Whither the cloud?

By Razib Khan | March 26, 2009 3:16 pm

New Nail in Google Cloud Coffin:

Here’s what Google fears: If its cloud-computing system crashes, or inadvertently lets companies view their rivals’ confidential documents all over the world, the entire system of cloud-based business-information processing collapses. Companies’ most precious secrets are leaked, as are government files; suddenly, your tax history is available for anyone to read. The world’s governments and businesses panic and come fleeing back to software that is embedded in individual computers, but not before incalculable damage is done to the modern economy and the privacy rights of ordinary citizens.
Lately, the latter scenario’s been getting a little more likely. Last year, Gmail crashed three times, and Google Docs, the service that migrates word-processing and spreadsheet documents onto the cloud, crashed in July. In February, the company’s gmail froze for several hours, right in the middle of the business day in Europe. Earlier this month, a small percentage of word-processing documents were made available to people who shouldn’t have access to them. If people can’t guarantee that their private documents will stay private, they may never join the cloud utopia.

“Too Big To Fail” anyone? When it comes to something like gaming I can envisage consoles disappearing. You might get angry if your cable service goes down, but it isn’t “mission critical.” If Google Docs becomes ubiquitous in the office it seems like it is very amenable to the Black Swan criticism.

  • Matthew Platte

    You’re familiar with spam, right? Much of that comes from compromised Windows PCs in ordinary people’s homes. Spam is thus a good illustration of one aspect of the Internet that gets overlooked too much: everyone can have their own server on the Internet. Indeed, I have several. And I still don’t fully understand the obsession with GMail and all things Googly.

  • jay

    The company I work for is quite leery of outsourcing data. Some machines exist on subcontractor’s sites, but the corporate IT maintains full control over them.
    Crashes, attacks, subversion… all these are very real risks.

  • bioIgnoramus

    Gosh, do you remember when “personal computers” really were personal?
    P.S. Now, young Khan, do you know that you are the subject of a Derbatribe? http://www.johnderbyshire.com/Opinions/RadioDerb/2009-03-20.html

  • http://madscientistjunior.blogspot.com Toaster

    The department I work for has a research data cloud where all the labs can offsource their data. The server farm, from what I understand, is in house and has physical tape backups. Data is too expensive to make to lose.

  • http://www.libertypages.com/cgw Clark Goble

    There are good reasons to use “cloud computer” (man I hate that name – what happened to client-server?) However relying wholly on it can be a disaster (IMO). I think being able to work offline is a huge benefit.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    There are good reasons to use “cloud computer” (man I hate that name – what happened to client-server?) However relying wholly on it can be a disaster (IMO). I think being able to work offline is a huge benefit.
    yeah. it seems that even laptops (e.g., netbooks) are now so cheap that you can have it both ways.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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