Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet News

Doctorow On What Cloud Computing Is Really For 348

Posted by kdawson
from the no-silver-lining-for-you dept.
Diabolus Advocatus alerts us to an article Cory Doctorow has up on guardian.co.uk, addressing what cloud computing really means for the average consumer: "The tech press is full of people who want to tell you how completely awesome life is going to be when everything moves to 'the cloud' — that is, when all your important storage, processing and other needs are handled by vast, professionally managed data-centers. Here's something you won't see mentioned, though: the main attraction of the cloud to investors and entrepreneurs is the idea of making money from you, on a recurring, perpetual basis, for something you currently get for a flat rate or for free without having to give up the money or privacy that cloud companies hope to leverage into fortunes."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Doctorow On What Cloud Computing Is Really For

Comments Filter:
  • by jasonmicron (807603) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:42AM (#29311843)

    I've seen "Cloud Computing" around as a buzzword but I never really cared to investigate what it really was.

    I'm assuming it is essentially paying a data center to host my data from my home system? Why in the hell would I even WANT to do that?

    Or did I completely miss the bus? Something I missed?

    • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:48AM (#29311923) Journal

      It's the latest take on thin-client to server connectivity. Why buy a $1500 computer when you can get 100x more power from a $100 thin client and $20 a month. (or what ever)

      The main difference this time is a web browser typically becomes your thin client and the server is actually a massively parallel cluster of servers. Every time you use Google you are using the cloud.

      • Cloud relies (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:43AM (#29312739) Homepage Journal

        Why buy a $1500 computer when you can get 100x more power from a $100 thin client and $20 a month. (or what ever)

        Because ISPs in the United States with a wireless last mile (3G or satellite) still charge on the order of $60 per month for on the order of 5 GB per month. Or because I want to do something and see the result happen without a second of lag.

        Every time you use Google you are using the cloud.

        Which is fine because I am using a service through the network to search for other resources that can be used through the network, and the resources don't need instant response. But at times, I might have no connection to the network, or I might have such a slow connection (either low bandwidth or high latency) that interacting becomes unbearable.

      • by postbigbang (761081) on Friday September 04, 2009 @12:36PM (#29313507)

        You're stuck in VDI. Cloud means nothing more than a virtual network; other definitions are perversions by marketing sorts.

        If I can rent an app like Salesforce and do my thing, it's a lot simpler than rolling my own. If I can get a rack of servers to render stuff, then go away, then I'm happy. It's all cloud, and means nothing more. Doctorow once again vents his paranoia that the centrists are taking over. Instead, it's a lot looser than that.

        Sure, Google and Microsoft and dozens of others with SaaS apps would love you to http or ssh or whatever into their systems and rent their stuff. But that's as it should be. Nothing new here. Tell him to take his Seroquel and move on.

      • It's the latest take on thin-client to server connectivity. Why buy a $1500 computer when you can get 100x more power from a $100 thin client and $20 a month. (or what ever)

        The main difference this time is a web browser typically becomes your thin client and the server is actually a massively parallel cluster of servers. Every time you use Google you are using the cloud.

        The problem is that you become dependent of the cloud. If your network fails or the server overloads, the $100 client/netbook/whatever will not be able to handle the same tasks.

        It's good to have local devices capable of accomplishing the tasks you need. Cloud computing have its advantages, but isn't as reliable.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Locke2005 (849178)
        Why buy a $1500 computer when you can get 100x more power from a $100 thin client and $20 a month.

        Because I don't trust Microsoft, Google, or whoever with my data? They could lose it, data mine it, or sell it to my competitors to maximize their profit. If you think paying someone a monthly fee is better than hosting your own data and apps, well then your data must not be worth much in the first place. Not to mention the fact that distributed apps running over the network will usually (although not always
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mlts (1038732) *

          My concern is that having cloud providers store companys' data means that it is a bigger target for thieves and blackhats than decentralized storage. There are a lot of eggs in that cloud provider's basket.

          Even legit uses, all it would take would be a bankruptcy or sale of the cloud assets, and even the most well written privacy and TOS contract will go out the window, perhaps allowing the buyer complete and unrestricted use of the information. Rival company to you or an ally? Their trade secrets are now

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I'm assuming it is essentially paying a data center to host my data from my home system?

      Yes, it is, and I don't understand why anyone (except the few occasions Doctorow points out in TFA) would want it, either.

    • by MathFox (686808) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:49AM (#29311945)

      Or did I completely miss the bus? Something I missed?

      You missed the lock in model of being forced to work with the applications that the cloud provider supports.

      • by Insanity Defense (1232008) on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:04AM (#29312211)
        Or did I completely miss the bus? Something I missed? You missed the lock in model of being forced to work with the applications that the cloud provider supports.

        Or did I completely miss the bus? Something I missed?

        You missed the lock in model of being forced to work with the applications that the cloud provider supports.

        Also the bit where your data is locked into whatever file formats the cloud provider has and you will have difficulty maintaining your own back ups and migrating to a different provider if the current one is inadequate or fails.

        Imagine the Outer Limits Control Voice telling you how they control your data and how you use it.

