This Is Not The Cloud Computing We Should Have

from the we've-got-it-all-wrong dept

Even though I was never a big Google Reader user, its death has got me thinking about online services quite a bit lately — and really reminded me that we’ve done the cloud wrong. Rather than build true cloud computing, we’ve built a bunch of lockboxes.

The cloud was supposed to free us, not lock us in

“Cloud computing” went by a variety of other terms in the past before this marketing term stuck, but the key part of it was that it was supposed to free us of worrying about the location of our data. Rather than having to have things stored locally, the data could be anywhere, and we could access it via any machine or device. That sort of happened, and there definitely are benefits to data being stored in the cloud, rather than locally. But… what came with today’s “cloud” was a totally different kind of lock: a lock to the service.

I can point many apps to data stored locally

I wrote something related to this a few years ago, concerning music in the cloud. If I have a bunch of MP3s stored locally, I can point any number of music apps at my music folder, and they can all play that music. As long as the data is not in a proprietary format, I can find the app that works best for me and the data is separate from the app. Even when you have proprietary formats like Microsoft’s .doc, other apps can often make use of them as well — so, for example, I can get by with Libre Office, and I don’t lose access to all of my old Microsoft Word docs.

This is really useful, because it helps us avoid vendor lock-in in many cases. Even when, say, Microsoft or Apple dominates the market. It’s still possible to come in and be compatible. The competition then focuses on building better services, rather than reinventing the data model. That’s much more useful to consumers, because the innovation is focused on making their lives better, rather than reinventing the wheel.

Today’s cloud brings us back to walled gardens

For the most part, today, however, “cloud” applications bundle the storage and the service as one, and the two are linked inseparably. You check your data into a new cloud service, but the application layer and the data are both held by the same company. Yes, you can often transfer data from one service to the other — such as Google’s “data liberation front” effort, which is fantastic (and goes beyond many other companies’ efforts), but just the fact that data needs to be liberated suggests we’re taking the wrong approach altogether. Rather than having to “export” all of your feeds from Google Reader and then waiting patiently for 50,000 other people who are trying to upload them to the few small Reader competitors out there, why shouldn’t we have each had an OPML file stored somewhere that we control, and that we could easily point any reader application, whether its local or “in the cloud.” And, yes, there are some services that attempt to do this, but it’s not where the whole “cloud” space has gone.

Separate and liberate the data from the infrastructure

What the cloud should be about is both freeing us from being locked to local data, and also freeing us from having that data locked to a particular service. I should be able to keep my data in one spot and then access it via a variety of cloud clients — and the clients and the data shouldn’t necessarily be directly connected or held by the same party. If I don’t want to listen to my music via one app, I can just connect a different app to my personal data cloud and off we go. If Google Reader shuts down, no problem, just point a different app at my RSS data. No extraction, no uploading. Just go.

There are, of course, plenty of players around which sort of do this. DropBox, Box, Amazon’s S3 and even Google Drive are setting themselves up as personal data clouds, and there are a growing number of apps that run across them. Projects like the Locker Project are thinking about how we store personal data separated from apps as well. And I know there are a bunch of other projects either around today or quickly approaching release, that also seek to do something in this space.

But, for the most part, all of the stories that people talk about concerning “cloud” computing almost always involve services that tie together the app and the data and all you’re really doing is trading the former limitations of local data for the limitations of a single service provider controlling your data. Many service providers want this, of course. It’s a form of lock-in. Plus, having some sort of access to your data and your usage can enable them to do other things, such as more accurately data mine you and your usage.

But, as users, we really should be pushing more towards embracing the apps that separate the app from the data and that let you point their “cloud” app at any particular place you store your “cloud” data. Some of this may involve standardizing certain data formats, but that makes sense anyway, as, once again, that’s an area where there are tremendous benefits to not reinventing the wheel, so that the innovation and competition can focus on the service level. While some vendors may fear losing lock-in, if they truly believe in their own ability to provide great services, it shouldn’t be a problem. At the same time, they should also realize that embracing this kind of world means that it’s easier for others to jump in and test their services as well.

The death of Google Reader raised a lot of issues around trust, and while you could “export” the data, that process is still messy and archaic when you think about it. The future of cloud computing should be much more focused on separating the data from the service. That would remove the fear that many are now talking about concerning adopting new cloud services that might not last very long. If the data is stored elsewhere, and entirely in the control of the user, then you don’t need to trust the service provider nearly as much, but can dip in and test out different apps operating on the same data, and switch with ease.

If we’re going to see the real promise of “the cloud” take place, that’s where things need to head. We should be increasingly skeptical of “cloud” apps that also control the data.

