Privacy and Security Conference 2009 – Day Two

Yesterday was Day 2 of the 10th annual Privacy and Security conference in Victoria, BC. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was excited to hear Nicholas Carr speak. He is a best-selling author and an Internet thought leader. The topic of his keynote was his new book, “The Big Switch”.

In Carr’s latest best-seller, he argues that there will be a significant shift toward cloud computing. He goes on to proclaim that we are at a cross-road – hardware is so cheap and bandwidth is so fast that we no longer need our own computers to run applications and provide storage. Instead, centralized systems will provide the backbone and act as data centers. The economies of scale reinforce this scenario. For this reason, Carr claims it’s inevitable that we will shift toward a distributed model.

Throughout his presentation, he compares the evolution of computing to that of the electricity grid. Carr says there are many similarities and parallels that point toward cloud model. He maintains that this idea isn’t new in the consumer space – Google, Amazon, and others are pioneering this initiative. Even small business is on board to a smaller extent. The next major step is for enterprise and government to switch over. However, issues such as control of data and ownership need to be addressed before he foresees any major shift happening.

In general, I agree with the majority of his arguments, although I don’t think that the transition will proceed as quickly and easily as he asserts. Proof of concept for the centralization of services and applications has already been established with many desktop programs (or the equivalent) now available online. In other words, I don’t think that the concept of cloud computing is a question of “if”, but rather “when” and “how” it breaks down the institutional wall.