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The 2010 IGF Survey: What are the most vital positives/negatives of cloud computing?

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Researchers from the Imagining the Internet Center conducted a video survey of Global IGF 2010 participants, recording interviews with more than 60 stakeholders from all sectors of society about the evolution of the Internet. Use the video viewer to see their responses. Click on the first video to begin a player that will cycle through all visible on this page or click on those you wish to view. To see additional videos, click on the numbers at the end of the video column to display additional videos – there are dozens more than you see here. The question in this video set was: “What are the most important positives and negatives of cloud computing?”

      Links to 2010 questions: 
      >Q1: Cloud computing
      >Q2: The mobile Internet
      >Q3: Human right?
      >Q4: Influence of intermediaries
      >Q5: Influence of the IGF
      >Q6: Greatest hope for the Internet
      >Q7: Greatest fear for the Internet
      >Q8: Future in 10 seconds

      To get an accurate representation of all responses in full, watch all of the videos. Each clip is brief, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Some respondents gave extended answers; some may be edited for brevity if necessary but the majority should include the full response.

      Most of the people surveyed noted that the open discussions conducted at IGF are important because people can speak freely about the challenges and opportunities of the Internet.

      To get an accurate representation of all responses in full, watch all of the videos. Each clip is brief, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Some respondents gave extended answers; some may be edited for brevity if necessary but the majority should include the full response.

      Most of the people surveyed noted that the open discussions conducted at IGF are important because people can speak freely about the challenges and opportunities of the Internet.

      Print transcript of the comments made in the video on this page:

      Vint Cerf, co-author of the Internet Protocol and Google’s chief Internet evangelist: Cloud computing is a really interesting topic because – my friends don’t like me to say it this way – but its kind of like time sharing on steroids because its shared assets used by a number of people remotely. That’s what the cloud is.

      That’s not only what the cloud is but it has a lot of those characteristics. The good part is that it is dynamic sharing of large-scale resources, and that allows for efficiencies that you don’t normally get when you have individual machines that are only used 10 or 15 percent of the time.

      The second thing you get out of cloud computing is the ability to rapidly expand the total computational footprint against a particular problem, whereas you don’t get that through personal machines, laptops and PDAs.

      The hard part about cloud computing is, first of all, you are sharing resources with other people, that was true with timesharing, and you always worry whether your information is protected from everybody else or not.

      If all of your information is held in that machine or in that cloud you always worry. Will it be preserved? Will it be lost? Not just does someone else get access to it inappropriately, but will it be there when I need it?

      The third issue with clouds is that right now the people who build cloud-based computing systems like Google, and IBM, and Amazon and Microsoft don’t build them the same way. They don’t have all the same functionality. On the other hand, I expect the users of cloud-based services to begin to want to have the flexibility to move data from one cloud to another. Maybe engage more than one cloud at the same time. Maybe get two clouds or three clouds to do something and then collaborate with each other in order to complete the particular computation or particular function.

      So we now need to worry about how clouds will communicate with each other. That’s the inter-cloud problem and in some ways we are faced now in 2010 with the same problem that we had back in 1973 when Bob Kahn and I were trying to figure out how do we get inter-net – how do we get nets to talk to each other –now it’s how do we get clouds to talk to each other.

      So I’m quite interested in the technical side of this. Now one of the things which has occurred to me is that one of the solutions that we invented in the Arpanet days, the predecessor to Internet, involves something called the network virtual terminal. This was the concept of a device that didn’t exist. The idea was that all the hosts on the Arpanet could serve the terminals that were physically connected to them and this fictitious network virtual terminal, then, if everyone could present themselves as if they were a virtual terminal, every machine on the Arpanet could serve to support that one additional kind of terminal. So we implemented this protocol called Telnet, which had this network virtual terminal concept in it, and the reason I go into this detail is that I’m thinking about cloud interactions.

