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Underneath The Cloud

With cloud computing revolutionizing the way that we socialize and work, ISO standards are providing much needed answers.

For many of us, the cloud is something like a virtual hard drive. A place in the ether to keep our data, pics and videos safe and secure. The cloud adds flexibility to our lives, since we can access it wherever we have a connection, and it also frees up space on our laptops and phones. But it does so much more than that. It not only underpins the video conferencing technology that has enabled millions to carry on working through a global health crisis, but it also powers online retail from fun fashion to vital medical supplies.

With flexible work and remote conferencing becoming new norms, and the search for a COVID-19 vaccine still underway, we’re going to need to see a rapid expansion of reliable cloud services to keep life running smoothly. But what are the challenges here, and how can we ensure that our information is transferred safely and securely?

SC 38 is a group of global experts working hard to answer to these questions. They are a specialized committee within the ISO and IEC joint technical group dedicated to information technology, JTC 1, who are providing both technical underpinnings and much needed reassurance to everything that is cloud computing.

In a very real way, our global economy and daily lives now depend on online services and the COVID-19 pandemic has merely highlighted their essential role.

Formed in 2010, just a few years after the cloud floated into public awareness, the subcommittee has had their work cut out to keep pace with the growth of this foundational technology. In a year where COVID19 changed the way that we work, meet, shop and exchange ideas and data, millions of new users flocked to the cloud. SC 38 Chair Steve Holbrook explains the challenges that they’re focussing on in 2020, and beyond.

“In a very real way, our global economy and daily lives now depend on these online services and the COVID-19 pandemic has merely highlighted their essential role,” Steve explains, pointing to SC 38’s strategic decision to broaden interactions and build stronger links with governments, customers and developers. “Improving our connections with these key audiences isn’t in response to the global pandemic, but the situation has definitely accelerated use of online services and the need for ISO standards in this area.”

SC 38 is addressing that through seven new standards that will join more than 20 already published. They have also identified fellow JTC 1 subcommittees with whom they can work on interconnected topics. One of the challenges addressed by International Standards are people’s concerns around privacy and security of transfer. Steve tells me that there is an ongoing need to strengthen public confidence in the area, pointing out that the integrity of personal and company information is a top priority for SC 38; “how data flows between the cloud and different devices relies on bringing together elements from a variety of providers. The role of ISO standards is to make it clear who is responsible for what.”

ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 38 is pressing ahead with an ambitious standards programme, but is the approach dynamic enough to match the speed of change? Is it flexible enough to create standards that can help a global economy as it comes to terms with COVID-19 and reconfigures supply chains and services? “Through collaboration on technologies that intersect with cloud computing, areas like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and security and privacy, and through working together with the committees that develop standards in those areas, we’re eliminating overlap and creating synergies that can accelerate entire industries,” Steve confirms.

Disclaimer: PECB has obtained permission to publish the articles written by ISO.

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