The people's cloud

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Ok, so now we know,

John Suffolk's (the Cabinet Office CIO) generously replied to my questions posed in last week's blog. G-Cloud is 'go' and it will be a Private Cloud, based on Open Standards and will use a mix of proprietary and (free?) open source software. All I reckon is left it to see whether it's stitched together by Microsoft's technology or Red Hat's.

I don't care which of the two gets it really. I don't like MS or its business model, and I often find myself feeling the same way about Red Hat.

To be fair, it is too early in our journey to expect the Public Sector to embrace Community-based Open Source business models but it will come in time. The positive change in attitude towards Open Source software by Government organisations recently has been nothing short of astonishing.

What a whopper this National Cloud will be. It will probably achieve sentience just after its mighty powers have calculated the answer to 'Life the Universe and Everything' and the percentage of unemployed youth to more decimal places than pi.

The serious question that is begged is ..what shall we use it for?

The G-Cloud stands for Government Cloud computing. This has a bad feel intrinsic to the 'them and us' construction of the phrase. It might help Gov catch the baddies on our behalf through its plethora of databases but it also might be used to invade the privacy and freedoms of the citizen and burn through a fistful of cash in the process.

So how about we shift subtly. We will call it the P-Cloud and make it the People's- Cloud? Yes. I'm serious, let me explain.

The People's Cloud- a manifesto

Our great Free, Open Source guru Richard Stallman dislikes the Cloud concept. He sees it as a way to hand over your freedom to proprietarists and to get locked into someone else's computing paradigm. Many including this author agree with him. Below though is a manifesto for a 'good' cloud that would benefit the businesses and citizens of the UK without loss of rights and freedoms.

The three principles are:

1) A National Cloud owned by the Nation using computers on UK territory and subject to its Laws.

2) It will not be restricted by any third party interests outside of the Nation's jurisdiction. ie we will either own the software code on which it is based or will use Open Source software.

3) All UK citizens will have rights to use the Cloud.

Our P-Cloud will 'embrace and extend' existing UK Grid computing systems and combine them with the flexibility of Cloud distributed computing thereby creating a National Supercomputing Cloud. We would not have to fear this cloud if it were created on the above principles.

The P-Cloud would be a transparent Cloud, subject to Freedom of Information requests and data-protection laws and owned by the people. Secondly if we as a nation own the code or have used Open Source code then we are not locked in in any damaging sense.

Finally if we have rights to use the Cloud it will be the most fantastic business and research facility for the UK. It would allow companies, hospitals, universities and individuals to be able to have computing facilities they could not maintain themselves. The P-Cloud would be part of the regeneration of our economic infrastructure, up there with trains and road links!

Summary

If we have to have a G-Cloud why not use it to its fullest potential benefit to the country? After all, it was in the 1970's when I first had access to the Internet for my medical research. The very Internet which as we all know now was created entirely for the purposes of war. Good or evil - our choice.

So here is another question for John Suffolk...how exactly do you/we intend to use your/our new Cloud?

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