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Comments on “This Is Not The Cloud Computing We Should Have”

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Carlos Sol?s a.k.a. ArkBlitz (in the rest of the I (profile) says:

Next step: decentralized federation

The best effort done towards making the cloud work for its users has been the federated social network, where anyone can host a local version of the network and communicate with other servers with only knowing the address to point at. Status.Net, Diaspora, Friendica, Pump.IO, just to name a few recent examples.

Anonymous Coward says:

This idea of ‘cloud computing’ may have made a lot more sense many years ago when very expensive thumb drives only had 128 MB, but now a days if you want to carry a few gigabytes around you can just buy a small thumb drive at an affordable rate. It’s advantages are speed, doesn’t use online bandwidth, and you don’t need an Internet connection to use it. I suppose disadvantages are the potential for intrusive border searches maybe or that you can lose your thumb drive if you’re not careful (well, you can forget your online password I guess, unless it’s stored in your laptop. In that case, just keep the data on your hard drive)? Not saying cloud doesn’t have its place but I never really saw hard drives going away and I still don’t see them going away soon. Maybe when bandwidth gets much cheaper (ie: more free unlimited bandwidth with faster upload and download speeds) and more ubiquitous.

Ole Juul (profile) says:

Re: Re: Bandwidth

I think you’re right about affordable bandwidth not having caught up. In fact it’s not even about affordable. Bandwidth simply isn’t available to the average user. I can read and write to my old hard drive at 100Mbps and I can transfer among local computers/storage at the same speed. That’s almost 100 times faster than my wireless internet here, and certainly 10 times faster than most people are getting on a common ISP account. The “cloud” has a very, very, long way to go before it becomes a reality. It’s sad to see how many suckers there are out there who will pay money for a dream with so little substance. Perhaps they hope that when they wake up tomorrow, the internet will be “fixed”. /sigh

tqk says:

Re: Re: Re:

I guess part of the point could be that (affordable) bandwidth hasn’t caught up to other technologies …

That depends where you are. South Korea has no problems with bandwidth at reasonable prices, yet many in the USA do.

The bigger problem with “The Cloud” is you can’t expect the providers to remain in business. Google retires services every year leaving their users high and dry. Free services (“lifetime support!”) go commercial and expect you to just suck up the new ToS.

The Cloud is just a marketroid’s re-jigging of a fifty year old concept; central storage and computing infrastructure in a common datacentre. Add in proprietary formats and difficulties in getting your data out to move it elsewhere, and it’s a sucker’s bet.

You’d be better off re-purposing an old machine running in your basement, providing storage, centrally administered backups, network enabled with all your other devices, and under your control.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I guess where the cloud is useful that other technologies can’t compete is just in sharing information with others. Youtube and perhaps data collaboration services among co-workers and friends. For personal data, personal hard drives and thumb drives.

Another advantage of many cloud apps is sharing data between desktop and mobile platforms. You can’t plug a USB drive into your phone.

Wally (profile) says:

The companies that can afford making a cloud computing service are the ones that would typically charge for it. The infrastructure is quite different and can be likened to connecting to a telnet or BBS server. Although terminal computer systems might be the best examples of the past.

The problem is that cloud computing only works well with consistently reliable connections, and only when companies free up walled gardens. Best example of walling off was when AOL had its own content server and acted mainly as a massive BBS system in the mid to late 1990’s.

Heck, I’m all for it. Cloud computing would be wonderful. I don’t see it happening any time soon though.

k-h (profile) says:

Like networking used to be

Networking started out as a bunch of walled gardens, each locking you into a company, there was banyan vines, netware, appletalk. Eventually IP cleaned up because of a bunch of important reasons.
1) the hardware was open and made by lots of suppliers,
2) the network was scalable and interoperable and
3) the network was dumb, the smarts were at the edges.

So a cloud would have to be dumb with the smarts at the edges (the apps) and interoperable. The problem is that setting up clouds is expensive. Cloud owners want to lock customers in like companies always do.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Like networking used to be

Keeping customers without unnecessary lockin’s is not that hard to do from a simplistic top down view. Merely offer a superior service, without constraint, back it up with significant redundancy, excellent and caring customer service, at flexible competitive prices. Yes there are some devils in the details, however that is not the biggest problem.

Anyone offering such a service will eventually become large enough to go public, have a board of directors, and therefore have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders. Those people, in competition with the rest of their listing stock index (note, not direct competitors, but just other stocks, cause they will be judged by performance of the stock in comparison to other stocks, not just in the same industry, though the financial industry has a lot of jargon that tries to say otherwise) and that process demands constant growth, forever.

