What do we have on the cloud?

 A virtual world of cloud computing

Cloud Computing_visual
"Day 287: Cloud Computing" by quinn.anya is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Cloud computing as an innovation in the information technology field had drawn enough attention since the term “cloud” was first introduced by Eric Schmidt from Google in Search Engine Strategies Conference 2006. He described cloud computing as using portable devices to access data and do calculations on servers that locate somewhere else (Schmidt & Sullivan, 2006).

This innovation provided some companies, organizations, or even individuals more cost-effective ways of infrastructures as long as they have stable access to the cloud. The cloud services could be hired conveniently under pay-as-you-go mode. It also contributed to healthcare and education as being utilized by governments.

However, the essence of cloud computing was transmitting information via the Internet, which means it could not overcome some underlying problems deeply rooted in the online world, for example, the limitation of bandwidth and the influence of Internet stability. When considering stepping into the virtual world, people would also assess the process of transiting from the original business model to the cloud.

The author also discusses the influence of cloud computing in daily life as the various functions and visible advantages might shape the preference of users.

 

The first statement about the essence of cloud computing was done by John McCarthy. He predicted at MIT’s centennial in 1961 that

“Computing may someday be organized as a public utility just as the telephone system…Each subscriber needs to pay only for the capacity he actually uses”(McCarthy, as cited in Garfinkel, 2011).

Later, a widely accepted definition was announced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the U.S. Department of Commerce that stating cloud computing as

“a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources[…]that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction” (NIST, 2011, p. 2).

Cloud computing is a popular solution to the uneven distribution of computing and storage resources in the digital era. When some users leave their resources unused, and others need excessive resources to secure the fluency of their provided functionalities.

As Ruparelia mentioned in the book Cloud Computing in 2016, a large number of computer owners do not heavily exploit their computers’ performance. He estimated the peak usage of many users being 10% of a computer’s processing ability and 60% of its memory while connecting to the Internet, only 20% of the total bandwidth would be taken (Ruparelia, 2016). Though the accuracy of his estimation lacks evidence, it is not hard to predict that the utility rate of computing devices for the majority of users is lower than the 100% people paid for. Thus, they could scale down investment on local computing devices and move those heavy but not frequent works onto the cloud with its pay-as-you-go business mode to save money.

A study by Tang and Quek addressed the emerging demand for multimedia content with the popularization of portable devices. The mode was called content-centric mobile networking (CCMN) focusing on high-speed delivery of high definition multimedia content, especially videos. To avoid flash crowd traffic caused by hot videos, the contents are redistributed to many cloud servers around the world. The service providers could shunt the massive requests via the cloud CCMN system for users to access content cached on the physically closest cloud server to minimize the delay caused by the Internet (Tang & Quek, 2016).

 

The application of cloud computing in many fields brings evident convenience to many people. The context of it varies from national infrastructure to personal life.

For instance, the digitized education resources in India perform as a strong substitute for the additional 1.2 million teachers needed for educating around 45 million people at the age of higher education. The country had invested 4.5 billion US dollars to improve its network while enhancing the delivery of knowledge to even small villages (Chandra & Borah Malaya, 2012).

Another example from the national perspective would be the healthcare big data uploaded to the cloud to help improve the performance of the system from financial, technical, and other perspectives (Rajabion, Shaltooki, Taghikhah, Ghasemi, & Badfar, 2019). The most frequently mentioned use was helping the patient information transmission, which could obviously save time and avoid possible human errors when sorting paper works.

As the essential characteristics of cloud computing have revealed, this innovation allows users to request computing resources based on their unique needs from any place around the world with any smart device to operate cloud services for their needs and only pay for the resources they used (NIST, 2011). Such convenience makes many companies are encouraged to reduce their own computing system to a lower level instead of an excessive one considering peak usage.

Cloud computing also has a frequent presence in people’s daily lives. Take Google Drive and Google Doc as examples, people could use them for file sharing and collaboration. Google Drive was stated to be approaching 1 billion users at the Google Cloud Next conference in 2018 (Lardinois, 2018). This number certifies its practicality.

Though cloud computing has many visible advantages mentioned above, its reliance on the Internet adds limitations to the application of this innovation and prevents people from adopting.

