Cloud Computing for education: A new dawn?

Educational establishments continue to seek opportunities to rationalize the way they manage their resources. The economic crisis will continue to affect educational establishments that are likely to discover that governments will have less money than before to invest in them. Cloud computing is likely to be one of those opportunities sought by the cash-strapped educational establishments in these difficult times and could prove to be of immense benefit (and empowering in some situations) to them due to its flexibility and pay-as-you-go cost structure. Cloud computing is an emerging new computing paradigm for delivering computing services. This computing approach relies on a number of existing technologies, e.g., the Internet, virtualization, grid computing, Web services, etc. The provision of this service in a pay-as-you-go way through (largely) the popular medium of the Internet gives this service a new distinctiveness. 

The potential of cloud computing for improving efficiency, cost and convenience for the educational sector is being recognized by a number US educational (and official) establishments. The University of California (UC) at Berkeley, for example, found cloud computing to be attractive to use in one of their courses which was focused exclusively on developing and deploying SaaS applications. Helped by a donation from Amazon Web Services (AWS), UC was able to move its course from locally owned infrastructure to the cloud. One of the main reasons was quoted as being the ability to acquire a huge amount of servers (needed for this course) in a matter of a few minutes.

For some universities, the availability of an awesome computing power through cloud computing for research purposes was welcome. Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin Biotechnology and Bioengineering Centre in Milwaukee are making protein research (a very expensive undertaking) more accessible to scientists’ worldwide, thanks largely to renting processing time on Google’s powerful cloud-based servers.
With cloud computing making the analysis less expensive and more accessible, it meant that many more users can set up and customize their own systems and investigators can analyse their data in greater depth than was previously attainable, thus making it possible for them to learn more about the systems they are studying. Major cloud computing providers such as IBM and Google are actively promoting cloud computing as tools for research. In 2007 Google and IBM announced a cloud computing university initiative designed to improve computer science students’ knowledge of highly parallel computing practices in order to address the emerging paradigm of large-scale distributed computing. The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded nearly $5 million in grants to fourteen universities through its Cluster Exploratory (CLuE) program to help facilitate their participation in the IBM/Google initiative. The initiative will provide the computing infrastructure for leading-edge research projects that could help us better understand our planet, our bodies and many other issues.
Educational establishments are likely to embrace cloud computing as many of them are bound to suffer from under-funding due to the global economic crisis. In some parts of the world, such as Africa, cloud computing is emerging as an empowering tool that is being used to advance the cause of education in this continent. 

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