The Architects of the Future – Creating the Virtual Infastructure for our Lives


AEnergy efficient constructions we stand at the beginning of a new semester, our computer science students stand in a place to become the architects of the future. It is within the Internet and the Cloud that we are building a new World, and one which does not differentiate any class or nationality, as it completely inclusive for everyone in the World.

Few technologies have ever managed to make such an impact on our lives, and it is our new Computer Science students who will build these systems. In time, too, the Internet will improve our health and social care, and will deliver education to every single person, also providing everyone with a voice and a platform to showcase their talents (I appreciate that it can go the other way, and that it can provide a barrier to these things to, but our new architectures have the chance to improve things, and not see national or physical barriers getting in their way).

As students start their career in computing science, they must think clearly about their future, and position themselves to pick-up the skills that are required to re-architect the most amazing infrastructure that mankind has ever created: The Internet, and within the Internet we are building the most amazing building ever: The Cloud. As part of this there are so many new rock-star careers being created which will properly build it including for the great growth areas of Cloud Computing, Big Data, Cyber Security, and e-Health (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Four great career of this new generation: Cloud Computing, Big Data, Cyber Security and e-Health

Changing landscape

We are in a phase of saying goodbye to the desktop PC, which has served us well for the last 30-odd years. The future,though, is to continue their legacy to build clustered computing environments, using heterogeneous servers, and move away from stand-alone systems to ones who build into a generalised computing infastructure.

This new infrastructure will allow our desktops within a cloud infrastructure, rather than run it on a physical computer. This has many advantages for companies, especially in updating desktops within their cloud, rather than on physical hosts.

So we are in a phase where we are re-architecting our information infrastructure, where we have moved though a phase of stand-alone computers (in the 1980s), onto congregated hosts around physical servers and in gaining access to software components (DLLs), and now onto running our computing infrastructure in centralised way, where we use terminals to access the resources – thin computing, and where applications are building by binding to Web services – Figure 2. This change is reflected in a new software architecture: SoA (Sevice-Oriented Architecture) where software applications are created by binding them to services which run in the Cloud.

222Figure 2: Re-architecting

Hello Clustering

The demand for processing power, and data storage are becoming key drivers with the spend on servers increasing 6% over the past year (and over 4% in Q1 of 2014, alone). It is thought that 17% of this spend is for Big Data/Cloud applications. Overall the Intel x86 architecture has the lead, with nearly 80% of the market revenue. The growth in servers is also identified with an increase of 19% in Microsoft Windows and 15% growth for Linux.

HP (35.7%), Dell (15.1%) and Oracle (7% – gained from their acquisition of Sun Microsystems) all recorded increases between 7 and 8%, while IBM (22.2%) dropped their review by 15.5%, mainly due to them selling off their lower-end x86 server architecture technology to Lenovo. Cisco Systems, while only gaining 4.8% of the market, have shown a 63.1% increase in server turnover.

Advanced Teaching Cloud

To create the architects of the future, we need to ways to support them, where they can learn in a safe environment, and where they can learn the limits of what possible. We thus need new virtualised environments where students can learn about all of the elements of what creates these new buildings, and understand how to design, build and look-after them.

At Edinburgh Napier, we’ve been building our own training cloud here, as we found it has many advantages of running virtualised infastructures, where we can create real-life information environments (figures 3 and 4). This environment can range from building full-defined systems, which connect to the Internet, to ones which are fully sandboxed and which they can analyse malware spreads and in using advanced security tools.

Slide8Figure 3: Advantages of using the Cloud for training

Slide11Figure 4: DFET Virtual Training environment


What we are seeing at the current time is a re-architecting of information systems, from physical hosts congregated against physical servers, we are moving to the point where virtual hosts congregate around virtual servers, running in a Cloud infrastructure. This is a massive change, and it is the clustered servers who provide a resource for all the hosts and servers to share the same clustered environment, so that everything is controlled by software, and where hardware does not limit any of the virtual hosts.

For those graduating, studing or entering computing science, there has never been such create opportunities, and it is to you that we look to, to rebuild this amazing infastructure, and create something that has benefits for every person in the World. At one time knowledge was locked-away within privileged cities and countries, but not any more, the Internet has enable knowledge for all, no matter their background, location or financial status.

So there was fire … the wheel … the transistor … and Cloud Computing!

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