Infoscience

Conference paper

Look up!: Your Future is in the Cloud

The "Cloud" is a wonderfully expansive phrase used to denote computation and data storage centralized in a large datacenter and elastically accessed across a network. The concept is not new; web sites and business servers have run in datacenters for a long time. These, however, were specialized applications, outside of the mainstream of desktop programs. The past few years has seen enormous change as the mainstream shifts from a single computer to mobile devices and clusters of computers. Three factors are driving this change. 1) Mobile computing, where apps run on a size- and power-constrained device and would be far less interesting without backend systems to augment computation and storage capacity. 2) Big data, which uses clusters of computers to extract valuable information from vast amounts of unstructured data. 3) Inexpensive, elastic computing, pioneered by Amazon Web Services, which enables everyone to rapidly obtain and use many servers. As a researcher from the language and compiler community, I firmly believe this sea change is at heart a programming problem. Cloud computing is far different from the environment in which most of today's languages and tools were developed, and few programmers have mastered its complexity. New challenges include pervasive parallelism, partial failure, high and variable communication latency, and replication for reliability and throughput.

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