Two faces of cloud computing
There is a big hype about cloud computing these days, all major web companies are investing heaps of cash into cloud computing. The big 4 (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Amazon) and a whole bunch of fresh startups are playing on the cloud computing card as the next big thing in the world of IT. They are all expecting that in the next year more and more web application and enterprises will migrate to the cloud computing platforms. There is a lot of predictions for cloud computing in 2009 like this one from marketwire.com:
A rise in serverless companies with 1000+ employees. In 2009, the market will start to hear about more and more companies going completely server-less. While this is already happening at smaller companies, larger and larger companies will optimize their business processes and cut IT expenses by outsourcing to cloud providers.
In the upcoming year more and more companies will have a focus on reducing costs because of the economical breakdown in 2008. The first enterprises that will turn to cloud computing platforms as their primary provider of IT infrastructure will be the IT companies. Why wouldn’t they go for cloud computing when it offers savings on the costs of IT infrastructure and personnel required to maintain that infrastructure. If you look at the prices offered by the big 4 in cloud computing are setting for the use of their infrastructure you will see massive savings. Enough said is that Flickr host all of its photos on the Amazon S3 storage infrastructure to show the capabilities of cloud computing platforms. All that for just a fraction of the costs of owning, running and maintaining company owned servers or datacenters.
Is it all that great like it is presented? Well not so when you dig a little bit under the surface. What is the problem then? The problem is with the data and applications that you put in the cloud, there are issues with security, ownership and access to the data. In the security I don’t mean if your data is secure from the outside rather from the inside from the company which is providing the infrastructure. You must be aware that personnel from the cloud provider company have access to your data stored in the cloud. Therefore you should make sure that data is encrypted when stored in the cloud.
The problem with data in the cloud can be summed up in this excerpt from the Amazon web service Customer Agreement.
3.7.3. In the Event of Other Suspension or Termination. Except as provided in Sections 3.7.1 and 3.7.2 above, we shall have no obligation to continue to store your data during any period of suspension or termination or to permit you to retrieve the same.
Now what this means is that in the case of contract suspension or termination Amazon has no obligation to keep or provide you access to your own data, which basically translates to you depending on the good will of people working at Amazon to give you access to your data. What happens if your cloud storage provider goes out of business, what happens to your data?
In a recent article Richard Stallman the GNU founder has expressed similar concerns claming saying that cloud computing is:
It’s stupidity. It’s worse than stupidity: it’s a marketing hype campaign,