Tech Updates

Published on Feb 20, 2012

The Personalised Cloud

Cloud computing is changing the way services are created, delivered and consumed for both the consumer and the enterprise. It promises significant gains in efficiency and flexibility, at a time when data centres are increasingly challenged by the rapid growth in the number of users and volume of data. Yet, while much of the discussion of the cloud tends to focus on the data centre, devices of all types continue to play an essential to how, when and where these services are consumed. Importantly, they are being used to build “personalised clouds” based on architectures that enhance and optimise access to content and processing.
by Alex Barreto, Ph.D.

Why a personalised cloud experience is important

Today;s end users are increasingly likely to utilise multiple devices, including smart-phones, tablets, and notebooks to access information. They embrace new applications and devices in their personal life, and expect those same capabilities to be available at work. Yet when it comes to the ability to access, display, manipulate, store or secure data, some devices are clearly more capable than others.
Larger displays, better graphics, greater storage, enhanced security; the reality is that different devices have different capabilities. Unfortunately, most services have followed the earlier web paradigm, and have been reduced to their lowest common denominator of functionality, with only limited ability to take advantage of device capabilities or suit the form factor. Enabling cloud-based applications to comprehend device capabilities is emerging to take advantage of them, in order to scale up or down to the device in terms of the greatest common multiple of functionality.
Additionally, for many, the definition of the workplace has changed from a single location to which they travel, to an activity in which they engage from anywhere, any time. Mobile workers are amongst the most productive employees. For them, the office is their set of devices – notebook, net-book, tablet, and smartphone. Cloud-based applications often require users to be connected to access information, yet the networks they rely upon are subject to broad variations in the quality of service, and thus can often be intermittently available or slow. Also, users may be working from a location without any network access, which is more common than is often thought. Cloud services must enable users to access and update data, even when working offline.
Rather than relying solely on the data centre to drive cloud capabilities, devices can provide resources to power them a part of a “personalised cloud.” End users and cloud providers each have unique needs that can be well addressed through this combined approach. Taking advantage of the combined capabilities of devices and the data centre, services, cloud providers, and enterprises have greater flexibility to optimise application delivery through the cloud. End users can also benefit from improved application performance and the ability to remain productive, even when working offline.

Benefits of a personalised cloud

End users are driven by the need to access their data and applications anywhere, any time, in a consistent, mobile manner. Cloud computing has represented a leap forward in this respect, yet devices have, until recently, largely accessed the cloud in a siloed, hub-and-spoke fashion. At the same time, the benefits of cloud can be overshadowed by poor user experience and the lack of ubiquitous connectivity. To succeed, solutions that address these user needs must be delivered.
End users and service providers can benefit from a device-aware, distributed infrastructure. For cloud-based applications, it’s important to look beyond simple availability metrics to take into account end-user experience.

User Benefits

  • Responsiveness – For cloud-based applications, response time is dependent on multiple factors including network performance, application performance, and cloud infrastructure performance. Enabling device-side, distributed execution for cloud-based applications can help improve end-user experience, especially for applications that are compute-intensive or bandwidth-constrained.
  • Productivity – Cloud services that are device-aware can enable a user to access data or information whether working in online or offline mode, as well as across devices. Once reconnected, applications can synchronise and save changes from the last connection.

Provider Benefits

  • Application delivery – In cases where cloud servers supporting a particular application are heavily subscribed or the network is constrained, the ability to execute a given application or portions of an application on the end point enables service providers to improve application delivery.
  • Flexible architecture – For most service providers, the transition to the cloud has and will continue to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Public clouds are being leveraged for well-defined, commoditised, low-risk applications and services. More complex, sensitive or customised applications will be supported using existing model, or deployed to private or hybrid clouds. Devices provide a flexible infrastructure able to support a variety of compute environments, distribute processing, and mesh together data and processing for any time, anywhere availability.

Enabling the Cloud to be Personal

In the personalised cloud, attributes and capabilities of devices are exposed to the cloud and to one another. Cloud-based applications – which share processing between devices and the data centre – use this information to determine how best to execute a given application and/or share content.
As an example, with devices such as smart-phones, tablets, netbooks, integrated media devices, etc., the cloud may detect limited device capabilities, and decide to run an application entirely from the cloud-based data centre, with little support from the device. Alternatively, with more powerful devices, such as notebooks, set-top boxes, internet TVs, desktop PCs, in-vehicle infotainment systems, etc. – that meet security, storage and processing policies – the application may decide to run on the device, taking advantage of performance and graphics to improve delivery.
At the same time, these devices will detect the availability and proximity of others that are identified as authenticated and authorised for a specific user or process, and rather than synchronising information across them, access the last good version or state of data. Thus, users will be able to access their content in a way that reduces data duplication, since the personalised cloud can present the latest version of preferences and content.
To enable this personalised cloud, devices are becoming capable of:

  • Transparent, automatic, intelligent connections between devices and the environment.
  • Experiencing transition appropriately according to the user’s environment and devices.
  • Devices gather and share contextually appropriate and available content to the user
  • Leveraging the cloud that accesses and provides both information and capabilities available in the user’s environment.

which is achieved through:

  • Device composability: Enhancing user experiences by changing the way services execute, according to the devices at hand at any given moment. Stacks allowing devices and services to discover and form the cloud of devices are in development by a number of vendors, along with APIs for developers so they can create their services with this in mind.
  • Usage suggestion: Users want to use content in different ways depending on the device that is using to access that content. This is as simple as a tag cloud, or complex as a text miner service, plus ontology engines.
  • Presence detection: Users inform the cloud of which device is active at any time through their interaction, so content can follow them from device to device, based on that activity.
  • Intuitive user interface (UI): A consistent UI is the glue that makes this all work, and depends upon providing the same experience, whilst targetting the form factor of each device.
  • Content services: When users transfer content among devices, this data will be distributed across the devices in the personal cloud.

Today many of these capabilities are already available across a number of devices. The personal cloud allows people to discover new usages based on their content, beyond their current perception. To the end user, they will soon be able to have their phones, cars, TV and your notebooks connect to each other and share information.
For example, a user takes a Voice over IP (VoIP) call, the cloud routes the audio (and video, as appropriate) streams to the device which is active. A user can initiate the VoiP session from their notebook, and when they switch to their smart-phone and begin interacting with it, the streams are moved to that smart-phone, and the call continues on it. When that user interacts with their TV, the streams can be moved to the available set-top box and/or internet TV controller, and they can take advantage of the TV display for an improved video VoIP call experience, along with visuals of attached/associated content such as RSS feeds, documents, etc. The user can than go to the kitchen and begin interacting with the integrated media device on their counter-top, and the call (and content) can follow them there.
End users benefit from a better overall experience across a range of devices; service providers benefit from improved resource utilisation, ensuring applications are delivered in the most secure and efficient way. When privileged data and/or processing are accessed, the ability to execute a given application or access a given file on a device requires that the device comply with security policies. Many devices include hardware-based capabilities to enable enhanced security, which are then determined and leveraged at run-time.


With an understanding of the needs and challenges faced by consumers and organisations using and implementing cloud services in their environment, vendors are working with systems and software solution providers to help develop end-to-end solutions that address these needs. Reference architectures that provide practical guidance on how to build clouds and implement personal cloud device-aware capabilities are being developed and distributed through such programs as the Open Data Center Alliance ( and Intel’s Cloud Builders ( The future direction of cloud is being shaped today through the architecture and development of the personalised cloud. This is only the beginning – as devices improve their features and properties, they will only be able to better distribute and balance their capabilities amongst each other, across a cloud which no longer differentiates between your smartphone and a server rack in a data centre.

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