back to article Google and the myth of the open cloud

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if Google offers the world a web service, large numbers of people will convince themselves that it's superior to anything else they can get their hands on - and less likely to condemn them to some sort of Redmondian future in which a single corporation has them in a metaphorical vice …


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  1. Gannon (J.) Dick

    The Force of Bite Me

    "People are lazy. They say 'I don't want to design my applications into this confined space.' And it is a confined space. So you need a large force of will to get people to do that."

    And a brimming hot cup of Paycheck, no doubt.

  2. Neal 5

    ooooooh, chase me

    Force of will.!!!!!!!!!

    Nothing like a bit of BDSM in the workplace now is there.

    Btw, I have it on good authority, that an electrified anal probe, is a pretty good enforcer. Not that my assertiveness skills need enhancing or anything.

  3. krza

    Scale this

    What, the Chrome OS announcement isn't scalable enough to accommodate El Reg? Guess you guys didn't get in on day one ...

  4. baswell

    Apples and Oranges

    I just released a website built on the Java flavour of the app engine. Developing from scratch, fitting into the limitted functionality was easy enough. But what it did was free me from having to manage, tune, backup, secure, deploy my own server. That saved me hours, if not days, of work and I am not paying anyone for hosting until the site goes over the free quotas, which it is unlikely to do.

    And that is where GAE vs. AWS becomes Apples and Oranges. Both are clouds, but both are a different type of cloud.

    GAE is a runtime you can deploy your code in, limiting you in the code you can run and which services you can use to allow it to be massively scalable.

    Amazon's cloud, meaning EC2 if you want to host an application, is not much different from hiring a bunch of servers from any other hosting company. They have just made it easy to hire them on demand. But you still have to manage your server software, backups, securing the server, everything. And EC2 only helps you scale your app if you have designed it to scale.

    Both have their uses, both are very different.

    Neither are very open, at all.

  5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Search versus Placement ..... The Intelligence Divide that Defines the ProDriver Operating System?

    "What, the Chrome OS announcement isn't scalable enough to accommodate El Reg? Guess you guys didn't get in on day one ..." ..... By krza Posted Thursday 19th November 2009 01:51 GMT

    In a world of minnows and sharks, krza, where would IT put El Regers and Google?

  6. Adam Fisk

    bit twiddler

    Your article makes no sense on so many levels, I don't know where to begin. The App Engine team built it to open up the power of the Google infrastructure to the outside world. That's what it does. The power of the Google infrastructure does not include Drupal, open source e-mail systems, MySQL, etc. Google would be a joke of company if it did. As you mention, their infrastructure includes BigTable, GFS, etc -- the basic tools that make their infrastructure the most scalable in the world. You don't know if App Engine scales? What better proof could one have of scalability than an architecture that actually powers the two largest sites on the Internet. Sure, App Engine is a wrapper around that infrastructure, but the infrastructure is where all the real work happens. App Engine fulfills its goal of opening up their infrastructure in an astoundingly easy to use way. As an earlier commenter mentioned, its focus is completely different from Amazon's.

    You need to find better people to interview, and you need to think in a more nuanced way about this issue. Lumping everything into "the cloud" and comparing clouds based on some disjointed idea of openness just doesn't make a lot of sense.

  7. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Another retaliation?

    First Apple, now Google - it appears you guys are onto something. Next think we know you're starting to talk about Google non-privacy and misappropriation of Intellectual Property..

  8. jsg


    This is such a Freetard artice.

  9. Christian Berger

    This sort of cloud is doomed anyhow

    Once someone finds a way to do client side secure distributed computing and storage which really works, nobody will think of the cloud anymore.

  10. Raumkraut

    Freedom to the rescue

    The effort required to break the clouds' vendor 'lock-in' isn't as much as some articles would have you believe.

    There are several database engines that are similar enough to BigTable in concept (eg. MongoDB, CouchDB) that a google-compatible API could easily be developed (IIRC development is already underway in some cases). Saying that a transition to a relational model would be required is uninformed at best.