      I’m thinking we need a network virtual cloud, a definition of a virtual cloud, which we will all present as a façade and it doesn’t represent, necessarily, every functionality we can do with a particular cloud but would allow inter-cloud interactions to the extent that they have common capabilities, common representations of data. So cloud computing is actually a very interesting, very facile concept which we’ve implemented at Google and replicated for resilience and redundancy.

      So I’m pretty convinced that it’s here to stay, and we will have some interesting problems here ahead of us once we get these things to interact with one another.

      Dmitry Kohmanyuk, Country Code Top-Level Domain, Ukraine: The positives of cloud computing is that it allows computational power to be spread around the world and be available to people regardless of their origin.
      The down side of it is the locality of the information is removed, therefore people may have information stored in different countries or territories with different laws and therefore that may bring legal complications. Also the reliability of such a set-up greatly depends on the providers of data and there may be no legal way to enforce the rights of the person whose information is temporarily lost, or stolen, etc.

      Pablo Molina, associate VP of IT and campus CIO at Georgetown University, US: Well it is positive in many regards, being economically very efficient, opening new opportunities for people. At the same time the problem, perhaps, is watching competition and innovation once a few players own the cloud.

      When it comes to privacy, I think that cloud computing is quite possibly the best and the worst thing that ever happened to privacy. I think it’s the best because those corporations that are going to maintain cloud services are going to do so in a very professional way. They will not afford the data leaks that many of us have afforded at data centers.

      On the other hand, the problem is who is going to supervise them? For example, a breach in one of those organizations – I know there was someone fired from Google yesterday for snooping into clients’ accounts – if the controls are not good, everyone’s privacy will be at risk.

      Alejandro Pisanty, longtime leader in the Internet Society, ICANN, IGF from the National University of Mexico: Well together, the positives of cloud computing are that small companies and individuals may have access to the infrastructure that is made scalable by someone else. The negatives come from that you don’t have all possible control over where your data operations go, where they are loading, and for things like governments and some cities and some companies who would have information that would be under the jurisdiction of different laws.

      Patrice Lyons, senior legal counsel at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, US: I was recently at a meeting where they were discussing the so-called “cloud” computing, and I say so-called because if you go back in the Internet [historically] usually they would show it graphically, several years back, as a cloud. Someone mentioned that there was a cloud computing process that they were offering, well the next person got up and said they had another version and pretty soon everyone kind of chuckled and said, “OK, these are advertising slogans.”

      So the notion of the cloud was originally the concept of distributed programming in an Internet environment, and what I’m beginning to see is some mischievousness in the whole thing. That they’re trying to somehow say that the cloud is something different when, in fact, they’re talking about the evolution of the Internet to have secured methods, and that is something of particular interest to me, that they don’t simply through advertising mechanisms, which is really what it is advertising campaign saying “cloud,” that they don’t somehow lose track of the basic technology that is being implemented. And also, for example, what you have right now is distributed computing and mobile programming in an Internet environment are taking on increasing importance.

      Andrew Mack, founder of AMGlobal Consulting, US: Cloud computing provides a real step-up. in my mind, in much of the same way that the cell phone provides a step up. You are untethered from a lot of the basic infrastructure. And as a result really exciting things can happen in under-served markets. For example, I was hearing recently about a company in Zambia that was having a hard time paying its workers, OK, cloud computing is a way where you can house a lot of this stuff. We were also talking about the possibility of storing medical records, that you could access across borders, I travel a lot, but also, for example, the Haiti earthquake or a natural disaster could serve very nicely as a backup where you can access things.

      I think if we do it the right way it might be a nice way to extend the benefits of the Internet to a lot of people who are going to be slower to get them. I think the biggest concerns are around safety and security of data, and there is a little bit of concern that I’ve heard voiced about privacy but I think truthfully the benefits outweigh the negatives. It’s just a matter of managing to limit the negatives.

      Peng Hwa Ang, director of Singapore Internet Research Centre, Nanyang Technological University, longtime Internet governance leader: The big positive is that you would store information in the cloud and it would facilitate sharing, using portables so you don’t have to change your computer, conceptually a computer could be a thin client, so conceptually things can be cheaper.

