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

Questions i ask myself everyday – What Makes a Good Engineer?

Everyday, we pursue what we love to do. In other words, we push ourselves to become a better version of who we are now. One of the best ways of doing this is through observation, then application and it is those who inspire us each and every day that that show us the way forward.

For me, each day i ask myself – “What Makes a Good Engineer?” and i hope that each and every time i re-read this post of mine, it’s still the question i ask most.

I still haven’t found the answer to this, nor do i think there ever will be a simple way of saying it. But i will try, and the things i learn along the way ill try to show here in my blog.

 

What do we do?

So what does an engineering consultant do?

Two months into my internship and I find myself asking myself this in the shower, along with the other mysteries of the universe. It’s a curious thing, starting off on something that you know almost nothing about. You wonder how you came to be in this place, then you think back and painfully laugh at the fact that even with five years of studying the stuff, you actually don’t know much about the real world. It’s incredibly sad. Engineers.

So without further ado, let me show you what I think we do. And as to not be biased, I will take a look at it from the perspectives of the three personality types within me. The Optimist, the Pessimist and last but not least the Realist.

Words from the Optimist: Engineering is awesome. An engineer in consulting is even more awesome! We’re right there at the heart of any big project. From Central Park to the Sydney Opera House, we consultants make sure that the project becomes a reality no matter the size nor scope. We’re designers, but not of the typical kind. Although most of our designs will hardly ever be seen by the public, we wont be selfish as to pick something half contested. Instead we continue to design our power and lighting, our communications and security, our substations and wiring of the entire building to a high degree. Sadly it’s a beautiful thing that only few will see in their lifetime. Another key aspect of what we do is to ensure that anything done must abide by the standards and regulations of that area. This is to provide good engineering practices that ensure a safe and consistent work environment for everyone on and off site.  And if this means that from time to time we go out on site visits to see our designs in person, then let it be, we love seeing our work in progress and even more so seeing the project through to completion!

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What I think we do

Words from the PessimistPlease, I beg of you. Don’t become an engineer. Okay that was a bit harsh, even for me. Consulting is what it’s name suggests, clients come to us and ask us whether it’s okay to do this and that and we sit there and sift through a hell of lot of standards and textbooks to find the answer to it. It’s not incredibly fun, in fact it’s boring. It’s not interesting cause you’re used as a lookup table. And also it’s not easy, it takes a lot of time and it’s a slow grinding process, especially if you don’t know where to look. So what does your senior tell you to do when you ask for help on where to look? “It’s somewhere in the AS3000” he claims. And there goes about 2 weeks of me literally trying to stuff thousands of pages of standards into my head to memorise. I never wanted to be a lawyer, you know. Somehow through all of this, the end of the day finally emerges as the clock ticks past 5. An odd thing happens though. Nothing happens. Half an hour later, the first few people leave and so on slowly through the night (I’d have to admit that I’ve yet to stay back long enough to see more than half the office leave).

What I think we do

Words from the Realist: Well, being an engineering consultant has it’s ups and downs. It is neither too intense, nor is it too much of a boring chore. It’s on the break between having just enough to keep you occupied, that you’re learning quite efficiently. Hell there’s an incredible lot to learn here there’s no doubt about that. Every new project comes with it’s challenges and even as an intern, I can see that. Doing the Fault calculations for one project does not at all guarantee that the next will be the same, so nothing is ever easy and straightforward. There are many points in the Standards (which are supposed to assist you) that have counterpoints and more counterpoints on top of points so you have to look carefully because that’s your job. The site visits are definitely a breath of fresh air and the anticipation of free lunch every second day keeps you nice and fresh but it’s not for the faint hearted. It’s true that each day you’ll likely spend more hours than you should at the desk, and just passing on a message that was given to me when I started, “real engineering starts after 5” so don’t expect to leave early for that anniversary dinner of yours (just joking…I think). 

What I think we do