    And if you want to break out of the Amazon? Isn't that what the Ubuntu Eucalyptus product/project is all about? Purportedly it allows anyone to run your own AWS-compatible "cloud".

    If some company develops a closed platform with any worth, it's only a matter of time before the Free Software community develop compatible, Free, alternatives. Gawd bless 'em.

  11. Peter D'Hoye
    Dead Vulture

    Can we stop the Google bashing now?

    It looks to me that some people (including this author) will never be satisfied with what Google offers or does. If you look at the vast amounts of services and software this company shares for free, and the amount of money it invests in Open Source, I am not surprised that it equally has the right to hold on to its own secrets in order not to be cloned by another company taking the gems and using them.

    I'm quite happy with what Google offers, and what they offer for free is often much better than what other companies sell you. So shut up and enjoy the goodies.

  12. Robin 2

    Re: Apples vs Oranges

    @baswell. I totally agree.

    Everyone is always going on about the scalability of App Engine. Who cares? 99.9% of App Engine devs are never going to produce an app on App Engine or anywhere else where scalability becomes much of an issue.

    The true benefit of App Engine is the maintenance headache that goes with building a web app. App Engine takes all this away from you. You write your code upload it and it runs. No need to configure anything, maintain backups, logs, security issues, talk to hosting providers etc etc.

    And if you do one day reach the kind of site usage where scalability becomes an issue, well:

    a) that's a nice issue to have

    b) App Engine will take care of it for you, hence why would you want to move

    c) If you do want to move because you think they're too pricey or unreliable or whatever. Fine - no one's stopping you. You'll need to rewrite your DAL as the minimum I guess, but given 1) and 2) again this is a nice issue to have.

    I think people worry too much about openess. Why should a cloud be open? The biggest headache in moving to a new provider is often not the code but administrative side of things. Competition in the cloud services business should ensure that eventually these things are pretty much the same in terms of cost/value.

  13. Peter2 Silver badge

    Great article.

    "Google has phoned to say that it is not able to provide The Reg with an invite to the Chrome OS announcement. The company tells us there's not enough space."

    Strait from the blackmail manual. Post anything that is even mildly negative and we'll retaliate. So much for "Do no evil".

    Great article, and it was very informative seeing the Google response, thanks for posting it.

  14. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Re Apples and Oranges

    That's telling them real good, baswell .... "And that is where GAE vs. AWS becomes Apples and Oranges. Both are clouds, but both are a different type of cloud"

    And another good analogy in usage is to consider their services as a sort of virtual credit credit card, which you award yourself without any credit limit .... . other than the one dictated to you automatically by your own skills in laundering whatever goods and service you would be peddling/pimping/testing through their systems....... for Bitter Sweet LemonAIdD...... the Thirst Quencher?

  15. Anonymous Coward

    a truth universally acknowledged

    "It is a truth universally acknowledged that if Google offers the world a web service, large numbers of people will convince themselves that it's superior to anything else they can get their hands on - and less likely to condemn them to some sort of Redmondian future in which a single corporation has them in a metaphorical vice grip", Cade Metz

    What is this, trash Google week. It is the opinion of the register contributor Cade Metz, that people will convince themselves of the superiority of the Google web service, despite locking themselves into some sort of Redmondian future ...


    Trolls Be Gone

    "Strait [sic] from the blackmail manual. Post anything that is even mildly negative and we'll retaliate. So much for "Do no evil"." - Peter2

    The Register likes to post copious Troll articles about Google. It seems to do it under the grand tabloid tradition of 'if they are big, attack them'. Not all the Register's Google articles are like this, but enough of them for it to have become a rather tedious and unwelcome trait - like that person you know who, despite all their better qualities, still eats with their mouth open, noisily, with bits of food spraying out all over the place. And won't stop it.

    Would you invite that person to your dinner party?

    Of course you would! Not to do so would be 'blackmail'! It would be "evil"!

    (good grief) /Charlie Brown

  17. Sceptical Bastard
    Black Helicopters

    @ Peter D'Hoye

    To answer your question in a word, "no". Nor should we.

