to access and analyze data, and our capabilities to do that are increasing at warp speed. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing and other advanced analytics technologies allow businesses to understand, learn from and respond to the data they have on hand.

Only pairing these capabilities with the cloud, however, allows for economies of scale, unlimited storage and true visibility into the largest data sets in the world. This makes possible consumer successes like Amazon Echo and Netflix recommendations as well as the ability to do remarkable things like mapping genes for cancer research and detecting internet security breaches before they happen.

As data volumes grow, the need for traditional compute functionality in the cloud will be so large that it can never be built. Thankfully, quantum computing has arrived, and it promises to revolutionize the cloud. What quantum computing provides is massively parallel processing, atomic-level storage and security using the laws of physics rather than external cryptographic methods.