Economie de l'Internet

ICCP Technology Foresight Forum - "Cloud Computing: The Next Computing Paradigm?"

 

OECD Conference Center

14 Octobre 2009

 

This page is directly accessible at www.oecd.org/sti/ict/cloudcomputing

Other Technology Foresight Forums: www.oecd.org/ict/TechnologyForesightForum

 

 

Introduction to Cloud Computing 

In 2008 the term “cloud computing” became fashionable as a way to refer to a number of interlinked information technology trends. There are a number of competing interpretations of what cloud computing is about, but in its simplest formulation the expression refers to the provision of computing resources at a distance, over the Internet. This would hardly seem to be a novel concept, and indeed it harkens back in some respects to the early days of computing with big mainframes doing the computing work for remote users at work stations. Yet the term is suggestive of important shifts in IT, which may bring economic, policy and possibly regulatory implications.  

 

The metaphor of the cloud is intended to suggest the storage and processing of data and delivery of services from large amorphous complexes via the Internet. One aspect of the metaphor is some notion of geographic indeterminacy – customers may not know where their data is at any given moment, accessing computing resources drawn from an “ill-defined elsewhere.” This is not true for all enterprise cloud applications, however, some of which are supported from a small number of readily identifiable data centres. What is common, however, is the idea that the service can be delivered without regard to the location of the customer. Armed with a web browser on an Internet connection, the cloud enables users to access the services from anywhere.

 

Cloud computing platforms take advantage of a number of broader IT trends. One key element is advances in virtualisation, which allow for the separation of applications from infrastructure. Likewise cloud applications are dependent on the widespread availability of broadband connectivity, including through wireless devices, as well as reductions in storage costs. Some cloud-based service providers find efficiencies through the use of a multi-tenant architecture, to allow different customers to share the same platform. Some of these trends were previewed in earlier discussions of “grid computing” or “utility computing,” through which businesses rent storage space and access to other businesses computing facilities.

 

Services being marketed as cloud computing may include software “on demand.” While some cloud services operate on a subscription model, “pay as you go” models are increasingly becoming available, allowing organisations to pay for only what they consume, and allowing them to flexibly increase that consumption as needed. Some interesting examples of cloud services involve platforms that allow interactivity, through data exchange between applications – “mash-ups” – and enhance innovation.    

 

There are a number of benefits promised by cloud-based services. For example, the computing resources can be made available anywhere there is a computer and Internet connection, minimising the impact of geography on productivity. And access devices can be simpler (and smaller) if the data and applications reside in the cloud. For both small businesses and large enterprises, cloud services can free up organisations from capital expenditures on their computing infrastructure and minimise the need for in-house IT expertise. “Pay as you go” models can be very attractive to organisations whose computing needs are uneven, or whose storage or processing needs may rise quickly. In general, the pressure on firms to cut costs, enhance flexibility and reduce risk in the current economic climate may make cloud-computing and its pay-as-you-go pricing models attractive.

 

Some organisations may choose to implement internal cloud-like architectures or “private clouds.”  Others may choose a hybrid approach, moving some processes to the public cloud, but continuing to maintain their own data centres, servers, storage, and networks for certain essential operations. Public sector organisations may have particular requirements that need to be addressed by cloud providers. 

Cloud-based services for consumers have been around for many years in the form of applications like webmail.  But the arrival of “Web 2.0” services with greatly enhanced user interfaces, along with reduced storage and processing costs has vastly expanded services on offer. Consumers now use the Internet to migrate e-mail, pictures, videos, and documents, financial records, and health records away from their personal computer to third-party servers. Popular services like social networks have been cloud-based since their inception. According to a recent study, some 69% of online Americans use webmail services, store data online, or use software programs such as word processing applications whose functionality is located on the web.

 

Cloud computing also raises a number of policy issues, from portability, competition, and innovation to security, privacy and accountability. Both the promise of cloud computing and the policy issues it raises are the subject of this ICCP Foresight Forum.

 

About ICCP Foresight Forums

First launched in 2005, Technology Foresight Forums are an annual event organised by the OECD Committee for Information, Computer, and Communications Policy to help identify opportunities and challenges for the Internet Economy posed by technical developments.  Foresight forums represent a collaborative effort of policy makers from member and non-member governments, business, civil society, and the Internet technical community.  Past forum topics include RFID, Participative Web, and Next Generation Networks. 

 

Contact

For more information, please contact: michael.donohue[at]oecd.org

 

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