A National Computing Cloud For Higher Education? whurley Says "Yes We Should!" (And I Can't Help But Agree)

By M. David Peterson
January 26, 2009

Update: via a recent Tweet:

So what are your thoughts regarding @whurley's idea to create a national computing cloud? > http://bit.ly/yKKb < Hashtag #NCC your thoughts.

If you're on Twitter, please join in the #NCC conversation!

[Original Post]
So whurley has an interesting idea: Level the high tech education playing field for universities by creating a national computing cloud. I won't go into the details of his reasoning behind the idea as he's done a tremendous job of that already in the form of an open letter to President Obama (Am I the only one who still gets a rush of exhilaration when he hears or speaks the words "President Obama"? Truly remarkable!). What I will do, however, is state this:

Absolutely /brilliant/ idea! I only wish I had thought of it first. ;-)

My jealousy aside, what do you think? Will leveling the high tech education playing field with a national computing cloud bring about a high tech revolution by giving access to anyone who makes the effort to gain a college education what at present time is reserved for the privileged few? Or is it just one more bill we tax payers would get stuck with without any real chance of it adding more to both our economy and our society than what it will cost to create and maintain?

Let's get this conversation going. Knowing whurley this is /exactly/ the kind of thing he's capable of bringing to fruition if he feels there are enough people in favor of the idea backing him up. My argument is most definitely in favor. What's yours?

A full copy of the open letter linked to above follows.

January 26, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama

The White House

Washington, DC 20500-0001

Dear Mr. President:

My sincerest congratulations, sir, on your recent inauguration as the 44th President of these United States of America. Your victory is testament not only to the greatness of our democracy but to the transformative power of democracy itself. Along with millions of my fellow human beings worldwide, I watched with pride as you took the oath and became a living example of the impact of a single American citizen.

You said, "The world has changed, and we must change with it." I couldn't agree more, Mr. President, and I believe the policies of your administration will be a wellspring of innovation. I know that both you and the vice president strongly support expanding research initiatives at institutions of higher education -- the heart of American innovation. For those institutions, the future is here. But, as William Gibson said, "It's just not evenly distributed yet."

We've allowed the cost of technology to hamstring our ability to innovate. Researchers are no longer limited by ideas or knowledge, but rather by access to the computing resources needed to execute experiments and analyze the results.

I propose you create a government-funded computing cloud for use by all colleges and universities. Such a resource would level the academic playing field. Researchers toiling at thousands of smaller institutions would have access to computing power currently available only to a handful. We cannot predict from where the next great innovation will come, but public cloud computing would dramatically improve our collaboration and innovation as a nation.

Great leaps in technological and social progress can occur almost simultaneously. In September 1962, a young researcher published the seed of one of the greatest technological developments of our time, while another young man from Kosciusko, Miss., started his journey toward a pivotal moment in the struggle for civil rights. Where some see random chance, I see providence. Paul Baran's recommendation of a national public utility to transport computer data and James Meredith's admittance to the University of Mississippi changed America's technological and social cores forever.

Your technologically savvy administration has an opportunity to realize another great leap. My letter cannot be compared to Baran's paper, but I hope it is a timely idea. An idea proposed too far ahead of its time has as little value as one proposed after a commitment has already been made. So I hope to catch you now, before your plans for educational reform are etched, while there is still time to add a provision for a computing cloud that has the potential to transform disparate, isolated researchers into the world's most powerful innovation engine.

Again, Mr. President, I congratulate you and your staff on your brilliant victory with the help of technology, and your improbable, inspiring, triumphant inauguration.

whurley (William Hurley)

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