alanwilliamson

Even Stephen Fry fails to get cloud computing

The computer industry's history is littered with dead buzzwords and over hyped technology. Sometimes we don't even bother defining what exactly a given buzzword. Take Web2.0 for example, it is different things to different people.

Besides the problem that comes from being ill defined, it always leads to a huge amount of confusion in the market place. Another classic naming blunder from the annals of history is of course the Java and JavaScript debacle. Two completely separate technologies morphed together in a moment of marketing madness leaves a whole generation of recruiters scratching their heads.

History is repeating itself once again, with the latest victim being cloud computing.

This one is a little different, since we have celebrity backing from no other than the UK's resident brain box Stephen Fry. But dear Stephen has missed the point and he too has jumped on the marketing hype band wagon.

He tries to explain what cloud computing is, in simple terms for his readers. He states that cloud computing is basically putting your data "out there" in the "cloud" instead of letting it reside on your PC/Mac. Instead of storing your data in a local folder, you instead put it on say Google Docs, or ZoHo.com, thus saving yourself your from any problems your local machine may fall upon it.

Wait a minute, thats not cloud computing. That is called, the "Internet". If anything, its "Web2.0" where by you mash up a variety of services to give yourself a unified experience. Stephen notes that "The network holds not only your files". Mmm sounds more like what Sun has been peddling for the last 15 years that the "Network is the computer".

What Stephen is describing isn't "cloud computing" per se, but more of a product of what "cloud computing" can deliver, but not necessarily. What Stephen describes, in his utopia of online living, can be run off a single lowly server sitting in a hosting rack. No one would ever call that "cloud computing". I think we call that hosting!

It is no more cloud computing than me saying that I am in the automotive industry just because I drive a car.

For me, I believe the "cloud computing" is the provisioning of resources as and when you need them in as real time as possible. It is the 'clouding' or grouping of services/servers to provide the necessary power for the task at hand. If you really want to get gritty, it is a design pattern for the automatic load balancing of your services.

Think Star Trek in the old days, when Captain Picard/Kirk would ask for "more power to the shields", and suddenly all this power would go to the shields. For me, I would often think there was a room somewhere in the Enterprise that would suddenly go dark with the recipients sitting in the dark cursing the bridge wondering why it was always their room!

Cloud computing is nothing new. Richard Stallman recently was interviewed regarding his concern for cloud computing; who owns your data? Hold on a minute, that isn't a cloud computing problem. Isn't that a general "Internet" problem that has existed since the first service ever came online and asked for a user to register their details.

While I respect Stephen Fry hugely, I find myself a little disappointed that he has jumped onto marketing hype and taken his legion of followers off on the wrong direction. I expected more.

Cloud computing is real. Cloud computing is changing how we in the software world work. But it is not everything to everyone and it is definitely not the second coming that will change how we all interact on the Internet.


 

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