Over the coming months, the Corteza project will be launching its Ecological Programme, an initiative which orients the Digital Work Platform for Humanity towards what is perhaps the most pressing social and political issue of our time. There’s still some work to be done formulating a more detailed purpose and scope to our work, but once that’s complete, it will be full steam ahead.

Of course, at this point in history we’re in a crowded marketplace with giant cloud vendors pumping their corporate sustainability messages hard. That’s a challenge in itself, but I feel the bigger challenge is in focusing people on where the most gains are to be made. This involves having a good hard look at the platforms your organisation uses for going about its daily business.

I have previously argued that clouds can be a good thing, but that we need far more of them. We need to ensure we’re not dumping all our data in a handful of providers and that we can retake control of our data with ease, if required. Being a downloadable, standards-based, private cloud solution, Corteza is a natural solution.

However, at the heart of it, clouds are about providing infrastructure as a utility. Making them carbon neutral is a big step, but it only solves one small part of the problem. The bigger question is what application platform to choose to run on your cloud. Having to re-assess your approach a year or two after implementation can be deeply wasteful, after all.

It’s all about getting the first step right.

Building a proper green strategy for your organisation is a long game, not a short one. The best-fit software platform will support your business goals and your sustainability goals without compromise. An inferior choice will impose difficult and unnecessary trade-offs at a later stage.

Energy consumption is just one component to consider. Corteza is built in modern code (the backend is in “Go”), designed to be as processor efficient as possible. It will also run on any cloud of your choice, accommodating your preferred data localisation strategy. However, there’s much more to consider:

  1. Corteza can never be sold off.
    Both the code copyright and even the trademark are foundation owned. This approach protects the using organisation and ensure the code and its development are always open to scrutiny. The organisational measures and innovations you deliver on the Corteza platform can never be taken away from you.
  2. Corteza is standards-based.
    This is critical, because as a species we cannot collaborate properly without agreeing upon standards. Also, the relative cost of platform change for poorer economies when we fail to implement standards globally is much higher than for richer economies. To address a global problem, we should seek to avoid imposing unnecessary economic pain.
  3. Corteza embraces federated architecture.
    Different instances of Corteza can be set up to “speak” to one another and share data, anonymously if required. For example, different government bodies can easily share like-for-like data and metrics without compromising privacy or other security concerns – either within borders or across borders.
  4. Corteza allows very flexible builds.
    Every organisation is different and has local business logic, local assumptions and local values that it wishes to embed in the platforms which support its daily operations. Software to help you address global concerns should not negatively impact your capacity to operate as a business.
  5. Corteza scales to large populations.
    In order to address complex subjects such as climate change, governments need to act in concert. To do that, the software used must both scale to large populations when required, but also be capable of creating a rich array of user roles.
  6. Corteza is the right sort of “free”.
    There are no catches, no financial tricks, no freemium models, no data grabs. It’s all there for your organisation to use, as is and free forever.
  7. Great UX.
    User experience is often neglected in free software. Aspiring to be as good as, and even better than Apple, is no bad thing when it comes to UX. Corteza will always strive to improve. Your organisation deserves the best.

Now it’s time to take the first step. Sign up at the free online Corteza community server today, and try it out. The community is there, ready to answer any questions you may have.

Cloud technology has been great for organisations of all types across the world, delivering inter-related ecosystems, keeping costs down and driving productivity. However, there’s still a key problem that needs to be addressed – there are simply not enough clouds. The market currently resembles an oligopoly, with a handful of providers dwarfing all others in size, scale and reach.

The world’s 26 richest people own as much as the poorest 50% and just 100 companies (mostly in the oil industry) are arguably responsible for 71% of the world’s carbon emissions. It’s tempting to draw a sneaky correlation between wealth inequality and climate problems, but that would be unscientific (to say the least!) and not the objective of this article in any case. However, there is some evidence that we’re also well on our way to creating data oligopolies. IDC reckons that half of the world’s data will be stored in clouds by 2025, so if dominance of the cloud industry continues as is we can be quite sure of exacerbated industry inequality.

Of course, sensible regulation can do much to offset the imbalances in the cloud industry, but technology has its part to play too. There must be credible user-friendly and administrator-friendly alternatives to the giant public cloud players. At Corteza, the Digital Work Platform for Humanity, we’re determined to deliver a private cloud solution for every organisation that values its data. Ideally, we’d like to see a culture where organisations look firstly at their private cloud working requirements, then complement them with public cloud offerings. That would represent an important inversion of the current state of affairs.

Balancing the global cloud economy is a big, yet still attainable objective. Overall, it’s about keeping things practical and not denying common sense. Here’s a few things we considered as we got up and going:

It all Begins with Identity

Federated identities are increasingly important technologies, in particular when it comes to supporting hybrid software strategies. Though only a fraction are presented at the frontend, at the heart of the Corteza platform we support over 50 different providers of federated identity – and it’s not difficult to extend this support. This approach allows us to find common ground with most web application software in the world and is a key enabler for organisations who wish to inexpensively integrate third party software into their Corteza deployment. Tailoring your private cloud work platform should be straightforward, after all.

Politics is local, Trade Crosses Borders and Standards can be Global

Corteza promotes standards as a catalyst for driving global community and adoption. A work platform must be architecturally “open”. Growing an ecosystem of providers is impossible without establishing shared standards for communication, storage, API’s and other services which impact integration with third party software. Private Corteza clouds can be implemented and configured to support local decision-making and legislation by default (as opposed to the complex and sometimes legally fuzzy, retro-fitted approaches promoted by the giant, centralised public clouds), while our standards-based approach encourages efficient online collaboration with just about any modern provider.

Independent Institutions have a Role to Play

Markets are a great mechanism for fulfilling many social requirements. However, independent institutions serve a valuable role in regulating activity in the public interest. The Corteza project is owned and operated by the Commons Conservancy Foundation. In the world of software, knowing that your work platform is safe from trademark, copyright or patent games is source of stability. Knowing that the software code will always be available to you, irrespective of whether you choose a service provider to host the platform or self-host, is another serious advantage.

User Experience (UX) is Key

While not a fool’s game, expecting users to downgrade to inferior software UX in return for creating a better or safer digital world hasn’t had overwhelming success as a marketing or commercial tactic. While “you are what you eat” has had delivered some strong results for the organic food market, it helps a lot that the UX of organically grown food (i.e. its taste) is often better than that produced through intensive farming methods. If you spend over 8 hours a day in front of your computer, you’ll know that poor UX can be a big distraction from your productivity. Corteza places strong emphasis on UX, ensuring that is pleasing, modern and relevant across the platform portfolio.