It really looks like the UK Gov now ‘so gets’ the Cloud in contrast to how it ‘so didn’t get’ Open Source this autumn. To prove it, the spring’s officially dead G-Cloud comes alive on 1 March. Hundreds of suppliers are signed up and in edu-land we are very excited...ok I lied we haven’t a clue but trust me this is an important date.
The G-Cloud is now an easy to understand concept: companies supplying web-services get to pay to be part of a state controlled server infrastructure. Your data is kept on-shore so no problems with ‘Johnny Foreigner’ running off with it. So easy that even a PPE double-Ist Civil Servant can ‘get’ it.
Some, maybe most suppliers and even the Gov will be making massive use of Open Source software but who knows where? ... and more to the point from a Gov perspective who cares? They did not get Open Source software because like Quantum Mechanics everyone may need it as a tool but no-one understands it, especially not the aforementioned.
But what does it mean for us in education? Well, I think my college’s IT may be a marker to go by.
We have steadily, even stealthily moved to web-services for everything, including an upcoming wireless Cloud-print service (yippee). How else could I survive with my Chromebook as my sole computer? And of course green as we are all these servers are being virtualised this summer.
Cleverly the desktops seem the same old XPs and take re-reassuringly long to log into an increasingly irrelevant ‘Domain’ but they don’t actually need their legacy applications like Outlook or the Domain or P: for the MIS, VLE, file store or E-Mail.
No-one has really noticed anything much but the masters of the P: drive (otherwise known as Senior Staff) are getting twitchy as knowledge of that labyrinthine filing cabinet is becoming obviously redundant...even I can upload stuff to the right areas now.
Moreover, some web services are pure FOSS such as the beloved Moodle, some are wholly proprietary and I have no idea how they are served (e.g. our MIS) and there’s definitely a Microsoft ‘thing’ lurking near the aspx portal and so on. In other words a basket of services chosen for one reason or another...just like G-Cloud will be.
So can we change to a new service on G-cloud if we fancied it? In the past I would have groaned and intoned ‘lock-in’ to anyone who would listen but things change. Using just Google-Docs for example I never come across any real MS-Office compatibility problems but astonishingly we migrated our database driven VLE from Blackboard to Moodle with barely a hitch last summer.
So much for lock-ins.
Maybe on March 1st we will find some real bargains in the G-Cloud store but in any case, we have already experienced a complete revolution in school technology. Everything that was about to be the next big thing (thin-clients, open source, low energy) has happened and no-one noticed.
PS I noted repeatedly in the past that the old ‘network’ skills that required a qualified army to run would go and surely they will be gone completely soon but I did not realise that that ecosystem not only supported technicians but P:-bureaucrats too ...both facing mass extinction?