Thursday, December 6, 2012

From Personal Computers to Personal Clouds

This post requires “rendering” step by step; please bear with me as the end result will be worth it (at least I think so).

Say person A is using Mailchimp for Email Marketing; one of the key things she has to do is to configure the email templates so they properly reflect her Company’s Brand, for the sake of this post lets simplify and say that implies a Header Image, a Logo and a Product Image; A goes happily about uploading those from her personal computer to Mailchimp:

This means person A now has a copy of those assets in her personal computer and another one in Mailchimp.

Person A is also in charge of Social Media Marketing, she decides to use the Facebook App du Jour to present page fans with a discount when they visit and like her page, configuration of the App du jour requires a Header Image, a Logo and a Product Image so A continues to happily go about uploading those (now there are three locations with a copy of those assets):

In order to accelerate the results of the month A decides to use one of those “Daily Deals” provider and offer something exciting to get new customer to try her product; the Daily Deal provider required A to share the same assets to configure the web pages where customers could go and purchase the deal:

(We are up to four locations where the Assets reside now) 

So everything was going great till a couple days later when the CEO comes along and says: “A I have a great idea!  what we need is to change our Brand Colors!”

You see the problem, right? A now requires a manual effort to go about updating these across all services, there has to be a better way!

This is an oversimplification of one of the myriad use case scenarios that a brave group of people at Respect Networks is trying to tackle with the concept of “Personal Clouds”, once capabilities like what is conceptualized by this group become mainstream the opportunity to receive value as individuals and deliver value as companies will dramatically increase.

Let me state upfront that I believe the name has some issues but also advantages as it is trying to drive a parallel from the concept of “Personal Computers” (which are used by individuals as well as businesses), but let not make this post about semantics....

How would this use case scenario look like in a “Personal Cloud” world? Before we go there lets set some basic concepts: oversimplifying but lets think of a personal cloud as Cloud Base computing power and storage with an extensible and open operating systems that allows identity management, event management and rule based (programmatic) processing.. it would probably help if you thought of it as “beaming up” your personal computer to the cloud...
Obviously these “Personal Clouds” on their own wouldn’t really offer much of an improvement over current situation if they could not interact with each other; the idea is that Personal Clouds will connect to each other through a “Personal Channel”; these personal channels basically define the way to do things in the dealings between these two personal clouds.. things such as what data, when, pull/push, etc. These details are defined in the channel “contract” which is defined and mutually agreed at the time the channel is set in place.

Other very important aspect of Personal Clouds is the implications of the availability of Computing Power and Event Management; this basically will allow the Personal Cloud owner to set Agents (Programs) that can deal with events as they arise.. Did something new came through a channel? That is an event, lets look at it based on the event management rules that have been established and based on those trigger actions as appropriate (store, forward, lump with other data and ship through that other channel to a different personal cloud)
The above is clearly a gross oversimplification but it should be enough to go back to our use case scenario; so How would this use case scenario look like in a “Personal Cloud” world?

A would have a Personal Cloud that she controls (through Identity Management the Cloud identified A as its Administrator and entitles her to define Agents, establish channels and change settings) in that Personal Cloud A would have stored the Header Image, Logo and Product Image:

At the moment A decides to use Mailchimp what is done is the establishment of a Channel between A’s personal cloud and Mailchimp’s personal cloud (now you see why I said the “personal” name had some issues?). Through this channel the assets would be transmitted (in this case Mailchimp having a cache of those assets probably makes sense) but there is also a “contract” and logic that indicates every time new assets from A’s cloud come through the channel those will update the assets that Mailchimp’s cloud is storing...
And then the same happens with the Facebook App du jour and the Daily Deals provider du jour personal clouds:

So lets bring back the CEO into the scene:
In the personal cloud world all A has to do is to update the Assets in her personal cloud, this event will trigger a programmatic agent that knows who is “subscribed” to these assets and what channels need to be used to deliver the updated assets and to what clouds:
I hope this simple example helps you see the power and flexibility of such capabilities; an added advantage is that there is always control in this scenario in the right hands; is A ending the contract with the daily deal provider? she can delete the channel for that cloud and any associated subscription.

Now take this basic concept and extend it to other use case scenarios: price changes, scheduling conflicts, simple task requests, restaurant reservations, group and individual notifications, instrumentation of our daily health feeding data to our Doctor, status of our prescriptions, re-stocking of our pantries, etc. Clearly there is incredible value for the individual and great opportunities for companies to deliver values if we had Personal Clouds available to us.

We are progressing in this direction already; in the sense of Personal Clouds services like Dropbox, Facebook, Linkedin, Fklickr and many others can be considered analogous to the TRS80, Amiga, Commodore in the evolution towards the personal computer (I am not trying to demean any of those magnificent services and companies; I am just trying to point out they still lack the capabilities required to call them personal clouds).

We continue to live in interesting times!

What do you think?

Filiberto Selvas

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