Federated Computing Will Shape the Future of Computing

Federated computing will allow for the C-suite to plan for computing at a massive scale to address the challenges of data access and while preserving privacy.

Patricia Florissi, Technical Director, Office of the CTO, Google Cloud

November 3, 2021

4 Min Read
Andrii Yalanskyi via Alamy Stock

Society has long benefited from the power of computing, but the digital era has reached a point where changes in society’s landscape, not performance advances, will play a critical role in determining the next generation of business-altering computing change. Now, through rapidly emerging international digital sovereignty requirements and shifting consumer demands, especially given COVID, many are asking for different capabilities from their technology providers.

Everyone in the C-suite must respond: For the chief technology officers and chief digital officers that are defining digital strategies, these changes continue to grow in significance and evolve -- and it’s in their best interest to understand the emerging approaches to compute at scale. For chief privacy officers and chief security officers, managing data privacy and mitigating data leaks will become even more critical as regulatory requirements become more stringent.

One emerging solution that we’re seeing customers adopt is federated computing, a powerful technology to access data where it resides.

Understanding Federated Computing

Federated computation addresses multiple constraints on the locality, movement and access of data that lead to data isolation, which prevents data sets from coming together in a central location for data processing. Federated computation moves the computation to the data and privately aggregates the results of those computations.

Federated computing matters for the simple reason that society is forcing change and making this issue about how we compute versus why. Understanding this shift is critical to arguing why an enterprise should explore a federated approach.

Federated computing by itself, however, does not solve all regulatory compliance issues. It paves the way toward enabling the processing of isolated data at scale, but still requires other tools and frameworks. Through federated computing, companies can access data where it resides to improve the accuracy required to identify and catalog the often-subtle differences that distinguish humanity.

Four Forces Demanding Change

There are four key issues today forcing change, including societal issues that stem from decades of computing growth and advances to more personal data. These issues provide a roadmap for how organizations should view their technology architecture to ensure further growth and accuracy.

First, consumers now lead the computing landscape. The rapid development of powerful consumer-focused computing tools like smartphones has shifted the distribution of technology from central computing to the edge: the consumers themselves. As a result, consumers are now vocal about the power of technology companies and the related privacy and security issues. This represents the rise of digital human rights, which defines users' expectations in terms of data residency, data security, privacy preservation, and responsible AI.

Second, economic and political agendas are increasingly demanding cloud sovereignty and architectures that are decentralized, distributed, and federated. Europe’s GAIA-X initiative is a clear example where architecture principles are laying the foundation for European data and infrastructure ecosystems that are based on localized values around data sovereignty and privacy.

Third, sustainability continues to impact buying decisions as consumers globally demand smarter energy solutions, reduced waste of resources, and a cleaner environment. This creates an opportunity to consider what kind of sustainability initiatives an organization’s employees, customers and shareholders will applaud. We’re implementing initiatives that support this at Google Cloud, offering users the option to choose where their data resides and is computed based on the level of carbon different regions emit.

Lastly, consumerization of technology is driving capital disbursement in computing and storage capacity on the edge, outside of cloud and data center boundaries. Once capital has been invested, organizations seek ways to increase their return on investment by utilizing the capacity residing at the edge to process data at the edge.

Lasting change

It’s important to view these areas as long-term issues where consumers and governments are driving change rather than cyclical trends. The digital world is reorganizing with multiple forces intersecting and influencing each other. As such, there is an urgent need to consider a different approach to designing a powerful computing architecture for the future.

Federated computing will allow for the C-suite to plan for computing at a massive scale to address the challenges of data access and while preserving privacy.

We all need to think differently about our networking infrastructure and the need to design for the future.

About the Author(s)

Patricia Florissi

Technical Director, Office of the CTO, Google Cloud

Patricia Florissi is a Technical Director at the Office of the CTO at Google Cloud. As a member of the Office of the CTO, Patricia leads collaborative innovation projects with customers, working on disruptive technologies. Patricia specializes in data engineering, federated analytics and federated learning, and analytics of data at large scale, specially machine learning.

Patricia earned a Ph.D. in computer science from Columbia University in New York, graduated valedictorian with an M.B.A. at the Stern Business School in New York University, and has a Master’s and a Bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, in Brazil.

Patricia has a career of more than 24 years in technology. Prior to joining Google, Patricia was VP and Global Chief Technology Officer for Sales at Dell Technologies and held the honorary title of Dell EMC Distinguished Engineer, having been nominated in October 2007.

Patricia is a technology thought leader and innovator, with over 50 patents issued and more than 10 patents pending. Patricia is the creator, author, narrator, and graphical influencer of the educational animated video series Dell EMC Big Ideas (http://bit.ly/EMCBigIdeas), on emerging technologies and trends. The series accelerates and expands technical thought leadership in Dell EMC using innovative learning methodologies in a fun and easy way. There are over 20 videos in the series, with some videos localized in 10 languages, and with a combined total count of over 700,000 views. Patricia is an active keynote speaker on topics related to Big Data, technology trends and innovation. Patricia delivered a talk at TEDx Springfield in 2013.

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