Friday, February 25, 2011

Forecast For The Digital Age Is Fair to Partly Cloudy

Do you stare at clouds searching for familiar shapes?  Pretty soon, whether or not you realize it, we all will be doing just that.  Only the shapes that we see aren’t going to be sheep and butterflies…they'll be our work in progress.
According to Wikipedia, the key characteristic of cloud computing is that the computing is "in the cloud" i.e. the processing (and the related data) is not in a specified, known or static place. This is in contrast to a model in which the processing takes place in one or more specific servers that are known.
Basically, cloud computing is internet-based computing whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand, as with the electricity grid. Google docs is an example of cloud computing, so is Blogger, heck…Google has an entire app store with hundreds of things that use cloud computing and you can check out the link right here.

What are the types of cloud computing?  SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service).

1) IaaS is a provision model in which an organization outsources the equipment used to support operations, including storage, hardware, servers and networking components. The service provider owns the equipment and is responsible for housing, running and maintaining it. The client typically pays on a per-use basis.  Think of which the hacker group Anonymous claimed was unassailable because they have so many computers available to run their servers.

2) PaaS is the delivery of a computing platform and solution stack as a service. PaaS offerings facilitate deployment of applications without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software and provisioning hosting capabilities.  They provide all of the facilities required to support the complete life cycle of building and delivering web applications and services entirely available from the Internet.

3) SaaS sometimes referred to as "software on demand," is software that is deployed over the internet and/or is deployed to run behind a firewall on a local area network or personal computer.

But is cloud computing secure?  According to a recent article published by M.I.T., this depends on your viewpoint. For many potential users it’s like trusting the telephone company--or Gmail, or even the post office--to keep your communications private. People frequently place confidential information into the hands of common carriers and other commercial enterprises. There is another class of user who wouldn’t use the telephone without taking security precautions beyond trusting the common carrier. If you want to procure storage from the cloud you can do the same thing: never send anything but encrypted data to cloud storage.


No matter what your personal opinion is of Julian Assange, when WikiLeaks published thousands of classified diplomatic cables, it highlighted the fairly ramshackle state of data security, particularly when it comes to dealing with insider threats.
Questions come to mind: 1) Does transparency open the door to unintended disclosure? 2) If these kinds of cables can be so easily published to the world, what about information sharing via social networks or even through cloud computing? 3) For us writers who may be using Google docs or similar platforms, could someone steal our writing? As far fetched as it sounds, it can happen.  There was supposed to be a fifth Twilight book and so much of it got leaked online and distributed that Stephanie Meyer canned the whole project. :/


For the average person, they're basically a nuisance.  I myself have had a keylogger on my computer before which stole my password for my World of Warcraft account.  All of my stuff on the character I'd worked hard on was gone, disenchanted, or sold off by some gold farmer in China for real money.  It took me a week and a dispute with the parent company, Blizzard, to get everything back and now I have an authenticator on my game account.  I've also had my social security number stolen for a D.U.I. and a credit card stolen in which someone charged $1,000.00 in stuff before I realized what was going on.  Again...nuisances...fixed with a few hours on the phone and faxing some documents.  But how much worse could it get?

Well with the Stuxnet worm, the answer is pretty bad.  Stuxnet is one example of a new reality for all of us because it is a worm that crossed the line between cyber and traditional warfare.  The worm is sophisticated. Its creators aren't known, but the consensus among analysts was that it was the work of a team with considerable resources. The effort involved would need to be measured in years and it required access to expensive and regulated hardware as a test bed, and it apparently took advantage of detailed intelligence about its target.

What did it do, you might ask? It targeted a specific process control system to disrupt uranium enrichment (most likely in Iran), however, it ended up infecting 60,000 other systems.  The idea that an organization out there operating outside of government could design a worm to disable or affect nuclear weapon systems is a little scary. It almost reminds me of a Hollywood movie plot where skynet takes over the world and kills all the humans.  Terminator anyone? Anyway, how do you anticipate approaching the whole "cloud computing" thing or would you feel more secure storing your work on your own p.c.? Steve Jobs says that "Cloud Computing" is the future. Who knows...maybe all those billions of dollars he's made means he's right about everything.


  1. In the early years of computing there were only thin clients, which is what cloud computing feels like the industry is trying to return to. I know dummy clients are easier for the average user to use just because there's no upkeep involved but I don't want to trust google anymore than I have to. Especially after that social security requirement debacle with the students entering google's doodle competition.

  2. Well, I've come a little closer to figuring out what Cloud Computing is...but I'm still lost!

  3. Stephanie, it's just a term to describe services that aren't on your computer. So anytime you word process or game and the software, etc. is not actually on your p.c. but is somewhere else then that is a version of cloud computing.

  4. I so need a grenade with a usb cord now.

  5. Couldn't find any skunk mice...just mouse pads.

  6. SaaS is something I recognise from my library job - we are on a library management system that is NOT SaaS, and it pretty well sucks because it means relying on ... our IT dept. GASP! hehe. So hopefully we'll be getting rid of that someday soon (we've also had it for about 12 years, which is a LONG time for any library to have the same system, so it's getting to be time to move on!).

  7. I remember hearing about that worm and SkyNet was what I thought of too. In the 3rd Terminator movie it's a "virus" that has the military activate SkyNet and blow us all to hell.

  8. Very well written article, Mike.

  9. Trisha, at one time I thought my dream job would be to work in some huge library. I'm glad that never panned out...I'm better off working in technology. It's funner.

  10. This cyber hacking stuff is scary. We've had a problem where I live with people putting data loggers on ATMs and stealing people bank info. There's really no way to be 100% safe anymore. I wish we didn't have to worry about this kind of stuff. :/

  11. Makes me feel like I'm way to trusting. I need to start working in a bubble.

  12. LOL, Charlie!

    My personal feeling about the people who come up with cloud computing is this. Theoretical World is a happy, shiny place where everything works the way it ought to. Real World is where I can't get onto Twitter because it's always overcapacity.

  13. Yikes... that's scary! Very informative post :)