May 1, 2009

Cloud computing

From an article in First Monday [Jaeger, P., Lin, J., Grimes, J., & Simmons, S. (2009). Where is the cloud? Geography, economics, environment, and jurisdiction in cloud computing. First Monday, 14 (5)]:

Cloud computing refers to an emerging model of computing where computing services are provided by specialized data centers. The origin of the metaphor of cloud computing is in computer diagrams.

A cloud consists of large data centers operated by technology companies, which provide technology development, physical infrastructure, process management, etc. and deliver a variety of computing services to the users. The cloud can host users' applications, facilitate batch processing (e.g., processing an archive of newspaper articles), or provide other services in conjunction with existing IT infrastructures (cloud bursting or handling peaks in traffic).

Where is the cloud? The question is important because "cloud computing represents centralization of information and computing resources, which can be easily controlled by corporations and governments". The following considerations are important for the construction of data centers:
  • Physical space (geography, weather, safety)
  • Proximity to high–capacity Internet connections
  • Affordable electricity and other energy resources
  • The laws, policies, and regulations of the jurisdiction

The latter includes the issues of access, reliability, security, confidentiality and privacy, liability, intellectual property, ownership of data, portability of data, and auditability.

Lack of international standards and policies slows down the development and use of cloud computing. Also, education of users is important. Currently, most information is provided in terms of services (ToS) and similar documents, which have poor readability.