If you have been paying attention to the Google, Microsoft rivalry you might have figured out that these two titans have something up their sleeve. On one hand it is search.
On the other hand of this rivalry is cloud computing, a relatively new computing phenomenon which has been defined by some computer scientist as,
a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet. [As a result] users need not have knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure in the “cloud” that supports them. Source: Wikipedia
The notion of cloud computing has been around since the beginning of the dot-com era. Several brilliant computer geeks have attempted to propel us to this new wave of computing. Many of them have been unsuccessful. Of these is Marc Andreessen, once a poster-boy of geekiness founded what would become Netscape sold it to AOL and then in 2002 started a cloud computing venture. The latter was unsuccessful because according to Andreessen, “ the world wasn’t ready for cloud computing”.
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Enter Salesforce.com and NetSuite.com
Over the past three years, there have been a couple of other successful ventures namely, Saleforce.com and NetSuite.com. These companies function primarily by offering their clients with software – over the internet. They have been effective in successfully enabling companies to access necessary programs over the web, in most cases eliminating the need to an in-house IT-Tech.
So what does this mean to engineers?
It is obvious that we can no longer ignore is the fact that this is the new wave of the future. A time is coming when our computers and laptops will be will be merely, stand-alone, software-less devices, which will only serve as connections to the internet.
So, what does it mean to us engineers and our beloved AutoCAD and Microstation applications? If we are to fully embrace this new wave of computing, then we will have to brace ourselves and accept that cloud computing is an unavoidable emerging computing technology which will use the internet and central remote servers to maintain data and applications. Once we have accepted this basic fact, then we can address the other issues that we are likely to face as engineers.
Clearly, cloud computing provides a myriad of issues that engineers will have to consider as they embrace this new wave of computing. Paramount of these is security. How do we assure our government clients that their projects will be safe in the “clouds”? How do we make sure that those handling the “clouds” will meet our required security needs?
What happens when the cloud server is down at conveniently the day of submission to the client?
With cloud computing you give control of your data to a third party.
Loss of data
Server crashes? Hackers?
Advantages of cloud-computing for engineers
While the mentioned issues are certainly worth mentioning, we ought not neglect the obvious advantages of this system,
- Better interoperability between consultants and sub-consultants
- Shifted responsibility for Data and Programs
- Global Access
- Software updates affect all users automatically and simultaneously
- Reduced Overhead – By eliminating the need for IT-techs, servers and storage devices
- It will no longer be possible for a user to run an “old” version of the software
by not upgrading
So, are you ready?
From what I understand about Cloud computing, I think it is an attempt to move us into an on-demand network access to a shared pool of computing resources over the internet, such as software applications, data servers, networks and other services. Just as businesses and consumers now pay for gas, electricity and other utilities, I predict that the cloud will be sold on demand as a pure IT service.
So, the concern then becomes the costs of these services. If everything you need to do anything on your computer is in the hands of those who own the ‘clouds’ then you become captive to potential price hikes especially if there is a monopoly.
Cloud computing offers a great alternative for engineering companies. I recently read that cloud services will reach $42 billion in 2012. Yet, many engineering companies are worrisome when it comes to hosting data outside their reach. The number one concern which the article points out is security. However, what should be noted is that with the right provider, a company’s data might actually be safer in the “cloud”. Plainly because most data companies already have far greater experience in securing data than most engineering companies.
One major benefit of cloud that should be underscored is that none of the technology is housed inhouse, so at the end of the day you are focussed on how your engineers work, not what your IT staff is doing.