        There is nothing wrong with your computer.

        Do not attempt to install software. We are controlling what you may use and do.

        We will control the file formats.

        We will control the data.

        We control all that you may do with your computer and your data.

        Experience the awe and majesty of paying us for the use of your own data in ways that we strictly control and limit.

      • by slim (1652) <john AT hartnup DOT net> on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:37AM (#29312665) Homepage

        You missed the lock in model of being forced to work with the applications that the cloud provider supports.

        Just like with a desktop app, if the provider chooses to lock you in, you're locked in. If they let you export to a standards based format, you're fine.

        Any time I choose to export my messages out of GMail, I can do so (of course, due to volume, it may take some time).

      • by Beezlebub33 (1220368) on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:37AM (#29312667)
        Only it appears that you won't be. See Eucalyptus [eucalyptus.com], which is an open source implementation of the Amazon API. Since Amazon is the 300 lb gorilla currently and it's API appears to be on the way of being the defacto standard, having Eucalyptus around means that other cloud service providers can use the same API and steal some of Amazon's business, and users can switch to another provider as necessary or desired.

        There are definitely reasons not to use clouds, but lock-in isn't one of them.
    • by ForAllTheFish (1191163) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:53AM (#29312011)
      Cloud computing is just a little step above web site hosting. Instead of some online space accessible through HTTP, they give you a little more - a virtual machine with an external IP, for example. You get charged for the convenience of not having to: buy hardware, set up a firewall, set up an internet connection, obtain space, obtain electricity. Sometimes it is scalable so you can run exactly as many virtual machines as you need for a particular task, and it's great if you temporarily want some powerful, flexible web hosting.
    • by Nadaka (224565) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:58AM (#29312101)

      "The Cloud" isn't just about hosting data. Its about hosting everything, your data, your applications, your medical records, who you communicate with, what you say, when you say it, where you say it, what you spend money on, what you do with it, what color underwear you are wearing, everything.

      Google mail, google docs, myspace, facebook, amazon ec2 (a service that allows you define an OS image that can be dynamically deployed on any number of VMs or even physical systems, its actually quite useful if you need a highly variable number of servers running at any given time) are all examples of cloud computing.

      • Yea, no, I'm not doing that. I'd rather keep my computer and not run a thin client and "trust" that the company isn't monitoring what I'm using "their" server cluster for.

        The exception I have to that rule is Google docs.
        • by causality (777677) on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:34AM (#29312627)

          Yea, no, I'm not doing that. I'd rather keep my computer and not run a thin client and "trust" that the company isn't monitoring what I'm using "their" server cluster for. The exception I have to that rule is Google docs.

          Agreed. Sorry, but when I read that the first thing that occurred to me was "all of this because the average person thinks Windows is too hard, or otherwise refuses to get a clue." What concerns me is that buzzword-ridden ideas like cloud computing will probably appeal to the non-technical masses (addicts to convenience that they are), to the point that the rest of us may be forced to partially or wholly accept them. I really don't care to give up even a small fraction of my privacy merely because Joe Sixpack couldn't be bothered to read a book or two. There's no justice in it.

          This reminds me of the more asinine software EULAs which not only state the standard fact that you don't really own anything despite having paid for it, but also state that the vendor has no liability no matter what happens, not even when the software fails to perform as advertised (I think they call it "suitability for purpose" and expressly disclaim it). If the cloud computing vendors decide to implement a TOS like that, then your data is effectively held hostage and you have no recourse if something happens to it. What would be their real incentive not to do things that way? An informed, technically literate public which fully understands all of these issues? Yeah, right.

          Like any and all proposals to do for you what you can easily do for yourself while charging you for the privilege, this has "bad idea" written all over it. As though all of the buzzwords didn't tip you off...

    • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy.gmail@com> on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:58AM (#29312105)

      I'm assuming it is essentially paying a data center to host my data from my home system? Why in the hell would I even WANT to do that?

      Because then it's trivially simple for you (more importantly, for people who aren't at all technologically inclined) to get at it from anywhere.

      • by tepples (727027)

        it's trivially simple for you (more importantly, for people who aren't at all technologically inclined) to get at [data or apps in the cloud] from anywhere.

        Anywhere, even on a laptop away from a public Wi-Fi hotspot?

    • by omeomi (675045) on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:03AM (#29312193) Homepage

      I've seen "Cloud Computing" around as a buzzword but I never really cared to investigate what it really was.

      I'm assuming it is essentially paying a data center to host my data from my home system? Why in the hell would I even WANT to do that?

      Or did I completely miss the bus? Something I missed?

      You're probably already doing it. Do you use Gmail or do you have a single server somewhere? Ever use Google Docs for collaborative authoring of documents? Ever use an online backup service (that probably uses Amazon S3 in the background)? Ever use one of the iPhone apps that broke when S3 went down a year or so ago?

      • by ivan_w (1115485) on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:17AM (#29312407) Homepage

        Do I use gmail ? certainly not ! Ewww !

        And yes.. I do have a single server somewhere I use to handle my e-mail.. and my DNS.. (only thing is I have to hire the service of a registrar to write stuff in the ICANN db.. but I can live with that)

        Do I use Google Docs ? You've got to be kidding right ?

