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How cloud computing will change the nature of information

Cloud computing could give search steroids

Market researchers, Research and Markets, has published the Worldwide Cloud Computing Market Shares, Strategies, and Forecasts, 2009-2015, a 609-page report that is available for US$3,400, according to which the cloud computing market will reach a whooping US$160.2 billion by 2015, from a base of US$36 billion in 2008.

From the press release, the company doesn't exactly explain why the market will expand so rapidly over the next five years, nor define what exactly the cloud computing market segment encompasses (hardware? software? IaaS? PaaS? SaaS?). According to the research firm, "a cloud computing system has many aspects related to a range of industries moving to leverage the Internet as a channel."

That doesn't exactly say much, but from the description and the subsequent points raised by the press release, including examples and comments on Google, Salesforce.com, and NetSuite, it is probably safe to assume that the researchers are talking about cloud services, and not exactly cloud computing platforms like Amazon and Rackspace.

While the company kept its secrets (available for US$3,400) on its research and data - which includes 211 tables and figures inside the report - it did make a couple of interesting points in its statement.

First, it states an obvious but seldom articulated fact - that cloud computing, by centralising computing power, storage and applications, has the potential to unite what is currently a highly distributed architecture for information. With the Internet today, information is stored primarily on servers inside different hosting companies and networks. While the Internet links everything together, the information resides separately. And despite information aggregators like Google, Yahoo and the lot, which help catalogue and provide access to the information with some kind of actual structure, the information is still separate.

Today, the information (the websites themselves) resides on one layer, and the logic (search engines) on another.

Yes, managed hosting solutions are increasingly gaining popularity, bringing different sites together inside shared facilities, cloud computing, if it takes off, will accelerate that trend by many folds. What that means is more and more information will be brought together under the same roof, and in the case of virtualised public clouds, inside the same infrastructure. The information on each site will still be separate, but they will be inside the same database. This will make the application of information logic that much easier. 

While it is probably still a bit too early to say what kind of applications developers will come up with, the potential for structuring data inside a few massive stores of information would be like today's Search market, but on steroids.

What's more, the research report adds that applying the logic to this new information structure will get much easier.

"Google has long envisioned and prepared for this change in the scale of the quantity of information to be managed. For clouds to reach their potential, they need to be as easy to program as it is to navigate the Web. This new programming paradyne opens up growing markets for cloud search and software tools. Google and a host of other companies offer application development without programming capabilities to users," the researchers said.

With that, perhaps you and I will be able to build applications that leverage the close proximity of data to other relevant data. Right now, I can program Google search to alert me on all news related to "green telecom". In the future, I might be able to do the same, but on the actual data base of a cloud provider.

Another interesting point highlighted by the report is that the massive scale of cloud computing services may call for a revival of the mainframe.

"Google is perhaps reaching the limits of the current hardware architecture with a need to rethink the energy and server configurations. The mainframe can operate at 10 times savings over distributed systems in most cases and represents a replacement cloud based hardware configuration that is more efficient because of its shared workload capabilities. This is significant on the scale of cloud computing that Google contemplates," the researchers said.

More Stories By Tony Chan

Tony Chan is the founder of the Green Telecom Live website and a seasoned journalist based in Hong Kong. He is currently an editor at CommsDay International, a daily, subscription-based newsletter covering the business, technology, regulation and market developments of the telecommunications industry in Asia and the world.

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