My Blog is all about technology – hardware and software, both commercialised and emerging technologies. This Blog hopes to bring the academic world together with the world of the tech user and actual tech practitioner. By combining these somewhat disparate worlds together I hope to give people a true and accurate understanding of the world of technology.
In the past, technology, it could be argued, was primarily the plaything of geeks and nerds. (Myself included) But in recent times it could be argued that some pieces of technology have actually become fashion accessories – the iPod being the first of these devices. Enter geek chic.
This makes it all the more important to find the rationale for adopting a piece of technology as tech can almost become a case of form over function at times. This brings me to the first question that make will begin a new series of blog entries….
Why do we use Technology?
Well the answer should be simple. Technology makes things easier for us. It can help save time, money and effort. Technology can take mundane and repetitive tasks and make them automated and certainly easier to do – well it should do.
In 2009 I wrote a research paper for my MBA that focussed on ‘Cloud Computing’. (I always select technology based business subjects) It became quite apparent that my judgement, when making a critical assessment of a piece of technology, had been somewhat clouded (pardon the pun)
Why? – Because, I have a deep interest in any new technological breakthrough that is considered disruptive or could be considered a game changer. Much like many of us tech-heads I have a tendency to bleat on about how cool a new piece of technology is, or could be as the case may be.
However, first lets actually define what is cloud computing? As we all know academics like to attribute concepts with a somewhat long-winded definitions. Not necessarily to be intellectual bullyboys attempting to make people feel silly, but perhaps just to ensure there is no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation. At the time of writing my research paper I came across this definition –
‘Cloud computing is a computing paradigm in which tasks are assigned to a combination of connections, software and services accessed over a network. This network of servers and connections is collectively known as ‘the cloud”. Huu (2009)
What does this mean in layman’s terms? Taking applications, data storage and actual computational power from a local point (Desktops, laptop computers etc) and then using cyberspace as a storage and computational power resource. I.E Moving stuff from your computer to the Internet… as the below image wonderfully illustrates.
It also became quite apparent that ‘the cloud’, as a term, could also be construed as a metaphor for the Internet.
With my research paper being primarily an academic piece of work (whilst also attempting to incorporate practitioner insight and a conclusion that could be useful to the practitioner world) it became apparent that this lack of a firm definition could be very detrimental to my research aim of discovering what actual value and advantages could be derived from the use cloud computing. This fact coupled with the discovery of the following chart muddied the water straight from the outset. A chart that has changed my view of technology forever…ladies and gents may I introduce the Gartner hype cycle.
The Hype Cycle is a graph-based guide suggested by Gartner, a global organisation that specialises in technology sector market research, which seeks to organise and prioritise emerging and disruptive technologies on a two-axis (Visibility and Time) line chart. The actual position of a piece of technology on the curve above, gives an indication of the usefulness and actual readiness of a piece of technology to the commercial market.
Lets go through the 5 stages that new technologies go through according to Gartner,
1. Technology trigger – the emergence of the technology into the public arena.
2. Peak of inflated expectations – early adopters, actual technology vendors and excited tech heads all get in a tizz as they tout or imagine what this technology could do to the sector, commercial market or perhaps society in general.
3. Trough of disillusionment –The technology is now seen as perhaps not as promising as when it first emerged. The high cost could be a barrier to use, perhaps due to the high costs accrued (which must be re-coupled) by the R&D department of a companies or research institute’s budget. Initial applications for the technology have not proved as fruitful or as fit for purpose as was expected. Gutted.
4. Slope of enlightenment – Individuals and organisations start to see the true value of the technology and perhaps view it more objectively and realistically
5. Plateau of Productivity – At this point the technology is no longer purely a buzzword and both the market and its consumers have actually harnessed its latent value. I see cloud computing now being at this point (rather than when I first researched it in 2009) as it is leveraged to give more flexibility in terms of mobile computing. I.E Smart phones, tablet computers etc.
An excellent recent example of this being - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12890677
Below are a few examples of some other cloud based services…
In 2009 when researching into cloud computing I discovered the below hype cycle chart with cloud computing plotted onto the curve.
So, bearing the above in mind I can say I felt a little hoodwinked about cloud computing initially. New tech is great, but it becomes awesome when it actually becomes useful and all the muddying of the water with marketing guff dissipates. This fact is what led to me comment on the iPad as purely initially being a vehicle to purchase content. It was certainly an additional rather then replacement purchase for laptop owners.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love the device and the iPad 2 certainly has some new and handy features that make it an attractive prospect. However, unless one has considerable disposable income (Something this currently poor entrepreneur does not have – boo hoo violins etc) the original device was merely a luxury and could not be justified as an essential purchase.
Anyways, I digress. Back to cloud computing…. So what are the tangible benefits of cloud computing? Well. These can be distilled into 3 points
- Cost savings and financial benefits
- Eco- issues
- Facilitation of mobile computing – accessibility
1. Lets look into the cost savings first. I adapted this table from some data from Forrester Inc, another market research company that specialises in technology sector market research. Yes its business slanted and pardon the use of business terms but it outlines the financial factors to be considered when assessing the adoption of cloud computing rather well me thinks. Especially in the case of perhaps using the Amazon EC2 cloud that can be used to host an organisations data and also allows an organisation to harness the computational power of the EC2 cloud too.
2. Eco and green issues are and always will be an important factor to consider when assessing a piece of technology. For instance I like the discussions mobile handset manufacturers are having about have a common power socket across all models and platforms. It undoubtedly could cut down on all the electrical waste from old chargers as we constantly upgrade to the latest mobile offering. Mind you, here’s one. I remember everyone used to have a Nokia charger lying around the house – bet this isn’t the case anymore as its’ quite clearly a 2 horse race now…Apple and Android. But yet again I go off topic – Mobile computing and smart phones is the next blog instalment…
Eco issues…. Server farms in chillier countries is a great idea as the cooling of massive amounts of servers can burn through energy and cash like its going out of fashion. Adopting a cloud service certainly can certainly benefit the environment by lowering ones carbon footprint - which is a reason as any to get involved.
3. Having all our data and content stored in cloud installations also undeniably helps to facilitate mobile computing as we can be freed from the need of massive data storage allowing smart phone handsets to be sleek, small and sexy. Being able to access our data from anywhere whilst also on the move allows us to be constantly connected to the wealth of resources that the web currently offers.
So it does seem to appear that despite the marketing guff of Microsoft whose CEO, Steve Balmer, actually stated in the Telegraph (2010) that he was “betting our company on a move towards cloud-based software and services”, there can be some benefits to cloud computing based systems and services.
There are however are some negatives to cloud computing based activity - the obvious one being that of adequate provision of data and information security within the cloud. The Data Protection Act 1998 is quite clear about what is expected of those that hold onto our personal records and any other kind of sensitive data. This problem can be addressed if approached and tackled in the correct manner. But more to the point – what do you think? Have we got our heads in the clouds?
Thanks for reading peeps. Hope you liked.