        Do I use collaborative solutions to author documents.. sure.. e-mails, mailing lists (which I can eventually host by myself should it become necessary) and a couple tools I host on the aforementioned server
        Online backup service ? YUCK ! I have a few machines here and there and cross backup (ok.. so it IS Online Backup.. but I *know* were my stuff is located).

        And I don't even have (or want) an iPhone !

        So ! there !

        (well... you weren't actually asking ME the question were you ?)

        --Ivan

        • by Traa (158207)

          Do you ever use Google maps?

          So there!

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ivan_w (1115485)

            Sure I do..

            But this is pretty much *ONE* way.. (except for any coordinate or mouse movement)..

            And of course, I also (extensively) use google's search service (which could probable have been a much better example !)

            But I don't *store* anything on google maps.. or the search engine. If it were to fail.. to fold.. or whatever, I'd still have basic service. I wouldn't have lost 10 years of documents.. google (or whoever comes next) wouldn't be scanning my documents for every pesky little detail about my life..

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by bjourne (1034822)
          But you do reply to Slashdot comments. Slashdot is also a form of cloud computing service in which you store your comment replies.
    • by slim (1652) <john AT hartnup DOT net> on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:03AM (#29312195) Homepage

      It's something you don't need to care about, unless you're hosting a service that needs to scale. Then "The Cloud" is an unspecified bunch of computers out there, and your application is spread across them in such a way that if some of them break, things are redistributed across the rest.

      This is what Google, Amazon etc. use to provide their search app, their shop, and so on.

      The big, newish, thing, is that now you don't need to be as big as Amazon or Google to host your app on a cloud platform, since they'll sell you space on theirs.

      As a consumer, you needn't care how the web apps you use are hosted. Just be happy that they're there and they don't slow down just because a million other people have signed up.

      As the guy running the site, though, it's huge. If you build an app right, on one of these cloud platforms, you can start very cheap indeed, only paying for what you need, and scale instantly (or even automatically) as demand increases.

      You're an online shop selling Christmas goods? Host it on a cloud, rein it right back to a low capacity service ten months a year, then crank it up to hundreds of servers in November and December, and back again in January.

      Hope this explains it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by maharb (1534501)

      The cloud is actually an ambiguous term that describes the use of computing resources that are not directly controlled by the user.

      Many current resources we use are cloud based, but only recently has the term been thrown about so freely. G-mail, google docs, and the internet are all cloud based systems that you might know. Although your stuff may end up hosted in datacenter, it might be hosted by several companies and several datacenters that you will never interact with. These are customer based cloud s

    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:06AM (#29312225) Homepage

      Well "cloud computing" is a bit of a buzzword, but the idea is having big distributed computing available as a service on the Internet. I believe the term comes from Visio diagrams where the Internet is depicted as a mysterious cloud, as if to say "And something happens here, we'll call that the internet." It's sort of like the "step 3: ????" that comes right before "step 4: Profit!" Something happens, we're not sure what, but it gets the job done. Let's call that the cloud.

      Why this is helpful is you get services that scale very easily and cleanly, and often you only pay for what you use. Amazon's S3 is a good example. With a dedicated host with so-many gigbytes of storage, you pay for that storage whether you use it or not because it represents actual hard drive space that your hosting service has provisioned for you to use. If you run out of space, you'll have to go through some upgrade process. With Amazon S3, you pay for the number of gigabytes you use. If you're starting your business and you only need 50 GB of online space right now, you can do that. If you need to scale up to 5 TB, no need to really change anything Amazon will keep giving you storage and you'll pay for whatever you use.

      Now the reason you might want to use this for your own home data is pretty simple: so it'd be accessible wherever you are. Sure, you could set up a home server, but that means you have to run a server at home. You have to know how to set that up and secure it, and keep it running. You have to worry about losing power, or what happens when your house catches fire, and whatever else.

      Now maybe it appeals to you and maybe it doesn't, but certainly it has its uses. From TFA:

      That's how I use Amazon's S3 cloud storage: not as an unreliable and slow hard drive, but as a store for encrypted backups of my critical files, which are written to S3 using the JungleDisk tool. This is cheaper and better than anything I could do for myself by way of offsite secure backup, but I'm not going to be working off S3 any time soon.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        networked storage is not cloud computing. That's just networked storage. Distributed computing is not cloud computing. It's just distributed computing.

        see why cloud computing is an issue?

      • Now maybe it appeals to you and maybe it doesn't, but certainly it has its uses

        For some people and some companies there may be use cases.

        For me, and many others, cloud computing is nothing more than exploitation of the reality of slow consumer connections. Give the world 25 Mbs (up & down) connections in addition to sub $100/terabyte storage and the need for cloud computing approximates zero.

      • by tepples (727027)

        Now the reason you might want to use this for your own home data is pretty simple: so it'd be accessible wherever you are.

        I thought that was called a laptop.

