back to article All hail our cloud computing overlords

We all know what's going to be so frabjous about cloud computing: it's going to make the damn stuff work. Yes, yes, we have computing systems that work now, but they need that priestly caste made up of Reg readers sitting in front of them, in charge. Think of it this way: a coach and horses and a car both manage to get you …


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  1. benadams

    Brilliant article

    Hi Tim

    This is such a great article - I think sometimes people actually forget the 'eggs in one basket' aspect of cloud computing because they are so focused on the cost saving and reduction in Capex.

    Its a scary thought to think you don't actually know where all your data is!


    1. Ammaross Danan

      Eggs & Basket

      When you're on a local server system (non-cloud basically), all your eggs are still in one basket. HOWEVER, the difference is, you have full control over that basket. You can create a second basket at your secondary (or other) offices (or CIO/CTO's home if needed!). You can take copies of your "eggs" to a bank vault if desired. You can scatter your encrypted backups like salt to the CIO, CEO, and CFO if you like. Heck, take that and dump the highly encrypted year-end into a cloud backup service if you like. Your primary building burns down? Fine, you had last night's backup at your "secondary" location. Both the business and your "other" location got wiped out in a nuke/earthquake/random-act-of-God? You have that copy in cloud storage (perhaps). What makes it even easier is having all your "local" servers as VMs. Building burns down, you reload your most recent backups of the VMs, and restore last night's data (from your "other site") to them and you're good to go. Of course, wimpy outages such as single-server failure can be handled with some Xen/VMMotion setup, or lacking funds for that, a bit of downtime while you swap in the spare part.

      The difficulty with the Cloud is backups really. How often do they do them, and how long are they stored, and to what granularity? The most common form of data loss is a user deleted something within the last 24hrs, be it altered recently or not. Can you call your cloud service and get that file restored as it was, even as of last night, within 5 minutes? I've sat in hold queues for longer than that period of time. Even your local server backups can't recover a single word doc from last night's backup in under 5 minutes? Rethink your backup strategy. And no, it doesn't cost thousands of dollars to do it.

      Back to cloudy thoughts, I really hope small businesses that can't afford a proper IT person jump on the cloud bandwagon. It will save them money in the long run and perhaps lower prices. Anyone large enough to have IT staff should look into a local setup (as long as their IT guy isn't some CS-degree drone that doesn't have the versatility to be solo in a biz). Really, it's that jack-of-all-trades skillset that is required by small & mid biz, but is commonly lacking in the workforce.

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Your every fab wish, our treat to demand and command with control

    Hi, Tim Worstall,

    This is a recent email, which is exploring Prime Top Quality, Cloud Services and Future Provision in Virtually Engineered Trading Partnership ....... JOINT Magical Mystery Turing AIdVentures, and would endorse the thrust of your article, and support every valiant effort to have that priestly caste made up of Reg readers sitting in front of computing systems that work now, in charge.

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  3. James 5
    Thumb Up

    Agree !

    Good article and great point about the data (agree with Ben on this).

    Recently investigated using an online (in the clouds!) accounts system. Looked good, does all that is needed BUT it does not produce a local copy of all the data files, nor does it allow local access (on the workstation) to the data. Yes, it exports data in various formats - but that's not the same as having local control.

    Whilst I was doing that the BT broadband hubs in Scotland went AWOL for a few periods of 24 hours in a week....

    Then I heard about the *possible* disruption of a whole series of electronic systems by sun activity in the coming years....

    So, there is no way I would want my business data floating about in an inaccessible "cloud" when things go wrong.

    I use Dropbox (a lot) because - as well as having the Great Data Pond in the Sky it also creates identical copies of all my files on my several computers that have Dropbox on them. This works for me.

    Following Egypt and other places of unrest - I think we should treat the internet as a non-permanent service rather than something that's "fore-ever" and rock solid.

    IMHO building business data in the cloud is a bit like building a skyscraper on quicksand - it may vanish in few seconds.....

  4. jake Silver badge

    It's prettty simple, really ...

