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Fool Blog: Cloud Computing Is Inevitable

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"It's stupidity. It's worse than stupidity: it's a marketing hype campaign. 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."

So said Richard Stallman, open-source advocate and founder of the Free Software Foundation, about cloud computing.


A turn of phrase, twisted
Let's deconstruct his assertion for a moment. First, there's a bias here. Stallman is an open-source advocate and creator of the GNU operating system. He's also widely credited as the principal architect of the GNU General Public License, which is at the heart of most open-source software. Think of him as a freedom fighter for software, whose enemies are makers of closed systems. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , notably.

Second, he's right about the hype. Far too many claim to offer cloud computing services, which means that the few who really do -- Microsoft, IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , and EMC (NYSE: EMC  ) , for example -- don't get the credit that they should.

Such is the circle of life in software; every Next Big Thing has experienced it, including Stallman's beloved open-source movement. A search for "hype" and "open-source software" returns more than 400,000 results. Does that mean we should reduce the open-source rebellion to a marketing campaign, created for the benefit of Red Hat (NYSE: RHT  ) and SourceForge? No, of course not.

OK, I'll say it
The same logic applies to cloud computing. It is, in fact, an astoundingly good idea that's anything but perfect. Ceding local control of data means trusting faraway servers to be secure. It also means trusting that service providers will take the proper steps to keep services available. Good work is being done in both areas.

Control is the issue, Stallman says. Fair enough. I even agree; as a user, I should be fairly compensated for allowing a service provider access to my data. Cloudy upstarts that get this will flourish. Those that don't, won't.

Either way, cloud computing is still the best technology I've ever seen. It connects people in ways closed desktop systems never have. And if we've learned anything from the history of computing, it's that systems are made more powerful when people are connected to them. Cloud computing enables connectivity like no other technology before it.

That's why it is inevitable.

More bloggy Foolishness:

Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of IBM at the time of publication. He hunts for the best of tech as a contributor to Motley Fool Rule Breakers. Here's how to try this market-beating service free for 30 days. Get access to all of Tim's Foolish writings here.

Apple and Amazon are Stock Advisor selections. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is on cloud nine today.

Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (3)

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  • Report this Comment On October 01, 2008, at 12:32 PM, scorp1us wrote:

    Bah, You don't understand "cloud computing". It is just "grid computing" re-branded. They've been selling it for years, but to no one. There are problems with cloud computing:

    First, lack of a standard algorithm exchange - we need a way to tell the cloud what code to run. This will create several configuration problems because the cloud has to be 100% identical.

    Second, the data exchange has to be efficient - that is small amounts of data which take a long time to process. Animations involving 3D models fit this description. Next, you need results in a timely manner, and your work flow has to have peaks and valleys that don't justify leasing your own hardware.

    Third, the data processing has to be paralleled - the work must be able to be split between different machines. Rendering an animation works because each processor can work on its own frame. However, if your code path isn't highly parallel, you wind up with a sequential process that can't be split.

    Fourth, data confidentiality has to be assured.

    Fifth, when you add another processor, your maximum efficiency is not a a linear function. With 2 processors on a task, you only get a speedup of 150% (1.5 effective processors, assuming 99% parallel code.)

    There are so few tasks that can be successfully offloaded. Really what you are seeing are attempts by those with server farms to sell their off-peak and idle times so someone else pays for their servers. Its the latest buzzword, it will pass because there are so few applications for it. I do think it would be nice to offload work at peak times, but the technical hurdles are high. Sorry Charlie.

  • Report this Comment On October 01, 2008, at 12:54 PM, oddvan wrote:

    I call BS.

    I have heard this thin client stuff for at least 20 years. Ever since since we pulled away from the VACs every couple of years someone talks about the "network is the computer" BS.

    Cloud computing is just some buzz to try and get more money .

    Most of the benefit is sharing work and information not resources and as such most of the benefits can be had cheaply with a handful of servers and tools.

    We will see these tools grow improve and become seemless. There will be not huge change in the way things are done now and there will be no massive industry shifts.

    This is just an improvment of existing standards little more.

  • Report this Comment On October 01, 2008, at 2:45 PM, scorp1us wrote:

    Over at Slashdot, someone asked about cloud computing, I thought I'd share the responses:

    "Please don't use it. Every time you use a buzz-phrase God kills a kitten."

    "It's a term invented by idiot managers who saw all those diagrams where the wider internet is represented by a picture of a cloud and were too stupid to grasp the concept of a representative diagram, so they took the picture of the cloud to be literal, and now there is an entire generation of managers who have an image of electrons flying around the sky. They confusion they suffer is only exacerbated when there's a thunderstorm and they hear the word "torrent" to describe the rain, thinking that the storm is the result of those damned P2P users."

    "Unless your "cloud" provider offers a service level guarantee with teeth, is contractually obligated to continue to provide the service for some period of time, and has sound financial fundamentals, this is risky."

    These quotes are from the geeks you'd be hiring to get the cloud to work for you. When they talk like this, this means stay away. Stay far away.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2009, at 3:18 PM, K1100LT wrote:

    I have a question---- I live in the sticks, the only time I have hi speed is when @ work. This is true of many of my friends-- I can not see this form of computing being available to us in a long-long-long time

    Thanks for taking your time with this.

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