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Taking stock on cloud

By September 30, 2008 8 Comments

There is a lot of hype around cloud at the moment – so much so that a couple of industry bigwigs have recently felt the need to take the heat out (and if ever there was a time for bursting bubbles, this is it….).

As reported in the Guardian Larry Ellison has criticised the recent rash of cloud announcements as “fashion-driven” and “complete gibberish” – and as if that wasn’t enough, he then just started to get funny (again from the Guardian):

“The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do,” he said. “The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?”

Open source guru Richard Stallman is more structured in his criticism of cloud.  He said (again as reported in the Guardian):

cloud computing was simply a trap aimed at forcing more people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that would cost them more and more over time.

Somebody is saying this is inevitable – and whenever you hear somebody saying that, it’s very likely to be a set of businesses campaigning to make it true.

What should make of all this?

For me, whilst there is undoubtedly a lot of hype around cloud right now, that is because it offers something genuinely new, and something better than we’ve had before.  I will come back to this another time, but in essence it is a much more flexible and cost effective way of managing infrastructure for certain classes of application.

Turning to the points of Ellison and Stallman, they are right in the sense that cloud isn’t yet right for everything and probably never will be.  But in the case of Ellison you have to note he has his own axe to grind – Oracle is at heart an enterprise software business – and Stallman is using a privacy argument in what is really an infrastructure debate.  It is perfectly possible to have cloud based apps which allow users to retain ownership and control of their own data – true Gmail doesn’t do this – but many other web apps do.