The Future is Cloudy

Naeem ZamindarBy Naeem Zamindar

What is the future? Most people look at the stars, seers consult crystal balls and oracles use all manner of sacred herbs, smokes and mirrors to try and predict it. But for those who use technology, the future is already here. Every day brings exciting new advancements in the fields of communication, miniaturization and digital technology.

In the field of communications the future is looking cloudy. The advancements in 3G technology in most developed countries have yet to trickle down to Pakistan. 3G is a technology that allows for high speed data transfers to mobile devices, without the intervening lag and slowdowns that affect regular copper-wire mobile technology.

Fiber optics lies at the heart of 3G technology. In Pakistan many mobile towers are connected using copper wire rather than fiber. This means that data transfer takes place over the same medium that we used to use for regular telephone technology. Currently companies like Wateen are replacing copper wire with fiber optic cables around the country, using them to link higher educational institutes, banks, mobile towers and government offices for instant or high speed data transfers. Once mobile companies have access to fiber connected networks the possibility of genuine 3G technology will become a viable option.

This is then where the cloud comes in. Before he died Steve Jobs said that in the future, We’re going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the Cloud.” Cloud Computing is the idea of file sharing remotely whereby users can pick what parts of a particular program, or piece of video etc. from a general database that will exist in cyberspace; a ‘cloud’ of virtual information from where one can pick the bits and pieces that one needs, directly accessible from your digital device with no need for interfaces or syncing or any of the other requirements that regular PCs place on users.

Developing the cloud around the world are cutting edge technology companies, but building a high speed data transfer network is one of the primary requirements of cloud computing – the kind of network that technology companies such as Wateen Telecom are trying to build. It is through recognizing the requirements of our country and the shape of things to come that we work together to develop the systems necessary for the whole country to move forward. In this case, competition takes a distant second place to the requirements of our people, enabling their goals and increasing their opportunities to help themselves.

As Pakistan’s leading converged Information, Wateen has already taken bold steps towards realizing the possibility of easy access to information for all Pakistanis. Part of this means creating the actual infrastructure upon which this information will travel; to this end, Wateen, together with the Universal Services Fund (USF), has already rolled out optical fiber networks to far-flung parts of the country.

Developing Cloud services is the next step in this evolution. I believe that within the next two to three years, cloud-based computing will become the premium service offering for all telecom consumers – from individuals to small and medium-sized businesses to large enterprises and government entities. The product offerings will range from simple storage and to running complex business processes in cloud-based models. Wateen has already entered into alliances and partnerships with strong brands for infrastructure and application of delivery of such services in an efficient and cost effective way.

The benefits for businesses are obvious enough – cost-effective solutions to software and storage requirements: rather than buying expensive software or data storage packages, businesses can now ‘lease’ software or storage space in the Cloud. Moreover, the need for physical equipment becomes redundant, bringing further savings. For individuals, the opportunities are countless – not only can the average consumer now store terabytes of personal data, they can also avail of software solutions that might have hitherto been out of their budget.

Cloud computing also means smaller and smarter devices – by eliminating the need for physical storage, device manufacturers can now focus on designing tablets and smart phones that are sleeker and increasingly more portable. Imagine being able to ‘carry’ an entire database of high-resolution movies that you can view whenever and wherever on your chic new tablet. For a country like Pakistan, Cloud computing also means easy access to information for anyone possessing a data connection and a device. Wateen is already working closely with the Punjab IT Board to create virtual libraries of learning, with all textbooks and other curriculum stored in the Cloud. No longer will students need access to physical libraries, no more will universities and colleges need to invest in gargantuan physical storage systems to house data. Everything will live in the Cloud!

This is no science fiction. It’s already happening across the globe. With the right drive, and by continuing to work together, there soon won’t be any need for oracles and horoscopes, because the future will be here. It will be visible for us to see every day, as the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us improve. I can already see the future, ladies and gentlemen, and it is Cloudy.