      But as a major downside, somebody must control this cloud, somebody must run it. How do you know that it is secure? Can someone hack into it? Can data be totally lost? And also there is an issue of your energy costs for storing it. In the IT industry there is actually quite an intensive use of energy, so much so that we’re talking about building server farms next to dams, hydro-electric dams. All sorts of things, it’s quite amazing.

      Nurani Nimpuno, policy leader with NetNod, Sweden, and advisor to the global Internet Governance Forum: Cloud computing is the essence of the Internet in many ways. I think the reason it’s become such a hot topic now is we’re at a stage, actually, where the Internet is so well developed that we have the infrastructure to build real cloud computing. I mean the possibilities are endless, in that it allows people to access and share services in a way that hasn’t been possible before.

      I think one of the challenges, or two of the challenges, are certainly security and privacy, and I think that is two-fold, both in terms of regulation and legislation, actually catching up and navigating and finding the right balance between privacy and openness, but also in terms of use and knowledge, understanding what type of service it is you’re buying. Understanding the implications, understanding that your information isn’t just on your servers, it might be on servers that aren’t even in your country. So understanding what that means and what your rights are there and who else can access that content. I think that’s a big challenge with cloud computing.

      Dave Faulkner, director of Climate Associates, LTD, UK: Okay, so the most important positive in my view is to be able to use relatively dumb terminals with an intelligent server remotely. So it’s similar to what we used to do in the old days when we had a very dumb terminal and an air band link to a very clever computer like an IBM. And that means that your software can be updated on a server remotely.

      You don’t have to keep track of any changes in software, you don’t necessarily have to pay for any licenses, so you may be able to access the same facilities from anywhere else in the world. Those are its positives, its biggest negative is likely to be there could be an increase in the overall power required to run the system, and therefore more fossil fuels burned to power them in the short term.

      Jyrki Kasvi, member of Parliament, Finland, representing the Green League: The positives are that you can much more efficiently use the resources you have. And usually when you focus on providing those services you are also better prepared to provide data security and so on. The difficulty is that as a client you cannot be certain and you don’t know where the data is.

      Personally my particular problem is that if there is a dispute between, for example, a service provider in the US and me in Finland, and the person who is hosting the server is in Russia, and the person who is hosting in the other server is in, say, Saudi Arabia, so where are these disputes resolved? And can I afford to travel around the world going to court?

      Lisa Horner, head of research and policy at Global Partners & Associates, UK: In terms of the positive effects of cloud computing, I think it offers unprecedented opportunities for people to use the Internet, and all of the opportunities, and facilities and tools that it has to offer.

      In terms of the negatives, or things that we need to look at and consider, we have all the issues regarding the protection of data, but also the issues of the ability of people to actually design their own applications and use the Internet for the things that they actually want to use it for. I think that some of the applications available in cloud computing systems limit those opportunities.

      Qusai Al-Shatti, Kuwait Information Technology Society: Cloud computing is one of the new trends on the Internet. It is actually not related to the Internet, but it is related to our personal information, to our corporate information, to government activities and so on.

      It shifts the concept of services and it provides services to people: software as a service; storage as a service; my personal data being stored somewhere as a service. This raises certain issues related to privacy to the protection of my personal data and how effective it can be.

      But it is a new trend and definitely there are good sides of it and there are sides that need to be addressed with issues related to Internet governance to make it more, let’s say, trustable.

      Mohamed Ibrahim, project manager for SO CCTLD in Somalia: From my perspective the issues that worry me [are] security. Who owns this data, where would it be kept, how secure would that be, what happens with laws? All of those things are the negative sides.

      But there are positives, on the other hand. Where I am from there are a lot of issues from power failures to other simple problems that have been solved elsewhere. So that problem might disappear if we use cloud computing, if something is stored in a country where power sources are more stable, better services are available, better security and so on. So overall I see it as a positive move, I see it as a move forward.

