back to article Any clouds in your sky?

When the BBC features a cloud computing piece on its news bulletin (28 October), you know the hype is beginning to bite. But does the idea have substance or was Microsoft's Azure announcement just a handy lead-in to the weather on a slow news day? The broadcasters made it sound so easy. Containers full of servers and all the …


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  1. Stephen Sherry

    I only know of one reasonable use for cloud computing...

    I only know of one reasonable use for cloud computing on a large scale, and that's with MMO(RPGWXYZ) servers. Times such as when a "sub-server" is not necessary, it wouldn't even need to be loaded and can save resources for where users actually need decent response times. Perhaps educational servers, or web site that are literally HUGE (I don't think they exist unless you count the whole internet). Of course the obvious thing to most of us is that if MS servers weren't so unstable, there wouldn't be a need for virtual ones, becuase when a hardware system goes down in a stable environment, you don't want more than one service to be effected if necessary, or in future cases, entire web services going down for those who don't have the millions to have server warehouses with multiple blades running multiple virtual servers that spread across multiple servers to manage load. Who exactly need this yet besides the ones who already use it? I honestly have no idea. But as long as IT management continue to be migrated across from HR departments with the "anyone can manage IT" mentality, we'll continue to be overwhelmed with hype and bells and whistles, while functionality, efficiency, and reliability are sacrificed.

    But hey, why break a trend :P It's not like the economy can't handle it, IT is full of cash <-(sarcasm) The great Moore's law will solve it all, along with world peace and world hunger, and the vacuous debt void the governments keep tossing money into. The future isn't bleak, it's just stupid.

  2. Jim Coleman
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    So I move all my data onto a cloud server and select a number of apps to use - Office, Photoshop etc. I start paying, I dunno, £20 a month or so to use all the space, the apps and the CPU/memory grunt, all done over a (hopefully) very secure and (probably) very slow connection over the net.

    And then when my ISP's network goes down, I can't do any work. When the Cloud Service Provider's servers go titsup, I can't do any work. When their own ISP goes down, I can't do any work. When their SAN goes haywire and it turns out their backups weren't working, I lose all my data. When I finally decide I'm fed up with paying £20 a month, I lose all my data.

    Yeah, I can go for that. No, really.


    Head in the clouds?

    Why would anyone with a choice hand their private data, and processing requirements to a third party?

    Especially given the Governments inability to protect personal information, BT's complete failure to provide a private/secure UK communication infrastructure, the private sector's eagerness to buy/sell/swap any and all personal information about people, and the ICO staff apparently too confused by all this complicated modern computery stuff, and Richard Thomas wringing his hands over the surveillance society.

    Cloud computing is *utter* nonsense. Its the emperor's new clothes. Its the next dot com bubble.

    Stallman has it about right; "Do your own computing on your own computer... You're putty in the hands of whoever developed that software".

    I'll get my coat, because its real, it has substance, and it provides more protection than the ICO.

  4. Max


    I am planning to develop real applications on Azure with SDS and .NET. I got a CTP invitation and am playing around with it now and working on navigating through all the preview-level nightmares that typically comes with an alpha level release of this scale. Documentation is sparse and I've had to cautiously install lots of 'This code is not trusted' sort of things to get it to work just on my dev environment. Hopefully soon I will have something worthwhile to post to the CTP hosted environment, and it will most likely be accompanied with a CodeProject or similar article of lessons learned, what to do, and what not to do.

    So far as I can tell, SaaS will work very nicely through Azure.

    Concerning sensitive data being hosted in the cloud, if it is held with a respected host (MS/Google/SalesForce/Amazon), I don't see small to medium biz minding too much about it because the cost tradeoff is enormous. As for the enterprise, they might be a bit more cautious and have the cash and infrastructure to host in house anyway, so I don't see it catching on for enterprise critical apps anytime soon.

  5. Adam Collett
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    Thin client?

    Isn't this going round in circles a bit - use servers/web for stuff you need access to from wherever, use your machine for the personal stuff that you don't want others to see. I really don't see a future in "The Cloud" as it will take too much effort to supply the services that are required, imagine trying to get ALL applications onto the Cloud - that's what businesses and individuals will want.

