Cloud gazing #vala14 #s8 and #s9

Michelle McLean, Residing in the cloud: looking at the forecast now and into the future
Service models:
Software as a service (LibGuides, Office365, HathiTrust)
Platform as a service (eg Yahoo Pipes, OCLC Web Services, Google App Engine)
Infrastructure as a service (Britash Library, Library of Congress, My Kansas Library)

Deployment models:
Private cloud
community cloud
hybrid cloud
public cloud

Essential characteristics:
Resource pooling
rapid elasticity
on-demand self-service
measured service
broad network access


  • Scale and cost
  • Change management done for you – you don’t have to worry about upgrades
  • Choice and agility – if you want something new just pay and you get it
  • Next-generation architecture
  • IT isn’t a library core business – let the experts do it. Better security, better sustainability, better reliability


  • Security – when people leave need to remove their access right away because access through the web. All big companies have had failures
  • Lock-in. Need to be sure you can take your data with you if you leave
  • Lack of control. If the website is down where is the problem?
  • Financial savings mightn’t be as good as predicted.
  • You lose your IT expertise if you outsource, but then you lose your first point of trouble-shooting.

Preparing for the cloud
Consider security, privacy, access, law, lock-in, whether it’s right for your business.
Cloud computing services are marginally more reliable that IT departments (99% vs 98% uptime). So make sure you have backup systems.

Derek Whitehead All on the ground: there is no cloud
Metaphor of cloud as fluffy, friendly, faraway – slideshows never show stormclouds!
Behind the metaphor nothing’s actually in the cloud, they’re in servers in a building on the ground in a legal jurisdiction (not always ours).

There are four basic perspectives on the cloud:

  • Technology
  • Content – “information located remotely” but information is rarely independent of computation
  • Personal – companies want us to locate our info elsewhere than our own computers so they can ‘develop a relationship’ with us [lovely euphemism there! -Deborah]
  • Legal – jurisdiction makes a difference though not quite as simple as “in Australia = free of PATRIOT Act”. Frequently mirrored, moved around, using redundancy to safeguard info. People mostly concerned about privacy legislation – strong in Australia and Europe.

Swinburne’s policy is to externally host/manage most where possible – “opportunistic vendor hosting”. Student email; HR; learning management system, library system, OJS, etc.

What do we want the cloud people to do for us? Vendor cloud hosting vs service aggregator provision. Huge range of hybrid or multisource options. But services have to be efficient, reliable, high quality, fast to access, and cost-effective.

Why would we do it? When a kid, generated own electricity – not a great way to live. Thinks IT will one day look back at the idea of having your own server in your basement in the same way. Cost minimisation, efficiency, economies of scale — all of these issues. Security is an issue because bigger targets for hackers, but also have bigger resources to defend against them.

Will need a realignment in skillsets. Getting ability to read/write/negotiate contracts is vital.
But libraries are leaders. Remember when we moved from print to CD-ROMs? (Okay, this was the wrong direction…)
Exit strategies where possible – harder in monopoloy situations.
Helped by clear customer benefits and freeing up buildings. Libraries have access to economies of scale, we’re comfortable with automation, it benefits collaboration.

Q: What’s the customer experience of change to the cloud?
A: Infrastructure/management should be invisible to customers. But having info in the cloud brings huge benefits: eg huge increase in number of articles used by academics when they can get them from their desktop.

Q: What if things go wrong?
A: With an external host you’ll have remedies in the contract if things go wrong – no such remedy if you stuff up yourself!

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