Recently, William Hurley, on his Infoworld blog, wrote an open letter to President Obama asking
him to create a government funded National Computing Cloud.
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
I completely agree with him on the need for a National Compute Cloud. I have
talked about the positive impact of Cloud Computing on academia many times in this blog. I am pretty confident that a move like what Mr.
Hurley is proposing is bound to be a great leveler of the academic playing
I remember the good old days in India when I was part of Indian Institute of
Technology, a supposedly premier institution in the country. Those days were
cash crunched days in India and, as it always happen in tight situations, the
then government found an easy target to cut money in order to shore up their
balance sheets. The govt. drastically reduced the money they spent on these
institutions and its impact were first felt on the floors of libraries. The
institute had to axe the subscription to many of the expensive journals
(remember, in those days, the dollar to rupee conversion was very high and the
were are very expensive) to cover up for the
reduced funding. I was doing a research project in the Physics department and
the loss of journals were threatening to put an end to our project.
Those were the early days of internet and it was mainly thriving in the
academic institutions, thanks to the governments all over the world.
Fortunately, Los Alamos National Laboratory came up with an idea to launch a
repository of research papers (xxx.lanl.gov). It is one of the first of its kind open access
publication of research papers and it changed the way research was done all over
the world. It cut down the barriers to entry on the research front, at third
world institutions and, also, at the ”poor” institutes in the developed world.
We had a level playing field all around the world, at least in the theoretical
fields of study. This was only possible due to the availability of internet in
the academic institutions and a (Inter)National repository of research
When I read Mr. Hurley’s post, I was immediately reminded of the positive
impact of the free availability of internet and the national repository of
research papers. I was immediately attracted towards his idea. I am pretty
convinced, based on my past experience, that a National Computing Cloud will be
a great leveler and Obama’s administration should seriously look into this idea.