Constant growth forever in not sustainable as the market is limited to the number of people on earth (at least until we become the offshore place for the aliens). Once you have every every person on earth as a customer you can only grow by gouging those customers, and the ideal breaks. I think we may see this happening with Google. The board and shareholders want a high ROI from every project.

The only way I see out of this cycle is have one or several not for profit groups set up open source hardware and software, integrate with each other, unencumbered as Mike suggests and funded via a combination of grant, donation and minimal monthly or annual charges. Of course these facilities will be set up with a keen eye toward privacy with server and backup locations strategically place to prevent snooping by Governments or others, and keep no logs.

Such organizations will have the potential to maintain an ideal, and be inured from the vicious cycle of profit for the sake of profit. Oh, and yes, this would disrupt every company that has or wants to offer a cloud service, I can hear the screaming now.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t know about you guys but I use the “cloud” as a virtual filesystem, with raid 6.

This is how I see the true cloud, a filesystem with bits and pieces spread among a lot of services that don’t hold enough to reconstruct the data, that is encrypted, so it the environment doesn’t matter is my own private space inside an unforgiving place.

madasahatter (profile) says:

Cloud = Fraudulent Marketing

My take on the “cloud” and “software as service” is both are primarily ways to fleece me monthly rather than sell me something. Most of us have copies of software on some disk that can be installed at any time.

Another issue with the cloud is when the vendor goes out of business or one fails to pay the rent.

And do not forget Megaupload when it was shut down how many innocent users lost immediate access to their data?

JackOfShadows (profile) says:

These are not the Cloudservices you are looking for. ... Move along.

What we have is a Jedi Mind Trick happening with the media, analysts, and CIOs seem to be well fitted for the role of the weak-willed Storm Troopers. We are still stuck at the same place we were at back before the Dotcom Meltdown amongst various Service Providers, each with their own interfaces generally unable to share with anybody else. We have, now, various X-as-a-Service providers with services supposedly using a SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) built on Standards-compliant goodness. Unfortunately, paraphrasing Linus’es dictum still applies: “I love standards. Standards are wonderful! There are so many to choose from!”

We are still stuck with the old model; almost completely unable to translate between clouds and apps, due to everyone wanting their own sandbox and further wanting to take ALL of Everyone’s marbles home at the end of the day. Yes, there are ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) connectors and/or Managed Service Providers who can connect one “cloud” to another, but each one is pretty much a one-shot interface that will almost certainly end up being on the receiving end of a Microsoft or Twitter interface (Service) change with the next update/upgrade. You might just want to take your marbles home (private cloud) or, gods above and demons below forfend, to another provider.

There are numerous proposed, even a few implemented solutions, however they are rare enough that only a really forward-looking engineering team and/or CIO will bother about portability and inter-communications when considering requirements. I have been thinking about this problem for a couple of decades. Really. I saw this train-wreck coming a long way off, before the web breathed its first, and like most problems it’s pretty simple. Unfortunately, to borrow from L. E. Modessitt, “simple problems are hard.” Really, really hard.

What it will take to change this? As with info-sec, a major catastrophe of some sort such as the collapse of first-tier service provider. We didn’t learn from the last war (Dotcom) so we’ll have to have a repeated do-overs until we get it right.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cloud lockdown

We never stop really doing the same old things, just a bit different every time.

Or we just give it a catchy new marketing phrase.

This still boils down to trusting a 3rd party entity with your data. I lost a ton of my own custom code I saved from a company laptop to a “backup service” that failed with the .com bubble. It’s not a mistake I will make again no matter what it’s called.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Cloud lockdown

Don’t trust others just use and adapt what you get.

Distribute the system between many, many little nodes(pieces) and have the capability to reconstructed missing parts, it should also be encrypted.

Take a look at how virtual/distributed file systems works and you see how to use those services without fear.

Heck you can even use comments in forums to store data.

Unfortunetely this is only for programmers at the moment, because you have to code the glue to tie everything up.

Don’t look at old used crumbled pieces of paper and see trash, look at it and see cellulose that with a binding agent becomes wood. Don’t look at a comment forum section as a place to place words but bits and pieces of data, don’t look at an email as a place for emails, what they all are at their core is data, how can you store data?

Maybe the next big thing will be a P2P filesystem where we all share(pay) a bit of hardware space and get some in exchange.

You could even put all your passwords and encrypted keys in forums everywhere, because to get to it first it would need to find all the pieces scathered only you and God knows where and then unencrypted it.

In short, divide and conquer. people can tame the “cloud”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Cloud lockdown

I had those experiences too that is why I looked at things like GMailFS, RAID and MongoDB(It can be used to create a virtual filesystem).