    • by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation AT gmail DOT com> on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:47AM (#29312785) Journal

      Let's say you were starting up a new tech site and your website was going to be the greatest thing since Slashdot. So you plan on having Slashdot-levels of traffic. You do a bit of planning and expect that you'd need about 8 front-end web servers to distribute the load, 4 beefy database servers, and a couple more for handling your email, DNS, backups, and whatever else. So let's say that adds up to 16 servers. And (hand waving here) let's say that total hardware cost comes to $50,000.

      To host those servers, you're going to need a data center. So you'll need to find a provider and pay them roughly $1000/month for a rack to put them in. On top of that, you'll need to pay for bandwidth which let's say is another $1000/month. You'll also need a system administrator to manage all those servers. So your first year cost is:

      $50,000 - servers
      $12,000 - rack space
      $12,000 - bandwidth
      $100,000 - administrator
      ------
      $174,000 - total

      That's non-cloud computing. Cloud computing comes in several different models. The first is utility computing. Instead of shelling out $50,000 for all that hardware, why not pay a provider like Amazon for their EC2 systems? You're essentially paying on an hourly basis for the use of their servers, but you can scale up or down easily to account for traffic spikes and dips. If you only need 8 web servers and 4 database servers during peak times, you can perhaps save a bit. And if you really only need 2 database and 2 web servers, then you haven't paid for a lot of hardware that's collecting dust. If you really do need all that power all of the time, then you'd pay Amazon more in hourly fees than it would cost to buy it all yourself.

      The second way is a hybrid. You still have all your own servers, but you use services from various companies to implement your system. Amazon's S3 storage for example. You continue to host the main hardware, but you rely on these external services for additional functionality. In the case of Amazon S3, it gives you access to very high speed static file hosting and essentially unlimited amounts of storage at a fairly reasonable cost.

      The last way is going all cloud. Your services run on a provider's infrastructure and you have no concept of a physical server. If your site receives more traffic, the provider automagically creates more instances of your service to handle the load. This is the Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure models. All the data is stored and managed by the provider. It's still your data and all these providers have confidentiality clauses. Barring a court order, nobody will (or, more accurately, should) be snooping into the data they store on your behalf. You don't need to worry about firewalls, security patching, hardware issues at 3 in the morning, and so on.

      I've simplified this down to a few different models... there are many other possibilities as well, such as all cloud with a few dedicated colo servers to handle specific tasks, but that's the nutshell.

      Think of it like getting a safety deposit box at a bank. You could build your own safe, professionally install it, hire security guards to watch it around the clock, have alarms and monitoring systems, etc. If you need enough storage such that the bank would charge you through the nose to use their safety deposit boxes, then building your own makes sense. For smaller scale operations, you're better off paying the bank to use their safety deposit box. They're experts at managing security risk, and you can be pretty confident that they'll do a good job.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by milimetric (840694)

      I fix my computers. My friends' computers. My parents' computers. My friends' parents' computers. I'm so sick of it even though I love computers. I don't love updating and patching and cleaning and defragmenting. I love writing software. So give me an operating system with vim, svn and firefox. Give all my computer troubled friends and relatives an operating system with just firefox. And watch how we can *finally* start taking advantage of technology instead of the other way around.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vertinox (846076)

      I've seen "Cloud Computing" around as a buzzword but I never really cared to investigate what it really was.

      Its euphemism for "outsourcing".

      Makes it sense when you think about it.

  • on a recurring, perpetual basis, for something you currently get for a flat rate or for free without having to give up the money or privacy that cloud companies hope to leverage into fortunes.

    If I go "Legit" - I don't have any money or privacy on the internet. It all goes to some music/movie/filesharing company or another.

    If I "Pirate" - This stuff is all free, with the basic risks still assumed, and moving to the Cloud will not really change that.

    So, I ask, what am I getting for Free or a flate rate that cloud companies are going to make me pay through the nose for?

    • by argent (18001)

      So, I ask, what am I getting for Free or a flate rate that cloud companies are going to make me pay through the nose for?

      Everything on your hard disk. Everything on your bookshelves. You don't pay every time you take down a book and read it, slot a tape or DVD into the player, play a song in your music library, fire up Halo or Okami. These things are flat rate... you pay for them once and use them as many times as you want as long as you want.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ArsonSmith (13997)

      Well you get a flat rate for that disk and CPU sitting next to your desk that will be worth nothing in 3 years.

      Or you can spend $15-20 a month and get a constantly refreshed and updated/upgraded system every time you turn it on.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BESTouff (531293)

        Well you get a flat rate for that disk and CPU sitting next to your desk that will be worth nothing in 3 years.

        Or you can spend $15-20 a month and get a constantly refreshed and updated/upgraded system every time you turn it on.

        Do you mean the client terminal will be part of the deal and be rented too ?
        Otherwise it won't be updated/upgraded each time I turn it on.

        • by melikamp (631205)

          Or you can spend $15-20 a month and get a constantly refreshed and updated/upgraded system every time you turn it on.