      Juan Carlos Solines Moreno, Solines & Associates, Ecuador: Acknowledging emerging issues for different regions is very important because we start to get aware of the benefits, the problems, the barriers that we are facing.
      Specifically in terms of cloud computing I think that it could be a powerful change particularly for poorer regions of the world that don’t need to invest in storage and applications that can be easily accessed. Of course this raises a lot of questions, but I think that the mere fact of having a vision of what is going on with this new technology is very positive.

      Mireille Raad, freelance software developer, Lebanon: The most important part for me is for companies and start-up web companies. Now they really don’t have to invest a lot in terms of hardware. What they can do is they can rent cloud computing and they will pay for what they use. So if you are a start-up and you are not yet using a lot of resources and getting a lot of hits on your services then you don’t pay the same so it’s easier for you.
      The negatives are related to privacy, and to security and, I think, hacking because you are creating a place where everyone is putting their data and it’s becoming a very interesting pool for hackers to go there. It’s enough for one person to get through, and no matter the security there is always at least one person.

      Vasil Pefev, telerik.com, Bulgaria: Cloud computing is probably the future because at one point or another everything will be in the cloud. That’s my personal belief. I believe that hard drives and laptops as they are right now will pretty much disappear and we will have terminals or handheld devices that will have access to our data, etc. The negative side is that everything that is not in your possession can be taken control over. So with some regulation, some of the topics we are here at the IGF discussing that with some regulation everything’s going to be OK, but we’ll see.

      Mike Sax, president of a mobile applications company Sax.net, US: Cloud computing allows small businesses to do big things without investing in a whole bunch of equipment and data centers. And they allow their solutions when they finally are successful and they grow quickly to scale up very quickly because they have access to these data centers that have resources available.

      The negative about it is that a lot of regulations are not really up to date and never imagined cloud computing. So something that requires you to, for example, keep your data within the boundaries of a certain country, or the differences between privacy and security regulations between different countries can really make business very complicated and almost take away some of the advantages cloud computing offers small businesses.

      Joonas Makinen, Pirate Youth of Finland: The most positive thing is, actually, that it makes it easier for consumers to access services. It takes a lot of work away from them, that is, actually, why it is so thrilling. It creates its own risks, which are quite new actually. That’s the negative part. It has a lot of risks involved that we’re not used to, for example, you put any of your data online in these services and if they’re gone you can’t do anything about it. It’s ready for some personal or very important information disappearing, and it was not possible for that to happen before.

      Ambrose Ruyooka, Ministry of ICT, Uganda: Of course we have been using cloud computing for some time, in some form. So I would imagine it being more prominent. It saves on resources. You have centralized resources. You can put investments in different places. You have centrally hosted services. So I think that is one of the positives.
      The negatives though, you are not in charge of what is happening in the background, you do not have control of what is there. It’s all about a matter of trust. You trust whoever is hosting the data, and so it’s a matter of trust. In my country, where I come from, people believe in the feel and the touch, if you feel something we want to see it and to touch it and feel that that is the way it is, this is where my computer is. But for cloud computing you don’t have it there.

      Fernando Botelho, F123.org, Brazil: I think cloud computing is very powerful and it’s a powerful concept in the sense that it allows you to use resources, computing resources, that are usually wasted, and cloud computing would allow you to take advantage of the machines that are idle or even people that need resources but they don’t need them constantly can contract out like you would do with a utility and just get the computing power that they need when they need it.

      Now in terms of disadvantages, I think there is a serious issue there in terms of reliability in the sense that even developed economies like the US occasionally have power outages and other infrastructure issues. In developing countries this is a much bigger issue so I think there is a strategic danger there or at least a strategic vulnerability for companies, or foundations or universities to depend on a technology that requires very good infrastructure over long distances.

      Kristijonas Leipus, a participant from Lithuania: I think cloud computing is great because you don’t need to have a lot of storage on your computer and all the files that you work with on cloud computing, you can reach them everywhere because Internet is now worldwide. You can work in anyplace you want and that is great, I think.