If I can get all that space and transform it into a encrypted filesystem that is distributed through a lot of little pieces why do I care that some service go down, it get regenerated afterwards, I also wouldn’t mind they seeing the data there since it is all encrypted and even if it wasn’t it is not enough to reconstruct the entire set.

Now I am lazy, I don’t want to code all of this, but I know you can use the “cloud” in a manner that is more advantageous.

Another option is to use Omemo that says it is a social sharing platform, but is almost like a distributed virtual filesystem where what you pay is hardware space.

Another filesystem to take a look at it is 9P part of the Plan 9(aka: Inferno OS).

Anonymous Coward says:

all cloud services have done is given a few companies an extra way to make more money, doing very little in return, including keeping the service running! and given a few other companies an extra way of complaining to governments about yet more ways of infringing on copyright files and an extra way to sue those accused of sharing copyrighted files. as usual, the public have paid for a new service, but cant really use it for fear of being sued. what the hell is the point of that?

tqk says:

Re: Re:

… the public have paid for a new service, but cant really use it for fear of being sued.

That’s dependent upon your definition of “use it.”

I’ve no compunction whatsoever wrt ripping copies of stuff I’ve bought legally, and it would be convenient for those to be available to me wherever I happened to be at any particular moment.

However, if you’re telling everyone and their dog where it is and how to get a copy of it, remember “everyone and his dog” includes The MafiAA, and of course they’re going to go Medieval on you if they find out. Such is the regime you’ve allowed your elected reps to put into place. Copyright infringement nowadays, for all intents and purposes, is a felony no matter what we may think of that.

I advocate boycotting them. I’ve not seen a great deal of stuff coming from them that’s worth buying, much less “pirating.”

JarHead says:

My own take of “cloud computing” is that: “yeah, you go own ahead bro; I’ll be right here watching the train wreck”. I always suspicious of the idea. Not having to care where/how the data is stored is all good, but at what cost?

5 days ago, a friend told me of an online backup service (zoolz) which offers 100gb of backup storage. Well, great, until I read the TOS(?). It turns out, for free user, I have to use their client to backup/restore, and in case of something happen to my system and I want to restore MY data from them, I have to notify them 1st and wait 3-5 hours for approval. Wait, what?! I have to ask permission to access my own data?! (to be fair, they offer 3 tiered services, with free is tier 3, the other 2 are paid; only tier 1, the most expensive, can bypass these requirements) So this is one of the cost for “data liberation”, loss of control over our own data.

Not all services are like that. One of the uses of file lockers are for personal online backup, and they sure don’t have those restrictions. However, who can guarantee those services will be around tomorrow, with things happening like Megaupload, or Google Reader. If that happened, all we can do as user is say “aw, sucks”, or start a multi-billion dollars lawsuit just to have what is ours in the 1st place back. Another casualty of the “data liberation” movement.

Suppose all the service players are playing “nice” and take care our data like their own, but respect privacy and our access to it. And there’s even a new type of insurance, cloud data/service insurance, whereby if a service provider one-sidedly change the terms or altogether discontinue their services, we as user are in someway reimbursed for it. However, what about the ISP? How do we access these services from heaven if there’s no inet connection? Laugh all you like, but there are places like that. And suddenly all the fancy gadget we have broke down completely, cos there’s no data to process. For those other places with inet coverage, well, you know how much pressure they’re now with all those copywrong warlords/ladies lobbying. From my own experience, inet connections are only stable enough for spurious data transfer, but not constant transfer which many “work” requires, even for connections you paid 1 billion dollars per milisecond access. So, with “data liberation”, data reliability also thrown out of the window.

So excuse me, from my point of view, pure cloud computing/data liberation, even with Mike’s dream comes true, suck with no upside whatsoever.

Zakida Paul says:

All reasons that I will never use cloud services as my back up solutions. Hard drives are so inexpensive now that I have no use for cloud services.

My music and e-books from Amazon are in the cloud only because they go there automatically – I never go near their cloud as I have them all on local hard drives.

My music from 7 Digital is in their cloud for the same reason as Amazon and I have never went near it for the same reason.

My important files are again backed up on my hard drives because I would never trust a cloud owned by a 3rd party with my data.

I will never used cloud services to listen to my music due to data and speed caps by ISPs.

As said in a comment above, the way forward is for people to set up their own NAS where they can have 100% control over their own data and who can access it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cloud computing is (mostly) a marketing scam

The part that isn’t? Private clouds. If you want to build your own to do biostatistics or something similar, then that could well be a smart architectural decision.

But the clouds operated by third parties are all about profit and very little about privacy, security, efficiency, integrity, availability, and flexibility.

