Cloud Computing, You are Probably already doing it. By dan.elder (firstname.lastname@example.org) Imagine the amount of fat, bloated programs that hog your computer’s storage and itonly seems to grow. Or those wonderful digital cameras and digital video images you have beencollecting for the last couple of years. And you wouldn’t want to forget about videos, podcastand other rich media that you just want to hold on to like a digital packrat. So much so that itseems we have to yearly buy larger hard drives, more memory sticks or add portable storagedevices to hold all our files like the 21st century version of a time capsule. When it comes to anorganization, especially a large one, those costs in hardware and software all translate tomoney. Well along came Cloud Computing and unless you have been paying close attention youmay have never heard the term, but you might have been doing it for a number of years. Cloud Computing is best explained as IT capabilities offered as a service. The Cloud is along-used word describing the Internet, but when used with Computing some believe the termis not often understood. To add further confusion, Cloud Computing is similar, but distinctlydifferent from another concept called Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). In comparing the two, anApril 2008 Gartner report differentiates the two as “cloud computing refers to the biggerpicture…basically the broad concept of using the internet to allow people to access technology-enabled services. SaaS is software that’s owned, delivered, and managed remotely by one ormore providers.” I don’t do any of that, so how the heck can I be using this stuff, you wonder? Well, tomake it easier to point out and identify, Hotmail, YouTube and Photobucket are typical CloudComputing services. You, the user, actually place your email, video or digital images in “theCloud” by uploading them to a site hosted and administered by a third party. No fuss, no muss.You don’t have to install any hardware or software, just click a button and the text or is placedin the Cloud, along with the storage burden. Besides the obvious space savings, anotheradvantage is that the files (or emails) are available to you from anywhere you have access, athome, at work, or while on the road. SaaS is no slouch, either. Imagine not having to pay the costs of installing MicrosoftWord, Powerpoint or Adobe Acrobat on your machine, but still having all that capability? Oneof my favorite SaaS sites which allow me to write documents and make presentations from myweb browser is Zoho (zoho.com) and they are all Microsoft compatible. I also use Scribd(scribd.com) to convert my documents to a cross-platform format file (pdf) that can be viewedby PC and Mac users alike on the web or downloaded to my own storage device. For work I canuse AKO for email or DCO Adobe Connect for collaboration, all services that I use but don’town. Imagine a reduction of the site licenses, seat space and the like if industry andgovernment were to solely use Cloud and SaaS applications? According to Mike Nelson, visiting professor for the Center for Communication, Cultureand Technology at Georgetown University and a former tech policy advisor for U.S. President
Bill Clinton, Cloud computing is "as important as the Web was 15 years ago. We dont have anyidea of how important it is, and we dont really have any clue as to how its going to be used."Just think of what you use online, booking an airline, mapping out your travel route, banking, orany of the other services your perform in the Cloud, you can understand the depth ofcapabilities-based computing. Microsoft SaaS architecture expert Gianpaolo Carraro noted that “...in 2008 SaaS … willgrow faster inside the corporate boundaries than outside.” When thinking of the enormity ofmanaging an enterprise domain like within the NIPRnet (and by extension all military networks)consider the burden that organizations are under for software upgrades, adding patch fixes andproviding IT support. One can only begin to imagine the savings in time, people, and equipmentin an Enterprise-wide approach to Cloud Computing and SaaS applications. That is not evenspeculating on the effect to industry and the individual. But in this era of increased security it goes without saying that securing that data will beof great concern. A recent IDG News Service article by Grant Gross notes "Cloud computing willsoon become an area of hot debate in Washington, D.C., with policy makers debating issuessuch as the privacy and security of data in the cloud." Ari Schwartz, vice president and chiefoperating officer of the Center for Democracy and Technology notes that "despite the growingnumber of people using cloud services such as hosted e-mail and online photo storage, manyconsumers dont understand the privacy and security implications." Galen Gruman summed it up best in “What Cloud Computing Really Means” by notingthat "Cloud computing comes into focus only when you think about what IT always needs: away to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure,training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses anysubscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends ITsexisting capabilities." For the end-user, it just makes good sense.