We're Missing The Point Of The Cloud: It's Not Supposed To Be Locked To A Single Service

from the where-are-my-apis? dept

In the last few months now, we've had the launch of Amazon's, Google's and now Apple's "music locker" services. There are some key differences there, but all of them involve storing music collections in the so-called "cloud." But here's the thing: none of these actually match the promise of what "the cloud" is supposed to be. Rather, each involves online storage and lock-in to a particular vendor. I made this point back when Amazon launched its offering. I already back up all my (yes, legal and authorized) music via a mountable "cloud" drive using S3. Then I can access all of that music using any music player I want. With Amazon's and Google's offerings, the streaming only can occur via its own streaming service. In fact, the ultimate in ridiculousness was that I had to re-upload some songs to Amazon's music locker, rather than just point it at my S3 drive -- which is run by Amazon as well! At least with Apple's the focus seems to be syncing the music on various devices, but with Apple's control over the platform, it seems likely that for most people this still will effectively restrict usage to Apple applications.

I absolutely understand why this is happening, and am sure that the labels would positively freak out if someone had offered a cloud service that you could point any application to. But, really, when we're talking about "the cloud" and it involves this kind of lockup, it's important to remember that we're really not seeing some of the key features that the whole concept of "the cloud" is supposed to enable. Yes, we're seeing the remote storage and the access from anywhere type features, but not the ability to access information and data with different services. And, of course, once you could access such info with different services, you could see some real innovation start to occur around that information, including unique services for sharing and combining playlists, and making music a lot more social. At some point that will come, but, until then, these offerings are nice, yet hardly demonstrate what the technology really could do if it were unshackled.

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  1. icon
    crade (profile), 7 Jun 2011 @ 2:27pm

    I thought the cloud was just the new buzzword for dumb terminal + internet. I certainly never got the impression from any of the ads or services available that use the buzzword that it meant they were going to allow free access from all types of devices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2011 @ 3:06pm


    You're assuming executives have the same interpretation of the word cloud as the systems guys, or the public. It's a buzzword now, like synergy and "out of the box."

    I threw a click-counter app on my phone at the last trade show I went to. I got up to 4500 clicks just on the word cloud in presentations before it was over. None of them were describing the same things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Liam (profile), 7 Jun 2011 @ 3:08pm


    So you've not heard the "your files, any where, any time, any device" like promises?

    The problem I have with "the cloud" is that none of the "cloud" companies actually fit the definition they gave "the cloud", they just fit file upload services, the same that's been around for a very long time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Lisa Westveld (profile), 7 Jun 2011 @ 3:09pm

    I know why!

    In case you wonder, in many European countries it's possibly a crime or misdemeanor to store privacy-sensitive information on servers outside Europe if the company is located within Europe. Privacy laws are extremely strict here, thus having useful data of e.g. your customers, their orders and even which color they prefer is all classified. As a result, it is made more difficult for companies to use cloud applications for these kinds of purposes so you end up with Cloud databases with data that's not privacy-sensitive...
    Danmark recently even forbade the use of Google Apps for administrative applications involving customer data... See http://www.linklaters.com/Publications/Publication1403Newsletter/TMT_Newsletter_March_2011/Pages/04_ Denmark_Cloud_Brought_Down_Earth.aspx

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Chris Rhodes (profile), 7 Jun 2011 @ 3:23pm

    Roll Your Own

    Have a spare PC? Get Subsonic.

    Great program for streaming your content over the net.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2011 @ 3:25pm


    I get the same impression. I realize what most consumers want the cloud to be, but what is being pursued is definitely a dumb-terminal type system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Jay (profile), 7 Jun 2011 @ 3:25pm

    So how is it that Evernote seems to escape their notice?

    Or is it possible we haven't seen a viable cloud service that works as intended because of these (false) concerns?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    John Doe, 7 Jun 2011 @ 3:26pm

    Good ole fashioned vendor lock-in

    What we are seeing is good ole fashioned vendor lock-in. The cloud has a ways to go before it gets my data. First is the security issue. I want full encryption where only I have the key. Then I don't want to be locked in to a single vendor. And finally I don't want DRM/licensing hassels.

    I admit though, I am using Dropbox with an encrypted file to store some data so I can get it synced between my laptop and PC. So far I love it, but I am using Truecrypt to encrypt a file where I would rather have the whole cloud drive encrypted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2011 @ 3:36pm


    for all occasions, there is an XKCD:


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2011 @ 3:45pm

    Re: "Cloud."

    It always was jsut a buzzword. "The cloud" is nothing more than a return to the old client-server days of heavy iron that people access with dumb terminals.

    There are advantages to that model, of course. There are also large disadvantages, which is why it was ditched as soon as technology made that possible.