          Except that sometimes it will be downgraded in order to sell your data to the highest bidder and to make the migration infeasible or impossible. But hey, if you are still using MS Windows or MS Office, you probably don't care about these trivialities and cloud computing is right for you :)

      • by maharb (1534501)

        You are assuming we will reach a 'pure' cloud system where every operation is done in the cloud. I don't think this will ever be the case. Small cheap chips are going to keep a good chunk of processing on the devices. The fact is, you are going to have to buy new 'terminals' on a regular basis. Networks have an inherent latency that will never be fixed without some huge breakthrough and that alone is going to drive the 'terminals' to be upgraded and tweaked to be better and faster.

        I think we will end up

    • by anagama (611277)

      So, I ask, what am I getting for Free or a flate rate that cloud companies are going to make me pay through the nose for?

      Office suites. You can get perfectly functional word processors/spreadsheets free (open office, abiword, and probably dozens of others I'm not aware of) or for money (MS Word, and probably dozens of others I'm not aware of). Without local competition, how long do you think remote options will remain free?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by poetmatt (793785)

      allow me to provide an analogy, it's like this:

      your computer becomes a kindle, and all the apps on it, all of your own data, all of your storage, all of your privacy becomes the ebooks. That means they can be revoked, you don't own them, and you pay more than you used to for the same stuff people get for free/elsewhere. Oh and if their cloud (drm) servers go down, you have no access. Whoops.

      What's your convenience? Hey, you got a kindle! whee!

  • The first online services charged you for every email you sent or received. The next generation kicked their asses by offering email flat-rate.

    It's finally happening with cell phone service, too. It always galled me that I had a flat rate on a land line but had to pay minutes on a cell phone. Especially annoying when someone with a landline who likes to gab calls you.

    Now I'm on Boost Mobile, and its pricing is even better than a land line. Free minutes, free internet, free voice mail, free text messaging,

    • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:53AM (#29312013)

      Good article, I coundn't find anything to argue with in it. I never did understand why the concept of "cloud computing" was attractive to anyone. I wish someone would explain it to me.

      No upfront investment. Example: Amazon invests huge amounts of cash in infrastructure so they can handle transactions at peak times (Christmas). The rest of the year that gear sits idle. You get to use it for your app at a per hour rate, and it will scale quickly if your app/site/whatever are a hit. Have an idea but not the gear to demo it? You use the cloud, and your only cost is the rental time fee. Have a hugely popular site already? You use dedicated equipment in your own space.

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:15AM (#29312351)

      I never did understand why the concept of "cloud computing" was attractive to anyone. I wish someone would explain it to me.

      You mean you couldn't understand why all of the big players in software and computer services thought that "cloud computing" was great? You couldn't understand why they wanted people to migrate to a system where they get to charge people a recurring fee to provide services people were getting for a one time fee? What is so hard to understand about why people find "cloud computing " attractive? They get to make more money.
      Oh, you couldn't understand why the people who were being asked to pay that money found "cloud computing" attractive? Oh that's easy, it was the latest fad and all the "cool kids" were going to be doing it. If you weren't into "cloud computing", you just weren't with it.

    • by Shimbo (100005)

      It's finally happening with cell phone service, too. It always galled me that I had a flat rate on a land line but had to pay minutes on a cell phone.

      Personally, I prefer that I don't pay rental on my cell phone, just minutes: I don't make a lot of calls on it. I don't really get this idea that fixed price is always better.

  • The Profit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheBilgeRat (1629569) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:47AM (#29311899)
    I guess one more reason to read the EULA before committing your website/app/etc to the cloud. Not a shocker that selling your personal info is a much anticipated profit stream.
  • by AlizarinCrimson (1548857) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:50AM (#29311961)

    Ars Technica has a very nice response to this: http://arst.ch/722 [arst.ch]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      One example of how I use the cloud is Evernote, which I use on my Mac and on my Pre. If I'm going to an off-site event or meeting, then I'll open up Evernote and create a new note in my "Events" folder. I'll paste into that note the meeting location and time information (usually from an email), any related instructions or information (e.g., "go to the front table of Building D and pick up your guest pass from Susie"), and part of a screen grab of a Google map of the location and maybe even a grab of the str

  • Misunderstanding (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oahazmatt (868057) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:50AM (#29311967) Journal
    Right now, the biggest issue I see facing Cloud Computing isn't the cost but the blatant misunderstanding that some people have as to what Cloud Computing actually is. I work with so many people who have absolutely no idea when it comes to Cloud Computing. One co-worker told me he was setting up a new website for himself. I asked him what hosting provider he was using. His response: "None. I'm putting on the cloud." Another co-worker saw me looking at a screenshot of someone who had over 20 virtual machines running on his PC at one time. He looked at me and said "That had to be done on the cloud."

    I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea of Cloud Computing. If providers can make money of off this new platform, more power to them. I just wish we could establish a large billboard that explained in detail what it was.
    • by Sinbios (852437)

      I think the only conclusion we can draw from your anecdotes is that your workplace is full of idiots.

