The Cloudy Cloud
The Washington DC technology community has been abuzz lately with the idea of cloud computing. This is largely spurred on by a classic tech battle shaping up between Goggle and Microsoft over the delivery model for software applications to federal agencies.
The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet, based on the graphical image depicted in computer network diagrams. The specific technical meaning of cloud computing is dependent on who is talking about it. At the highest level, cloud computing is like having pizza delivered rather than the traditional way of dining in the restaurant. Either method may be more appropriate depending on your circumstance, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that one is always better than the other or that the pizza will taste any better. For some government agencies, cloud computing will be as sensible delivery method, for others it will not, or perhaps a hybrid will be best. If you’d like to see beautiful versions of well known on-premise software applications (Acrobat and Connect) hosted in the cloud, go to www.Acrobat.com, you can use them for free.
Unfortunately all the enthusiasm over cloud computing has clouded over the more important opportunity for government software applications – which is that for truly connected democracy, applications have to be ubiquitous. If a user is offline, working across multiple devices or operating on an unsupported platform, cloud applications may fall short. Government agencies shouldn’t get locked in to the cloud or not cloud debate, but should consider the true needs of their end users, all relevant infrastructure in the ecosystem that can be leveraged (Yes, this is a veiled plug for Adobe Reader, Flash and AIR) and leverage the appropriate delivery models to optimize the user experience and productivity.
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