One of the essential characteristics of cloud computing is “broad network access” (NIST, 2011, p. 2). An unstable network or limited bandwidth would be a visible bottleneck for people in areas with incomplete infrastructure to benefit from the cloud.

The premises for obtaining the improvements cloud computing has done for the healthcare system include the high literacy rate of citizens and their access to mobile phones, also the ability to use them. The study also revealed that some developing countries like Iran were outside the trend (Rajabion et al., 2019).

A case analysis of 369 companies in Portugal revealed that they need comprehensive aid from technologists to ensure the cloud services function as a positive force (Oliveira, Thomas, & Espadanal, 2014). Thus, integrating cloud services into business need careful evaluation considering the specific situation of each company.

 

To approach cloud services from a real-life viewpoint, I will address cases from my personal experience. I am taking a university course from another country and have received notable benefits from digitized education resources and online office. However, my file sorting and clearing habit were destroyed by the huge space available in online file storage services.

I own a computer with 460GB storage embedded and a 931GB mobile hard drive, also 8199GB online storage as a premium user of Baidu NetDisk.

The author' local storage
Screenshot from Sarah Qin, the local storage been used. (131GB left on the 460GB computer, 641GB left on the 931GB hard drive)

 

The author's cloud storage
Screenshot from Sarah Qin, the cloud storage been used. (Used 2578GB, total 8199GB. Additional 5127GB=2055GB Normal plan + 3072GB Premium only)

The author could assure that the 2578GB files on the cloud could be eliminated to a much smaller number considering their values, but the large size and low reaction speed hinder the task. The unused storage at a low price also functions as a backward force.

Price for 1TB Hard Drive
Screenshot from Sarah Qin, the price for 1TB Toshiba hard drive.

 

Subscription fee for premium account
Screenshot from Sarah Qin, the subscription fee for a premium account. (1 year for 298 RMB, with add-on memberships for other applications)

It is crucial to note that every “cloud server” does exist in the physical world. Ultimately occupying cloud storage is overdrawing the resources of the planet. Such inertness towards the cloud needs to be overcome for sustainable development.

 

To conclude, cloud computing is an innovation based on developed web infrastructure to facilitate efficient use of computing and storage resources. It could be adopted by governments to promote healthcare and education, help companies to save money invested in computing devices, facilitate information sharing between individuals. On the other hand, people could not benefit from it if they encountered Internet instability or limitations on bandwidth when accessing, inadequate education to follow the trend, or inadequate income to afford smart devices. The overuse of cloud resources caused by its popularization should also be noticed and discussed with a globalized viewpoint.

 

Reference List

Chandra, D. G., & Borah Malaya, D. (2012) Role of cloud computing in education. 2012 International Conference on Computing, Electronics and Electrical Technologies (ICCEET), 832-836. doi: 10.1109/ICCEET.2012.6203884

Garfinkel, S. (2011). The Cloud Imperative. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/2011/10/03/190237/the-cloud-imperative/

Lardinois, F. (2018). Google Drive will hit a billion users this week. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/25/google-drive-will-hit-a-billion-users-this-week/

National Institute of Standards and Technology. (2011). The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing. Retrieved from http://faculty.winthrop.edu/domanm/csci411/Handouts/NIST.pdf

Oliveira, T., Thomas, M. & Espadanal, M. (2014). Assessing the determinants of cloud computing adoption: An analysis of the manufacturing and services sectors. Information & Management, Volume 51, Issue 5, 497-510. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.im.2014.03.006

Rajabion, L., Shaltooki, A. A., Taghikhah, M., Ghasemi, A., & Badfar, A. (2019). Healthcare big data processing mechanisms: The role of cloud computing. International Journal of Information Management, 49, 271-289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2019.05.017

RUPARELIA, N. (2016). Cloud Computing. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England: The MIT Press. doi: 10.2307/j.ctt1c2cqk4

Search Engine Strategies Conference: Conversation with Eric Schmidt hosted by Danny Sullivan. (2006). Retrieved from https://www.google.com/press/podium/ses2006.html

Tang, J., & Quek, T. Q. S. (2016). The role of cloud computing in content-centric mobile networking. IEEE Communications Magazine, vol. 54, no. 8, 52-59. doi: 10.1109/MCOM.2016.7537177.

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About Sarah Qin 2 Articles
Doing a Bachelor of Design Computing / Advanced Studies Interested in Internet transmission of media content and the mode of influence.