    • by spinkham (56603)

      From http://www.andrewhay.ca/archives/992 [andrewhay.ca] :

      Justin Foster, a fellow Canadian infosec guy, brought up an interesting point today in a tweet he sent out:
      I remember the good old days when a cloud was something we drew to represent the Internet between two points. *Sigh*

      He's also responsible for the following diagram for those of you who are visual people:
      http://twitpic.com/flhfo [twitpic.com]

      "Cloud" is one of those marketing terms that I can't stand because it is now applied to absolutely everything out on the Internet AND in data centers. In my day we called those areas DMZ and those vendors Application Service Providers (ASPs).....consarnit!

  • by bzzfzz (1542813) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:51AM (#29311985)
    While Doctorow has a point, running an in-house data center is hardly something that lacks recurring costs. Once you get past the hype, the benefit of cloud computing is that it should be possible to leverage technical expertise and management across a much larger user base. The number of people you need who really understand email servers does not go up linearly with the number of users served.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Exactly. Doctorow is a sci-fi author not an IT person. What's it cost to run all this stuff in-house right now? Cost of software, paid support, hardware, backups, off-site backups, in-house support staff, etc all add up. Its not just a flat fee. Its reoccurring fees too.

      Cloud computing has its niche. Its not a conspiracy. Right now its the buzzword of the day, thus the Doctorow's of the world are out there doing their best to misunderstand it.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:51AM (#29311989) Homepage

    Doctorow's gripe is NOT about cloud computing, but Software as a Service setups, where the software is externally hosted.

    "Cloud Computing" is a very nebulous term, ranging from online apps in the browser (Google Apps) to high level compute APIs (Map-Reduce etc) to low level VM hosting and storage (Amazon EC2/S3).

    The interesting things, IMO, from the cloud point of view are the compute side, which is a windfall (we used EC2 to great effect with Netalyzr), and the reliability/infrastructure offloading.

    And let's do a puzzle here. Yes, a cheap computer is just that, CHEAP, which implies unreliable. Gmail, for all its griping, has pretty much 99.99% uptime. Does Doctorow realize how much even that level of reliability costs when done in-house?

    • by iamhigh (1252742)
      In the last 6-7 years I can think of 1 time when I went to power on my computer and it didn't work like expected. It is very expensive and difficult to have "multiple 9s" for 10 million users... it's rather easy for a single computer. I'll even say that mail server for 100 users probably has over 99% uptime... with outdated hardware and software and me generally slacking on PM.
  • After all, we can trust the banks, brokerages, governments, etc., that promise the same level of "trust". No way in hell would I turn data over to "The Cloud".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slim (1652)

      So you keep all your money in your home?

      • Lately, the money that I DO keep in my home has done better than the money that's "in the market".

        • by Sinbios (852437)

          How is that a result of betrayed trust?

          The only one you can blame for how your money does "in the market" is yourself.

    • Thanks for your excellent followup post, Cornwallis, as this poster nweaver, either attended an exclusive prep school, then either Harvard or Princeton, and belongs to that special plutocrat class of legacy twits, or else is a complete an utter douchebag!

      Geez, I mean after every possible fraud has been perpetrated (at least worldwide and on the North American and South American peoples), and all fraud as practised by those in the richest bracket has been legalized, how could anyone not possibly trust the pr

  • Small Monthly Fees (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:53AM (#29312017)

    Cloud computing works on the "frog in a pot" principle. Slowly increase the temperature, and the frog doesn't know it's being boiled alive.

    -Don't worry about backup, let us do it, for a small monthly fee.

    -Don't store your data locally, let us do it, for a small monthly fee.

    -Don't worry about software, let us provide it for you, for a small monthly fee.

    -Don't worry about a PC, let us provide one for you, for a small monthly fee.

    Think it won't work? It already does. Look at your cellphone. You don't own it, you don't own any of it's data, you rent it, for a couple of small monthly fees, and some small "pay per use" fees.

    Lets look at the XBOX model. You "own" the hardware, but ultimately, Microsoft gets to decide what you can do with it.

    XBox live is your "small monthly fee". Expect the next version of XBox to be a rental only agreement.

    You get all the "convenience", but none of the service guarantees, security, responsibility, etc.

    They get all your "small monthly fees", and all your personal data.

    • >> Think it won't work? It already does. Look at your cellphone. You don't own it, you don't own any of it's data, you rent it, for a couple of small monthly fees, and some small "pay per use" fees.

      You may be surprised, but not EVERYONE uses iphone.
    • Well first, cell phones didn't become "owned" by the carriers because of the "frog in a pot" principle. It was like that from the outset. We always paid ridiculous fees.

      But also, I expect the carriers to charge me some kind of monthly fee, given that they're providing a service. Sure, sell me the phone, but I don't expect to be able to use their network without paying something.

  • by hazydave (96747) on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:00AM (#29312141)

    Moving people from their own computing resources to yours is about one fundamental: control. I control my PC in ways that I normally have a great deal of say about (sure, "regular people" may have to hire consultants or expert systems to regain control of their systems, but at least the potential is there).

