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Agile Computing Authors: Stephen Baker, Liz McMillan, Victoria Livschitz, Ed Featherston, Elizabeth White

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The Smart Cloud: Smart apps, smart agents, smart content

In our TRANSFORM e-magazine series we focus on the different needs of different vertical industries, like Government and E-Health for the first two issues, and now the media sector for the third installment.

This third issue will be headlined by an interview with the technology leadership team of the Guardian Newspaper in the UK, the guys powering their very popular online site. We`ll profile their adoption of and future strategy for Cloud.

What this highlights is that although these are very different industries, at the computing layer they have pretty common requirements and benefits they can enjoy from Cloud systems.

Adaptability is one critical benefit, the ‘elastic’ nature of Cloud services meaning their underlying supply of infrastructure can scale up and down dynamically in response to demand. This is just the first small step of increasingly autonomic systems, a key evolutionary factor for innovators to tap into.

The Digital Economy – Enabling Smart Content

The approach I have in mind for the CCN to achieve it`s goals, for Canada to become a world leader in the global field of Cloud Computing is quite simple, and it reinforces the role these IT evolutions will play in setting a Digital Economy strategy.

This is based on identifying the major trends driving the tech industry globally, like Cloud but also key areas like the Semantic Web and also AI (Artificial Intelligence), and understand how we might localize related innovation projects here.

One key foundation for a Digital Economy strategy is of course the Digital Media industry.

For example this Digital Economy response from Microsoft covers the foundations of infrastructure, skills and also key areas like copyright, the mix of tools and policies needed to enable Canadians to produce and participate in more online content and transactions.

Similarly while we are still waiting for the government to publish a formal Digital Economy strategy it’s worthwhile to note that other public sector bodies have already done so, as well as their being various industry experts.

Most notably the Cultural Human Resources Council produced this Technology Roadmap to help develop a skills initiative in this sector. I believe it mostly went ignored.

Naturally it has a big focus on skills development but there is also some pretty potent technology ideas in there, including ‘Virtual Commercialization Institutes’ and micro-payment commerce systems.

hal-ai3The Singularity: The Smart Cloud is Out to Get You

The role of Cloud Computing, and the future direction of its evolution, can be seen in one way by how it will support and enable these trends, in particular how it will become “smarter”.

Google has recognized this trend and is growing their ambitions for the role they will play in this evolution, recruiting world renowned Artificial Intelligence futurist Ray Kurzweil, who plans to create a mind at Google.

The Singularity is the name given to the idea of the emergence of a self-aware AI and has been a popular topic for some years now. Indeed it was ten years ago I suggested it was the ultimate conclusion to where Cloud is headed, although hopefully we won’t see this include the launch of Skynet… wait, why is my toaster eyeing me like that..

These may seem fanciful notions but actually the application of AI principles to IT infrastructure and e-business applications is a practical science and is going to be a massive, massive growth market, and the potential for it demonstrated by how it will be applied at multiple layers: Content, applications and infrastructure.

For example “smart content” – In this web 2.0 era an article we publish may find itself syndicated between many different web sites. How might it adapt as it finds itself in different contexts, perhaps showing different ads and feeding these revenues back to the original author.

Smart agents will become very popular in e-commerce, where they can do your online shopping comparisons for you, and at the infrastructure layer they will have a key role to play in the evolution of ‘Cloud Service Brokerage’. Indeed agents function exactly as brokers, and so we’ll see them becoming a core component part of autonomic procurement across multiple Cloud providers.

These are the types of capabilities that will arise from foundations like a micro-payments and so the CHRC roadmap can be seen to be a really quite insightful piece that should be a very active resource helping support grow a Canadian tech industry.

The fact it’s not is part of the challenge we’re setting out to address via the CCN and our Digital Economy focus. We will also start to showcase leading innovators and Canadian start-ups and in this field, organized via our Smart Cloud tag, and use this as a catalyst to encourage related innovation collaborations across government, academia and business.

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