eResearch Australasia Conference 2008 – Cloud Computing

Monday – Plenary: Cloud Infrastructure Services Panel Session

Chair: Nick Tate, UQ
Tony Hey – Microsoft Research
Peter Elford – Cisco
Kevin Mayo – Sun Microsystems
Anne Fitzgerald – QUT

Tony – A Digital Data Deluge in Research

– outsourcing of IT infrastructure
– minimize costs
– small businesses have access to large scale resources
– eg – Virtual Research Environment run by British Library: content management; knowledge management; social networking; online collaboration tools
[similar presentation to at OAR conference]

Peter –

– is cloud computing really a new idea?
– don’t think so – still just software as a service
– so what is the “cloud”?
– do researchers struggle to get access to machines? – probably no
– but do they have problems managing them well – probably yes
– balance between technology, people and processes
– it is a natural evolution and another opportunity
– but not a disruptive technology

Kevin –

From point of view of building these systems:
– need a successful business model
– need to consider privacy and security in a global world
– need to understand technical considerations
– there are a number of services out there at the moment because they have managed to deal with the business model problems….
– …but they may not have effectively dealt with the other issues
– e.g. how you get your data to and from the service
– in the future – we might see: automating the collection and analysis of census data; climate data etc – with barely any interference by people

Anne –
– when we think of cloud computing, many legal issues come to mind: privacy, data security etc
– so far, adapting the law to the digital environment has developed in a very ad hoc manner
– so maybe we would be better to approach it from principles, I prose the following principles:

1. establishing trust in the online environment
– cloud computing = applications that can be accessed anywhere by anyone
– so issues of data security, privacy, reliability of the data and the service
– not much on this (beyond some privacy restrictions) in Australia at the moment

2. equivalence of traditional and online transactions
– need a set of rules to apply to online activities that are equivalent to traditional activities
– at the moment, attempt to transpose current laws in online environment = copyright, electronic transactions act
– but when we look at cloud computing we see this principle is not being applied in a consistent way
– need for clarification of concepts of ownership of data stored on someone else’s equipment
– vast difference between copyright licence given to Google for Google Docs – vs rights that would be given to someone in the real world who is storing and managing someone else’s documents (i.e. they would be given virtually no rights) – why the immense difference just because the storage and management occurs online?

3. Participation of Government in regulating online activities
– would enactment of legislation help or hinder here?

4. We need openness in this environment
– open standards and maybe also open source
– affordability of cloud computing can help to overcome the digital divide
– expectation of users is that they can access the service where and when they like

Development of laws and policies in this environment has occurred primarily at an international level (e.g. OECD – Seoul Declaration), but there is still no international body charged with regulating online commerce


Q: Ashley Buckle – Monash: not convinced that this is a solution for him running a small research lab – this is the problem: convincing people that this is for them, especially when they don’t want to be guinea pigs for new projects that may not work

A: Tony – you can only be convinced by something that works for you. There will be a variety of academic cloud services. But the real test is that it is easy to use, can be acquired easily and cheaply, and it should work for you and if it doesn’t work then you shouldn’t use it.

Q: If Microsoft and Google etc operate cloud computing services outside of the USA, does the Patriot Act still apply to them?

A: Not an expert on Patriot Act, but – we need to establish a uniformity or conformity throughout the world, after discussion among countries, and not just have one country’s law dominate, otherwise this could actual be a barrier to trade etc.