Helping Emerging Markets Soar in the Cloud

IEEE conference focuses on issues that affect underserved areas

13 August 2012

Emerging markets aren’t copying the developed world’s technological history—often, they’re bypassing it. Rather than trying to match developed nations’ landline infrastructure, for example, they rely on mobile phones. And in countries where computers and servers are scarce, they’re looking to the cloud to build their computing power. That trend is certain to get a boost from the first IEEE Conference on Cloud Computing for Emerging Markets (CCEM), to be held 11 and 12 October in Bangalore, India. The IEEE Cloud Computing Initiative is sponsoring the conference.

“There’s no question that cloud computing is needed in emerging markets—the question is when and in what form,” says IEEE Member Dileep Paruchuri, one of the conference’s organizers.

Invited talks by industry, government, and academic leaders in cloud computing from around the world, particularly from emerging markets, are anticipated highlights of the conference, along with peer-reviewed papers. A panel session on the “Challenges of Cloud Computing in Emerging Markets” will feature representatives from government, communications companies, businesses, and academia. And on exhibit will be cloud computing products and capabilities from more than 20 companies.

CCEM will focus on a number of topics, like the design of cloud computing services, networking issues and programming, and issues of security and privacy. Also covered will be architectures for infrastructure, platforms, software, and the business process for the cloud application known as XaaS, which stands for “everything as a service”—software, services, and data storage, according to Gopal S. Pingali, the conference chair. An IEEE senior member, Pingali is program director of the Global Cloud Center of Excellence for IBM India, in Bangalore.

“Computing as a service has a transformational effect in terms of minimizing a company’s investment in infrastructure as well as ongoing operational expenses. Instead of buying software and hardware and maintaining them, it accesses services from the cloud,” he says. “This has great appeal in emerging markets, because it’s a way of leapfrogging to a new era of computing.

“In countries with very low PC penetration, companies don’t have the servers, so XaaS is potentially cost-effective and gives entrée to the most modern computing software and services. But it poses unique challenges from both a technology and a business model/application perspective.”

Emerging markets have special technology requirements, according to Paruchuri, a senior software engineer at Intel Technologies, in Bangalore. Challenges could surface when facing an undependable electricity supply; broadband service availability, speed, and reliability; and regulatory issues. Even making the general public aware of the cloud and educating people about its capabilities are problematic.

“Conditions are very different in emerging markets in terms of technology adoption and what users have in their hand,” Paruchuri says. “That affects the technology implementations and how you offer your services. For instance, simpler phones predominate.” Other concerns, he adds, are how capable the interface, the phone, and its connection are. Is the broadband speed consistent? Is it always available?

“For advanced applications with higher security and processing requirements, the predominance of simple devices means the offerings must be handled differently,” he says. “This is what the conference addresses.”

But, he adds, “We don’t have to gradually adopt 1G technology, then 2G, 3G, and 4G. We can migrate faster. There are fewer legacy systems, which means less baggage.

“The challenge is in finding the correct balance between the need, the technology implementations, and the risk of dealing with systems, like the cloud, where security is still evolving and there is no common standard.”

Pingali points to other hurdles to overcome in India and other developing countries. “People speak many different languages, and some people are not literate,” he says, “while most computer interfaces so far have been oriented toward literate English speakers. The combination of cloud computing and mobile access promises to dramatically change this picture, providing citizens in emerging markets with intuitive access to relevant services wherever they need them.

“We also need much lower price points than developed countries.”

He points to the sheer scale of what is happening, and how rapidly it is taking place, “especially in India, where we’re building out massive infrastructure for programs such as the nationwide identification scheme,” an enormous biometric database.

“Cloud computing affects everything. It’s all around us,” adds Kathy L. Grise, senior program director with the IEEE Future Directions group, in Piscataway, N.J., which oversees the Cloud Computing Initiative. “For emerging markets, it is more complicated, as governments, industry, and universities all learn at the same time. But these markets can be very nimble and adaptable to change. There is a hunger, a desire to learn, to be players, and even a hunger to lead.”

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