Dec 042009

I’ve got a tune stuck in my head again today. Perhaps this happens to you ocassionally too. It’s triggered subliminally by means totally unrelated to music. Fortunately for me, now that my children have grown into teenagers, the tune is less likely to be The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round or The Barney Song!

On a nearly daily basis, I read or hear something profound or innovative around the topic of Cloud Computing. The debate surrounding cloud security, privacy, and control now triggers a brain-born rendition of Get Off Of My Cloud, originally recorded in 1965 by the British rock band, the Rolling Stones.

“Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around ’cause two’s a crowd”

Sixties music aside, it’s the digital concept of “My Cloud”, as excerpted from that classic song title, which has commanded my interest and attention over the past year. Specifically, it’s my opinion that personal computing is destined for the cloud in this coming decade. Time Is On My Side for the eventual realization of what we may refer to as Personal Cloud Computing (PCC).

For the past three decades, the PC (as in Personal Computer, and now often realized in a notebook computer form factor) has been our digital Beast of Burden, complete with a dedicated central processing unit (CPU), local magnetic and solid state storage, a local operating system (OS), and the ability to compute while not connected to the Internet.

Storing ‘my information’ (which includes all forms of media — documents, photos, spreadsheets, emails, bookmarks, etc.) on a local device provides an illusion of security and control. The reality is that the device which we hold in our hands, containing the memory, representing our sensitive information as stored in digital format, presents an unnecessary exposure, as the majority of the processing we now do is collaborative and enabled via networking and the Internet. More often than not, that which we create on our PC is shared in some form or another with our social or professional circles, and managed somewhere in the cloud. Increasingly, what we find we’re holding in our hands (or on our Jumping Jack Flash memory or Under My Thumb drives … OK… getting carried away here … but do you know how many Rolling Stones song titles there are? Hundreds!) on our traditional PC is an out-of-date digital copy of what exists in the cloud!

So, just Start Me Up, as no booting is required — the cloud is always on. Your new Personal Cloud Computer (PCC) will be provisioned through one of thousands of virtualized, metered, capacity-on-demand, cloud-based service providers. Satisfaction will be guaranteed, as the costs will trend towards ‘free’. Need ‘quad-core’ processing (or to spin up to thousand-core processing) once a month? No problem, you can pay for that hour when/if you need it — else, you’ll pay for the actual ‘sub-single-core’ processing we all generally consume in our typical collaborative computing applications today. Your PCC never needs replaced or upgraded, and you can move from provider to provider at will. As everything lives in the cloud, the PCC will maintain persistent logical ‘session state’ access across the broadest array of digital interface devices including (but not limited to) Internet-enabled displays, audio/video media devices, gaming systems, and ever-thinner net books and mobile devices -– each of which are characterized by high bandwidth, always-on connection to the Internet, with limited (and eventually no) local permanent storage.

Eventually, I believe, we’ll find that any screaming-fast pixel rendering multi-touch screen surface, connected with a super capacity digital pipe to the Internet, can be immediately provisioned as a somewhat traditional PC-like interface into your Personal Cloud Computing session. The exciting part of PCC will come with specialized embedded systems technologies and provisioning of alternative sensory means to interact with a Personal Cloud Computing session. Sure, there’s work to be done in developing these next generation embedded systems, and upon those systems, the necessary device drivers for peripherals and input/output devices.

Imagine a scenario where you compose a presentation on your ubiquitous PCC session via gaming console, wireless controller, and Internet-enabled HDTV in the evening from home, update it via multi-touch screen in the kitchen at breakfast the next morning, send out for review/approval via voice input/output from your car during your commute to work, tweak from your handheld mobile device while in the elevator, and finally deliver through a conference room mounted digital display and wireless pointing device for the meeting where you give the presentation. This seamless, anytime, anywhere, multi-modal access to a personalized virtual computing instance is in our future.

In another post on another day, I’ll describe an even more important requirement for the future of Personal Cloud Computing: provisioning the needed digital “lock box” functionality that will allow us, as individuals, to easily manage and share our personal, private, and proprietary information, as well as what is becoming referenced as the by-product of our interaction with the Internet, our “digital exhaust”, across the entirety of the Internet.

What do you think? Do you also believe Personal Cloud Computing will become pervasive in the coming decade? From your perspective, what are the key barriers or risks to adoption of Personal Cloud Computing? Do you now also have one or more Rolling Stones’ tunes stuck in your head?


Mitchell Ummel

Mitchell Ummel is Director of Cutter's Government & Public Sector practice and a Senior Consultant with Cutter's Business & Enterprise Architecture practice.


  One Response to “Get Off Of My Cloud: Why Personal Cloud Computing is Inevitable”

  1. I agree the cloud is inevitable. However, local storage does a bit more than merely giving “an illusion of security and control”. If you choose not to share something it will remain private. In the cloud, there is no truly “private option”. Except for data level encryption, of course. :)

    That’s where we’re focused. E.g.

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