Friday, March 5, 2010

Cloud Computing Dimensions

Today I had the chance to attend to the live web cast of Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CIO at the University of Washington. During the speech he focused mostly on Microsoft’s Cloud offering: Windows Azure. Ballmer talked about several different features and concepts behind the company’s cloud computing solution, and was kind enough to recognize some of his competitors contributions to the cloud computing era we have in front of us.
Although the presentation was relatively a traditional Ballmer speech on  Microsoft’s product there were a couple of things he mentioned that caught my attention and I believe is important to comment about. Ballmer talked about Cloud Computing Dimensions. I believe this is an important concept to keep in mind, since the whole cloud computing topic is about going beyond traditional spaces and directions. In my opinion, cloud computing is really about exploring different spaces and new ways to integrate different services and solutions we are used to in our daily digital lives. If you start thinking about the cloud as a N-Space world where you can go in many more directions than before, that is covering, consuming and integrating services and solutions in all sort of directions and spaces, that’s when cloud computing starts to sound really interesting.
Going back to the cloud computing dimensions concept, Ballmer talked about five different dimensions, that can be summarized as follows:
  • Innovation
  • Learning
  • Social interaction and collaboration
  • Smart devices
  • Server advances
Let’s take a look at each of the different dimensions:
Innovation: if you agree with me that cloud computing offers you more spaces and directions than any other digital space or solution, is easy to think that there is a lot more room for innovation and great ideas. In an information era where connections and integration of digital services are part of our daily lives, we could comfortably say that there is a lot more room for creativity and innovation.
Learning: the cloud has to be able to learn from the data is has access to, from the cloud usage itself and from the users who utilize its benefits and capabilities. This is a key point in the upcoming era. We are pushing the Computer Sciences to become better at learning, not only from training routines or metrics, but actually from the very usage we give to computing every day. We want computers and digital solutions to learn from us, to become better at what they offer us. This applies to the cloud too, and its a great platform for knowledge generation and human behavior learning.
Social Interaction and Collaboration: we interact with our environment and the people who surrounds us all the time. We have come to a point where we have some degree of success at translating those interactions to the digital world. We are now able to connect, socialize and express our selves in connection to others in the digital word, however the lack of different spaces and directions has made difficult to collaborate and interact with the massive amount of people and information in our digital experiences. The cloud is an open door to explore new and improved ways for social interaction, but more important, collaboration. Is inspiring to see how many research groups are getting into the cloud computing for its collaboration possibilities, which I believe are one of the most valuable features.
Smart devices: this is all about devices that can be smart enough to really let us take advantages of cloud computing. Some people may think about smart phones or really cool gadgets, but I think it goes beyond that. After all, the human itself is the smartest “device” of all times, and if we can cultivate human understanding (like gestures and human expressions) into cloud computing solutions we could get much more from the cloud. While we get there, researchers are creating smarter devices that emulate human abilities to take us closer to that point were the device to interact with the cloud and the digital world will be the human body itself .
Server Advances: this is more straight forward to understand, but not trivial at all. There’s a huge amount of information in the digital word, and that information needs to be stored. Cloud computing is and will keep pushing the way servers work and the way they are build. With the ongoing growth of information and the push that it is getting from cloud computing offerings, server advances will be a must in the next era, so the information can be stored, retrieved, modified and stored back again in an efficient and dynamic manner. We need a server infrastructure and its related hardware and software to be much more efficient to empower the cloud and its users to achieve much more that we can at our current times.
There’s a lot involved in Cloud computing. Microsoft is just getting into a more business driven cloud computing offering, and is not the first. Google, Amazon, and others have also cloud computing solutions and business offerings. I don’t have much experience with them, but I honestly believe that Microsoft push to get into the market is positive since they are pushing the edges of what people use to think about the cloud.
Let me know what you think about these concepts and share your ideas. Sharing knowledge is all about promoting new ideas and increase the knowledge itself.


  1. Hi Anthony!

    I sincerely thank you for your blog entry. I was looking for application of machine learning/human behaviour recognition in network systems. For that, unsure of any relevant outcome I just searched cloud computing and human behaviour and I landed on your blog.

    I must say it is of great help to me to know that work is going on in the intersection of the two convergent fields. Please let me (us...the readers) have more information about this research.



  2. Thanks a lot for your comment Gurmeet.

    I strongly believe that technologies and platforms (no matter the flavor) have to become better at interacting with us (humans) since our body is actually the smartest device we can find on Earth.

    The mouse, the keyboard, and many of today's Human Computer Interaction devices are still poor abstractions of the way we interact with our environment.

    I'll definetely be posting more about this, but if you have a chance take a look into Microsoft Research projects or the MIT Labs. Those guys are really going an extra mile to push today's technology to become better at interacting with humans and provide us a more natural way for us to communicate and use technology.

    -Anthony (arbbot)