And as other commenters have pointed out, the current economic situations means that storage is very cheap (and getting cheaper) while bandwidth is very expensive (and remaining so). Nearly everyone thinking of using a cloud for personal use would be FAR better off putting a 12-T RAID- or ZFS-based NAS in their basement (with backup either on- or off-site of course) and then renting a very cheap virtual host somewhere with a reverse tunnel that lets them access it remotely. (And provided the tunnel is encrypted, the virtual host provider has no access to plaintext data.)

Alternatively, portable 1T or 2T drives set up with TrueCrypt and plausible deniability volumes suffice for a lot of travelers.

Both of these give the user complete control over data and avoid the pitfalls of cloud computing — including one of the unsolved problems in cloud computing, rogue staff.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cloud computing is (mostly) a marketing scam

and then renting a very cheap virtual host somewhere with a reverse tunnel

You have suggested another way round the dynamic IP address issue, and an extra cost on a private server for personal use. This approach also introduces a potential weakness in the encryption security, with the prosxy being a point of a middleman attack.
You probably have a cheaper option, a script to monitor your servers address, and email you via a web mail service when it changes.
A more reasonably solution would be for ISP’s to allocate fixed IP addresses for domestic broadband connections.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Cloud computing is (mostly) a marketing scam

Nearly everyone thinking of using a cloud for personal use would be FAR better off putting a 12-T RAID- or ZFS-based NAS in their basement (with backup either on- or off-site of course) and then renting a very cheap virtual host somewhere with a reverse tunnel that lets them access it remotely.

Nearly everyone doesn’t even know such a thing is possible, let alone how to do it. That’s another advantage of cloud services: ease of use.


Re: Re: Cloud computing is (mostly) a marketing scam

“Ease of use” only gets you so far.

It’s far easier for me to put a lot of stuff on my phone with the USB cable. Even tiny microSD cards are cheap and plentiful when compared to wired network speed. Start talking about wireless networks and forget about it.

So anything that’s non-trivial fails for lack of good networking. The overhead of pushing it to the cloud is simply intolerable.

harknell (profile) says:

Inversion of the Situation?

Given what a few people here have said about the rapid increase in smaller storage options, it seems to me the best situation will become a case where we all walk around with our data, but connect to the “apps” online. So instead of keeping your data in the cloud, you keep the applications in the cloud and your data on your…phone (as they are now becoming our centralized multi-purpose devices). Sort of like how in Neuromancer everyone had their own core device that then plugged into the network. This sounds like the the best combo to me–no one has access to your info on a continuing basis, and you can evolve what utilizes the data online. Sort of like how a CMS can update the engine of the website while not touching the data itself–we just have the data entirely separate and personal.

The problem right now is it’s always in the best interest of the cloud service to try to keep both–they are businesses trying to make money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The insidious MCLC model

so as far as your concerned having less control would be MORE CONVENIENCE for you ???

I would think most ‘normal’ people would find having LESS CONTROL to be LESS convenience.. not to mention, less secure, slower, and far higher risk, more components to fail and more bandwidth consumed.

Of course the cloud has to be more convenient that having all your data stored safely and easy accessable from the computer sitting under your desk than it will be on a server farm maintained by staff you don’t know, in some other country, with a low bandwidth connection that can be taken down by a good DDoS attack.. Good luck in trying to get the cloud to fly…

Anonymous Coward says:

My non-tech sister blew several thousand dollars and several hours on the phone retrieving her suddenly unplayable music from iTunes (I’ve never said, “Are you crazy?” so often in any conversation). To be fair, that was before the iTunes cloud and was a DRM-caused problem, but would I trust iTunes and their cloud with my music? After hearing about how they tortured and ripped off my sister, how incredibly unhelpful and unsympathetic they were: No, I would not. This same sister also had an unfortunate Carbonite-online backup incident that put me off letting someone else hold or backup my storage for me, long before Megaupload got taken out despite having a squad of high-priced lawyers making sure the company kept on the right side of the law to preserve its “Safe Harbor” status.

But really, I’ve been off anything resembling cloud storage since first reading Microsoft’s plans for the future of computing back in the 90s in some tech magazine or other: I remember they had this fab idea that our computers would just be a screen and a keyboard, all of our info, i.e., our lives, would be “out there”, floating around. They didn’t say it in their utopianistic interview, but I assumed that continued access to our info would cost a monthly fee paid to MS: keyboards & monitors would be cheap, they could charge whatever they liked for monthly storage and service. Given how expensive and buggy their software was, I knew I would never interested. Nothing has changed since that interview as far as I can see.

