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Businesswoman digitizes work processes (Photo: Shutterstock / mrmohock)
16.03.2023 from 
Research + Transfer
Digitization as a success factor

A cloud - as we have all learned at some time - is a collection of very fine water droplets from the atmosphere. But in the digital age the word “cloud” has acquired another meaning as an IT resource. “My initial idea of the cloud on the internet probably was something like a wall of fog behind which photos, music and other data were hidden,” says Christian Daase. He no longer has a very clear recollection of his first “objective” picture of the cloud in the context of information technology In the meantime it has been “painted over” by his specialist knowledge of computational visualistics, process automation and business informatics. “Otto von Guericke University is very well positioned in these fields,” says the 27-year-old in explanation of why he did not move all that far out into the world from Wittenberge in Brandenburg but instead opted to study in the relative proximity of Magdeburg. And for the moment he hopes to remain in the city on the Elbe. Not least because of its river landscape. From his childhood in Prignitz he has always felt more at home in natural havens than in bustling cities. Above all, though, the University of Magdeburg with its Faculty of Computer Science and the Magdeburg Research and Competence Cluster for Very Large Business Applications Lab (MRCC VLBA) offered interesting career prospects as an IT specialist.

“Nowadays, cloud computing expertise is among the most sought-after qualifications in industry and academia,” says Christian Daase. This statement requires some explanation for those who are not at home in specialist information technology circles. “Cloud computing,” explains Daase, “is the term for the use of IT resources. These include servers, databases and networks as well as artificial intelligence, apps and IT services that are not installed on the local premises but instead in a cloud. They can be rented there.” With the growing demand for these services, the demand for cloud experts is rising too. Christian Daase has an example from everyday life to hand: “A lot of people have a home office, or at least know what one is. The coronavirus pandemic opened the door a little wider for this way of working. When colleagues work separately from one another, they need a digital image of their company,” Christian Daase brings cloud computing into play here. Figuratively, therefore, the employees of a company can retrieve everything that they need for working from this cloud and replace it after using it, together with the results of their work. “The architects, that is the cloud experts, have to configure the cloud in such a way that everything works well and in accordance with the company’s needs,” says Christian Daase.

Portrait von Christian Daase vor der Uniporta (c) Jana Dünnhaupt Uni MagdeburgChristian Daase (Photo: Jana Dünnhaupt / University of Magdeburg)

Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg is vigorously driving this development forward. A year ago, together with the technology consulting services provider, Accenture, and Google Cloud, it established Europe’s first Open Enterprise Cloud Initiative. This research and education cooperation teaches general cloud computing concepts. The Cloud Academy is part of this cooperation. Among other things it conveys knowledge about the structure of a cloud and about the use of the relevant technologies. The summer and winter schools in 2021/22 and the courses in the meantime had over 150 participants in the first year. “The participants need not be IT experts, on the contrary,” stresses Christian Daase. He is one of eight employees involved in running the Cloud Academy - for example developing teaching modules and leading training courses. The participants apply with a brief explanation as to what they want to use the cloud computing expertise for.

For companies, for example, it can be cheaper to train their own cloud expert instead of purchasing - at great cost - their own infrastructure with hardware and software, work and security programs, storage capacity and server space. Daase explains that all of this is often available to rent more cheaply in the cloud. Sole proprietorships and startups who first need to establish themselves in the market can also use this kind of cloud infrastructure for precision marketing. And what if a company has security concerns about putting all of its corporate know-how in a “cloud”? “On the one hand, every company is able to split its data and decide for itself which information it will transfer to the cloud. On the other hand, Google Cloud has its own fiber optic cables and adheres to the highest security and data protection standards,” the Academy employee stresses. So that it can answer skeptical questions like this among other things, the Cloud Academy presents itself at trade exhibitions and conferences as well as via social media channels.

The core message of the Academy in summary is: Anyone who wants to be commercially competitive needs to make themselves fit for the digital age and switch to cloud computing. Even the small tradesperson? Christian Daase nods decisively and gives an example from the summer school. Its participants built a cloud architecture for an imaginary carpenter’s workshop that dealt with the administrative tasks of the company, including its online shop, more or less independently, leaving the carpenter to concentrate on his actual job - for example making a stool. The cloud tools that he is using let him know how much material he needs for the stool and how much he has left in stock. To enable it to make recommendations concerning the purchase of materials, the cloud retrieves information from the internet about material costs, and supply chain bottlenecks or disruptions. “Carpenters who are internet-savvy can learn how to build their cloud including online shop with us in the Academy. They can, however, also have the architecture developed - by people who have learned it with us,” says Christian Daase. He goes on to explain that all course participants receive a certificate from the Academy.

Beispiel Cloud ComputingThis is how an online car trade could be realized on the Google Cloud.

Vincent Toulouse from Celle in Lower Saxony studies Computer Science at the University of Magdeburg, and before that Business Informatics. He works as an assistant in the Cloud Academy and has already taken part in several courses. The knowledge he has acquired is used immediately in the development of new cloud tools. As a teenager, Toulouse was interested in how computer games are programmed. Now he wants to know how AI-based models function, and how they can be optimized so that they are not too expensive for customers to use in cloud applications. Ultimately, the carpenter's workshop should be able to afford the cloud and online shop as should the auto trader the program that gives his customers personalized recommendations. The latter was another learning task during an academy course.

“Underlying the innovative cloud developments are virtualization tailored to the user and - to a considerable extent - machine learning. This is based on the use of large quantities of data. It is - like the information in the human brain - stored and linked together so that new knowledge can be derived from it and used for further analyses,” explains Christian Daase. The carpentry workshop and the auto trader would have their own customer data, with which they could populate their program. For other applications, on the other hand, data provided by the Academy's partner, Google, could be used. A cloud application that Vincent Toulouse has co-developed in a workshop can be used by companies faced with the question of what is cheaper for them: continuing to send field staff by car or train to their customers and in addition incurring overnight accommodation costs, or building a new branch office. Conversely, the cloud program could also be used to evaluate the cost effectiveness of a site, says Toulouse.

At this point it becomes clear that questions of economical and sustainable working, the ecological footprint of a company and its competitiveness are closely connected to its digitalization. Its very existence may even depend upon it in times like these when companies have to be able to react flexibly to rapidly changing market situations. As a result of the pandemic and then also because of the war in Ukraine, many traditional production and supply chains have been disrupted or have completely collapsed. “An intelligent cloud could find the right parts to reconfigure production and supply chains,” says Vincent Toulouse. He has immersed himself in scientific research to keep improving relevant cloud tools. Toulouse aims to become a Google Cloud-standard expert. To do so he must pass an examination before being able to offer his services commercially.

Portrait von Vincent Toulouse vor der Uniporta (c) Jana Dünnhaupt Uni MagdeburgVincent Toulouse (Photo: Jana Dünnhaupt / University of Magdeburg)

Christian Daase intends to obtain a doctorate in the field of Cloud Computing. He can see himself having a career as a university lecturer. According to him, Otto von Guericke University is making a crucial contribution to the development of the entire cloud industry and will become increasingly attractive for students who are interested in this key topic for the future.

Guericke facts

Author: Kathrain Graubaum
Source: GUERICKE ´22