Cloud Computing and ATETV Updates

Episode 4 of ATETV is up today, and things are heating up on ATETV.org. We’re busy planning our coverage of the upcoming National Science Foundation ATE Conference, which starts October 21.  The event is only open to principal investigators on NSF grants, but we’re recruiting attendees to send live twitter updates from the proceedings for us. We’ll also have some follow-up stories coming out of the gathering in the weeks to come.

For our last segment this week, we hit Times Square to ask passers-by about a tech term that’s been in the news lately: cloud computing.  We got some pretty creative responses, which you can see in the video above.

Basically, cloud computing refers to moving data and applications off the hard drives in individual computers and into the “cloud”:  farms of servers that can be accessed by any computer or mobile device, anywhere, anytime.

“All the software lives in the cloud. You no longer have to worry about installing software,” says Mike Qaissaunee, associate professor at Brookdale Community College.  “You no longer have to worry about downloading updates.”

Web-based email programs like Hotmail and Gmail are early examples of cloud computing.  With those services, your inbox doesn’t exist on your computer but on a server at Microsoft or Google.

If you’ve used an online service like Apple’s MobileMe to synchronize your contacts or calendar between your computer and your PDA, you’ve used cloud computing. If you’ve run any program in your Web browser instead of off your hard drive, you’ve been up in the cloud as well.

Google Docs, which lets users edit and share text and spreadsheets with coworkers online, is a more sophisticated example.  That sort of online collaboration is the big advantage of cloud computing, says Qaissaunee.  “It changes the whole way that you work.”

Apart from changing the way coworkers and students collaborate, cloud computing also means big opportunities for ATE students.  Storing more data in the cloud means more servers that need to be maintained, and since users expect access to their data 24/7, those servers need to be up and running constantly.

That means new careers for technicians who can maintain those servers.  More servers also means more electricity usage, which puts even greater strain on our energy resources. As cloud computing ramps us, so will the demand for alternative energy sources and conservation.  That means more jobs in green tech.

Cloud computing also presents new challenges in privacy and security. How should companies stores users’ personal information in the cloud?  How do they protect users’ data from identity theft?  As computer scientists and companies grapple with these issues, ATE programs and community colleges will be a vital link between the latest tech and the students who will be putting it into practice.

For more thoughts on cloud computing and other science and tech topics, check out cloud computing expert, Mike Qaissaunee’s blog.

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