    Cloud == lack of personal control of data.

    Me, I use distributed computing daily. But I control all network end-points ... I'd like to control all the wire between me & my gear, but that's just not possible on a global scale. On the bright side, encryption works.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bean-counter vs. El Reg Forum

    Good article.

    Are there any Managers now who have ever programmed, tested, traced, designed or improved the very systems on which they make man-power decisions?

    Not in my organisation.

    Sadly bean-counters rule...

  6. Chris Miller

    Re the NHS comparison

    It sounds very much like Milton Friedman's 'four types of money' (with which I'm sure Tim is familiar):

    "There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

    "Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.

    "Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!

    "Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income."

    Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

  7. Tim Worstal


    "It sounds very much like Milton Friedman's 'four types of money' (with which I'm sure Tim is familiar):"

    Yes, of course, I had the idea rolling around in my head but didn't connect it....sorry, sorry, chastisement of freelance will begin soon.

  8. Dropper

    IBM were right afterall?

    So what everyone that pleads the case of tumulus computing seems to be saying is that IBM were right after all and no one needs their own, personal, computer..

    1. GrahamT

      Re: IBM were right after all. (about cloud computing)

      So that's why they bought Stratus.

  9. Alan Bourke

    Don't put mission cirtical data

    ... in the cloud. You'd be mad.

  10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    A Timely Word to save an Expensive Hashes/Program Crashes.

    "Don't put mission cirtical data ... ... in the cloud. You'd be mad." ..... Alan Bourke Posted Friday 25th February 2011 17:54 GMT

    Does that guarantee it being a DMZ, Alan? I don't think so, whenever that is where all the Secrets for Leaking into Foreign and Trading Exchanges are Stored for Secure Anonymous Sharing. And that does create an quite intractable problem for any Outfit with Operators thinking to militarise virtual spaces/cyber places.

  11. Rob Dobs

    And would it really be so bad if we all ended up using the best tool available for a particular job?

    "And would it really be so bad if we all ended up using the best tool available for a particular job?"

    YES IT WOULD! Because diversity in and of itself is a wonderful positive thing.

    Also because the inherent truth is that it is unrealistically likely that one tool would indeed be the best for everyone.

    Think of a world where everyone spoke English, we all drove GM cars, everyone has an I-phone and uses Windows XP and we all watch Fox. (These were at least at one point by their adoption rate the "best" options out there.)

    There now if that didn't properly scare you, or you thought that sounded nice please go back to the Mayberry 1950's they miss U there.

    A monopoly is ALWAYS a bad thing, competition seems necessary to allow choices. Without options the monopoly has no incentive to change or improve.

    1. dogged

      you haven't thought that one through

      Or you'd be demanding the right to spend different currencies.

  12. packrat

    and next on the list

    plus the leaky cloud will server-farm the more intense data mining.

    Nice if you can render a couple hours of 1080p for pennies, but NOT worth the leaks otherwise.

    wanna rebuild the chem table of the elements onna data lark for (errr, surface tension?)



  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Competition schmompetition

    "For there are two possible concerns: monopoly and whether, in the absence of such, competition actually does lead to better outcomes".

    Indeed. I suggest you contemplate the British banks to evaluate the proposition that competition leads to better outcomes. Obviously, it does - for the banks. But decidedly not for their customers. Why should a bank make the effort and take the risks of trying to undercut its competitors, or provide better service, when it is so much easier and more rewarding to join the consensus of tacit mediocrity and watch the profits mount up? Especially when the ridiculous "anti-trust" authorities set up by government are so blind and toothless they can't tackle anything more scary than a collection of charitably funded independent schools?

