16-17 June 2014, Volha attended the 6th Annual Cloud World Forum (held at National Hall Olympia in London), which brought together thousands of delegates and over 300 speakers. The event was co-located with Big Data World Congress and included a large expo and a broad range of talks in several themed theatres (e.g., ‘Future Cloud’; ‘Strategic Cloud’; ‘Transforming Cloud’; ‘Technical Cloud’).
Cloud computing has become particularly significant to the changing geographies of data storage, data processing and data analysis. In terms of industry and economy, cloud services have advanced rapidly, attracting new providers and new public and private clients. The questions we have previously noted (see our posted July 2013) regarding the significance of the cloud have become superseded by implementations questions ‘which cloud?’, and ‘how?’
In terms of cloud adoption, Matthew Finnie, Chief Technical Officer of Interoute, identifies there categories of clients: “early adopters”, like Dropbox or Netflix; “middle tier”; and those who are still “circumspect about the cloud” (in James Bourne, www.cloudcomputingnews.net).
And there are some good reasons for caution and concern. A recent European Commission study (Lutz Schubert and Keith Jeffery) has concluded that, “[w]hilst a lot of development and progress has already been made in CLOUD technologies, there still remains a wide range of concerns that need to be addressed in future CLOUD iterations in order to reach its full potential” (EC, 2012, ‘Advances in Clouds: Research in Future Cloud Computing’, p. i). Moreover, “[t]here is still a lot of confusion caused by CLOUD computing terminology and claimed advantages” (p. i) and “technology is still considered immature” (p. 23), with the technological challenges in a number of areas.
At the same time, issues of governance (e.g., identity and access management; data sovereignty and data security; data protection; jurisdiction and legal frameworks) are as important as ever. In this respect, it was good to have a talk by Simon Rice from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), who reminded the delegates about the importance of compliance with data protection requirements, and provided a helpful overview of the ICO’s own guides (e.g., http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/data_protection/topic_guides/online/cloud_computing) and other relevant guidance.
At Big Data Congress, talks ranged from the advances related MapR (MapReduce) (Richard Shaw, MapR) and other Hadoop-based distributions and the new uses of the IBM supercomputer Watson to the use of machine learning (Inhi Cho Suh, IBM) and big data in the gaming industry (Adam Fletcher, Mediatonic). As businesses and public sector organisations are increasingly looking for insights not just from their own data, but also from bringing together internal and external datasets, big data analytics are developing rapidly. Unfortunately, not all attempt to build comprehensive pictures of customers/clients show appreciation of complex legal, ethical and political implications, something that was made evident in a discussion about the use of cloud-based analytics to analyse data in the UK social housing sector.
One of the more conceptual and also rather interesting talks was the keynote by Dave Copin (Microsoft) on regaining control in the digital age. While his analysis of our current condition (explicated in more detail in his book “The rise of the humans: how to outsmart the digital deluge”) was very pertinent in terms of highlighting dangers of mindless ‘gorging on information’, of multi-tasking and digital distraction, of over-personalisation, and implications of the loss of “the physical and mental space needed to generate ideas and innovation” (p. 37); the suggested solutions, including “mining the data dividend”, understanding “the connected customer”, replacing causality with correlation and embracing automation were not unproblematic.
More information about the event is available at: www.cloudwf.com. Next year’s forum will take place 24-25 June 2015.