    There is mileage in having your DATA available anywhere, but applications? Why?

    Also in the UK with the already overstretched broadband/internet access there are going to be bandwidth problems as well.

    If you can run it locally, do. If you need access to data - whack it on a secure server or web host - but running the apps over the internet with effectively a dumb terminal at the end? Why?

    We stopped doing it years ago - connectivity goes down, you loose the LOT, all your apps, all your services etc etc - not good for your business, and then who is to blame, hmm ISP's are going to love THAT clause in their contract - "Due to lack of service we were unable to do any work at all, therefore we are suing you, Mr ISP, for loss of money/business"

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    clouds in our sky..

    We make a software PBX platform based on Asterisk. Normally we install stand alone dell boxes on customer sites. Sites are typically 20 to 250 users/extensions.

    A local hosting provider has invested squillions in a HP Blade / VMware cloud platform. Thought we give it a try and deploy our PBX system into a virtual server on it.

    Didn't expect much in the way of results to be honest.

    So guess what? - works like a dream. Complete enterprise PBX with all the trimings. In a could. Fantastic. Have just completed the first commerical roll out this week. Customer has 10 sites, each with a hardware PBX. Not any more...a single system with baby VPN routers on each site for the handsets to connect back.

    Big wins for us are:

    no more server hardware to support (major headache gone)

    no more standby PBX systems required (VMware image can be restored through a web console in less then 15 mins)

    much cheaper for customer in long term

    server can be beefed up through a control panel

    used to take us 4 hours to install and build a PBX (inc OS install). - now takes 30 mins!

    If you make so sell software systems for a living then worth investigating..

    so, yeah...thumbs up!!!!

  7. Jerome
    Thumb Up

    Google AppEngine

    I've been playing with Google's AppEngine for a while, on my own time rather than for work purposes. I had a couple of projects I wanted to try and get online, and AppEngine is (in typical Google style) free until your page gets popular, so I couldn't resist having a bit of a play.

    I'm pretty impressed with the platform. The tutorials are good, and there's a decent community to help out with queries. I managed to get a simple test page online within an hour, even while trying to wrap my head around Python (which I'd never used before).

    The database architecture is probably the most interesting aspect, it pretends to be SQL-like in syntax but under the bonnet it's very different. You have to unlearn everything you know about relational database design in order to create something that will scale past a few users.

    I do share other posters' qualms about putting my data in "the cloud". I wouldn't trust business critical systems to it until Google backs it up with a solid service level agreement. But for a beta service it's pretty damn reliable, and the team always responds quickly to issues.

    Overall, I really like the concept, and Google seems to do it well (although I've never tried the competition). I hate the term "cloud computing" though - it's just web hosting that scales automatically, no fancy name required, but I guess it's too late to put that genie back in the bottle.

  8. amanfromMars Silver badge

    The System is Bust .... Replace it with AI Beta One*

    In a nut shell, if the Network is the Computer, the Cloud is ITs Server. And it is an inescapable fact, that Command and Control in the Cloud is Untouchable Power on the Ground which is why it is of such Interest to the SMARTer Military Defence Force ....... because from Clouds you can Rain on anyone's Parade with AI Universal Virtual Force.

    So yes, it is as well to realise that it is a reality, which to be honest, is so important that you couldn't hype it enough. However, such is the Complexity of the Network InterNetworking InfraStructure and so Sensitive are the Tools available for Ground Control that you may only get to know a fraction of what is, even now being done to ....... well, Secure and Deny to Foe is always First on many Lists ... for IT delivers Monopoly Advantage.

    Cloud Control Controls Everything Effortlessly and Anonymously with Perfect Stealth. And that is only considered as Hype by those who are Grounded. Others know of ITs Awesome Potential and will invariably say little more than that, because of their Work.

    And what you can be sure of too, is that the more sceptics raise their voice, the more the Cloud Controllers consolidate their Advantage by Virtual Stealth. And IT will Deliver a whole New System of AI Leadership provided by Global IT Programmers ... with politicians assisting Civil Servants or being extraordinarily rendered redundant/unnecessary.