    The recurring payment model is the modern gold rush... companies are willing to give you "free" satellite STBs, cell phones, etc. in return for knowing they're getting your $50-$100 back on a regular basis. This also moves to an interesting market model. With regular purchases, you probably have to convince me that you're the best for my needs, if I'm a well informed consumer. With contracts, once I've bought in, you need to finr the minimal amount of satisfaction that keep the vast majority of your customers "hooked". So people love and defend their choice of Nikon over Canon, or Sony over Panasonic, for the most part. But everyone complains about their cable company, their cellular provider, etc. And yet, those are the guys making the Big Bucks.

    So it's inevitable that web services will go in that direction, at least some of the time. There's currently little precedent for getting consumers to pay, but "cloud" subscriptions are at the same time being sold to business as an alternative to expensive desktop tools (even when free desktop tools are also available). For some business use, it's not going to be about the money, per se. They might actually prefer a subscription to a lump payment... that makes expenses predictable... the same reason many businesses lease equipment, rather than buy, even though the long-term expense is greater.

    But what they'll really be buying is control. Many companies work hard to keep workers from installing "unapproved" software applications. Move everyone to the cloud, and they lose the ability to customize anything you don't want customized. This is probably the engine that'll push business into the cloud, and get them to pay.

    For consumers, follow the cell/cable model... if you sign up for two years of Bubba Jones' computing services, we'll send you a netbook (running a ChromeOS style OS that puts everything under control of the cloud services, even though some local storage will still be possible). There are enough people unconcerned about "real" desktop computing that this will probably seem like a good deal. Particularly if they're unable to do the real math. Which many won't... ask any iPhone toting friend what they paid for their iPhone.. they'll usually say "$200" or some such. When in fact, they're probably paying a total of something like $2000-$3000 over the course of two years, once you factor in the contract costs. But if it's a slow enough bleed, and you keep them happy enough, folks don't notice.

  • by Drakin020 (980931) on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:02AM (#29312173)

    for something you currently get for a flat rate or for free without having to give up the money or privacy that cloud companies hope to leverage into fortunes."

    Did it ever occur to you that maybe some people don't want to have to worry about upgrades, viruses, slowness, etc... If someone out there can provide computer access to users with the protection from Viruses, hardware becoming obsolete, and other general hardware problems, what's the problem in that?

    This could work well for the elderly who just don't want to deal with all the crap that comes with owning a computer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spinkham (56603)

      If they don't want Windows problems, there's always Mac/Linux/*BSD.
      Lets see:

      • Slowness, protection from viruses - Non-Microsoft OS makes this much less a problem
      • Upgrades, hardware becoming obsolete - Again, non-MS OS helps here, and applies to "cloud enabled services" also - either cloud or local can use current programs and tech, but upgrades to either has an equal chance of needing hardware upgrades
      • General Hardware problems - Same as above, you still need hardware to connect to "the cloud". You can get a f
  • Confusion of terms. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:03AM (#29312189) Journal
    It seems as though there are, really, two quite different flavors of "cloud computing" at issue here with very dissimilar properties.

    On the one hand, you have something like Gmail: Basically everything there(your data, all the code, etc.) is on their systems and under their control. On the other hand, you have something like EC2, which is basically just VPS hosting with higher-than-traditional provisioning speed.

    The first type creates real risk(particularly for more unsophisticated users) of the expensive longterm rental replacing ownership problem we've seen with other industries. (Consider poor old Grandma, still renting a phone from AT&T decades after 3rd party devices were allowed, cable box rental fees, and all the other attempts to tie individuals to a recurring charge setup). The situation isn't all bad; but there is real room for concern.

    The second type seems much less threatening. First, it'll be aimed largely at more sophisticated users, who will have more options and negotiating room. Second, the potential for easier migration will presumably keep costs down and service relatively high. Something like EC2 is largely standard(the compute VMs you are allocated) or fairly simple(the mechanism for requesting/provisioning more) and available in independent implementation. Amazon can still crush the little guys through scale and efficiency; but there is nothing stopping you from going somewhere else, or running your own, if they decide to abuse the power.

    Given that Doctorow is writing for a popular publication, about the impact on joe user, I'd say his warnings are justified. They may well not be justified for you but all the whinging in the world about how simple it is(for you) to just run your own server won't change the fact that you'll be surrounded by people paying more than they expected every month for the cloud(just like they do for all the other "services" in their lives). However, it isn't at all clear that his warnings usefully apply to the commercial sense of "cloud computing" where it basically just means hosting.
  • Yes, that is what the majority of offerings will be like. But you also have the opportunity to use the cloud in your own way, at least when it comes to data storage. You can purchase computation from one host, storage from another, and so on; you can do your own computing on your own hardware where it suits. All your data can be encrypted, so that only you (and of course, whichever hosts you send the keys to) can read it. Your data is thus as secure as you choose for it to be. The market will demand Open st

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tepples (727027)

      All your data can be encrypted, so that only you (and of course, whichever hosts you send the keys to) can read it.

      But if your storage provider lets you search it, it isn't so encrypted now, is it? An application that uses encrypted cloud storage would have to store the indexes (e.g. the directory structure for an online file system) locally.

      In fact, this is one of the places trusted computing could help, although you have to assume that someone out there could still compromise your security with a system like that; still, it raises the bar considerably when you're talking about sending your code out for remote execution.

