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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 http://markusklems.wordpress.com/.

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