back to article Official: Cloud computing invented by two technophobic old geezers

Not a day goes by without a dozen press releases on the topic of cloud computing thrusting their way into my inbox (ooh, matron). I think I’ve made my opinions of the cloud con clear enough in previous columns but for the benefit of newer readers, let’s just say that I think it’s cock. Well, that is, cloud computing itself isn’t …

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Devil

Well yes. Much of cloud computing seems to be about getting us to part with lots of money to do what we've already been doing cheaply or for free. Or at the very least to turn a one-off payment into a "revenue stream". Store your stuff in "the cloud" by all means. But keep a local copy that can't suddenly vanish.

And fwiw note Google's killing of their free "Calendar Sync" programme, that lets me keep my diary on all my devices synced through the Google one "in the cloud".

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Holmes

In the interests of science

Would they be more efficient being notified every time mail comes in? Get Mail.app polling or receiving push e-mail on the computers and give them Blackberries. Come back with another article when you've got the results or when they fail to return your phone calls because they hate you.

If you don't dare do that, please for the love of God convince them to implement a backup via IMAP or ActiveSync if they haven't already.

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Linux

Re: In the interests of science

"If you don't dare do that, please for the love of God convince them to implement a backup via IMAP or ActiveSync if they haven't already."

Yes, backups.

They use Mac Minis, therefore Mac OS X?

I'd suggest Eastgate Systems' Tinderbox. Can save tonnes of stuff in a well documented single xml file. Has a flexible UI including 'agents' that can run queries like 'find all the things from March 2008 that had `s` in the title'. One of two applications I miss from Mac OS X, the other being Preview (Tiger version).

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Anonymous Coward

The crucial difference..

.. with calling it "Cloud Service" instead of "storing stuff somewhere online with no regard for who else has access to it" is that "Cloud Services" is (a) catchy (well, -ish, the first time I heard it I thought it was someone describing what by McKinsey passes as *cough* consulting, but I digress) and (b) so vague to most people who don't know it has a proper description to mean anything - which means it's a perfect term for the market where people have to pretend to be up to date whilst in reality being several lightyears away from a clue.

Hence it instantly becoming a hit with management and politicians, and especially the latter should have given enough of a clue to the vacuousness of the term. Which, strangely, makes me land by McKinsey again. It must be Friday..

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Coat

Re: The crucial difference..

I remember when we just called "Cloud Service" the internet.

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TWB

I like the sound of that organisation

I know the article was about cloud computing, but it is refreshing to hear of places which run quite well without all the latest IT fashions. I have wondered about trying to run a business without computers and how much more work would get done (i'm sure I would give in very quickly)

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Boffin

Re: I like the sound of that organisation

"I know the article was about cloud computing, but it is refreshing to hear of places which run quite well without all the latest IT fashions."

There are plenty of businesses like this. Birmingham Markets spring to mind. Plenty of cash flowing through nothing more complex than an apron pocket. I've seen duplicate books in use for wholesale purchases, and a folder full of stall rental invoices in the glove compartment of a white van. The Jewellery Quarter still has independent craftspersons working out of single room workshops. The younger ones run everything off their phones, the older ones off paper.

The original article does make the point that the probably very astute partners in this business had worked out an IT 'solution' that works for them, and fits their business. I'm all for that! Other examples welcome!

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Thumb Up

Great article. Funny because it's true. For me true cloud computing would be computing using the entire cloud as a seamless (amorphous, perhaps) entity. It seems like that's where some people are trying to go but being able to rent a couple of Virtual Machines doesn't really cut it for me. People were time-sharing computer resources back in the 60s and some of them were doing it across a WAN from the other side of the country. Maybe even the other side of the world for all I know.

What we have today is more accessible, more capable and more interconnected but it just doesn't feel like a quantum leap in technology. Just a marketing term :-/

And as for cloud storage - meh. That's just FTP and - perhaps - a clustered server on the other end.