I have a very nice WD “My Book” for backup. I do NOT use their online service, I just use it as a plain, old harddrive and drag things onto it or save things to it (I don’t even use their included software for auto-backup, it was annoying and difficult to manage). I have several other older, smaller harddrives that I can use to walk my stuff around with me. I’ve never had to pay anyone to get access to my stuff again and I’ve never lost anything, unlike half the people I know. If I ever succumbed to using cloud service, I’d still keep my own backup. I like Dropbox for getting documents from one computer or device to another easily, but I wouldn’t put anything too important or irreplaceable in it.

I’m an older person who is not completely bereft of tech knowledge, I can get by, but I can’t hold a candle to the people who post here. You guys obviously know your stuff and I learn a lot reading your posts. But the world is full of very non-tech people who are utter clueless, who cheerfully pay corporations a lot of money and don’t understand how things work or how they’re being ripped off for untold millions. Most people not going to set up their own cloud service in the basement; most people don’t even know enough to complain to the powers that be when it comes to being treated like dirt, they don’t even know the right questions to ask.

Corwin (profile) says:

There is one way

but no-one in Real, Serious Business will fund it, ever.

And the FLOSS guys are too damn incompetent to git dat dun, or it would have been made fucking eons ago.

WHAT is the model of the ONLY software that’s entirely reliant on USERS just being THERE?


There is ZERO excuse as of now to build any sort of service that needs to be HOSTED in centralized, easy-to-raid locations, unless it’s being built so as to be easy to shut down.

The only service that serves data you can be CERTAIN will hold the data, is the one where YOU serve the data, on YOUR hardware. Then you’d store data for others, so that others store your data, too, and encrypted in such a way that you demonstrably can’t access what others store on your device.

NO-ONE is going to fund that, and FLOSS hobbyists aren’t professional enough to package those simple, simple services in ways that Normal People can setup with ONE TAP on ANY device. Or just point at a QR code to automagically have all their apps and data migrated to UserCloud instead of WalledGarden.

Tsadiq says:

Thulmbe Drive ? NAS ? That's your answer ?

I think some people here don’t get the whole idea behind the cloud. Hanging around with your thumb drive is not something that can replace cloud storage. Setting up a NAS is somehow better but still not sufficient.

You have to think out of the “i need to access my data” idea. If you just need to keep data safe for yourself then ok, go on with a few thumb drives as backup and that’s fine. But if you want a distant backup, sharing possibilities for team work or multi-location access, then i guess you’re gonna have a fun time with your thumb drive.

Thumb drive than can be lost, stolen, broken or even unreadable after a not-so-rare windows sync bullshit. And i’m pretty sure than sharing a file through the cloud is faster than sending a postal mail with your thumb drive inside ;o

As for the NAS, the thing is most people use adsl at home. A as in Asynchronous, which in isp language basically means you have shitty upload bandwidth. Hell, in some country you even have upload amount limitation. Sending a huge file to the cloud once means you can download it from top-bandwidth datacenters hundreds of time, instead of waiting hour for your home connection to send it every time you need it.
Not to mention, if you adsl crashes while you’re away – duh, your NAS isn’t available anymore. Power outage ? Too bad. Your house get on fire ? Ouch, you just lost all your data. This kind of things is not likely to happen with cloud services, thanks to redundancy. Cloud doesn’t just mean “distant”, it also means hosted on different physical places and it can without a doubt save your ass.

What if you corrupt a file on your thumb drive or your NAS ? I hope you got a backup somewhere. Or a dropbox-like service that can give you previous versions of your file just like a svn would do.

So yeah, i agree that the cloud isn’t perfect, and that article makes total sense about the locking of your data in services. But you guys can’t just come in and say “my thumb drive does it better”, that’s a total lack of clarity about what’s going on on the cloud.

I won’t comment the “big companies searching new ways to make money” thing, you’re on the internet, not on charity network. It’s sad to say but it’s all about business, get over it already.

Anonymous Coward says:

key part of it was that it was supposed to free us of worrying about the location of our data

was it really ???? Then it’s funny that every who is trying to use the clear ARE MORE worried about the location of their data then before when it was stored nice and safely on their local hard drive.

Yes, trust all your data to some other company, trust that your internet will be on 100% of the time, and you don’t have download or up load limits, that’s much better than keeping your data local, on a high speed hard drive, on a secure computer YOU CONTROL.

No, it’s much better to try to squeeze your date through a thin pipe, into the waiting hands of some other company that is just trying to make money, add a whole bunch of extra links in the chain of failure and sit back and not worry about a thing.

For having all your data in “the cloud” somewhere, that you don’t control the security of, you don’t control the staff, you don’t control the connection to it, or anything in between..

That will make you SO MUCH SAFER !!!!

Remember the NC (Network computer), no ?? neither does anyone else..

