Cloud computing is one of the big trends of recent years. The basic idea is to abstract from existing hardware and to provide computing infrastructure services (virtual machine images, database storage) to customers on demand. While this could be considered as a return of the mainframe, there are some characteristics that distinguish cloud computing from past mainframes.
The most important difference is the scale of cloud computing. Cloud computing operates on Internet scale, i.e., everyone connected to the Internet can use a cloud. Another key difference is the cost: cloud computing is quite affordable. A few hundred dollars per year grant you access to considerable processing and storage capacities.
However, cloud computing is not the promised land where everyone can use virtually unlimited computing resources. The main problem of security and privacy still remains unsolved. Once you put your data into the cloud, you lose control over it. There is no way of guaranteeing that your data will be safe in the cloud, simply because you have no physical control over it. You cannot guarantee that data is actually deleted if you decide to delete it. Your data may have been replicated without your knowledge.
If you put your data on a medium like a USB stick you could, for example, put it into a safe deposit box in a swiss bank (if you happen to have one). You can easily delete or even physically destroy your data on your USB stick. You can copy your data. In other words: you have complete control over your data.
While cloud computing is certainly convenient, we believe that we do not need everything the cloud offers. If you think of it, we already have the “cloud” in our pockets: modern high-end smartphones are equipped with 1 GB of RAM, up to 64 GB of “disk” space and fast 3G/4G/WLAN connections. With this, we can create a different, highly distributed peer to peer cloud: the cloud in our pocket. This approach can solve the security and privacy issues of cloud computing, since you own the device where the data is stored. You can decide if the data is replicated and who has access to it.
There are already some steps being taken into this direction: an ongoing Master Thesis is addressing data sharing in mobile, pervasive environments from a scientific perspective. And last but not least, we ourselves have already implemented a tool that provides peer to peer data sharing: iSENDu.
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