Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Cloud FUD

Another FUD story on Cloud Computing. I was sent a link to this by @cogtric. It was posted on the O'Reilly Radar by Robert Kaye commenting on OSCON day 2. Some extracts:

Some of you may know Jesse Vincent [...] . He started his session by outlining why cloud computing may not be the best idea and then went on to talk about his new distributed database called Prophet.

... I found his analogy of cloud computing as "digital sharecropping" quite apt. Wikipedia defines sharecropping as: "Sharecropping is a system of agriculture or agricultural production in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crop produced on the land (e.g., 50 percent of the crop)." History tells us that sharecropping didn't work out so well for the farmers and that a lot of the farmers were dependent on the landowners and heavily in debt to them.

In the beginning of computing people ran programs they didn't own on machines they didn't own (mainframes were leased from the manufacturer). People had no control over when these machines got updates and had very little control in general. In the 80's things got better as PCs started appearing, only to lock users into things like Windows. And today people don't need to have servers, software or anything else -- just a web browser to host and run web-sites thanks to cloud computing.

This analogy is seriously wrong. The following comment on the above post by Jonathan Blocksom is much closer to the mark in the analogy department.

The analogy to sharecropping seems based in hyberpole -- great for getting people riled up at your presentation but it breaks down pretty quickly when you examine it. Try replacing a web store with a retail store and the web service provider with a landlord and I think you have a better model:

* Landlords charge a flat rate by square footage (usage), not a percentage of your sales (like sharecroppers). (Probably a few exceptions, like fast food in airports)
* Purchasing and configuring land and servers is an expensive initial cost
* There are tax advantages to not owning property (land or servers)

But like a web service provider you may have the same concerns:
* How can you trust your landlord not to let the secret police in?
* What if your landlord disagrees with what you are doing and asks you to move out?
* If your landlord shuts you out (by changing the locks), you're screwed!

Despite the last three issues there's millions of working landlord and commercial tenant relationships out there that are more or less working (landlord reluctance to put in a good HVAC system aside).

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