Cloud Computing is an increasingly popular subject and the EIF organized a special event around it on 17 February. Three speakers from Cisco, Google and Ericsson demystified Cloud Computing and looked at different perspectives on the major trends, potential benefits and challenges surrounding these technologies that will affect Europe and the world in the coming years.
Cloud Computing seems a relatively new concept, but we are already part of the Cloud Generation. If you have ever used a search engine, put your photos online to share with friends, used Facebook, or stored any files on a website, then you are already using Cloud Computing.
The road to a new level of Cloud Computing will see what is called a convergence of networks and services. The services we use will become more virtual in the sense that storage, processing and the actual operating system used will be located in one (or several) datacenters instead of on a home or office PC. When we say that these services will converge with the network itself in the future, we mean that the network itself becomes more intelligent and part of the service. Networks will be able to connect services from a number of locations together and dynamically decide how to transport data over the network and deliver it to the end user. This whole process called virtualization is capable of vastly improving business continuity and efficiency by providing on-demand services.
At the same time, Cloud Computing will ensure that we always will have access to information and services over the electronic highways, wherever we are. Our browser will become the portal to the Cloud and will allow any consumer or business to create, share and access content.
As a result, the scale of mass collaboration will increase and change the way we communicate, do politics or business. For instance, innovations are now first happening in the consumer space (look at the rapid development of Facebook applications for example) and feedback from users has become instant. For businesses, the use of mass collaboration through Cloud Computing will enable cost savings and help small businesses to compete at an equal footing with much larger enterprises. Mass collaboration via the cloud will also generate dramatic reductions in time-to-market for a service.
The challenges to overcome at the policy level are however numerous in this new model. Do you trust your data in the Cloud, or what if the network would be down? In terms of infrastructure there is another challenge: Europe needs to be careful to ensure that it does not lag behind in creating the fiber infrastructure that is needed. This will require investments of around 300 billion Euros. In the area of radio frequencies another challenge awaits, which is the re-farming of the radio spectrum to ensure that all devices can seamlessly and wirelessly connect to the IP Cloud and that we achieve fast last mile access to the home.
In 2025 Cloud Computing will no doubt be as common as having electricity in the house, but the steps we take today in debating these new technologies and the policies surrounding it will be of crucial importance to create a sustainable Cloud.