by: Ari Davidow
It’s textbook season once again. That’s the time of year when I go through new textbooks for next semester’s course.
The good news is, “Cloud Computing,” a subject so out on the edge when it was first offered four years ago that it was a “special topic,” is now relatively main stream. The bad news is, the textbooks still focus on how to teach network administrators how to set up cloud services. Which wouldn’t be a bad class, and it is certainly useful to IT professionals, but it isn’t the class that we teach here at Brandeis.
My course focuses as much on how “Cloud Computing” is changing how we do our jobs, as it does on the practicalities of using common Cloud infrastructure. We don’t neglect becoming familiar with common Cloud “Infrastructure as a Service” components such as: storage, queue servicing, database and web servers and the like. But that is a limited corner of the field.
I first realized how far ahead of the times our course was when I saw one of the computing consulting groups, IDC, refer to the topics we address as “The Third Platform.” Turns out, by focusing on the different types of Cloud Computing platforms, spending time considering related issues (“Big Data” and how “mobile computing” affects it all), we were focusing attention on what IDC feels is a major shift in computing. A shift so large it is comparable to the switch from mainframes to personal computers not so many years ago.
Additionally, the IDC report accidentally highlights how we create courses. Sometimes, when we’re teaching a language or computing system, we focus on the basics of just learning that language or platform. If you take a Ruby class, or a class in Analytics, you’ll get a good grounding in those disciplines. But with Cloud Computing we are talking about changes in technology that are changing everything around them.
Software as a Service (SaaS) has radically changed how Enterprise applications are purchased and maintained. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) has changed the way start-ups work and thoroughly changed the economics of putting new ideas to the test. The proliferation of mobile devices has similarly destroyed the likelihood that network security is as simple as thinking in terms of one person/one device, most of which are physically hooked up to the network. This is a paradigm already challenged by the need to integrate SaaS services with the rest of the network.
When you sign up for “Cloud Computing” this summer, you are signing up to explore the entire “Third Platform.” We’ll also walk you through some bare metal Cloud Computing basics and have some big fun with Big Data. I look forward to seeing you soon.
P.S. As with all Brandeis GPS classes, you can participate with whatever computing device is convenient to you—your computer, your tablet or smartphone. We like to practice what we teach.