10 years from now “anyone remember that ‘cloud thing’????”…. no..

JackOfShadows (profile) says:

Re: Network Computing

Actually I do remember the NC. It’s changed its name numerous times but the concept is bog-standard since IBM et al. created time-sharing way back when. Now it goes under the name VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) and it’s still time-sharing, it can just reach a lot farther. However when you tote all the costs up, even the savings from improved managability (less staff to manage the machines), it still doesn’t pay.

It’s an astute solution in some contexts which requires some expertise to properly engineer, install, and especially maintain. Just like cloud, actually. I do a lot of cloud here, hosting myself (and easily others) and I can reach out and touch my stuff from anywhere I can connect, via multiple mechanisms, all in a secure manner but hell, I’ve been doing this kind of thing all my (52-yo) long life even discounting a significant head start. I’m an engineer and I’m an (absolutely?) paranoid control freak. As someone else pointed out, this still ain’t turnkey in any way, shape, or form and it ain’t cheap to do right You can chuck most consumer-grade stuff right out the window.

It’s conceivable that someone could turnkey this (free tier of AWS is usable), but someone would still have to create & spin-up the instances and there would be maintenance issues, there always are, but doable. Still it’s just easier to have encrypted (e.g. TrueCrypt on computer, EDS on Android) pocket storage. Hell, even my mobile hot-spot has copies of my encrypted containers. I do wonder how long that free tier on Amazon would last if everyone could do it though ;-).

Akiva (user link) says:

Coordination, not Storage

The great value of Google Reader was NOT some type of Cloud storage – it’s coordination. How do I coordinate my content between my Android phone, my iPad, and my Windows laptop? For site reading, Google Reader did that for me – coordinating what had been read or not across different apps living in different environments. The problem was, being an open API, Google couldn’t figure out how to monetize it (most people using it as an API, not using Google’s web site interface). Same problem Twitter encountered and why they basically closed their API and bought the leading client developers.

So the question remains, not is remote storage cheaper than local – but how do I coordinate access to my content across my devices?


Re: Coordination, not Storage

Most of the problems regarding your use case are entirely artificial and driven by the fact that newer devices are treated like closed appliances. Trivial things with a PC become unnecessarily complex even with the more open mobile devices.

This “cloud” idea was commonplace among Unixen in the 80s and that’s what’s powering most of these new mobile devices.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Coordination, not Storage

Most of the problems regarding your use case are entirely artificial and driven by the fact that newer devices are treated like closed appliances. Trivial things with a PC become unnecessarily complex even with the more open mobile devices.

He’s not talking about complexity, but coordination. With his example of Google Reader, he’s not saying it’s great because otherwise it would be hard to do RSS on a phone. He’s saying it’s great because all his data are stored with Google, so that he can switch between different platforms seamlessly.

Nicolas (profile) says:

Google's Voice

How long now until the company screws millions of users by abandoning Google Voice? It has years since Voice innovation ceased, and promised features were never produced. (How many years has Google stated, as it still does in Settings, that outgoing caller id from forwarded phones “will be included soon”?)

There is a lot more churn among large businesses than most people recognize. Companies come and go. Which makes me uneasy about having my entire digital collection ripped as Apple Lossless.

Shiloh says:

Why we cannot trust the cloud

” If the data is stored elsewhere, and entirely in the control of the user, then you don’t need to trust the service provider nearly as much, but can dip in and test out different apps operating on the same data, and switch with ease. “

And that is why there will not be a change – the cloud is a commercial operation. Giving users the ease of using a different service is not in the best interest of the commercial operation.

ksc (profile) says:

Homogenous data structure not realistic

You can’t fully liberate data in the sense you imply for a few reasons.

Web services are what they are because they only try to REPRESENT our world with their particular data model as best they could. Like a map is not the territory itself. There are myriads of ways to do it. Those who do a good job in representation that best fit our human needs will succeed, like Google in general. But rightly or wrongly, Google judged that Reader is not doing a good representation job and wants to close it.

In their competition to service us, different Web services design DIFFERENT representational models through their database structure, and thus data structure CANNOT be fully homogenous or predetermined — as new services emerge, evolve, merge, and die. To be homogenous would have meant an all-knowing, prescient, centralized, entity/committee who can design upfront how the world ought to be represented — which is unrealistic, static, and non-innovative.

Finally, if one of the service providers found the best representation, they would want to keep it a trade secret (which is more moral than applying for a patent, ie, demanding government-granted monopoly), and would not want to share their understanding of customer psychology, much like any other business. That is their competitive advantage that helps them build a “homestead” on the database their customer generate. That is what they get in exchange for providing mostly “free” services. Why should they give it up?

