The cloud is rapidly growing to permeate every aspect of life. From personal storage to expeditious business solutions, the cloud provides not only a place to put things, but also a place where communication and operation happens. The opportunity presented by the cloud as a growth platform is being harnessed by two unlikely organizations: a school in India and one of the largest banks in the country.
An Indian cloud school
A school in India is using the cloud as a way to help kids reach new educational heights. The origin of the school goes back to 1999, when Sugata Mitra attempted a unique social experiment in New Delhi: he placed a functional English computer, unguarded, right in the middle of a slum, according to CNET contributor Michael Franco. Instead of stealing it or swiping the parts for resale, kids flocked to the computer and began using it to browse the Web. Because the computer only functioned in English, the kids did something that surprised and inspired Mitra: They began teaching themselves the language.
"I had stumbled upon something that was universal," Mitra said. "It had to be."
From this experiment, Mitra realized that some of the toughest barriers to educating kids may be surmounted simply by allowing kids to teach themselves. So Mitra began to spread his network of self learning to hundreds of schools across India, Wired reported. This included connecting students via Skype to a group of women he called "grannies," whose job was not so much to teach as to provide the nurturing environment that a grandmother would. This cloud-based educational model quickly became a success, with kids' English and science scores increasing.
Mitra gave a TED Talk on his so-called Self-Organized Learning Environments, which led to a $1 million prize for him, according to Franco. He quickly funneled that money into developing learning labs where kids can teach themselves in the cloud and learn at their own pace – a pace, Mitra emphasized, that tends to outstrip conventional education.
According to Mitra, cloud education is simple. "It just requires broadband, collaboration, and encouragement," he said.
Mitra is confident that this educational model will grow in popularity and begin to spread around the world. And indeed, after starting in India, his notion of cloud-based self-learning has spread to places like Australia, Hong Kong, and even the UK, a country known for its historically traditional schooling methods. Franco reported that Mitra's first entirely cloud-based school opened Feb. 4. He expects more to follow. For him, cloud education is the way of the future, and could signal "the end of schooling as we know it."
Banking on the cloud
Mitra is not the only one exploring the growth-enhancing properties of the cloud. Bank of America is hoping to change the way the enterprise cloud operates. And because it is the second largest bank in the U.S. – with an approximate value of $2.1 trillion – people are taking notice, according to InformationWeek.
Bank of America executive David Reilly said that his organization is looking to alter the cloud to encourage increased flexibility and more direct access. Reilly said the bank began to question why its data centers used different hardware for different cloud functions like servers, storage and network switches instead of finding a way to consolidate those functions on software.
The bank has dispatched a team to change the infrastructure of its cloud to encourage the alterations Reily discussed. It's the start of a new era in private cloud development, Reilly said.
"It's not the technical piece. It's: Why stop there, why not go further, why not do more?" he said.
The bank is gradually starting to phase in this new infrastructure. A pilot version of it currently holds 200 workloads, with a planned 7,000 over the course of this year. The ultimate goals of the overhaul are to make the enterprise cloud less costly, more navigable and easier to regulate. Part of the advantage of integrating software into cloud administration is that it will enable the bank to actively monitor all its different operations on the cloud and make more fiscally responsible choices. For the IT personnel involved in cloud maintenance, this development will require them to become more adept at handling software.
"The infrastructure professional will look a lot more like the software development professional," Reilly said.
Federal agencies getting in on the action
The broad nature of the cloud means that no two migrations will be the same, according to FedTech Magazine contributor Jimmy Daly. Since organizations as varied as Bank of America and Mitra's SOLE institutions rely on cloud computing, this should come as no surprise. The level of administrative freedom inherent in the enterprise cloud is making it appealing not just to businesses like Bank of America, but also to federal agencies. According to a federal IT report, agencies will put $1.7 billion toward cloud computing this year alone. By 2017, cloud computing is expected to represent 10 percent of the federal IT budget.