    I imagine even now that the Civil Service and the Country could function better without them given the parlous State that politicians have led everyone into.

    * It is not as if cash is a problem with billions being invented and spirited away just whenever we choose .......

  9. Paul Miller

    Cloud Computing works... but moving isn't always easy

    David. Some interesting points.

    Something I've tried to dig into a bit (for example at ) is the question of whether or not traditional software businesses can make the transition. The pain may be more financial than technological for them, of course...

  10. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Cloud computing? Feh

    If I were going to use a cloud, I'd use something closer to Amazon's, where it's relatively standard (you run a VM with what you'd like in it), to one where like I have to do everything in Python or some particular programming language.

    That said, I'm not that excited about it overall. I think I'll just leave it at that.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yep use the cloud

    Not the all singing integrated Microsoft version, but at a practical level I guess I'm cloud-computing. I use different computers in different countries and different contexts (eg Mac for browsing while watching TV, PC for programming, PDA for catching up on news). I can turn up at an office anywhere and just log-on. Email is on IMAP so available where ever. Data is backed up to one or more webservers. Contact details are being shared via a private social networking app which is accessible by mobile phone if needs be - could be online CRM if needs be. A bunch of other tools are available online for multiple access by different people in different modes (eg subversion, but other tools as well). I can have local copies when I need it and so not worry about slow connections or ISPs being down and just dip in. Yes security and reliability are issues, but if you have a team working on documents over a long distance, editing on the fly while talking on Skype with everyone seeing and sharing a live document (F5 refresh to get the latest version) can't be beat.

    You might say corporates already have this, but for us small businesses this is just perfect. I don't even need to take my own PC with me to keep working.

  12. Jerome

    @ Henry Wertz

    At the risk of sounding like a Google shill, the whole beauty of AppEngine is that you don't have to set up specific VMs, it's all handled transparently. As for Python, support for other languages is currently in the pipeline. I think the Amazon setup is probably more mature at this stage, having been around for a bit longer, but my money's definitely on Google in the long run.

  13. dave bunce

    microsoft at it again

    a long long time microshaft tried to get, what was then thin-client computing in the field , that would have meant charging people for usage . That failed .

    Now as the sales of Microshaft products have gone thru down thew pan ( check out VISTSA Sales) and there are many FREE antlernatives, microshaft again has come up with a 'bright' idea, to charge customers for 'renting' space on thier servers, and likely to 'rent' applications

    Lol the market goes round in circles, once again

    PS in a lot of cases the FREE products are less buggey, more reliable the the MICROSHAFT ones !

  14. Doug
    Thumb Up

    The Cloud is good

    Azure has some warts, but it is at alpha. The concept of storing your data both locally, so you can work on it when the network is down, and in the cloud is compelling. If you are worried about sensitive data, either don't put it in the cloud (most companies have tons of public info) or encrypt it (it's simple to add that step to a .NET app).

    Save your data center for your core biz.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @ Yep use the cloud

    Yep, me too - music is on mp3tunes (until they get sued out of existence), photos are on smugmug, emails are on fastmail, contacts are on Plaxo, bookmarks with delicious and docs are with google - all tied up with a Netvibes homepage. All available locally on my MacBook using iTunes, iPhoto,, Address book, Firefox & gears. A bit of manual synchronisation required sometimes, but wherever I am working or staying, I have access to everything. Suits me perfectly!

  16. Kilham
    Black Helicopters

    What's in a name...

    Hmm clouds - clouds in the sky - networks in the sky.....

    I for one will welcome our new Terminating AI overlords.

  17. John Brookmyre

    Because you'll always have clouds...

    To echo the positive comments above I think cloud computing has awesome potential! Check out here to find out more about Amazon's proposition,

  18. Sabahattin Gucukoglu

    Moving Personal Email

    I need somewhere to put my domain's email, which is basically just me and for purely personal use. There's nothing critical - if my connection goes down (I rather doubt Google will ...) I can probably wait. I'm looking at Google Apps, which is quite exciting really. If it doesn't work, and I need my other services as well and can't compromise, I'll look into a Zen VM somewhere like the Spring Server(TM) now does.

