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Cloud Computing is a Developer-Facing Business

Cloud Computing, Data Protection and the German Mindset

Markus Klems' Blog

Cloud Computing is not so much about SaaS (people already use Webmail, Google Docs, Salesforce, etc.). It is about virtualized hardware resources provided for developers as services on a pay-per-use basis. I do not understand how people can seriously argue they won’t go into the Cloud. They are already there.

A recent article about Cloud Computing in the German weekly ZEIT made me think of a blog post of mine on data security in the cloud. Although the article is quite positive and describes Cloud Computing as a disruptive technology that will have a huge impact on the IT world, what really caught my interest were the comments: they were very skeptical. I will translate (and eventually summarize) some of the opinions:

#1 Comment (blariog)

Schäuble [German Minister of Interior] and other surveillance fanatics will be pleased: All they have to do is go into a data center a quickly scan the data. Then we don’t even need the Bundestrojaner [refers to a law that gives the German Ministry of Interior the right to infect private computers with a trojan horse in order to collect data for criminal prosecution] any more.

And CIA, KGB, FSB & Co. can conduct industrial espionage whenever they want - Brave new world.

#2 Comment (toucheturtle) [Short summary]

Companies won’t trust Google with their data. This is why only few companies use Google Apps. The data must be encrypted on the server but then it would not be feasible to use them in an application.

#5 Comment (whauertmann) [Short summary]

The scenario is unrealistic. Mobile devices are turning into more and more complex machines. A more realistic scenario would be that these devices are interconnected and share their storage and processing capacity. [...]

#7 Comment (discha)

We have already had the same discussion a couple of years ago with the Net PC. This vision did not come true and I think Cloud Computing won’t either. The trend is towards more security, not less.

#9 Comment (Chemical Brother) [Short summary]

What about gaming? People will still need a PC for that (not a fan of console games).

#22 Comment (blurred) [Short summary]

The analogy to water and electric utilities is very superficial. People have turned from a decentralized water supply system to a centralized one due to water quality. With respect to the electric grid the question is whether a decentralized system would not be a better solution for the future. For computers this means, a P2P model would make much more sense. [...]

[... and so on ...]

I counted 29 negative comments, 11 neutral or off-topic and 2-3 more or less positive ones.

The main critique points:

1. No trust in Cloud Computing

The critique focuses on data protection and security concerns. Either people say that they don’t trust the Cloud Computing provider or they argue that an attacker might compromise their Cloud Computing account (or the Ministry of Interior might go and get your data).

2. There are better ways to deliver computing capacity

Other voices point to different mechanisms to realize Utility Computing, like sharing resources across different machines, devices, organizations, etc. (similar to P2P and Grid Computing).

My objections

Most comments name some valid points but seem prejudiced towards the Cloud. It is true, the Internet is insecure (due to design decisions from the early days, when other things were more important, like end-to-end communication, connection of heterogeneous networks, robustness, fate-sharing, etc.). But we do use the Internet today, and many people already store masses of pictures online, use E-Mail communication and Instant Messaging, Online Banking, and so on. I do not understand how people can seriously argue they won’t go into the Cloud. They are already there.

Imho this shows a big misunderstanding of Cloud Computing. It is not so much about SaaS (people already use Webmail, Google Docs, Salesforce, etc.). It is about virtualized hardware resources provided for developers as services on a pay-per-use basis. Cloud Computing is a developer-facing business.

More Stories By Markus Klems

Markus Klems is a research assistant at Germany-based FZI Research Center for Information Technology. His main areas of interests are cloud computing, grids, distributed programming and agile Web development - the technological point of view as well as business models. He blogs at

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Most Recent Comments
MiamiWebDesigner 08/22/08 08:52:45 AM EDT

Kudos to the Cloud Crowd for Re-Inventing the Wheel!

One thing 30 years in the IT industry has taught me is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Another is that the only memory we seem to access is short-term. A third is that techno-marketeers rely on that, so they can put labels like "revolutionary" and "innovative" on platforms, products and services that are mere re-inventions of the wheel ... and often poor copies at that.

A good example is all the latest buzz about "Cloud Computing" in general and "SaaS" (software as a service) in particular:

Both terms are bogus. The only true cloud computing takes place in aircraft. What they're actually referring to by "the cloud" is a large-scale and often remotely and/or centrally managed hardware platform. We have had those since the dawn of automated IT. IBM calls them "mainframes":

The only innovation offered by today's cloud crowd is actually more of a speculation, i.e. that server farms can deliver the same solid performance as Big Iron. And even that's not original. Anyone remember Datapoint's ARCnet, or DEC's VAXclusters? Whatever happened to those guys, anyway...?

And as for SaaS, selling the sizzle while keeping the steak is a marketing ploy most rightfully accredited to society's oldest profession. Its first application in IT was (and for many still is) known as the "service bureau". And I don't mean the contemporary service bureau (mis)conception labelled "Service 2.0" by a Wikipedia contributor whose historical perspective is apparently constrained to four years:

Instead, I mean the computer service bureau industry that spawned ADAPSO (the Association of Data Processing Service Organizations) in 1960, and whose chronology comprises a notable part of the IEEE's "Annals of the History of Computing":

So ... for any of you slide rule-toting, pocket-protected keypunch-card cowboys who may be just coming out of a fifty-year coma, let me give you a quick IT update:

1. "Mainframe" is now "Cloud" (with concomitant ethereal substance).

2. "Terminal" is now "Web Browser" (with much cooler games, and infinitely more distractions).

3. "Service Bureau" is now "Saas" (but app upgrades are just as painful, and custom mods equally elusive).

4. Most IT buzzwords boil down to techno-hyped BS (just as they always have).

Bruce Arnold, Web Design Miami Florida

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