FOUR PILLARS OF MODERN COMPUTING: It was bound to happen, and the time has come for it to happen. Perhaps not too long ago, the field of medicine has been “taken over” by cloud computing, and from here onward, things will not be the same. Cloud computing is one of the pillars of modern computing. The other three pillars are broadband, big data and server virtualization. The field of medicine is not the only one that has been “taken over”. Practically every field of human activity could benefit from these four pillars.
CLOUD COMPUTING: Before cloud computing came along, companies or organizations had to put up their own data centers either in their own premises, or offsite in hosted facilities. That approach would entail a lot of capital expenses, investments that would go to waste as soon as the machines are depreciated. Because of cloud computing however, any company or organization could use the data centers of cloud service providers in remote locations. The internet cloud is neither a place nor a state of being, as many would try to describe heaven. In a manner of speaking, the internet cloud is the totality of computing power somewhere and everywhere, for everyone to use as long as they could afford it.
BIGGER BANDWIDTH: The bigger the bandwidth, the faster is the connectivity. From the very slow dial-up connectivity, we moved up to the not so slow digital service line (DSL) connectivity. Fast forward, many areas are now moving up to fiber connectivity. From that point on and onward, things will also not be the same. Broadband is the “juice” that enables us to transmit voice, text and data faster and better, the latter in terms of being more stable and more reliable. Because of broadband, we are now able to transmit or view larger files, and that includes big data.
BIG DATA: It could be said that big data has always been there, but until now the technology did not exist to mine all of it and to analyze all of it. Yes, the size of big data has always been there, but what is new is the ability of new technologies to read data, to fetch data deep down into the data assets, in ways that has not been done before. In layman terms, this would include every piece of data that has ever been recorded about a medical patient, no matter how many and how widespread it is. For example, that would include x-ray files and cardiograph files.
SERVER VIRTUALIZATION: Before virtualization came along, many servers were needed to provide the computing power of data centers. As it is now however, data centers including those in the internet cloud would need lesser servers. That means having more computing power with lesser expenses. This new technology is also good for the environment, because with lesser servers, lesser energy would be needed. In a related development, data storage space has been “divorced” from the servers, so much so that these are now scalable.
FROM BUYING HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE TO BUYING SERVICES: Because of cloud computing, companies could now buy offsite services without buying hardware and software. Actually, clients could now buy “Software as a Service” (SaaS), instead of simply buying software licenses. This approach is directly related to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). More than ever, anything and everything could be outsourced now, and even the BPO companies could outsource their own computing needs to internet cloud service providers.
NETWORK-ABLE MEDICAL EQUIPMENT: Technically speaking, any machine that has a processor, a keypad and a display is a computer. That is why I always say that an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) is a computer, and so is a Point of Sale Terminal (POST). Given that definition, any digital medical equipment is a computer, including dialysis machines and x-ray machines. I have known this all along, but I never thought that all digital medical equipment could be networked. As I see it now, the state of the present technology has surpassed my own imagination because the equipment could not only be networked now, these could also be located in the internet cloud, thus eliminating the need for on-site machines.
LEVELING THE HOSPITAL FIELD: Because of cloud computing, any hospital big or small could now have access to all kinds of medical equipment and devices, no matter where they are, for as long as they could connect to the internet. Before cloud computing came along, only the big hospitals could afford to buy the big pieces of equipment, thus subjecting the quality of medical services to the availability of big capital. The field has now been leveled for the good of all.
THE KEYPAD IS IN THE DISPLAY: Before smart alecks would argue with me about what I said, I will say it first, that the keypad in the tablets and the smart phones is in the display. Therefore, there is still a keypad (or a keyboard) in these devices, except that it is already in the display (or the screen). What is most important in these devices is now really the keypad, but the processor that makes it possible for the software and the applications to work.
MOBILE APPS VERSUS WEB BROWSERS: Apps and browsers are completely different from each other, although they could work alongside each other. Apps are software applications that are “native” to the devices. Apps “talk” to the servers to fetch data when needed, but most application features are already in the devices. On the other hand, browsers are simply “readers” (or surfing tools) so to speak. Browsers actually “read” data from a website, meaning to say that the data in this case is “native to” or are “residing” in the site that is offsite.
THE MOUNTAIN GOES TO MOHAMMED: Simply put, Mohammed no longer has to go to the mountain, because the mountain now goes to him, figuratively speaking. That’s a big wow!