    I want "Cloud Computing" primarily because I think I have other things in life to do now besides worry about my aging Pentium-II Linux server. I don't want to be here when it breaks down. I'd sooner be without the anxiety which hurt the last time I had a couple of disk failures at bad times, and email is really quite important to me. It should still work whatever happens. Better to make it somebody else's problem as long as they get my money and I'm pleased, and I'll start worrying again when I'm employed or can take or want to take it back on again. And in the meantime I can do the moving ISP/house thing or whatever.



    PS: If you pay Google they guarantee you an SLA - it's £25/user/year (not counting aliases and mailing lists) (just a multi-destination alias, not a real Google group). There is a free offering. Start here:

  19. Donald grim

    cloud bunk..Hummmmmm heard it befor...

    So give up your data to dumbo and his clowns????? I wonder who will be held accountabl when Duffus the proggie maker wipes yoru data ..cuzz fatso got the big time codeing

    job and he didn't...Hey lets just sell your data to your can't be that hard

    to craft a user agreement to take ownership of any uploaded data..It is our server after all.

    MAN I GOT TA GET ME ONE RUNNIN.....I smell suckers all Quads....After we screw them we'll just send them a corrupted disk and say they botched it..there data is lost...pitty

  20. Greg Fawcett
    Thumb Up

    Compelling Platform

    I'm another Appengine Kool-Aid drinker, but I'm still very much alive. My company has provided web apps on it's own Linux servers for years, and I know the cost of scaling a popular app - in terms of dollars, stress and customer dissatisfaction.

    So when one of the more reputable (well last year, anyway!) online giants offers to host my apps on a platform with scalablilty and redundancy I can only dream of, and at a cost far less than hosting it on a single server, I give it a whirl. There are definitely challenges in moving from an RDBMS to Google's data store, but so far they have been surmountable, and still easier than designing an app for a scalable database system.

    Python, once you've taken the plunge, is excellent. Efficient, logical, concise and readable - the code is practically self-documenting, reducing costs and making maintenance a pleasure.

    We are currently completing testing of our first major appengine application, which has gone well - the platform has performed perfectly. We expect this one to be fairly big, generating most of the revenue for our company next year, and for once there is no trepidation about how fast it grows.

    We have some gripes - currently there is a quota system in place which limits resource usage, effectively cancelling the scalability benefits. This should disappear when the billing system arrives, which hopefully will be in the next couple of months. If something goes seriously wrong, it will be very frustrating that the only support is a user group, hopefully Google will provide better support for paying customers.

    As far as fears about giving your data to Google, I'm fairly sure the only access they will have (or want to have) is via the good old Googlebot, checking our public pages. It's a little like the phone company - we all know they could listen to our calls, but anyone who has worked for a telco knows that they can't be bothered - the value of any information they could reap is far out-weighed by the cost of gathering it.

    Only time will tell, but to date the Kool-Aid tastes very refreshing.

  21. Greg

    Clouds are Enterprise tools

    The current kerfuffle around Clouds is temporary while the press catches up. Just because Google and Amazon are marketing the crap out of their solutions, Corporates have been building their own Clouds for the last three years. Mostly based around VMware and looking a lot like Amazon EC3, we just don't talk about it much.

    Cloud Computing is all about rebuilding corporate data centers, the vendors are using the current 'online clouds' as free marketing while they finish off their management tools.

  22. Britt Johnston

    after outsourcing

    Those who buy the outsourcing story will go for clouds, too, for seamless exchange between themselves and their partners.

    Pain? What pain?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Is it Cloud Computing if...

    Could somebody tell me is it "cloud computing" if the data and apps are all stored on your own servers internally and are accessed across the private network?

    Or is that just called using Thin Clients??

    Cloud seems to imply it is stored somewhere that it can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection?

    Whats the difference between cloud computing and settings up a few Thin Clients?

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