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Agreed - I am trying to work out what the *significant* difference is between a computer running ChromeOS, or using MS Office 365, and the dumb terminal connected to the local Council's mainframe I used whilst doing the prototype "Computer Studies" 'O'-level in 1978 or 79. (The step down to a hideous punched-card reader at university was such a shock I quit engineering for ever - well, that and preferring beer to books at that time ...)

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Re:

Being a server guy I see the 'cloud' as a hardware abstraction layer for software that has rapidly changing demands. If I need extra 'burst' processing capability for rare events, I can have a number of VM images on the cloud provider of the day ready to go at a moments notice. I don't have to have $x extra servers taking up space and power sitting unused 95% of the time.

I tend to think of my server room as baseline power, a nuclear power plant. I have a lot of power available, but it is inflexible if large, short endurance spikes of demand (it would take days to add new servers, even after I got purchase authorization). The cloud works like natural gas generators for me. They are more expensive to use, but they can be fired up quickly when needed and then shut down.

If it doesn't feel like a quantum leap in technology, maybe you aren't using it. VM/VDI has made deployment, management, and backup of servers click and drool easy. People where time sharing in the 60's because computers were expensive. I time share (VM) servers because they fast and cheap, so fast that without VMs you'd have to put a lot of services on one box, which in the Windows world is a great way to have things go bad.

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Re: Not quite there yet

Funnily enough, just yesterday, someone at work was trying to get an older version of Assassin's Creed running on one of the work PCs* (Core i3, Intel HD2000 graphics). It coped, just about, but it did occur to me that, as he was paying £12 to download the game from Steam, wouldn't it be handy if Steam also provided a nicely spec'd VM with the game already installed, running and optimised, and just provided him with a remote session into the VM?

Now THAT would be a cloud computing service worth the name.

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Anonymous Coward

RII

Cards?

Perhaps you mean the you mean the new Recyclable Input Interface which is surely just about to be 'invented'.

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Anonymous Coward

@pixl97

You're right that that's a really good idea. However, we were able to do that before. This was just before the marketing knob ends came along and gave it a stupid name. Outsourcers have been providing multi-tenant systems for at least a decade. Server virtualisation's been around longer than that, as has storage virtualisation.

"Cloud" is nothing new. The only thing that is new is the name, and the fact that we're convincing end users to part with their cash to jump onto the bandwagon.

Anonymous because my employer pushing "cloud" as a #1 strategy.

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Re: @pixl97

At least a decade, AC 19:22? Try over half a century.

CPU, memory, disc & LAN are fucking cheap these days. Operating systems are free. WAN is decidedly neither of the above. Mainframes, and their entire business model, are dinosaurs[1]. Keep it in house, keep it simple, avoid several more layers of security issues. I've never seen a better example of where the KISS principle applies than avoiding anything with a "cloud" label.

[1] Outside of specialty needs, of course. Weather modeling, earthquake prediction, (breaking) strong encryption, molecular research, atomic research, etc.

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The difference is obvious

Hipsters in tight pants and trendy specs. You know, the 30 year olds that invented everything.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The best thing about "Cloud Computing"

Yes, we used to just call it "the Internet" or more accurately, services that are built on the Internet.

However, there are two massive general benefits that are not mentioned here:

1. Cloud Computing moves IT services from Capital Expenditure (CapEx) to Operational Expenditure (OpEx). The costs are predictable and are easy to budget for.

2. There is significantly less exposure to risks such as breakdowns, fire, theft or hackers and the impact of risks is reduced. A service provider is generally better-equipped to worry about and take care of security and resilience concerns, keeping software up-to-date, etc.

Beancounters, and those people who are involved with, you know, the business side of a business, tend to like these things.

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Are those candle-holders for sale?

If so, you need to get them up to speed with data mining techniques, referencing all their previous sales and searching Google etc. for potential leads.

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Anonymous Coward

Some scenarios in whoch 'cloud computing' makes sense:

1. Team working. This has been around for ages, in many software categories. It comprises a file management system, and records of who has made which changes to which documents. It allows several engineers to work on the same model, for example.

