What is cloud computing? Will "the cloud" really have that huge impact on the way you and I use the Internet? In this MasterNewMedia compilation of George Siemens' reports and discoveries, you can find the insight and ideas that may help you to make greater sense of what cloud computing really is all about.
Photo credit: Saporob
[...] a paradigm shift whereby details are abstracted from the users who no longer needs knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure "in the cloud" that supports them. It typically involves the provision of dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources as a service over the Internet.
What this means for common Internet users like you and I, is that all of our data will increasingly reside on online services and not a local physical hardware storage device like a hard disk, a CD-ROM or a USB key.
Microsoft, for example, has launched this year a version of their Microsoft Office 2010 suite which allows you not to buy anything from the store, and to access the full application directly online.
Adobe has also released a web version of Photoshop that does not force you to install anything on your machine.
And these are just a few examples of the direction that the big software houses are following to shape the market in the next few years.
In this MasterNewMedia collection you will find the top key trends and highlights on cloud computing as selected and reported by George Siemens during this past 2009.
by George Siemens
CommonCraft explains Cloud Computing in Plain English. It is a (very) broad overview of cloud computing, explaining it from the perspective of a business owner. But it seems unsatisfying and too simplistic.
Most internet users have experienced some aspect of "the cloud" (in some ways, the cloud is a return to mainframe computing where storage and computation are not local) in their daily online interactions.
Major software companies are pushing their data and software online - Google Docs is a great example… and Microsoft is releasing an online version of Office in 2010 (I initially thought Live.com would be MS counter to Google Docs, but the service only allowed users to upload and share documents, rather than collaboratively edit).
Cloud computing is a nebulous concept - is it a service? A concept? A technology? A series of protocols?. Currently it basically means "whatever our software company is doing right now" - just like Web 2.0 in the mid 2000's.
Stephen Downes (in addition to hurling the odd grenade my way) consistently demonstrates the ability to provide innovative and critical commentary on concepts that many people accept on the surface.
His most recent presentation on The Cloud and Collaboration is a good example.
The talk (short - only 20 minutes) juxtaposes neural architecture and functioning with existing models of collaboration in society. He makes a compelling argument: if we use the "global technological / networked brain" as an example, then we need to base it on an accurate understanding of how the brain actually works.
If it is neural structure we desire, then we need to rethink privileged / star individual mentality in society and in learning. As he puts it, there is no head neuron in the brain. Toward the end of the talk he moves into a discussion of socialism (unrelated, but humorous: Ze Frank on Labor Day and Socialism) and attributes of networks.
"Minus all the acronyms, that (allowing IT to connect to an isolated set of AWS resources to a data center using a VPN connection) means that Amazon has created a hybrid cloud that can work securely for the enterprise, balancing the need for encryption with the low cost and scaling power that the cloud provides."
Personal learning environments (PLEs) are subject to criticism about data and identity being splattered all over the internet. In contrast, a learning management system is centralized and structured, under the control of the organization.
I wonder how well some of the data and security concerns now being expressed about PLEs could be managed by services like Amazon's VPC. At minimum, increased privacy would address concerns expressed in enterprise use of cloud services.
A related post criticizing Google's lethargy in cloud services suggests Amazon may be a greater competitor than Google currently acknowledges…
Like many people, I store much of my data in what is very loosely called "the cloud".
The freedom of not being tied to one device is great.
The cloud model is still a bit undeveloped, however. It is undeveloped in terms of definition:
Cloud computing needs to be defined more clearly if we are going to talk about it meaningfully.
A recent report suggests that the end user experience of clouds is problematic as services like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google "suffer from regular performance and availability issues". With certain services - such as Gmail - down time is rare. With other services - such as Twitter - it is almost a given.
Cloud computing is still a recent development. I do not think current headaches differ much from the painful desktop computing experiences of the late '80s.
I have found personal benefit to moving more and more of my information into "the cloud".
The development of smart phones over the last several years makes this model of data creation / access particularly valuable.
All is not well, however. Jonathan Zittrain states:
"But the most difficult challenge - both to grasp and to solve - of the cloud is its effect on our freedom to innovate.
The crucial legacy of the personal computer is that anyone can write code for it and give or sell that code to you - and the vendors of the PC and its operating system have no more to say about it than your phone company does about which answering machine you decide to buy...
This freedom is at risk in the cloud, where the vendor of a platform has much more control over whether and how to let others write new software."
An API is at best a pacifier to sedate the majority, but it is a far cry from open source.
To paraphrase Mark Pilgrim: open enough works for running programs now, but it is a long term sacrifice of freedom.
Cloud computing has been a common, but somewhat subdued, topic on technology sites. The cloud metaphor is appealing, though what it exactly means is still somewhat unsettled.
In a technological sense, cloud computing refers to a service-view of computing, where technical details are largely hidden from end users. Which means, it is driven by financial considerations, as companies can extend their infrastructure without heavy investments in personnel or technology.
I am more interested in the impact of cloud computing. How will my communication and information processing habits change when I do not need to confine myself to a particular computer? What types of software do I need when I do not want to be tied to a particular laptop? So, I have decided to embrace the cloud.
On my University of Manitoba blog, I will be posting my experience to move to device neutral computing… where I have access to what I need as long as I have an internet connection. First post - Year of the Cloud: "My goal: To be device neutral by the end of 2009. Any data accessible in any device from anywhere."
About George Siemens
From late 2009, George Siemens holds a position at the the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute in Athabasca University. He was former Associate Director in the Learning Technologies Centre at the University of Manitoba. George blogs at www.elearnspace.org where he shares his vision on the educational landscape and the impact that media technologies have on the educational system. George Siemens is also the author of Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age and the book "Knowing Knowledge" where he developes a learning theory called connectivism which uses a network as the central metaphor for learning and focuses on knowledge as a way to making connections.
George Siemens -
Cloud Computing In Plain English - Marketspace
The Cloud and Collaboration - Krisdog
Virtual Private Cloud - The Olive Press
It Is Raining In The Cloud - The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian's Weblog
Beware The Cloud - Desinformado.com edited by Daniele Bazzano
Year of The Cloud - Piksel