1. Define cloud computing . How is it different than Internet usage in general?
Most of us use the internet in some sort of way, but some remember when computers were a tool which actually did a lot of processing work, even for general usage. Software giants were born in order to supply the demand for programs. Both the programmer and the consumer relied on software companies to generate a tool for them to use: things from database programs to simple word processing. The recent movement towards cloud computing, however, shifts the reliance from the software giants to people who manage servers and provide utilities over an internet connection (like Gmail, Google Maps, Yahoo Mail, and the array of web word processors). Remember those discs for the Encarta Encyclopedia that we used to install with new computers? Well look what Wikipedia, the new encyclopedia managed, edited, and transformed online, did to that :
Cloud computing shifts the work from our computer to whoever holds the memory and speed.
It isn't just visiting a website to check the news, or looking for a directory listing online anymore. Rather, the appropriate data for applications now run somewhere else rather than our computers. We store information and files online, like Facebook for example. We just have to connect to it.
2. Describe the benefits of cloud computing for an ordinary computer user. What are the most popular tools?
Cloud computing allows anyone to use tools that could change their level of productivity, sharing, and entertainment (even if they just stuck to free web applications). Let's take the life of a music collector and put him or her into our current world of cloud computing:
A. Discover Music :
Pandora : an online database and music player that searches for similar artists and songs based on what the user inputs. It goes further in creating universally shared playlists and recommendations. There are mobile applications to access this from phones and the iPod Touch.
Last.fm: another online database and music player that recommends concerts, video, and audio based on what you enjoy. There are mobile applications for Last.fm as well.
B. Acquire Music :
iTunes is one of many online markets for legally downloading music. It is a music and video player, and manages user-created playlists and radio. The iTunes Store provides video, audio, concert footage, high quality dvd rentals/downloads and more.
These are just a few of very many applications which utilize the cloud computing model. They grant the individual so much access to so much information that it increases our ability to complete any task. We can take whatever we discover or share and save it to the web or collaborate with others.
3. What cloud tools do Amazon and Google provide for programmers, that is, for start-up companies and others who want to create new web programs?
Google and Amazon are unique in their ability to fascilitate new programs and web tools because they offer storage. They also have automated managing of this storage so that even small start-ups can have a reliable place to upload and share their work that also turns out to be incredibly cheap compared to the older model of managing one's own hardware. For example, Google Code not only offers the uploading power, storage, and accessibility to something created by a developer or programmer, but it also offers to tools to create such a program. It also directs people to open source programs (a communal way of programming something and leaving it open to unique modification).
Amazon has an "elastic compute cloud" system that cures the problem that start-up companies used to have; they had to be able to fund hardware and hardware management in order to sustain their product's availability and, ultimately, profit. The people at Amazon describe it best themselves :
"Amazon EC2’s simple web service interface allows you to obtain and configure capacity with minimal friction. It provides you with complete control of your computing resources and lets you run on Amazon’s proven computing environment. Amazon EC2 reduces the time required to obtain and boot new server instances to minutes, allowing you to quickly scale capacity, both up and down, as your computing requirements change. Amazon EC2 changes the economics of computing by allowing you to pay only for capacity that you actually use. Amazon EC2 provides developers the tools to build failure resilient applications and isolate themselves from common failure scenarios."4. Describe the benefits of cloud computing for a start-up company.
The well-described example of the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud's benefit to start-ups is here:
As Animoto's Facebook application, which deals with providing videos based on displayed images, experienced a severe jump in usage, that developer team was much better off with the elasticity of Amazon's web service. By elasticity, I mean that even in the case of a viral experience (the case of something becoming extremely popular very quickly over the internet), Amazon's web service could automatically provide a scalable use of servers. The developers did not have to worry about their hardware crashing because so many people were connecting to their machines and running the application off them. The elastic cloud is dedicated towards this function; it is very large and it automatically adjusts to the needs of the developers. The start-up doesn't have to worry about providing and maintaining availability to their product any longer.
5. How has USF embraced the cloud, in terms of the services they provide students? Do you feel more comfortable storing data in the cloud, e.g., at Google, or on a USF server?
USF makes use of the new cloud computing model in many areas. Donsmail, the email service, is just Gmail personalized for the school. Students use the OneCard service to access buildings, pay for food, and pay for laundry. This OneCard service allows for information to be stored somewhere that can be accessed by a variety of sources. I can go to the USF OneCard site and and review every transaction, see the balances under my name, and make use of my debit account to add money.
All of this information exists on a server that I hope is safely secured on campus. Blackboard is the tool with which teachers and students can share and publish works and information. All of these services require some degree of storing personal information. Cloud computing causes legitmate concerns for privacy. Google, who many respect and rely on, have failed to upheld the principle of privacy. Google outed a blogger who used Google's blogging service as part of an anti-defamation lawsuit. Not all forms of cloud computing, unfortunately, guarantee privacy. This effect of cloud computing on society is new and will have to be shaped by many lawsuits and cases that will undoubtedly happen.
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