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The Crystal Ball

Posted by itresolve on February 25, 2013

Research Cloud Computing on the web and pretty soon you will find an abundance of diagrams and acronyms pertaining to an obscure network or set of protocols for computing or storage in a large or indeed immense server farm. A server farm is nothing more than a collection of computers dedicated to serve, distribute or store data within a network. When you enter a URL or click a link from a search result you are sending a request for data to be served to you. Servers also run programs which can range from miniscule applications to overtly intensive analytical processing of large amounts of data. It is a world where the Teraflop, Gigaflop or Blade Server exist, a Teraflop being a unit of computing speed equal to one million million floating-point operations per second. Cloud computing facilitates a company who produce much raw data the opportunity to process the data on someone else’s servers therefore removing the need to invest in a powerful server farm themselves. It may be that they are only in need of such processing power on occasion. Commerce compliments the harmony of supply and demand, processing power, distribution or storage has a premium.

It is hard to imagine the sheer amount of data that is flowing through the networks that circumnavigate our planet; streams of data consistently flow through the veins of the Internet at speeds a shade away from the speed of light. Large international corporations manifest its operations in such a way that a few decades ago were nothing more than pipe dreams. It is then, hard to imagine where we will be in a couple of decades, the only thing holding us back is the development of infrastructure, the speed of our own minds to embrace possibility and the programming ability that is needed to provide solutions or innovate. Historically applications and software development have been restricted by limits of processing power or hardware limitations. Multi-core and simultaneous multi-threading from processors today mean the boundaries of software development are less defined. New powerful devices bring new opportunities; it seems software is for the moment able to evolve free from hardware restrictions (within reason) thus accelerating the evolution of possibility. Streamed High Definition Movies, access to Second Life®, syncing the droid, uploading swathes of captured content all conspire to drive the Internet. More bandwidth or speed is the inevitable result.   Read on.

The way we use the Internet is changing, the growth and adoption of it is mind boggling. It is affecting the physical world around us, our high streets are changing, jobs are changing and the way we consume data or entertain ourselves is changing. The Internet is making its way from your office to your living room; traditional TV will soon be swallowed by it. How many of us have a little black box residing below the TV with an Ethernet cable springing from it? Not content to stop there the Internet could soon be making its way out of your pocket and on to your face. I refer of course to Google Glass®. 

Stardate24/02/2013.

It appears like we are standing on a technological precipice. Google Glass, NFC, Nexus quad core chipped smartphones. Hand held and mobile technologies are raising the bar, tech as seen in the 24th century on the USS Enterprise is poised to make an entrance. Being specific I must reference the number NCC-1701D, but all that nonsensical Science Fiction chatter to one side; what a glorious future awaits us. This technological evolution is running at quite a pace, the Information Age is maturing and like a fine wine it seems to be improving with age. Autonomous technology is again a new frontier, the integration of technology, with the emphasis on 'to serve'. Indeed the American influence can be further utilised; technology to serve and to protect. IT Companies are showcasing their wears, flapping their wings, making promises that seem a little challenging to live up to. The precipice I mentioned will vanish; new technology will integrate into society. Good fortune favours the brave so cast aside any notion of ethical corporate policies and stride boldly into the future. What Google knows about you, how it will use that knowledge is all about demographics. There is vast opportunity in such data and Google are keen to develop it then tap into it. The networks will grow and become powerful, if knowledge is power then we must ensure Google remain true to their beliefs and values. But the technological evolution will run with or without Google, there are other players and each of them share the same desire to tap into rich data and harvest valuable information. But it all comes down to this. If you find a bit of tech that makes your life easier or better and you can afford it then you could do a lot worse than giving it a try. If more companies shared the beliefs and values of Google there would be far less to worry about. How odd it is that at this point in time and in my view both Microsoft and Intel are lagging. However, it will only take a keen bit of tech to ensure the build up of manufacturing. The right price point combined with compelling features, smothered in fashion and in the right hands all conspire together to favour a growing market. The fickle matter of fashion is able to make or break new tech, some ideas become successful Facebook® or others MySpace don't. Highly personalised intelligent information projected to a heads up display is on the cards. Seamless syncopation with your droid where an OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screen displays your information. A screen without a back light consumes less power, your tablet looks set to slim down a tad. Anything with the word Organic in the title is good right? The combination of a 40 inch OLED screen coupled to Microsoft’s kinect® device is an example of persuasive technology. The Kinect can track your position within a room, it can build a 3D model of you, your virtual self is closer than you think. Your virtual clone may even land a part in an Avatar sequel but don't hold your breath! In a more down to earth scenario, your posture reveals more about you than you may at first think. Add the Internet, a remote Chiropractor and a Google Hangout® some potential begins to sharpen into view.

Please forgive my digressions but I digress with good reason. If we peer into the technological crystal ball it’s not hard to see the vast inbound swathes of technology, ignore these at your peril but your interest in this subject right now shows ignorance to be of no issue. There are those who will get left behind, the leaders, adopters and laggers are all on this journey, a journey that can seem invisible or even slow to some but it chunters away gathering us all in one way or another. 

Change is something we are becoming used to. A flexible approach to living has become normal. A job for life is as much a thing of the past as life without the Internet. Governments across the world share the vision for a connected world and companies increase their stock by building it. Technological advances give us ever faster connections and this progress shows little sign of abating. In which tech should we invest in? In which direction will the money stream flow? Cloud or distributed computing, the mobile Internet, new feature rich applications are facilitating improvements to our online world. Cloud computing is by no means a new concept, is as intrinsic to a network as the humble router itself. The Internet was born to distribute data and in so doing protecting it. Collaborating on this distributed data used to carry an overhead but apps such as Google Drive® now make this issue seamless or even invisible. There are many levels to Social Networking, when used to overcome problems it can be very powerful. Consider the evolution of the Internet, consider too the evolution of mankind during the tenure of the Internet. For better or worse, through controversy or improvement the Internet still promises much and has scope to continue changing the way we live our lives.

My opinions lay between these words, you may know by now that I advocate the cloud, I see it as essential or even crucial to what lies ahead. Please forgive yet another digression but I must put my hippy hat on for a second or three. Far from an environmentalist, you'll not see me hugging a tree anytime soon but I do harbour great concern for our environment. Server farms require power and a lot of it, they also generate heat. Not enough heat to be recycled into electricity but heat that could be useful to a home, school or university campus. Combining products and bi products, using some creative business thinking is essential if we are to reduce the threat from Climate Change or as I now think of it as Global Climate Destabilisation, a digression too far although loosely related but it's out of the scope. Intelligence in IT evolution with regard to the climate is essential. I read with interest today that David Attenborough has warned that the human race has become a "plague on the Earth". He goes on "Until humanity manages to sort itself out and get a co-ordinated view about the planet, it's going to get worse and worse." Instead of two, three or four corporations investing in their own server farms a better idea would be outsourced infrastructure, scheduled operations. Sharing resources with focused server communities who have a keen eye on their ecological footprint. Parallel to the growth of economies we need to focus on the growth of intellect, working smarter should be the prime directive. Gene Roddenbury created such a concept but fear not I shall not venture into Science Fiction. There is no need, never has there been a time where Science Fiction and reality are so close. These are exciting times and I encourage you to embrace tech and make it work for you.

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