Sunday, 27 February 2011

Cloud Computing

I’ve just finished reading A brief Guide to Cloud Computing by Christopher Barnatt. For someone whose background is in environmental sustainability (as oppose to IT), I found the book to be very well written and informative. This straight talking author's experience in all things computer related is extensive and he is an advocate of the use of the cloud. He believes that it’s the way of the future and for what its worth, I’m incline to agree.

Its subtitle, An essential guide to the next computing revolution, could not be more apt as the cloud has so much to offer in terms of access to the best software, platforms and applications as well as the storage of data and information.
From a sustainable point of view the cloud is, in my opinion, the best option for organisations wishing to reduce their data centre’s overall running costs.
The cloud eliminates the need for software CD’s, (and the layers of packaging that accompanies them), transport when purchasing or delivering them and disposal of the plastic discs once used.

Rob Bristow, programme manager of JISC’s Greening if ICT programme wrote in his blog in March 2010 that “There is some skepticism about the environmental benefits (of using the cloud), with many seeing the carbon load being shifted rather than reduced”. In reality it’s doing both. The environmental impact of moving into the cloud is much smaller regardless of which angle its examined from simply because fewer consumables are required.
From an energy savings standpoint, institutions infrastructures can run more efficiently when being delivered in the cloud, thus reducing overall running costs & CO2 emissions and saving on space (a valuable commodity in FHE’s today).

However, despite reports of massive savings, at a recent Y&H SUSTE-TECH project participants meeting, I asked some of the participants (whose areas of expertise is in ICT as oppose to sustainability) what they thought of moving into the cloud.  I was surprised to receive a less than enthusiastic response.

I can understand why security is a concern, but if rigorous security measures are put in place by cloud service providers to prevent against hacking and ensure secure storage of data, then surely that data is safer than were it being stored on an institutions system? 

Has research been carried out to determine if hacking into a university’s network (or any large organisation for that matter) and accessing top secret files was easier than doing the same to data being stored in the cloud? If so what did the results indicate?  On a more general level has sufficient research been carried out to conclusively determine that data and information is in fact, less safe in the cloud?

JISC are currently funding projects to examine those concerns, the results of which should prove invaluable  to  iunstitutions considering moving into the cloud:
I, for one, think the cloud is the way of the future. To steal Rob Bristow’s saying (who borrowed it from Nicholas Carr) “not everything will move into the cloud but eventually the cloud will move into everything”, says it all.

Unfortunately until this happens we remain using the traditional methods of sending and storing data, underutilising our hardware, wasting energy, creating CO2 unnecessarily and wasting space.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

EAUC and JISC practicing what they preach

The EAUC Annual Conference
Nobody can say the EAUC and JISC don’t practice what they preach.
Geoff Constable from the University of  Aberystwyth will be presenting at the 2011 EAUC Annual conference that’s taking place at the University of York from April 11th -13th 2011. Geoff, who will be unable to travel to York for the event, will be presenting on the benefits of Video Conferencing and reporting on the results of the project he’s just completed entitled “How Green was my Video Conference” ? .. via Video Conference.  Delegates will be able to experience first hand what it is they are learning about.  While Geoff may miss out on attending the various workshops at the conference, delegates will not be missing out on a live VC experience.