Cloud Computing 101 – The Internet – The Web

Cloud computing and BIM are disruptive technologies that will finally alter the culture and fundamental framework of how the AECOO sector (Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Owner, Operations) does business.   To appreciate this potential, however, requires a basic understanding of the following terms: The Internet – The Web – Cloud Computing – BIM.

The Internet is the substrate underlying the web and emerged from Darpa-funded (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) work in the 1970s.  The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks   that use the standard protocols, for example,  TCP/IP, to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries an extensive range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext   documents of the web (world wide web, www.) and the infrastructure to support email.

The Web  (world wide web, www.) was invented by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire /European Organization for Nuclear Research)  in the early 1990s.  The web is a system  of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet.  With a browser (Explore, Chrome, Firefox…) one can view web pages that may contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia and between them via hyperlinks.

Having worked with both, including deploying on of the first truly web-based FM applications in 1998, I appreciate the scope of these two words.  Many, if not most, do not.

Now on to Cloud Computing, the delivery of standards-based computing, applications, and storage as a service to a public or private community of recipients.  It is the the delivery of   a standards-based method of providing service in a wide variety of virtual and physical domains that is a key aspect.   Computers now existing  in our homes, offices, cars, and pockets, and virtual computers exist in the cloud.  Computers have traditionally have worked within data networks as clients;  consuming but not provide services. This is changing rapidly, Computers that live in the cloud provide as well as consume services. This differentiation may be of little importance to many/most businesses whose computers are being “virtualized”, the processed of simply moving data/IT centers off-premises.   In this case, day to day processes, and fundamental business practices are not being affected.

Standards and services, and the unparalleled level of collaboration resulting from integration the Internet, Web, and Cloud Computing are converging to create a wave of change that is  now upon us. 

The cloud is social... on a very personal level.  For example, computers performing services for us live in the cloud, alongside computers that work for other people in the same and within other organizations.  People doing the same, similar, or related tasks in different locations, languages, currencies, etc.   How effectively your computers can work for your depends on how well they provide services accessible to those other computers.  This requires data standards, common processes, common lexicon, …..  If computers and people they don’t use common, robust terms/formats/processes, they can’t provide those services, and so they can’t efficiently, accurately, securely, and transparently do their jobs.

So, what’s cloud computing?  Computers and people working collaboratively and providing enhanced productivity, speed, accuracy, security, and transparency for you.  Everything working together and “playing nicely”, with virtually no bandwidth  limitation within an ecosystem of standards-based services. worth.   Thus, don’t fall for “cloud-washing”, the practice of taking legacy applications and porting them to virtual servers in the cloud.  You gain nothing.   Do your homework and look for standards-based true cloud computing applications that can “play nice” with everyone and deliver a better, faster, and actually fun way of doing work!

Now for BIM.  BIM, building information modeling, is the efficient life-cycle management of the built environment.  BIM requires standards, common terms/lexicon, collaboration, cloud-computing, robust processes, efficient delivery methods, and so much more. The below graphics highlight components of a BIM framework.

BIM Framework