Cloud computing: mainframe computing on steroids

March 15th, 2013 by

By Andy The

Unfortunately I’m old enough to remember helping my dad load magnetic tapes drives for the mainframe computer at his office.  In those bygone days mainframe computers performed the processing and dumb terminals were the interface.

Cloud computing is today’s version of the mainframe and the terminals/clients are our PCs, smartphones, and tablets.  The subtle difference between cloud computing and mainframe computing is the concept of distributed processing.  Today’s powerful clients combined with high-speed networks have enabled the processing to be distributed between the client and server, instead of only being concentrated at the server.  As consumers we use distributed processing constantly, from performing a Google search on a smartphone to using a new video streaming service in your home, we are all enjoying its benefits.

Industrial space network protocols such as EtherCAT and ProfiNET, combined with intelligent endpoints (drives, buses, etc.), enable the same distributed processing found in the consumer space.  Entire manufacturing floors and processing plants are controlled by a single HMI; communication over powerful distributed networks is extremely precise.

I saw a simple example of this when watching an episode of “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern”.  They were touring through a prosciutto plant (mmmm…prosciutto) that had a very sophisticated climate control system to maintain the perfect environment to cure the hams.  The owner described how he was able to monitor and control the entire climate system from his iPhone.  An interesting and delicious use case of distributed processing.

In a very short time period cloud computing has been integrated into our everyday lives – from a manufacturing floor, to a power station, to the smartphones in our pockets.  And amazingly this is just the beginning for cloud computing and distributed processing.



Leave a Comment