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December 27, 2014

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Tech Executive to Describe Wonders of the Cloud World on Feb. 26

Q&A: Christian Belady Answers Questions About the Future of Cloud Computing, How it Impacts Everyday Life

Christian Belady

Christian Belady

Christian Belady, general manager of Datacenter Services for Microsoft’s Global Foundation Services and a UT Dallas alumnus, will speak Feb. 26 at the second event in the new ATEC Distinguished Lecture Series.

He helps build and manage the world of cloud computing at Microsoft. Before Microsoft and after earning engineering degrees from Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Belady enrolled at UT Dallas and earned his master’s degree in international management in 1990. He was named a 2010 Distinguished Alumnus.

Can you explain cloud computing for a lay audience?

A few years ago my wife asked me, “What is this cloud computing thing I have been reading about in the paper?” And I was thinking how can I explain this to her in a non-geeky way that would make sense to a medical professional? My answer went something like this: 

I asked her, “Where’s your email?” She replied “It’s on my computer.” 

“Really, well, what do you do to access it?” She replied again, “I log in and open it.”

“Exactly! ... You are actually logging on to a server in a datacenter somewhere on the planet. ... That is the cloud.”

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Tickets are $15 for seats on the lower level of the lecture hall and $10 for the upper level. A limited number of complimentary tickets are available for students, faculty and staff who register.

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Guests should park in Parking Structure I.  A map can be found here.

Next in the Series

March 26: Vinton G. Cerf, a “father of the Internet.”
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April 16: Mae Jemison, scientist and astronaut.
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Actually you and all of us have been “doing” cloud computing for over a decade. The only difference now is we are talking about businesses doing what consumers have been doing for years.  

For example, I don’t carry Encarta on my phone, I just type in a search query and the data or answer is retrieved from the cloud in a second. The cloud provides information and resources on demand that can be used on demand from anywhere on the globe! 

Because of this fantastic resource, the demands from consumers and businesses are insatiable, driving incredible growth in the infrastructure that supports it, the datacenter.

What are some of the most exciting new breakthroughs in cloud computing?

There are many breakthroughs in the cloud, most of which are software related. However, there are exciting things that are going on in my space, the datacenter. 

Because of the scale at which we operate, we can rethink how we do things. For example, we have the ability to move away from trying to build redundant infrastructure (power systems and cooling) to prevent power outages to a completely integrated system where we move resiliency into the software. 

If we lose a server, a datacenter or part of the network, the software is resilient and will move workload around as appropriate so it is always available. This requires a completely aligned and integrated design between the servers, network, datacenter and software. 

Another example, which I am particularly proud of, is what we are doing on the power side. Again, because of our scale, we are able to bring together the datacenter with the utility/power companies to integrate the power generation with the datacenter.

Our view is that the datacenter is nothing more than a power converter changing electrons into bits. So we have projects now that are looking to combine the power plant with the datacenter. We call this the “dataplant.”

The implications are huge as we think of distributing data over fiber versus electrons over the grid. The efficiency gains are huge since much of the high voltage transmission infrastructure is eliminated, but also it enables us to run datacenters off of biogas using fuel cells. 

There are many breakthroughs in the cloud, most of which are software related. However, there are exciting things that are going on in my space, the datacenter.

Christian Belady,
general manager of Datacenter Services for Microsoft’s Global Foundation Services and a UT Dallas alumnus

What started the big move to cloud computing?

Cost, cost, cost! Companies using the cloud need fewer capital resources to build out their IT departments. This of course was highly desirable with small businesses with limited resources, so they were the first to adopt. 

This also gave these small companies a cost advantage relative to larger competitors, lowering the barrier to entry. This in turn drives more adoption by larger companies in order to compete. It’s a vicious cycle. The faster we drive our cost down, the faster the adoption. My role is to help drive down those costs in our datacenters.

How do my devices work?

What makes smartphones smart is not what’s in the phones, but the cloud resource behind them ... the back end. All of the applications (apps) use information or computational resources in the cloud. The smartphone (or any device) is just a portal to resources in my datacenters.

Why is cloud computing such a popular solution for consumers?

They have no idea they are consuming it; it is just happening and working for them. If there is a failure in a datacenter or a server goes down, the consumer never knows. Whatever they need is always available, and that is what we are doing. 

Consumers have really no idea that we have datacenters that are 20 to 30 times the size of a football field full of nothing but computers. And should they even care? 

This build-out of infrastructure is really an industrial revolution that no one knows is happening. The goal of my presentation is to show the scale of these wonders of the new world.

Media Contact: Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu


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