Remember when the word Internet was entering the popular lexicon? It was the mid-1990s. The implications of the new technology were becoming clear, and the word was starting to appear frequently in the news. But it often appeared in quotation marks (as in, “the global system of interconnected computer networks known as the ‘Internet’”), because many readers didn’t yet understand what it was or why it mattered.
We are in a similar period now with cloud computing: It is all over the news — and even being featured in consumer advertising — but the concept itself is still unfamiliar to many people.
That won’t last. In fact, I predict this will be the year quotation marks are dropped from the terms “cloud” and “cloud computing.”
We are already in the latter half of the “What is it?” phase of the cloud discussion. Now, we are about to enter a new phase in which businesses, consumers and policy-makers grasp the implications of what the new technology can mean to them and start changing the way they operate accordingly.
The Business Software Alliance has produced a video to help speed this transition, especially for policy-makers. The video provides the fundamentals of cloud computing — including what defines it and how it is being used — and then sketches a first outline of key policy considerations for lawmakers. My hope is this will help frame a discussion about cloud computing in the 112th Congress and beyond.
The software industry and broader IT community were first to conceive and embrace cloud computing. Their customers — businesses and consumers alike — have been following rapidly, eager for the increased efficiencies, scalability, cost savings and functionality that the new model offers. Government agencies are moving headlong into the cloud, too, thanks to a forward-looking proposal from the Office of Management and Budget.
If you have been following the news coverage of these trends, you might be tempted to think cloud computing is on a path to supplant existing server, desktop and mobile technologies altogether. But BSA’s video explains why cloud will instead complement more-established IT architecture. Moreover, the cloud model will evolve in many forms, including public, private and hybrid implementations, which the video describes. For policy-makers — not just in the United States, but around the world — these trend lines raise questions on a wide range of issues, from privacy and security to technology standards to intellectual property.
I invite you to watch the video and tell friends and colleagues about it. BSA TechPost will have much more to say on these topics as the year unfolds.