Today, I testified to the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Space, Science and Technology. The topic of the hearing was "The Next IT Revolution?: Cloud Computing Opportunities and Challenges." At the hearing, I was joined by Mike Capellas (CEO, VCE), Nick Combs (Federal CTO, EMC), and David McClure (Associate Administrator, GSA).
This hearing drew on some of the content from the TechAmerica Commission on the Leadership Opportunity in U.S. Deployment of the Cloud (CLOUD2), on which I had the privilege to serve as the commercial vice-chair. In addition, my own remarks were augmented by Microsoft's cloud engagement experiences with the U.S. National Science Foundation and other research funding agencies. (See Innovation Via Client Plus Cloud: Microsoft-NSF Partnership for background.)
My complete written testimony will ultimately appear on the Subcommittee web site here, and the hearing charter, the subcommittee press release, and the hearing video capture most of context. However, there are a few points from my testimony that seem appropriate to repeat here. These concern research empowerment via the cloud, support for basic research and education and broadband expansion.
Accelerating Scientific Discovery for Research via the Cloud
Throughout the history of science, data has been scarce and precious. Indeed, the modern scientific method is defined by a careful cycle of hypothesis and experiment, which gathers experimental data to test the hypothesis. In a few short years, scientists and engineers have gone from scarcity to an incredible richness, necessitating a significant change in how they manage and extract insight from all this data. In a parallel shift, many of our scientific, engineering and societal questions increasingly lie at the intersections of traditional disciplines.
Increasing data volumes and the complexity of collaboration on interdisciplinary problems are challenging our historical approaches to discovery and innovation via computing. Most researchers and research institutions are ill-prepared for the large-scale computing infrastructure management challenges posed by large data sets and complex models. The cloud and associated applications and tools offer a possible solution to this challenge by letting scientists be scientists.
The U.S. government can accelerate this transition by encouraging the purchase of cloud services, in addition to the acquisition of local IT infrastructure, and by supporting new tools that facilitate distributed collaboration and simplify access to multidisciplinary scientific data. As I have noted before, Microsoft is acting on this belief, working in partnership with the National Science Foundation.
Fostering Continued Support for Computing Research and Education
Today's cloud technology is derived from basic computing research conducted over the past four decades. To ensure that the U.S. continues to remain at the forefront of cloud technology, continued investment in basic research is critical. There are deep and open questions in areas as diverse as the future of silicon scaling and system-on-a-chip design, energy-efficient systems, primary and secondary storage, data mining and analytics, wired and wireless networks, system resilience and reliability, privacy and security, and user interfaces and accessibility, to name just a few. Insights and innovations from this research will spawn new companies, create jobs and reshape our future.
In addition to continued research investment, it is critical to support the pipeline that produces researchers, and others who will able to invent new uses of the cloud and information technology. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the computing sector will have 1.5 million job openings over the next 10 years, yet the number of graduates receiving Bachelors, Masters or Ph.D. computer science degrees is far short of that. In addition, we must strengthen the quality of and access to computing education at all levels. Consistent with these concerns about the IT workforce and computing education, Microsoft is a founding member of the Computing in the Core coalition, which supports computer science education, particularly at the K-12 level.
Broadband: The Need for Speed
The web and cloud services depend on broadband communications. Without them, service and information sharing are impossible. Concomitantly, ensuring reliable wired and wireless connectivity, with adequate bandwidth and latency, is critical to ensuring successful adoption of the cloud and realization of its benefits. The phenomenal growth of digital data, the rise of streaming media services, and the explosive growth of Internet-connected devices are all straining our nation's broadband infrastructure.
It is critical that we continue to design and deploy new backbone networks that support higher data rates, develop and deploy new protocols and infrastructure for the next generation of wireless networks and define the global standards that will shape the future of the globe-encircling cloud. We must also remember that digital access to information and services is increasingly the enabler of economic competitiveness, of lifelong education in a rapidly changing world, and of government efficiency and service delivery.
21st Century Innovation
This is an exciting time, when the future becomes the present. Computing can be a great equalizer, providing access to the world's knowledge base to individuals, anywhere, anytime; empowering entrepreneurs and companies large and small to sell their products and ideas globally; and enabling scientists and engineers to discover and innovate in ways that will define the future.