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Is cloud computing the ‘future of the future?’

Published: 
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

 

At the National ICT Business & Innovation Symposium recently, Jeremy Geelan, president of 21st Century Internet Group Inc concluded his keynote address by saying, “Cloud computing allows you to create and if you can create, you can be what’s next.” 
 
The lecture, entitled The New Cloud Enabled World, aimed to illustrate the many benefits of cloud computing. Geelan, who is also the conference chair of the International Cloud Computing Conference & Expo, refers to himself as a “domain expert on the future of the future” ie The Cloud. 
 
Cloud computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data rather than a local server or a personal computer.
 
When he rhetorically asked the audience, “Why move to cloud?” his answers included these reasons: unlimited processing and storage, elasticity, maximised revenue, reduced cost, expedited time and the ability to do more projects. 
 
To support his claims, Geelan provided some statistics on Internet usage. According to Geelan, in the early days of the Internet during the 1990s, there were approximately ten million users. Now, the Internet has more than one billion users, he said. This growth is also visible by looking at Web sites: a little over a decade ago there were one million Web sites—a number which has now leaped to 100 million. The number of Internet connected devices now stands at five billion and
 
Geelan believes that estimate is conservative. As further evidence, Geelan pointed out that the file-hosting site Dropbox, founded only in 2007, had 100 million users with one billion files saved every two hours. 
 
One of the possibilities Geelan posed to the audience was the problem solving power of using cloud: “If every car in T&T had an IP address it might be very easy to figure out why traffic is such a problem,” he suggested.
 
The cloud-enabled concept car, Evos, revealed by US motor company Ford earlier this year can track driver preferences, work schedules, music and weather information and it also allows for coal data to be shared through vehicle-to-vehicle communication. 
 
While Geelan offered examples of many businesses and organisations that were 100 per cent cloud operated such as Amazon, Coca Cola, Maersk and even the US Central Intelligence Agency, Guardian technology columnist Mark
Lyndersay believes the road to full cloud dependency is still far reaching, particularly in T&T. “Now that enterprise is looking into the cloud model for more everyday tasks, there are a number of issues that are coming to the forefront. Data security, broadband accessibility and reliability, and depth of Internet penetration become critical factors in doing business this way, which is quite a conceptual jump from individuals making use of services on the web,” he said via e-mail. 
 
“There’s a huge conceptual jump between having a Facebook page and running your business off a cloud based service and that’s where the evangelising of cloud computing solutions has become critical.” 
 
Apart from security risks, Lyndersay also pointed out that cloud computing was not exactly a new phenomenon. “The real challenge that cloud computing proponents face is that they aren’t really introducing a new product. The concept of cloud computing has been growing around us for several years now, long before it was formalised as a name and a decade’s worth of young people and reasonably experienced web users have come to expect data held on servers on the Internet as part of the overall computing experience.” 
 
Geelan proffered that cloud computing was an example of the “democratisation of IT” making access to services, learning and even funding easier, particularly for those living in T&T’s rural areas. He said T&T may be ahead of the curve because business technology is now becoming social technology and the high saturation of smart phones in T&T could be the turning point. 
 
However, Lyndersay was not convinced that the proliferation of smart phones and other mobile Internet connected devices was a sure sign of progress. “I’m not sure that it’s true to describe T&T as being ahead of many countries in the saturation of smart phones. Such devices only get their intelligence with a broadband connection and that’s still quite far from reaching saturation point,” he said.
 
Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data rather than a local server or a personal computer. The name comes from the use of a cloud shaped symbol used to represent the complex infrastructure it contains in system diagrams. Cloud computing entrusts remote services with a user’s data, software and computation. Consumers access cloud based applications through a Web browser or a light-weight desktop or mobile application while the business software and user’s data are stored on servers at a remote location. Cloud computing relies on sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economies of scale similar to a utility, like electricity, over a network.