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The big switch : rewiring the world, from Edison to Google

by Nicholas G Carr

  Print book  |  1st ed

as incontrovertible as geometry, but...   (2010-06-30)

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Nicholas Carr's The Big Switch describes the emergence of cloud services, drawing parallels between information technology and the development of the electric power grid a century earlier.  There's no question that his argument is compelling - one need only use Amazon Web Services' EC2 (Elastic Cloud Compute) service, which offer the ability to house Windows and Linux servers in the cloud - and only pay for storage costs and the time that the servers are online.  Compare that to the current corporate and government IT infrastructures, which are marked, as the author notes, by low utilization rates and high ongoing costs.  

This quote from chapter 3 is central to Carr's argument: "most of the software and almost all of the hardware that companies use today are essentially the same as the hardware and software their competitors use...the same goes for the employees who staff IT departments" (57).  In the library automation area, it's this fact, plus the opportunities that shared data offer, that makes the move of library management systems to the cloud a compelling option.  OCLC's Web-scale Management Services offering, which is available for early adopter use, is the first concrete effort in this area. 

I wish the book gave greater attention to the pressures that tend to counter cloud services, such as the protecting privacy and the need for control over data archiving.  This is where the electrical grid metaphor face and it's easy to underestimate the institutional momentum that favors locally-based services. 

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