STEVE INSKEEP, host:
On Mondays, we talk about technology. And today, we'll explore a new way to think about computing. Maybe you could think of it this way: If you need more electricity for your house, you don't go to the store and buy some. You just flip a switch. If you need a more powerful computer, you could do the same thing. Instead of buying a new model, you click the mouse. That's one concept, anyway, among several we'll discuss with Craig Balding. He is an IT security expert at a Fortune 500 company. The company doesn't want its name disclosed because it's sensitive about security, but he is talking with us.
Welcome to the program.
Mr. CRAIG BALDING (Information Technology Specialist): Thanks very much.
INSKEEP: Would you explain this concept, which I gather goes by the name cloud computing - which immediately sounds a little cloudy to me.
Mr. BALDING: Yes. And it is, unfortunately, a bit cloudy. Everybody has a slightly different definition of it. In general, though, there are certain things that come out. One of them is this concept of grid computing and utility computing. Now, these are grand terms that really just mean that you have a lot of standard PCs working together in unison trying to crack through the workload.
INSKEEP: Well, what are some other jobs that I might be able to have done with this system if I've got my not-so-great computer in front of me but a great Internet connection?
Mr. BALDING: Well, Steve, I understand that you have a passion for genealogy, and...
(Soundbite of laughter)
INSKEEP: Well, my wife's a genealogist. Yes. Yes.
Mr. BALDING: Well, then there's a definite passion there. Part of that obviously involves cracking the DNA and treeing to figure out the links between people. So using a supercomputer that's available to you in the cloud is something that you'd be able to do with that.
INSKEEP: I could do DNA analysis on my home computer by renting somebody's amazing computer 1,000 miles away?
Mr. BALDING: Exactly. Your home computer really just becomes a display unit, rather than actually processing. So all the grunt work gets done inside the cloud, but the updates your screen gets sent down to whatever terminal you're using.
INSKEEP: Does this mean if I need extra memory to store a bunch of photographs and I don't have it on my machine, I can just go online and quickly get that memory some place else to store things?
Mr. BALDING: Yes. You would just turn a dial, and as long as your credit card number is with them and they can bill you for that extra space you're going to take, you can have it there and then. There's no going out to the store.
INSKEEP: Ah, you just mentioned an important thing - a credit card number. So this is almost like I'm renting storage space for the extra stuff that doesn't fit in my house.
Mr. BALDING: That's exactly it. You're just basically, you know, paying by the drink.
(Soundbite of laughter)
INSKEEP: Instead of buying a whole new bottle. Okay. Let me ask about another implication, though. Is somebody who runs a business who used to have a filing cabinet or a filing room and then had computer files and computer databases really going to be able or want to take the risk of shipping all their files out to some random computer they don't even know where it is and paying to rent storage that way?
Mr. BALDING: Yes. And that's really a key question. Even though, you know, these are reputable companies, many of them, there's going to be a whole kind of ecosystem that builds up around this, the smaller companies that will offer additional services on top of those kind of base services.
And so what I've done is I've actually started up a blog, CloudSecurity.org. And what I'm trying to do is get the various cloud providers to come and have a discussion about what security are you doing. Now, obviously they're not going to be revealing their blueprints, and I'm not asking them to. But there are certainly some steps that can be taken to the point before you get disclosing your intellectual property.
INSKEEP: Craig Balding is an IT security expert. He's got a blog about cloud computing called CloudSecurity.org.
Thanks very much for taking the time.
Mr. BALDING: Many thanks.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.