PLUGGING INTO THE CLOUD PLUGGING INTO THE CLOUD
After reading this issue, I had to seriously reevaluate my perception and definition of cloud computing. Unsurprisingly, given the wide array of computing models it encompasses, agree- ment among even experts is somewhat elusive.
For end users, cloud computing’s inherent intangibility makes it
tough to get a good grip on what it is and isn’t, where it begins and
ends. However, one thing is for sure: Cloud computing is hot and will
soon have a big presence on your PC.
Google, already a big player in the consumer space with services
like Gmail and Google Docs, is readying ChromeOS, a thin operating
system that boots right to a browser. With Chrome OS, document
storage and heavy computation (like web searches) will all occur in the
cloud. Is this a taste of things to come? Fortunately for programmers
and students, Google has opened up its “app engine” back end, joining
other powerful services like Amazon’s EC2 and Yahoo!’s BOSS. If
you’ve been thinking about getting your feet wet in the cloud, there
really isn’t a better time to start tinkering!
Open Hack Day
In fact, I’m already guilty. As part of Yahoo!’s Open Hack day this past
October, Bryan Pendleton, Julia Schwarz, and I (all Carnegie Mellon
University students) built a cloud-based application in Python we call
The Inhabited Web. In the 24 “hacking” hours permitted by the contest, we built the back end on the Google App Engine (appengine.
google.com), making it massively parallel and distributed.
The idea, briefly, is to embed a simple visualization into web pages,
next to the browser's scroll bar. Small triangles are used to represent
users’ positions on the current page (scroll position). Collectively, this
allows you to see where people are congregating on a web page, perhaps
next to a great shopping bargain, interesting news story, or funny video.
You can check it out and sign up your web site for the service at
Speaking of the web, we invite you to join our Facebook group
(ACM Crossroads) and also to let us know what you think via email
( email@example.com) and Twitter (hashtag #xrds).
I hope you find the current issue stimulating. The whole Crossroads
team has been hard at work for three months on this cloud-centric
edition of the magazine, and we are very excited about the amazing
lineup of feature articles, covering topics from security and entrepre-
neurship, all the way to volunteer computing. You’ll also find inter-
views with people working on the biggest and best cloud computing
systems (see page 19).
This issue also marks the last Crossroads that will arrive in the present
format. We’re very excited to announce Crossroads will be relaunching
as of the next issue with an all-new look and tons of fresh content for
students. We’ve placed special emphasis on recurring columns headed
up by our new editorial team. Expect everything from code snippets
and school advice, to historical factoids and lab highlights, to event
listings and puzzles.
Heading up these departments is a talented team from all over the
globe: Daniel Gooch (University of Bath), David Chiu (Ohio State University), Rob Simmons (Carnegie Mellon), Dima Batenkov (
Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel), Michael Ashley-Rollman (Carnegie
Mellon), Erin Claire Carson (University of California-Berkeley). I am
also very pleased to announce James Stanier (University of Sussex) is
now part of the senior editorial team, responsible for soliciting and
magazine feature articles, joining Ryan K. L. Ko (Nanyang Technical
University, Singapore), Inbal Talgam (Weizmann Institute of Science,
Israel), Sumit Narayan (University of Connecticut), and Tom Bartindale (Newcastle University).
—Chris Harrison, Editor-in-Chief
Editor-in-chief Chris Harrison is a PhD student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His research interests primarily focus on novel input
methods and interaction technologies, especially those that leverage hardware and the
environment in new and compelling ways.
Over the past four years, he has worked on
several projects in the area of social computing and input methods at IBM
Research, AT&T Labs, and most recently, Microsoft Research.