    1. Highlander

      The problem with banking and the faux competition that you describe... that the point of capitalism is competition with the consumer/customer being the driving force behind he entire system. Where monopoly and near monopoly situations arise, they fundamentally violate capitalism because the consumer/customer utterly lose their importance and power. Just try arguing with your average Republican or Tea Party nut job in the US for a sample of that discussion - you'll be labeled a communist in seconds, but that's a different discussion... Anyway, the point is that when you have a situation as you described, you're really existing in a cartel, not an official or obvious one, just one of those that just sort of happen. You know, the old boys at the club discuss things in 'hypothetical' terms and each organizations follows the other so that there is virtually nothing to choose between them. Profits are maintained for everyone, but the customer/consumer has zero power, zero influence, and there is next to no competitive pressure to make things better. Thus the cartel operates like a monopoly without in fact being a monopoly and capitalism fails.

      Regulation by government is of course anti-competitive and is therefore to be resisted at all times. After all we can't let the government become powerful enough to force competition and protect consumers with a bunch of regulations that prevent the banks (or whatever industry) from having such a cozy relationship with their peers in the industry. So the lobby6ists and special interest groups push and push until the government becomes toothless and senile.

      Yay competition and the power of the market.... Ugh!

  14. Highlander

    *Sigh* I guess i'll have to repeat myself...Another round of thin client roulette?

    As recently posted to another 'cloud' article.

    Does this idea come around every 10-15 years?

    Diskless workstations suck. end of story.

    To provide enough compute power on the desk to handle the presentation layer of Windows, you have to essentially put a PC on the desk, regardless of how you cut it. Whatever is on the desk has keyboard, mouse, monitor, networking, graphics processing and some local CPU to run the thin client on. the only difference between that and a PC is the HDD and perhaps the amount of memory. The user training is the same, the hardware costs are not significantly different, the software costs are not significantly different. The flip side is that you now depend on those centralized servers. OK some will say - cloud, whatever, it's a cluster of servers, whether distributed or not, it's the same thing conceptually because the user's client connects via a network to the server - for everything. Just like VT100s and VAX systems. Just like 3270 and IBM AS/400 or Mainframe systems. It's the same old crap again. Except now that all the application processing power and data storage has been centralizes you need some big assed servers to handle the load. not only that, but now that your enterprise runs on a virtual desktop, your network and server cloud have to be far more resilient because now your entire operation depends on them. So you have hot stand by servers, much more expensive SAN storage requirements, ridiculous backup requirements and have a damn good disaster recovery plan. All of that costs $$$ and has to be managed, administered and supported by a larger team than just your ordinary app servers require.

    All this to save perhaps $200 per desk in hardware costs? Total and complete BS. That doesn;t even begin to cover the issues that this kind of centralization brings. Pretty soon you have disk quotas because that SAN storage is fantastically more expensive than the 1TB drives shipping in desktop PCs today. So people start getting pissed that they can't have everything they want on 'their' desktop. Organizations soon find that many, many virtual desktops all running WeatherBug and all the other innumerable task bar trash soak up CPU time, as does Farmville. So those are summarily banned, causing more user unrest. Then the mainframe cycle is repeated when end user groups get tired of the lack of freedom and flexibility and decide to get a few real workstations for their own use, and pretty soon, you have lost control all over again as departments invest in more special workstations and users migrate to the Personal Workstations instead of the shared desktop.

    I've been through this three times now, once transitioning away from mainframe, once experimenting with diskless workstations in a pre-Windows environment, and once dealing with Windows Terminal Server in a predominantly XP environment. I also dabbled with this with Windows NT, but fortunately sanity prevailed and we went with PCs on the desktop. It's the same schtick every time. Overblown reports about TCO of PCs, overly optimistic estimates of TCO for the cloud/virtual desktop/diskless workstation solution. No one ever considers the additional costs on the server side, nor the lack of any real savings on the client side. It all comes down to a bid for control by the centralized IT admin. Which is a poor reason to make a fiscal decision.

    The only addition I'd like to make at this point is that this article talks of the cloud providers and talks of monopolies. Well, to me there are two aspect of that that are definitely not plus points from the point of view of business data owners. the first is that a third party is now hosting my invaluable business data, and the second is that in a monopoly or near monopoly situation, even more of the freedom I thought I had has been subsumed by the cloud,

    Once again, this is all a poor basis for a fiscal decision.

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