By Fu Swee Tee, Lecturer
Believe it or not, the state of computing today has gone beyond what people in the ’80s and ’90s could only dream of. Our current world appears outwardly unimpressive on the surface, but beneath the skin of every car, train, aeroplane, plush toy and even within our watches, lies a digital computer core that acts as a doorway to numerous services above what a single PC may be capable of. This is made possible with progressively evolving smart devices, the Internet and a technological platform are known as cloud computing. You may have heard of this name coined here and there, but what is it? If you do not already know, then get ready for a surprise as you have probably already been enjoying the benefits of cloud computing for the last few years or more.
At its earliest, cloud computing allowed us to store documents, programs, songs, and video clips on the Internet for free, liberating us from the disadvantages of local backup solutions that often fall prey to power spikes, wear-and-tear, or the occasional hungry pet. These include family favourites such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and OneDrive. Its utility has since expanded to include maintaining backups of Operating Systems (such as Apple Time Machine and Nokia’s Windows Phone Desktop). Even enterprises and research sectors rely on cloud computing to host armies of virtual computers that handle high volumes of business transactions, databases, and online services without the need for individual physical machines on-premises.
Recent breakthroughs in telecommunications infrastructure around the globe such as consumer fibre optics and the 5th gen mobile network (5G) has sparked an unprecedented explosion in rich, on-demand content through the Internet. The delivery of YouTube videos, snappy Tiktok sketches, and curated media via NetFlix, Disney+ and more have even transformed how we spend our casual evenings at home.
Have you noticed our transition away from the traditional cable television sessions and television remote-hogging to tablets and smartphone arm-cramps? Even how we talk to one another (especially during these troubled times) has changed. We have left the days of telephone receivers in favour of Zoom, Cisco Webex, FaceTime, and Microsoft Teams meetings, for both formal and informal chats.
All of these applications are made possible because of the flexible platform that cloud computing provides in terms of shared computation, storage and services through the Internet. The simplest example is you creating a Google account and using Google productivity apps such as Docs, Sheets and Slides to prepare all your office/school work without having to install anything on your PC. Now that we have gotten the perspective that the cloud is all around us, it is time to look at it academically.
Cloud computing is described as a platform for providing on-demand computational resources through the Internet. It is the solution borne out of individual companies struggling with expensive hardware, personnel engagement, and operational costs of physical computers. With cloud computing, it allows both consumers and companies to “rent” storage, virtual machines, and hosting services from cloud platform providers such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud, and even Alibaba Cloud. These on-demand services are often pay-per-use, so you are only charged for what you utilize (instead of having to buy and run your own supercomputers).
However, there are caveats to consider: relying on cloud computing also means communicating potentially sensitive data through the Internet and possibly subjecting it to possible attacks, data losses and infringement of privacy. Hence, we rely on emergent fields such as Cybersecurity, E-Forensics, and prudent ICT savviness to combat these threats.
At Swinburne Sarawak, the School of Information and Communication Technologies offers the three-year Bachelor of Computer Science program where students can choose to major in software development, Internet of Things (IoT), cybersecurity and data science.
You’re familiar with smartphone apps or that computer game that had your transfixed for hours? With a software development major, you’ll be the creative, brainstorming mastermind behind these applications. Perhaps you want a better way to do things like making your home’s light switch ‘smarter? Connecting these switches to the internet so that your home lights can be dimmed remotely via an app is part and parcel of what the Internet of Things (IoT) is all about. If you’re interested in helping businesses identify vulnerabilities, make security improvements and ensure legal compliance, then a degree in cybersecurity is for you. While Data Science graduates use their expertise in computer science and mathematics to tackle unstructured data, solve multifaceted problems and make data-driven recommendations, all of which are needed by businesses and establishments to make informed business decisions.
With information technology and the rapid expansion of cloud computing, the career opportunities for computer scientists continue to grow and broaden.
Fu Swee Tee is a lecturer with the School of Information in Communication Technologies. With research interests in multi-agent systems, ontology patterns and classification, and software development methodology, Fu can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org