Integration as a competitive advantage

Henrik Hvid Jensen

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IoT: Article

Do We Need a National Cloud?

What is to become the critical backbone of the infrastructure of future society?

Until the end of the 19th century, many factories used waterpower to operate their machinery. The energy came from a single source (the water mill), which was connected to a complex system of pinions and pulleys that distributed power to the individual machines.

When the first electric generators became available, most factories chose to use them rather than the water mill to operate the existing system. Manufacturers with greater foresight understood that the great advantage of electricity is that it is easy to distribute. Hence, many large, centralised power plants emerged that delivered inexpensive electricity. These started a chain reaction, giving us the modern world we know today (based on Nicholas Carr).

The same development is taking place with computer power. Thus far, each company and each citizen have had their own "computer power generators". However, as a result of the falling prices of IT and the ubiquitous nature of the Internet, computer power is about to become a part of society's infrastructure via worldwide computer power plants. For this reason, computer power can be considered an infrastructure component along the line of the railroad, electricity, the telephone, and water.

Computer power delivered from "a wall outlet" is termed cloud computing where the word cloud is because illustrations often depict the Internet as a cloud.

In many countries is the typical reaction to the need for infrastructure to build up publicly owned companies, such as British Telecom, Deutsche Bahn, Air France etc. These ensured that the societal benefit was accessible to all. As the infrastructure has become solidly anchored in society, capitalism has gained greater access through the privatisation of several of these publicly owned companies. A certain public control of the infrastructure has been maintained, such as through mobile licenses.

Society's dependency on cloud computing will only grow, both because the current user pattern for the Internet is growing constantly, but also because the next step in the development of the Internet is a gradual development from being a network of interconnected computers to being a network of interconnected things (e.g., books, cars, electrical appliances, and food products), thereby also creating an Internet of things: health monitoring systems for the growing number of elderly people; trees connected over the Internet to aid in fighting deforestation; cars connected over the Internet, thus reducing traffic congestion; etc. The interconnection between physical things will only strengthen the deeper effect that large-scale web communication already has on society.

Oligopoly controlling cloud computing for citizens and small business

Future suppliers of cloud computing for citizens, for small businesses, and for things will be able to distribute their investments via the Internet in gigantic computer centres spanning multiple geographical areas and time zones and billions of users. For this reason, the advantages of large-scale operations will be a determining competition parameter wherefore penetration costs in a mature cloud computing market will be gigantic. This means that there will only be few global suppliers of cloud computing (an oligopoly). Hence, the future backbone of the society will be entirely beyond the control of the society and will rely solely on an oligopoly of giant global companies located in countries distant for most society's control.

First infrastructure not requiring physical installation

Compared to other existing infrastructure does computer power not require a physical installation in the geography it supports. All other infrastructures requires physical installation (Cellular towers, fiber optics, rails, power grid) this means that the society despite a liberalization continue to have access to the infrastructure independent of distant events. This is not the case with cloud-computing. A distant earthquake or a political conflict can in 2020 within few seconds paralyze the society.

Is cloud computing destroying the decentralized nature of the Internet?

The absolutely unique feature of the Internet is its global decentralized nature, no one has control over the Internet, anyone can put a server up and be a part of the Internet on an equal footing with everyone else. On the internet anyone is allowed to say anything about anything. But the question is whether Cloud Computing is destroying this decentralization?

The Internet itself will continue its current decentralized structure. If cloud computing will be dominated by a few giant global players, will the computer power to operate the homepages, applications and other functionality on the Internet come from a few central sources. This means that we will have a centralized control over the Internet in through the backdoor

A debate is needed!

A debate needs to be launched about whether it is responsible to base an infrastructure - whose consequences for society will be just as far-reaching as the power plants - solely on a oligopoly, or whether national or regional cloud initiatives should be established as contingency, which should ensure certainty of supply to some degree and control over what is to become the critical backbone of the infrastructure of our future society!

More Stories By Henrik Hvid Jensen

Henrik Hvid Jensen is a leading SOA guru in Denmark. His Scandinavian book "Service Oriented Architetcture - Integration as a competitive advantage" and blogs have been used as inspiration in many projects.
He has taught on SOA, Events Driven Architecture and Semantic Web as External Associate Professor at Copenhagen University.
He is today Project Director at Devoteam Consulting.
Henrik holds a Masters in Computer Science from Copenhagen University and a Bachelor in International Economics from Copenhagen Business School.

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