    One of the primary disadvantages is that you lose control of your own data. You're entrusting it to third parties. You trust the third parties will go to bat for you against others who make even the flimsiest of legal claims to access or remove your data. You trust that the fees being charged won't get jacked up in the future. You trust that you'll be able to get your data back out without a lot of pain. You trust that your provider will respect you and the integrity of your data.

    Given the history of big companies, there's not a single item in that list that I can honestly say I can trust any single one of them about.

    Besides, the consumer advantages of "the cloud" can be easily replicated by just about anyone for a couple of hundred bucks, using their own server and a bit of free software. So you can have the good stuff without having to trust anything beyond yourself and your hardware.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2011 @ 3:59pm

    Eventually, Google or Apple or "Mr. Cloud" will terminate the service of a person or company that has significant investment in their cloud, and they can't get access to that data, to a person, etc.

    What is the contingency plan for these companies that now hold so much of our data that the removal of said data can greatly impact someone's life?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    John Doe, 7 Jun 2011 @ 4:07pm


    Exactly. Do you get at least a 10 day notice you are being cutoff so you can get a copy of your files back on your own machine?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2011 @ 4:50pm

    The promise of the cloud was never every device or every vendor

    None of the "cloud services" promised every device. One of the goals is every device. Google Music, Amazon Cloud Store, etc require that you play through their web page, or other device that supports their method of access.

    You can still use Google Music on a PC running Windows, or a Mac, or your friend's computer with your own credentials. Same with Amazon, same with most cloud services. If you have a browser that supports HTML and Javascript, you can run Gmail, not just with Google's browser. If your devices supports the access, then you can use it. If your vendor never went through the trouble to write something that would allow the device to support the service, that's a reason not to buy it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    SteelWolf (profile), 7 Jun 2011 @ 5:16pm

    Re: Roll Your Own

    Thanks for that link, I've been looking for something exactly like that for a while now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    AdamR (profile), 7 Jun 2011 @ 5:18pm

    The one thing I'm surprised nobody has bought up is; with mobile carriers and eventually local ISP's trying to move people to tiered service plans what effect will this have on cloud based services. I mean we are looking at storing hundreds of megabytes if not gigabytes worth of data to this cloud thing and having multiple devices access it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Louis, 7 Jun 2011 @ 5:21pm

    It's smoke...

    It's not a cloud, it's smoke, and you know where they're blowing it?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2011 @ 10:23pm

    actually, it's not cloud they're offering...it's actually a prison, considering limited or specific access only (visiting time) and the high wall preventing the files (inmates) going to other service (the outside).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    abc gum, 8 Jun 2011 @ 4:37am

    Re: Good ole fashioned vendor lock-in

    What happens when a service goes out of business ... its users have a set amount of time to transfer all their valuable data elsewhere. If they have lots of data and live under a cap it will be expensive. Best to backup your data yourself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Nick Coghlan (profile), 8 Jun 2011 @ 7:00am

    Re: Re:

    The vendors that get cloud service right operate on a "wherever you go, there you are" type of mentality.

    Sometimes that is achieved via "dumb terminal" status (i.e. web apps), other times it is achieved via automatic client synchronisation (e.g. Firefox Sync, Dropbox, over the air Google Calendar/Contact sync to a smartphone). Some services (such as Dropbox or the Calendar/Contact example) mix the two modes - you can use the web app *or* the smart client as you choose.

    The principle missing component is direct service-to-service transfers for large files (as opposed to the dumb download+reupload approach typically needed now).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    aikiwolfie (profile), 8 Jun 2011 @ 8:35am

    Missing the point of the cloud?

    Actually I think people have been stupidly naive if they thought the large corporations and lobbyists would let them use the "cloud" to move their data around without restriction. It was never going to happen. If everybody could do that the big 4 record companies would never have gotten $150 million upfront from Apple.

    The really sad thing is all of these music locker services can be replicated with a bit of web space and a secure ftp server. Instant mountable network storage solution you can access anywhere.

    Even better. We can set all of this up from home. The likes of D-Link allow consumers to register a URL that will always point to their router and by extension their very own server at home. You can take your music with you anywhere you go for the cost of broadband + electricity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    DannyB (profile), 8 Jun 2011 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re:

    Like the geek warnings (ignored) that Amazon could retroactively remove DRM'ed content from your Kindle, it will take some major losses, followed by media coverage for the masses to wake up to the problem you point out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    DannyB (profile), 8 Jun 2011 @ 9:13am

    Vendor lock in

    While each vendor's system and its native app are tightly integrated, I'm not sure how you are locked in to a vendor (eg, Amazon, Google)

    If more cloud services were to emerge (which the RIAA will try to prevent) what would stop you from using more than one?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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