What is Cloud? Today’s University Students Aren’t Sure
My dear friend Professor Susan Drucker at Hofstra University on Long Island recently invited me to speak to her Digital Journalism class. This seemed to be a great idea since I now live in Maricopa, Arizona some 2,462 miles away (yes, Google Maps) and would have to speak with the class about the cloud, from the cloud!
This was not the first time I had been invited. The last time was several years back when I still lived on Long Island and appeared in person. Despite that earlier experience being truly wonderful I was absolutely scared that I’d have nothing revelatory to share with them. I figured that, in the past few years, college-aged people had become totally aware and deeply immersed in the cloud. They would probably be explaining things to me.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered just how wrong I was!
Do You Trust the Cloud?
Professor Drucker connected me via Skype and told me the group had just been discussing issues around trust, and asked the group if they trusted “the cloud.”
Everyone responded flat out “NO!”
When we asked why they didn’t trust the cloud, the obvious class clown replied “naked pictures, too many naked pictures.” I pointed out that until a few years ago over 80 percent of traffic crossing the Internet was pornography. You could see them on the screen trying to process that when I added that now more than 75 percent of Internet traffic is Netflix. Now they were completely off balance.
I asked for a definition of “the cloud.” One young woman offered, “an off-site server?”
No other hands went up. I was astounded.
There is No Cloud
Then came the Big Reveal! I explained to the class that there was no cloud, or more precisely there was no “the cloud”. We discussed the many data centers that each provide different cloud services and, since they adhere to the NIST Definition of Cloud Computing could be considered cloud data centers. Yes, I sent them the link to the document.
I asked if any of them had ever used “public cloud” services and no hands went up. One brave student offered up “Google Docs?” very tentatively. I then asked who had ever bought anything on Amazon. Who played “Angry Birds?” Who was on this Skype call right now? Yes, all of us have used and are using public cloud services. We followed by going back to the NIST definition to define private cloud as a service reserved for use by one company, and we blew up the notion that it had to be off-site by pointing out that a private cloud server could be built anywhere, on the user’s own premises, in a co-location or other data center, or elsewhere. I have to admit it was fun seeing all those bright young lights turn on!
Internet of Things? No, that doesn’t exist either
We spoke of the future, how we had used up all 430 billion IPv4 internet addresses and they’d see plenty of pain as we switched over to IPv6 over the next few years. We talked about the explosion of sensors and other “things” being attached to the Internet and how they represented countless violations of our privacy. We also touched on the explosion of “Big Data” and how the world would need some of them to study to become “Data Scientists” to make sense of all that data.
You may be wondering why I’m writing about this here, for MSPmentor IdeaXchange.
The core reason is that we, as an industry, need to carefully examine what I found in this classroom. These were accomplished students following a difficult track at their university. Despite that, and despite the fact that they spend an overwhelming proportion of their time using their smartphones and tablets and computers, they have absolutely no clue about what’s really going on around them in the world of information technologies. None whatsoever.
These are our customers of tomorrow. We all lament the difficulty in explaining the value of cloud computing services, the promise of Big Data, and so many other concepts to an aging corporate leadership community. How difficult it becomes to sell to them what they cannot comprehend.
Yet we are breeding another whole generation of similarly uninformed customers.
Let’s get real about the education our young people need. Not just the technologists, but those who will become the leaders of business and industry tomorrow. Make the effort to contribute our time at local universities where the realities we deal with every day are still distant abstractions to the educators and their students.
Information technologies have become part of everyone’s life. The better we understand how it works, the better we can improve the way it works. The better we can expand the possibilities.