      That's another way to think about digital restrictions management: the owner of copyright in a work is executing it on a "cloud" of end users' machines.

  • The Personal Cloud (Score:3, Interesting)

    by improfane (855034) on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:07AM (#29312249) Journal

    The web was supposed to be a cloud to begin with. I think services like Opera Unite are pulling in the opposite direction and reinforcing what the web was supposed to be like to begin with.

    Did you know that the HTTP protocol has PUT and DELETE commands? As far as I can tell no browser implements them. It does explain why we have primitive authentication.

    I call services like Opera Unite and Mozilla Weave a personal cloud because they can be hosted yourselves. The Opera servers only provide hole punching between unite users.

    This is an example of what I want to see http://jkontherun.com/2009/06/16/opera-unite/ [jkontherun.com]
      and my here. [inforumal.com]

    It's sad that our society's photographs are on Facebook in low quality. The big tech companies want to make us powerless over our data and retain control of them.

    Subscriptions have always been more profitable than actual game sales. Blizzard is laughing its way to the bank after selling the game and then asking for more money to play the game you already paid for.

    • by godrik (1287354)
      I wish I had a billion mod points for you. I am really looking forward when the internet will become decentralized again. It was engineered to be decentralized but is in practice very centralized. People should host distributed services. I am still stunned people put videos on youtube. It would be so much better to host them on a p2p network. Implementing that should be fairly easy from freenet.
  • by j_cocaine (1618405)
    I'm neither especially pro-cloud or anti-cloud, but I'm getting really sick of the people saying that compute is going to be just like electricity or POTS or some other utility. Their assumption there is that they can provide some sort of generic "compute unit" that customers can just plug in to and use on demand. The problem is that network-enabled applications are far more complex than plugging in a toaster. OLTP is different from scientific computing, which is different from graphics rendering, and no
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Friday September 04, 2009 @11:18AM (#29312425) Homepage

    "Here's something you won't see mentioned, though: the main attraction of the cloud to investors and entrepreneurs is the idea of making money from you, on a recurring, perpetual basis, for something you currently get for a flat rate or for free"

    Duh. If the idea can't make money - it's unlikely to stay around if it even happens in the first place. That's the way the world works Cory.

    On top of which... Most of things we get for 'free' are actually either a) ad supported or b) free because the company providing them has revenue from elsewhere and needs to build their brand. They aren't really 'free'. The same goes for 'flat rate', the services are generally subsidized and oversubscribed because the provider is betting (usually correctly) that 99.9999% of the users won't ever use the capacity they've signed up for.

    The balance of his comment is essentially a Dvorak style rant, meaningless and somewhat disconnected from reality. But, like all pundits, if he doesn't keep the hits coming he has to stop eating... So rants pull the eyeballs and pay the bills.

    Even in the clouds.

  • by Arthur B. (806360)

    You can have free software in the cloud... open source webservices that can be run on any server, standards to communicate between different services etc.

  • Cloud computing has improved in recent years but it still has significant drawbacks compared to having a nice fast system on your desk. Most significantly, not having your data on-site and in your control is off-putting to a lot of companies. If you go with an in-house solution (Citrix, Sun-Ray, et al) you can keep your data on hand but you run into several other issues including having to pay someone to actually administer those servers -- I suspect that by the time you're done it actually costs more to do
  • This guy seems to have missed the point. From The Guardian's piece:

    That's how I use Amazon's S3 cloud storage: not as an unreliable and slow hard drive, but as a store for encrypted backups of my critical files,

    So far as I can seem that's nothing like cloud computing. That's merely offline storage (and not a very good way to back stuff up, anyway). Although the story has a headline about cloud computing, no-one seems to have told the author - who's fixated on online storage, maybe he doesn't understand the term?
    . Personally I can keep all my critical stuff on a couple of (encrypted or not) 4GB USB sticks. One at home, one elsewhere. Trusting all

  • OK, I'll bite. As someone who runs a SaaS product ( http://gimlet.us [gimlet.us], in case you care), I can assure you that we're not trying to nickel-and-dime our customers. We're trying to provide useful software at a reasonable price — nothing more, nothing less.

    I've run a very similar open-source project, and found that by far, the most frequent question from people was "how do I get this running?" I talked to many people who wanted to try it, only to find that their IT department was an obstacle. One person to

  • by macraig (621737) <`mark.a.craig' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday September 04, 2009 @12:30PM (#29313373)

    Cory is only repeating what I've been saying for years now: the "cloud" is merely the latest spin on trying to "re-educate" people to accept software subscriptions in place of one-time software licenses. There has been an ongoing effort for many years to rebrand software as "content", for much of which people have already become accustomed to paying a monthly fee. If Big Software succeeds in convincing people that software is content, then this battle is lost and we'll all wind up paying for software by the month, cloud or no cloud.

    I've said it here repeatedly, blogged about it in my little backwater blog, with nary a modding-up in sight, but now Doctorow parrots the same allegation after all this time and suddenly it's news? I guess I should derive satisfaction from the fact that finally people might take notice of the unintentional conspiracy at work here.

The world is no nursery. - Sigmund Freud

Working...