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Defining the essential characteristics of the cloud — Mobile Cloud Computing May 8, 2012

Posted by shuliuls in Cloud Computing.

1. Introduction

The hottest wave in the world of information technology now is the potential growth of cloud computing. While many technologically advanced people are aware of cloud computing, it is still a new term for the mass. So, what exactly is cloud computing? First in my opinion, cloud computing entails the availability of software, processing power and storage on an ‘as needed’ basis. Its key characteristics include agility, reduced Cost, device independence, reliability, scalability, security and reduced maintenance. Cloud computing applications can be broadly divided into: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS, for example: Amazon Web Services provides virtual servers with unique IP addresses and blocks of storage on demand), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS, such as Google apps, a set of software and development tools hosted on the provider’s servers), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS, such as web based email, in which the provider allows the customer only to use its applications).

In advanced, mobile cloud computing could be defined as the availability of cloud computing services in a mobile ecosystem. This incorporates many elements including consumer, enterprise, transcoding, end to end security, home gateways and so on. Also since the terms ‘mobile’ and ‘wireless’ are used interchangeably, I consider mobile as ‘anywhere anytime’ and wireless is ‘without wires’. So, we are talking of ‘anywhere anytime secure data access’ when we speak of mobile cloud computing.

In such a multi-device world, the role of cloud computing becomes central to the content access and sharing. Consumers won’t like to store and upload by device type but would want the same level of functionality available across all their devices necessitating the need for mobile cloud computing. In a mobile environment, one has to contend with the limitations of screen size, the variability of devices, and the network latency. Therefore, the cloud requirements will vary by context.

With the emergence of the Smartphone, the mobile operators are being gradually cut out of the value added services space with most of the revenues shifting to rest of the ecosystem. Mobile cloud computing provides an opportunity to leverage their network infrastructure assets and their consumer relationships to open up new revenue streams.

2. Challenges

2.1. Privacy

One significant challenge for cloud computing in general is privacy. For applications which employ cloud computing often at least some of the user’s data will be stored remotely. This leads to concerns that companies will use or sell this information as well as concerns that the information could be given to government agencies without the user’s permission or knowledge. When it comes to mobile cloud computing, one family of applications specifically raises concerns. Location-aware applications and services perform tasks for users which require knowledge of the user’s location.

With the popularity of handheld devices, more and more people use location-based services, including emergency services, location-based gaming and mobile yellow page services, which ensure the true power of mobile cloud computing will be achieved. Although the service providers do not ask people to send the only signs such as name, Internet address and so on to the providers while people request services, but sometimes providers require users to send their current location, because related services will be more satisfied with the more accurate location information. In this case, the user’s location has become the personal privacy information. Service providers can carry out to match the user’s location with maps and use some other experiences of observation to discover the true identity of the user, and then to analyze the user’s service request and find the user’s personal information such as personal interests and other privacy. Examples would include an application that finds nearby restaurants for the user or one which allows their friends and family to receive updates regarding their location. This type of application simultaneously has broad appeal and brings significant concerns.

2.2. Data ownership

Another issue that arises from mobile cloud computing relates to the data ownership of purchased digital media. With cloud computing it becomes possible to store purchased media files, such as audio, video or e-books remotely rather than locally. This can lead concerns regarding the true ownership of the data. If a user purchases media using a given service and the media itself is stored remotely there is a risk of losing access to the purchased media. The service used could go out of business, for example, or could deny access to the user for some other reason.

As shown by a recent incident, this challenge can develop even when the media is not completely stored remotely. In July of 2009 Amazon remotely deleted and refunded copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from its users Kindle e-book readers. They did this because they discovered that 1984 was not actually in the public domain and that the publisher of that specific e-book edition of the novel did not have the right to sell or distribute it. This provoked uproars among Kindle users and commentators. This action was compared to accidentally selling someone stolen property and then later breaking into their home to retrieve it.

2.3. Security

Mobile computing devices have a large amount of storage, are highly portable and are frequently unprotected: they are relatively easy to steal or lose, and unless precautionary measures are taken, an unauthorized person can gain access to all the information stored on them. Even if not stolen or lost, intruders can sometimes gain all the access they need if the device is left alone and unprotected, or if data is “sniffed out of the air” during wireless communications. The result can include: crippled devices, infection with a virus or spyware allowing for surreptitiously capture the owner’s keystrokes, and/or a device whose data has been invisibly downloaded by an intruder leading to the loss of personal and other non-public information.

In addition to issues regarding privacy and data ownership there are the related issues of access and security. If an application relies on remote data storage and internet access in order to function at all then this can significantly affect the user. If, for example a user stores all of their calendar and contact information online, outages can affect their ability to function from day to day.

