Welcome to my cloud… (pt2)

Sorry for the delay, my cloud is a little chaotic at the moment..

I had some comments on the first blog from people who don’t get it.. Thats my faulty for assuming everyone understands “the cloud” as a concept, so let’s try and make that a bit clearer…

“In the simplest terms, cloud computing is where IT is delivered as a service. Instead of the user installing and managing IT infrastructure on their own premises, it is transparently provided by third parties across the internet.”[1]

As definitive definition, it answers the basic question but the cloud should be much more than that.

My thoughts go something like this..

There are 2 basic clouds, private and public.

There are companies that will sell you IT services (applications, email etc) over the internet. These are delivered from a “private cloud” and you pay to be allowed in. Like renting an office.

Other companies, people and organisations provide websites via the internet. These are delivered from a “public cloud” and you get in for free. Like going to the park.

Many companies offer services that are also delivered via a public cloud. For example iPlayer is TV delivered via the cloud. Amazon is a book shop delivered via the cloud. There are both “public” in the sense anyone can use them AND private in the sense that you are paying for them through your licence fee or by buying books. Like going to a coffee shop. Plenty will give you free use of a chair, chances are you’ll buy a large latte with vanilla syrup and extra shot before you sit down.

Many organisations also have services that are available via the internet, that are only open to employes and business partners. This is also a private cloud, but you aren’t getting in. Like trying to get a seat in the Royal box, you just don’t have the credentials.

I have heard a number of other phrases like “private public” – (an office to rent) and “private private” – (The royal box) but I think that might just be confusing things for the sake of it…

Who’s cloud?

I have a number of services that I consume from the cloud.

Some are “free”[2]
Some I pay for
Some I get by being a customer
Some I get from my employer
Some are just websites (BBC News, various newspapers, local council)
Some are services (iPlayer, banking, iTunes, account management tools for power etc)
Some are networking and communication tools (Twitter, Facebook, gMail, Skype)
Some are corporate (email, time recording, intranets etc)

All of these are MY services, configured for MY use and club together to form MY cloud. My Cloud is a collection of services from other peoples clouds.

As this is supposed to have an education focus I better get to my point..

In these days of shrinking budgets and the need to do more and more and more with ICT schools are almost being forced down the road of cloud computing.

But don’t rush in and sign up to a single cloud service. If you end up inside someone else’s cloud, you may struggle to get out again.

The first step to building a cloud for your school is to get a platform that will allow you to integrate and build your own cloud. Pupils and staff should be able to access one site, with one sign on and get to everything they need. Your cloud must be about data sharing, 24 hour access, accessibility and, most importantly, about enabling learning!!

Take for free what you can safely take for free. Email is a good example here, there are very good free services from Microsoft and Google so why pay for it? They are competing for tomorrows business leaders so the products are going to be as good as they can be.

Be prepared to pay for other services. Do you want a free MIS Service? There is no cross over of free schools MIS to paid corporate MIS so no one is going to make a good tool for it. The best MIS tools you are just going to have to pay for. But don’t be afraid to let it be delivered via the the cloud, How much easer to let some one else worry about it??

If there are things that you just aren’t comfortable with letting out of the school. Thats fine, but make sure you know what these are in advance and make sure your chosen integration platform can cope.

But do it at your own pace. If you want to dip your toe, the dip it. Chances are you already consume more from the cloud than you thought…. When you are used to the temperature, why not put your whole foot in….

[1] Taken from the Macquarie Blog

[2] Nothing on the internet is free. Just because you get it free at the point of use doesn’t mean that someone isn’t paying for you to use it (like the NHS). Sometimes it’s perfectly innocent and  sometimes you are being advertised to you or some one is mining your data. There is no such thing as a free lunch or a free internet site. Just accept that. Its not sinister. Keep calm and cary on.

(c) Michael A Daly, February 2011.

The views expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of my employer.


Come and see my cloud… (pt1)

In the last 20 years the IT industry has driven technology into businesses of every shape and size. How many companies do you come across these days who do not use IT in some form? Even the most modest shop has an internet presence and even small community groups and schools use internet payment services for fundraising and paying for events.  In 1999 Bill Gates said –

“If the 1980’s were about quality, the 1990’s were about re-engineering the 2000’s will be about velocity. How quickly the nature of business will change. About how quickly business will be transacted. About how information access will alter the lifestyle of consumers and their expectation of business.”[1]

Your opinion on Bill Gates is neither here nor there, he was right. Modern business is obsessed with speed. How fast can we get it to market? How fast can we get the order be processed? How fast can we deliver? How fast can we turn a profit?

But the last few years have seen a change that IT companies have struggled to deal with. No longer will the market sit and wait for the next step forward and accept it with open arms. People are innovating for themselves and the tools to allow it are abundant. Major software providers no longer produce products so complicated you need to spend years training to install and customise. Modern software can be simple to install and has customisation and training tools built-in or available on the web.

Even if you don’t have the infrastructure to support a new system there are many companies  who will give you a virtual infrastructure in the “Cloud” giving access to vast processing power and more storage than anyone imagined they would need.

What are cloud services?? – That depends on where you sit in the “cloud”

Some say it’s as simple as anything delivered over the internet, but that makes everything not in your school/office/home a cloud service. Would you call BBC news website a cloud service or website?

My definition is no more valid than yours, Microsoft’s or IBM’s – the description on Wikipedia has changed over 4000 times since the first entry in 2007 [2] –   The Cloud is yours and you should make it what you want it to be.

IT Providers must now change the business model from providers of products and services to Providers of products as services. Major enterprise have used the leverage of “fully managed services” for decades now but the smaller end of the market is pushing for service based, per user offerings. Industry is crying out for models that cut capital  investment and allow per user pricing.  Models that can be flexed up or down with minimal notice. IT companies must change their strategies towards products delivered as a service and learn to adapt these services quickly to an increasingly fluid Global Technology market.

And so now cloud services are the order of the day… But what is the cloud, and what are you going to do with it?

1. Bill Gates; Business at the Sped of Thought; 1999
2. f2mke blog; 2011