Google is already quite enlightened to realize that their customers own their data, and is generous in revealing part of their database structure in the XML data output from their data liberation. But they are apparently confident enough about their control of the fine details, business philosophy, first-comer advantage, and continuous innovation, to still provide data liberation.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Homogenous data structure not realistic

I think you’re misstating what cloud computing is about. Any particular cloud application is not meant to model the world, just a very small bit of something. When you look at a particular problem domain, for example organizing a music library, there’s no reason there can’t be a standardized library format just like there are standardized file formats. The fact that most companies want to keep things closed and institute lock-in just means we must look to open initiatives or other non-corporate sources to develop these standards, not that it cannot happen.

ksc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Homogenous data structure not realistic

Granted, music file formats are mature and standardized enough for cloud service as it is usually defined.

I was commenting on Google Reader’s service that this article talks about. It is a reasonable question to ask: can we even call Reader service a cloud service?

The Reader service model was trying to emulate or even predict how we want to access and organize Web news. Perhaps the Facebook model, or part of its model, works better in channelling personal news. Perhaps Summly or part of Google Plus will work better. But can we even call such new agregator a “cloud” service?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Homogenous data structure not realistic

It is a reasonable question to ask: can we even call Reader service a cloud service?

I think so. My settings and statuses are stored on Google’s servers, so Reader is consistent across different devices for me. That’s more or less the epitome of cloud computing.

The Reader service model was trying to emulate or even predict how we want to access and organize Web news.

It doesn’t emulate anything, it IS how a user accesses and organizes news.

But can we even call such new agregator a “cloud” service?

If it works like Google Reader, yes. If it stores all your settings locally, no.

Ryan Hughes (profile) says:

Real Cloud Computing Examples

You make a fair number of valid points in your post… trouble is, you’re generalising.

Agreed, some providers lock you in, some providers will do what they want with your data, some providers do a bad job. However, you’re ignoring the massive benefits that cloud can offer when provided by the right provider.

A lot of the people commenting are thinking far too small-fry. Sure, a NAS drive with online access might be good for a tiny business; what about a multi-office business with 100 staff members spread around the world, all who need synchronised access to the company data on a secure, resilient, and redundant IT platform? Cloud computing is the perfect answer here (we know; we have real clients like this). What about a recruitment firm who needed an IT platform that could scale as quickly as possible without wasting money on future-proofing hardware and software purchases? Again, another example of a real client. What about organisations who need to refresh their IT, but can’t stump up ?100k upfront to buy new hardware or software? Cloud could be the answer.

Think bigger people. The cloud is here to stay, and is a booming market. Speak to the right provider who tailors a solution to your business, based on budget, needs, wants, and bandwidth, and you’ll see the benefits that cloud can offer your business.

Rant over 🙂


Quest Cloud Solutions Ltd

Andrew Caddik (user link) says:

Worries Of Cloud Computing Going To End

A number of people have already discouraged the progress in Cloud Computing, whether directly or indirectly. Perhaps they do not know that improvements are coming to existing technologies more quickly. Just consider Mumba Cloud, for example, which is a local Enterprise Social Network operating in Australia. This company is opening new doors for business communication in order to reduce the operational cost of business networks.

Kevin (profile) says:

Clouded issues

I agree. Cloud storage is about as solid as a cloud itself. It would have to go down as the biggest scam so far this century.
Having tried out several I have found I can send a parcel to the moon and back faster.
No one needs cloud. I can backup my office stuff to my home computer or any other off site system using a mere 56k dial up connection direct to the other remote computers faster than any Internet based system and it is 99% more secure and it cost pennies.

Sam (user link) says:

Truth? Or an unfortunate reality?

Very true, I guess the issue is the short term wins over the long term (i.e. storing information locally).

Perhaps with the rise of mass cloud apps (Dropbox, Amazon services ect) this will soon be a thing of the past?

Not sure this is of interest, but we actually just produced an infographic on the growth of cloud computing you can see it at (

Feel free to moderate that out if links aren’t allowed!


SortingHat (profile) says:

Wah wah wah. Regardless if you believe in the Christian version or the secular version the NWO is coming and this is one way it will happen.

These companies pushing it are all multi billion dollar globalist companies who feel they have no loyalty and will be the ones to jump onto the RFID spy chips technology if they feel it will be *safer* for them so they won’t lose their 4 mansions and 3 power boats.

The bible says it’s a man with a number but even without believing that prophecy it’s still pretty obvious where it’s going.

The Establishment which is actually various groups are afraid of giving up their programming. You sheeple are giving right in hook line and sinker.

When we have no more ture freedom I’m afraid everybody will be brainwashed and chant “Life is good!”

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