Mobile cloud computing is particularly vulnerable due to multiple points at which access can be interrupted. Reception and high speed availability can vary greatly for mobile devices. In addition to this, particular services used may have downtime. Finally, there can be issues of data becoming locked in to a particular service.

3. Related solutions

3.1. Privacy

In the challenge referred above, the type of application has broad appeal and brings significant concerns. One method sometimes used to alleviate concern is to make data submitted either spatially or temporally imprecise. This is called location cloaking. The cost of location cloaking, of course, is that it can reduce the quality of service delivered by the applications. For example, if a user is attempting to find a nearby restaurant and the request sent to the server by his mobile client is too imprecise he could receive results which are irrelevant or perhaps miss relevant results. Thus, there is an interest in developing location cloaking methods which manage to alleviate privacy concerns and simultaneously reduce the negative effect on location-aware applications.

3.2. Data ownership

In the challenge referred above, it demonstrates that special precautions need to be taken with mobile cloud computing to assure that incidents like this do not occur. Users should know exactly what rights they have regarding purchased media content. Either systems which imitate as closely as possible the normal processes of content ownership or systems which differ but communicate clearly the extent to which they differ should be used.

3.3. Security

For security challenge, one of the first measures to protect a notebook computer is to set or enable a BIOS or hard drive password. Beyond that, anti-malware, personal firewalls and wireless protocol encryption provide multiple layers of security for the mobile device. Even on desktop systems inside the network perimeter, most organizations have some sort of client-level antimalware and personal firewall solution in place. For roaming mobile devices that have to protect themselves, these security measures become even more imperative.

Administrators need to take into consideration that the mobile device may go days or weeks without connecting to the organizations’, but it still needs to get the latest signature updates. For mobile devices, the software should be configured to download updates straight from the manufacturers’ servers rather than relying on internal servers on the organization’s network.

4. Future works

In my opinion, it is still undecided that what the future truly holds for cloud computing and mobile cloud computing, but experts foresee that within 2-3 years, all technologically superior countries will be using mobile cloud computing as their primary method of accessing data through their mobile phones and in fact India will lead the show due to its higher mobile subscribers rate than any other country in the world. The future for mobile cloud computing is surely bright, but the end users will have to wait until cloud computing reaches its best possible potential stage in the mobile industry to have access to innumerous advantages and benefits it have for all the users. According to a research, this change is only a few years away.

The changes will occur with differing speeds depending on the market. Markets with higher Internet participation will obviously lead the way, as will markets with higher subscriber penetration. That includes Western Europe, North America, and parts of Asia. Other markets will then follow. By 2014, mobile cloud computing will become the predominant application development strategy. By that time, our PCs will be more like thin client devices than they are today, and now it seems our phones will too.

As referred before, considering the importance of mobile cloud computing from former discussion, we would like to explore further architectures that are plausible. Adequate security measures have to be incorporated to support the low processing ability at the client-side.

Further, we would like to test the feasibility of extrapolating concepts from cloud computing in the domain of large-scale computers to the realm of mobile world. Also, the cost policy needs to be evaluated as it could prove to be a hindrance to the growth of mobile cloud computing.

On the other hand, we also need to focus on the applications and their supporters. Mobile applications are distributed recently. If we want to use an iPhone application, we must have iPhone. Similarly, if we want to enjoy some Blackberry applications we have to have Blackberry. With mobile cloud computing we will be able to enjoy all such application only if we can access web through our cell phone.

We need to make mobile cloud computing offering all the benefits of cloud based computing. Customers don’t have to purchase and update their hardware and software every time a new application is launched. And more importantly they don’t have to pay for features they don’t use.


[1] Tejas Dave, “Emergence Of Mobile Cloud Computing”, Tracking Developments In Indian Telecom Industry, May, 2011, pp. 1-10.

[2] Preston A. Cox, “Mobile cloud computing”, developerWorks, May, 2011.

[3] Rajkumar Buyya, Chee Shin Yeo, Srikumar Venugopal, James Broberg, Ivona Brandic., “Cloud computing and emerging it platforms: Vision, hype, and reality for delivering computing as the 5th utility”, Future Gener. Comput. Syst., 2009, pp. 599–616.

[4] Andreas Klein, Christian Mannweiler, Joerg Schneider, Hans D., “Access schemes for mobile cloud computing”, Eleventh International Conference on Mobile Data Management, 2010, pp. 387–392.

[5] M. Satyanarayanan, “Pervasive Computing: Vision and Challenges”, IEEE Personal Communications 8(4), August, 2002, pp. 10-17.

[6] M. Satyanarayanan, “Fundamental Challenges in Mobile Computing”, ACM SigMobile, 1,1, April 1997, pp. 1-7.



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