    As to ... "Google cloud is their best bet for avoiding the dreaded "vendor lock-in." That simply doesn't compute. All your data is belong to Google.

    Good article, IMO.

  18. Dave 131

    There's a lot of other entries in that table...

    Go use one of them if you're bothered about lock-in, or libraries, or anything else. Or get your own server, and do the whole thing yourself. Then you can even control the colour of the bloody power switch, if you so desire.

    Or you could see AppEngine for what it is. A free server to prototype your apps on, or host minor bits and bob. For oiks like me with no access to public servers, it's a godsend. If you can afford your own servers, or are hitting against problems with what Google provide, maybe that's a sign that you need to move along and put your big boy trousers on.

    And as for libraries and rewrites wrt GFS et al... make a modular system, and plug your components as you need to. Not rocket science, is it?

  19. Aaron Em

    "...not enough space."

    Well done, sir!

  20. Stephen Booth

    Too many clouds

    The problem with the cloud buzzword is that it means too many things to too many people.

    Google App Engine is a mechanism for doing business with Google. Of course it is locked to one vendor and nothing intrinsically wrong with that and you get access to lots of nice underlying technology.

    But there are lots of cloudy ideas out there that don't map onto App Engine (people are talking about using clouds for large number crunching jobs for example) and the ability to use multiple vendors is also important to some people.

    This does not mean that App Engine is bad or inferior just not appropriate to these cases.

    The problem is that people write stupid surveys about "cloud" as it meant a single thing. Different companies have different cloud offerings targeting different use cases. Google provide an offering that is specific to their infrastructure so inevitably has some degree of lock-in.

    And 26 percent of respondents did not realise this or voted for their favourite company regardless of the question.

  21. Ben 42

    Tortured Analogy

    "So you invest in good skis, and then travel to the Amazon jungle," says Stadil. "There, you can still move around in skis, but it is suboptimal. It would be better to have a snowmobile."

    I think what he just did to that analogy violates the Geneva conventions in some way.

  22. sunny seattle

    Cloud computing and scalability

    It seems like you are missing the point of a scalable cloud.

    If the intend is to run a scalable application and scale it globally, the idea is NOT to let the user or the developer do what they want, but to prevent it!

    Bloatware is not amoral. When somebody wants an extra button on winword,or a bigger cache in internet explorer, or a cute (but big) intellisense feature, then we just throw it in.

    If, on the other hand, there is more weight on the respect for every other user in the cloud, and the propagation time of new data and software versions, then bloat is not ok.

    A good cloud architecture discourages diversity, discourages complexity, forbids caching, and guides the developer away from bloating.

    If you want to make a "cloud" of one million instances of winword or internet explorer, or similar software, then you are just not understanding the point. Those are two fantastic, high quality products, for single user computers, who don't share data. They are designed by the very best "crayon and fingerpaint" engineers, who have done a danm fine job at perfecting the single-user experience.

    If you want a global, multi-user document entry and cataloging software, you would be misguided to promise anybody winword like features. Instead, you could promise to "store the text and some strictly limited formatting".

    If you told the "fingerpaint programmers" that they had to grow up or get fired, then you would be on the right track.


  23. jsg
    Thumb Down

    get a hold of yourself

    People will choose whats easiest and most convinient. End of story.

    This is the equivalent of bashing McDonalds for making people fat while the company happens to be saying it's health conscious.

  24. JasonM80

    Differences in Cloud Offerings

    Stephen Booth (few posts before this one), has it right when he says "Different companies have different cloud offerings targeting different use cases."

    Two of the most important differentiators for cloud computing service providers are their services offered and their architecture. They are big reasons for you to chose one over another. You select a service based on your needs.

    With these two differences, application portability can hardly be avoided. If you want to migrate from Google to Amazon, or Amazon to Microsoft (Windows Azure), you'll have some porting work to do. (Note: "porting work" is not the same as "vendor lock-in.") The same happens if you decide to move your application from Windows to Linux.

    I mostly agree with "sunny seattle" except his user name is misleading - at least with the rain we've had today :-).

    (I am contracted by M80, working with Microsoft to promote Windows Azure)

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