Peering Into The Future – Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is on the verge of a widespread breakthrough and it is, I believe, the first and foremost important 21st century technology that will drive all other technologies.

As commonly defined, “cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage (cloud storage) and computing power (cloud computing), without direct active management by the user”.

So what does this mean for how we do things now and what it could look like in the near future?

Well, at this moment of time, we all know about cloud storage even if we don’t understand it. We all store our information that can be accessed anywhere at anytime wherever there is an internet connection. Think about how we use Dropbox and Sharepoint, or in more subtle ways, Google Photos and calendars that just naturally sync without a thought. We use these services and can already hardly imagine a world without being able to access them at our own call. This is the power of cloud storage and where (in the physical sense) the data is being stored doesn’t matter to the most of us as long as we can access it.

What is soon to be another game changer and one that will integrate with our lives as if it was always there will be the power of cloud computing. This technology has really taken off in the midst of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, and why? It takes the need for local computing power of millions and diversifies it across a range of supercomputers hosted on the cloud from almost anywhere around the world. In other words, your PC doesn’t need to be almighty powerful to run a few hardy software because the “processing power” is all conducted elsewhere on a supercomputer innumerable times more powerful than yours could and would ever be. This model also allows for vast benefits that are brought on by economies of scale that can significantly allow for more efficient ways of processing data and in turn work towards a more sustainable future.

For now and has been since the invention of the modern day “computer”, we’re all running around with our devices (laptops, phones, ipads etc) with enough computing power to do the things we individually need. Our devices, obsolete in a short few years time will drive us to buy the next big thing with even more computing power. This cycle, as unsustainable as it is, will end in my prediction. Not the fact that we will buy newer and nicer devices that will continue on forever as part of our human nature, but the fact that the computing power of the devices will reach a limit where it is more costly and less efficient to have individual supercomputers in our hands instead of having them in the cloud. I foresee a world where we buy devices no longer for their computing power but for their personal aesthetic and defining characteristics (which we do already but alongside the computing power) and the computing power we may need is found in the cloud, whether that be via a subscription service of some kind, or a given when purchasing the product.

I personally am excited about the prospects of this but the concerns over security and use of our personal data follows on very closely in this discussion. It’s a young topic at this point of time where I think most people are utilising the services of the cloud without fully understanding the technology itself, the negative effects of data breaches for example and the possibility of loss of data through natural disasters (which quickly is becoming irrelevant with the use of geo-redundancy). For the latter at least is where my personal experience comes in. As an electrical engineer who often works with designing “critical infrastructure” for data centres, hospitals and airports, I can rest easy knowing that the level of resilience on the critical infrastructure itself is up there in the 99.995th percentile (Tier IV Uptime Institute). Furthermore as mentioned above, with geo-redundancy, this brings the overall resilience of data being lost to a possible 99.999999999% annual durability!

Thanks for reading the first of a series of chapters exploring the future technologies that are apt to disrupt the very way we live.

Jason Li