This morning I read yet another article on Cloud Computing. Unlike most of the articles I see weekly, this one discussed the potential pitfalls of Cloud Computing. The article relates five “myths” of cloud computing including energy savings, up-time, management and security. I’ve been wondering for awhile about the true ability of Cloud Computing to generate efficincies and lower costs while maintaining or increasing customer service. The article started me thinking. Is Cloud Computing the next Vaporware?
Vaporware is a term used since the early ’80s for any piece of software that does not yet exist or that is promised to be enhanced. Though I first heard it about ten years later, when referring to various products, it apparently originated with the Microsoft UNIX variant, XENIX, when a Microsoft engineer referred to the then-developing product as “vaporware.”
Around same time in 1991, engineers at Sun Microsystems published the “Eight Fallacies of Distributed Computing.” The fallacies consist of the assumptions people make when developing networked applications. These were developed when the “LAN” and “Client-Server” style of computing and programming were all the rage. I would content that cloud computingHas the same traps and pitfalls.
Some of the assumptions and fallacies are:
- The network is reliable: This assumes your data can be accessed at any time. Of course, even industry giants like Amazon seem to have a difficult time keeping servers running to fulfill this commitment.
- Latency is zero: In other words, you have instant access to the data. These days, network speed is tremendously faster than ever before. Even so, there will be delays because of bandwith hogging events. For example, notice how the internet speeds tend to slow down while millions watch the annual NCAA College Basketball Playoffs.
- Bandwidth is Infinite: Closely related to the previous, this assumes that no one else is using the same pipes to transmit data.
- The network is Secure: Though not as much an issue with encrypted data, it is well-known that anything going out over any network can be sniffed and picked up.
Systems based on Cloud Computing all fall prey to these fallacies and are susceptible to the fact that the systems are now competing for resources and maintenance with mutliple other systems. Supposedly, with virtualization technology such as Xen, VMWare, or Hyper-V, you get an “economies of scale” in that your applications and servers run flawlessly in harmonious relationship with the dozens or hundreds of other servers in the virtual “cloud.” I have yet to see a Cloud Service Provider discuss Service Level Agreements out in the open.
In fact, a oft-quoted study – Cloud’s Beyond the Hype – mentions both speed of deployment of new servers and a total cost of ownership (TCO) reduction up to 50% over traditional On-Premise servers. I have already seen this not to be the case. Based on the fallacies above and the fact that servers require resources both physical and human; aggregating servers into a cloud simply does not provide any efficiencies.
In the “old” days of the LAN revolution, there were numerous reasons why using an On-Premise approach to servers became in-favor with IT departments. First, the data were physically located within a secure server room. The data and server were under control. Second, there was at least a sense of reliability. Because the data were under control of an on-premise server room, IT felt the data would be reliable. Third, there was the ability to control the platforms on-which the data resided.
There are those like me who have selected to purchase tablets and/or smart phones. We – by definition are using the cloud. I store many documents and pictures on both Google Drive and Dropbox. I do find it convenient to be able to pull in a document from wherever I have internet access and work on it or at least view it. However, I do back these up. Not trusting the cloud, I copy my files down on a regular basis and place them on external hard drives. I tend to put my faith in servers I can see and ensure redundancy. I stand by that faith:
When all is said and done, I think the tidal wave of support for Cloud Computing will take up any other opinions – at least for now. Cloud Computing is a trendy topic and many CEO, CIO and CFO-types are quick to point out the marketing that exclaims how Cloud and Virtual Computing will save money. I have heard more often than not that my agency will be moving to the cloud also. I’ll have to report back in a few years and discuss how it went.