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BINDER: Many companies have already thrown in their support to the proposed Broadband Interconnection for National Development and Emergency Response. This might sound like the National Broadband Network (NBN), but it is not. NBN is technically just a Value Added Network (VAN), but it does not have Value Added Services (VAS). As I proposed it, BINDER will be not only be a VAN, it will be the backbone upon which an infinite number of VAS could be attached to it, so that these could function and operate.
VAN-VAS ARCHITECTURE: As it was supposed to be (but it did not happen), the government was supposed to build the VANs, and that would have enabled the private sector to attach their own VAS, without spending too much on their own infrastructure. This would have lowered the cost of services, because the private sector would not have too much investment to recover. This is similar to what happened in the case of the network of roads and highways that were built by the government. With these in place, the private sector was able to provide the land transportation services that are now running on these networks.
PRIVATE TOLL WAYS: We pay our taxes and in doing that, we expect the government to build infrastructure like roads and highways. As it happened however, the government was not able to build the superhighways as it was supposed to do, and that is why private companies had to build and operate the private toll ways, and that is why we have to pay money as we pass through. In a way, this is like double taxation, but that is what is happening, because what was supposed to happen did not happen.
INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAYS: Since the government was not able to build the national broadband networks as it was supposed to do, the bigger companies decided to build their own information superhighways. As it was supposed to be, these private information superhighways were supposed to operate only as VANs, because the original intention was to give the smaller companies the opportunity to provide the VAS components. As it happened, the bigger companies monopolized the business by running their own VAS components in their own VANs, thus leaving out the smaller companies.
INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS (ISPs): As it originally happened, the smaller companies were buying bandwidth from the VANs of the bigger companies, so that they could provide services to the general public as the ISPs as we knew them before. As it eventually happened however, the bigger companies started providing internet services on their own, thus breaking the ethical rule that the producers of goods and services should not compete with their own wholesalers and retailers. As it happened, the ISPs went out of business, leading to the monopoly of the VAN-VAS businesses by the bigger companies.
PATCHWORK CAN WORK: Since the bigger companies have already built their own VANs (they all have their own separate networks), it is now possible to build a nationwide (as in national, if you get the drift) broadband based interconnection, by simply patching (as in interconnecting them) together, to the extent that they would allow it. For many years now, I always find myself in the company of government planners who would always want to build a “brand new” national broadband network, instead of a patchwork. They would be in the right place if they were working for a superpower, but there is really nothing wrong if a developing country would choose instead to patch together what is already there.
FOUR MAJOR TRENDS IN COMPUTERIZATION: The four major trends in computerization are (1) cloud computing, (2) big data, (3) server virtualization and (4) storage scalability. As it used to be, private companies and government agencies had to invest a lot of money in building their own data centers, thus incurring too much costs in servers, storage and facilities management. As it is now however, they have the option of getting (acquiring) these services from “the cloud” (meaning from remote offsite locations). As it used to be, it was very difficult to manage and mine huge data assets in an economical and efficient manner. As it is now however, there are newer technologies to manage and mine the “big data” robustly, no matter how big and diverse it is. As it used to be, hundreds of servers were needed to run big data centers. As it is now however, servers could already be “virtualized”, thus needing lesser servers and smaller space. As it used to be, servers and storage devices were “married” as one. As it is now however, these are now “divorced” and the storage spaces are now scalable.
THE BETTER SIDE OF BUSINESS: I worked for San Miguel Corporation (SMC) when its corporate motto was still “Profit with Honor”. The motto is long gone, but SMC along with many other companies are now practising “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR for short). As it used to be, corporate philanthropy was a one way street, meaning that corporations gave money to worthy causes without expecting anything back, except perhaps a good image and goodwill. As it is now however, corporations have the option to get back something from their donations, in the form of tax credits that they could deduct from their net taxable incomes. It does not really matter whether corporations would give donations in exchange for something or for nothing, as long as they give to worthy causes.
SYSTEMS INTEGRATOR AND PROJECT MANAGER: Many companies in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector have their own CSR programs in pursuit of their own corporate objectives. Since I know many of the officers from these companies, I volunteered to become the “Systems Integrator” (SI) and “Project Manager” (PM) of a shared network that would be built from a patchwork of donated hardware, software and services, combining whatever surpluses they could donate. This is now the BINDER project.
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