      Cristos Velasco, founder and director general of NACPEC, Mexico: Well the positive side of cloud computing is that it will bring competition to a lot of countries and places where infrastructure is not so developed. Developing countries can move their infrastructure into the cloud and just use those services that are available to end-users. So this is one positive aspect of cloud computing, which is developing very very fast.

      Jean-Jacques Subrenat, member of the ICANN Board of Directors: I am a member of the board at ICANN, but I would like to state that I am answering your questions in a private capacity. I see the positive side of it in two terms, one is access that leads to the diversity of things you can access easily and the second thing is the universality, hopefully, of that technique but the downside, at least for the time being is that there don’t seem to be enough protections built into the systems, as of now, for the protection of personal data and it can be mined in various ways for commercial or other reasons. So I think there is a risk element there.

      Alice Toomer-McAlpine, Childnet and Radiowaves, UK: I have no idea what cloud computing is, and that is one of the things that I was kind of concerned about when I got here. Everyone was going on about cloud computing and I don’t know what it is. I think that’s probably my main concern that I don’t know what it is, so I’m sure some other people here don’t know what it is, so that is probably something we should take a look at.

      Belhassen Zouari, CEO, Tunisian Computer Emergency Response Team: Cloud computing from my point of view – the positive things: It offers more mobility and a lot of facilities. For example, cloud storage, we can put files in the cloud and anywhere we are we don’t need to get our personal computer, we can from any computer from any point in the world – if you have connection to the Internet, and now it is easy to get a connection to the Internet – we can get our data. I think it is a very important thing for cloud storage.

      I think for cloud computing it is a little bit different and it is the possibility to access processing power, if you can say that in these terms, and to compute or to have access to applications or programs from any point of access of the Internet in the world. From my point of view the cloud storage is very good thing, perhaps more for me than the cloud processing.

      Sean Ang, Southeast Asia Center for E-Media, Malaysia: For the positive aspects, I would think the reduction of costs. I’m looking from a hosting perspective. With cloud computing we can reduce the costs of hosting and we are talking about storage, with cloud computing we can actually have the ability to store all of the time.
      But the problem is with cloud computing – there is an issue of privacy. Once that data is there and out there is a possibility that it will be distributed to the cloud so, who is controlling the data?

      Hanane Boujemi, DiploFoundation, Malta: I think some governments have plans to migrate the information that they have in some public or governmental websites to data centers in order to save all of the money that they’re spending to maintain and update the websites, which costs a lot of money because I know the UK, for example, opts for this cloud computing and it seems that they’re saving a lot of money, it counts millions of pounds.

      But at the moment I didn’t go over the impact of cloud computing as a new technology. On one hand, a benefit could be that it would contribute massively to limiting the impact on the environment, the impact of ICTs on the environment but the negative impact, I’m not sure what could be the case. Maybe the data centers will have, you know, some drawbacks to the environment that are just not known at the moment and there still to be defined, the negative impacts. But I can see just the positive from, you know, the information that I have about cloud computing.

      Tracy Hackshaw, Internet Society Ambassador to IGF from Trinidad & Tobago: I actually work for the government back home and we look at it seriously as a cost saving measure. Instead of buying servers, software, renewing every year, buying another after three years, it makes more sense just to look to cloud computing as a solution. Some people see it as an environmental positive as well. Also to provide access to our employees in the government via the web, as well as our citizens. We can deliver things faster and with better performance.

      Kurt Lindqvist, CEO of NetNod, Sweden: I think that cloud computing is not exactly new because we’ve seen similar ideas in the press, but I do think that as the Internet gets more spread out and we have more bandwidth available that it will enable more applications to be developed online. Cloud computing, I think, also holds great promises for the developing world, where they can reach all of these resources from anywhere.

      – Interviews were conducted by Samantha Baranowski, Kirsten Bennett and Drew Smith, researchers from Elon University’s School of Communications, under the supervision of Glenn Scott, associate professor, and Janna Anderson, associate professor and director of the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon

      – The transcript of these video interviews was prepared by Lindsay Fendt,
      a student researcher with the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University

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