Work and Life in the Mobile Society/Technology/Cloud Computing

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How does cloud computing enable greater mobility?

Imagine not having to mow the lawn, take the garbage out or do the dishes, being able to spend more time doing what we’re really interested in. That’s one man's dream. Add to this not having to own a lawnmower or dishwasher and it gets even better. Now transpose this to a business context and you get a fair idea of what cloud computing is.

Cloud computing is less about what than how we’re doing things. In fact, its intention is to allow users to do exactly what they’ve always been doing but in a greener, more effective, less costly, easily scalable and self-healing way. The picture looks perfect. But is it, really? Leaving all the rasping chores and responsibilities in one another’s hands and focussing on more critical tasks seems to be. In short, all this implies that those secondary services you need will be executed somewhere, any time you want, on another’s physical infrastructure (about which you don’t have to care) and in some unknown way, provided the result will be the same. That’s great indeed and those are assumed strengths of cloud computing but they might easily turn into concerns as well, and fast.

Issues[edit | edit source]

There are obvious downsides to this approach. There are the privacy issue, the security of data transactions and the possibility of being locked-out of its own data altogether (that has happened to many Gmail users) due to tenants-set rules or simply client-made mistakes.

Loss of Control[edit | edit source]

A broader problem related to the cloud paradigm is the total loss of control over both data and the treatment applied to it. Some think that cloud computing is just a trap designed to force people into buying more proprietary web-based software hidden behind a “flavour of the day” hype. "One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control", said Richard Stallman, founder of GNU and advocate of free, open-source software. "It's just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else's web server, you're defenceless”.

Reliability[edit | edit source]

Talking about control, you’re better hope that somebody somewhere has some sort of it over what happens in the “cloud”. After all, you’re putting a great deal of your operations between the hands of those who actually manage these fragmented databases and develop that software. Reliability, in theory, is a major asset of cloud computing but because it also constitutes a single point of failure, when it messes, it may mess in a very bad way. And it showed in July 2008 when Amazon’s S3 failed for more than 8 hours on a nice Sunday. “Images began to wink out on the micro-blogging service Twitter. The photo-sharing site SmugMug flashed up "Service unavailable". Jungle Disk, which advertises "Reliable online storage", stopped working”. Indeed, all those online providers rely heavily on S3. According to Lukas Biewald, "Using Amazon's S3 (…) we had thought that the reliability of Amazon would be significantly higher. But that now seems wrong".

Future[edit | edit source]

In brief, the idea puts an enormous burden on developers in and out of the cloud in order to address the many shortages of the cloud infrastructure and keeping and improving it’s similarly numerous advantages. Even programming according to this new platform has to be learned. Legislators will have vote new laws making providers liable for loss of business for example and application tenants will eventually have to comply with it. New ideas already emerge to fix high profile agreed problems. Google has put out “gears”, a tool that allows users of most of its online applications to run offline (if properly designed) and keep a copy of sensible data or a print of it “at home”. And the concept of interoperability between clouds (utilization of clouds by clouds) is also coming. That should help reduce important downtimes and alleviate deceiving backups problems just to name a few. But for that, competitors will have to grow up and learn to become allies and agree on standards while not stepping on each other’s playground.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Cloud computing is a form of specialization and humanity has evolved vastly through specialization of individuals. For instance, you don’t really need to know what’s the plumber’s doing under the sink and you might not even be there when he does it. You just don’t want to fix your pipes yourself. And not because apparently plumbers screw up on rare occasions should we stop hiring them completely.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Anderson, Tim. From http://www.guardian.co.uk. Thursday September 25, 2008. “Is it all clear skies ahead for cloud computing?”
  • Johnson, Bobbie : technology correspondent. From http://www.guardian.co.uk. Monday September 29, 2008, 14:11. “Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder Richard Stallman.”