Cloud Valley: China’s Cloud Computing Initiative And The Man Behind It

The whole world knows about Silicon Valley in California; however, very few are aware of Cloud Valley in China. While calling the 7,000-square-meter technology campus in a Beijing suburb as a “valley” may be an exaggeration, there’s no denying the immense possibilities of this place. As anyone familiar with the history of technological clusters will tell you, all of them – from Silicon Valley and Boston Route 128 in the US to Silicon Wadi in Israel – had their origins in a few brave beginners. Moreover, with the growth of cloud computing in general (See: Where Is Cloud Computing Going? Up, Up And Away!  and How BIG Is the Cloud Computing Market?) and China’s focus in particular, a Cloud Valley, in the true sense of the term, may indeed become possible.

In a recent article in Technology Review published by MIT, Christina Larson writes about Cloud Valley and the visionary behind it, entrepreneur Edward Tian. Tian has been credited as bringing broadband Internet to China which is now home to the largest Internet population in the world. Now, he wants China to lead in the emerging field of cloud computing.

Tian believes China can emerge as a cloud computing powerhouse, and is especially enamored how this technology can be used in education. “With the cloud, you could have access to unlimited storage power with a very simple computer,” he says. “The cost of a computer could be like a book, maybe $100; all you’d really need is display. And this is fundamental for China, which is still a very poor country. To me, the goal of promoting cloud computing is to let every citizen—particularly those people in underdeveloped regions—afford computing access and information. My slogan is ‘The price of a book, the power of a supercomputer.’”

I had postulated some of these very ideas in an earlier article (See: How Can Cloud Computing Help in Education?).

From a study of Tian’s background, it is not difficult to understand why he values education so highly. As described in a New York Times piece by David Brooks called Wounds of the Revolution, Tian experienced firsthand the benefits of a good education, which in his case, happened in the US. Even though Tian had graduated with a Ph.D. in ranch management, the little time he spent in the company of a Macintosh computer planted the seeds of love affair with technology. Later, he returned to China and spearheaded the broadband revolution, first as the founder of his own company and then at the helm of 230,000-strong China Telecom. With his investment in Cloud Valley, he may very well have taken the first steps in the next computing revolution in the country.

By Sourya Biswas

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