2. Pay per use. There might be standard piece of software that you use regularly. However, very occasionally you need a feature only found in the 'Deluxe Pro' edition, which is a $1,000 more. Being able to use the 'Deluxe Pro' version for a limited time, or just the one job, for a fee of a few tens of dollars would be preferable.

3. Being able to rent compute resources. At a certain stage of every project, you require some rendering or simulation and the deadline is looming. There is little point in investing in your own render farm in the basement if you don't use it all the time.

Yeah, trusting your data to someone else is silly, multiple backups across at least two sites is the way to go. However, there is no reason why it can't be stored on somebody else's servers as well (for convenience and accessibility, should your offices ISP have a hiccup) and it can be encrypted. Or encrypted and split between two service providers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some scenarios in whoch 'cloud computing' makes sense:

The problem with encrypting the data is that everything will slow to a crawl.

For example if you encrypt your customers names then retrieving the contact details for your customer will involve downloading all customers, decrypting each customer name and then looking up the contact details.

If the data was not encrypted then the contact details could be retrieved in milliseconds using a simple SELECT FROM WHERE.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some scenarios in whoch 'cloud computing' makes sense:

Actually the example I gave is trivial and can be solved by simply encrypting the customers name, sending it across the internet to retrieve the encrypted customers record and then decrypting to retrieve contact details.

The database will have other problems such as doing 'LIKE' queries or calculating totals or averages. A query that returns the name of the highest spending customer would be quite difficult. Furthermore the encryption may upset the DBMS optimization activities.

Its far simpler to run your own servers. I find it hard to understand that companies will trust their data to organizations, some of which have been found guilty of anti trusts violations. Your most valuable customers may be targeted to leave your business and purchase from a rival. The health of your company can be revealed to all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some scenarios in whoch 'cloud computing' makes sense:

When you think about it there is quite a lot of SQL that you cant do:

Ordering customer names and displaying. Groupby clause. Encrypted data may upset indexing.

The problems go on.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some scenarios in whoch 'cloud computing' makes sense:

You do realise that there is infrastructure underneath your database? Encrypt your data at rest, and across each medium along which it travels and you've achieved your aim. As long as you can't get to it without getting into your own local systems then you're fine.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some scenarios in whoch 'cloud computing' makes sense:

@km123

Your posts reveal you have no idea what you are talking about. Or worse, you seem to have read half a book about SQL and you know enough to be dangerous. I would guess you're still at uni.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Some scenarios in whoch 'cloud computing' makes sense:

@km123

One can only assume that you've had an invigorating Friday liquid lunch and will return to your normal lucid self on Monday..

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Megaphone

The motto of cloud computing:

"Trust in God, but tie up your camel."

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IT Angle

Hopelesslly deluded...

'Cloud', as one of the previous commenters said, is just 'the internet'. Where did people think websites and their data were stored before 'the cloud' came about?

Anyone remotely technical knows 'cloud' is just a marketing buzzword, designed to reel-in those management types holding the purse strings, who think it's an impressive - even revolutionary - new way of doing things. Unfortunately, if you try and tell them that, they get all upset, as if you've burst their pretty little bubble.

Techies have been colocating services for decades - it's just the wan pipes that have evolved (got faster+cheaper), not the technology behind what we do with them. The sooner management get their heads out of the cloud, then we can all get back to reality.

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Re: Hopelesslly deluded...

Ugh, it's because the word cloud is used in places it shouldn't be.

It's not the WAN, it's the VM. Cloud isn't about the end user, it's all internet to them. It's about the server room. Cloud is not co-location, it's closer to no-location. Go back 10 years, ask your co-location service to have 150 servers up and running for you in 2 hours and then take them down 10 hours later. I think the words they would use is 'FAT FUCKING CHANCE' as they hung up. I see cloud as the abstraction of the server room. Apps have always had some abstraction when they used DNS to contact a server, now because of VMs I can push that same server to US, EU, or Asia in almost no time, depending on what I needed to serve. And then, I can take it all back down quickly.

Reality is, since running on VMs has become almost universal, that clouds will be here to stay.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hopelesslly deluded...

Co-location is actually safer for you IP and valuable customer data since your cabinets can be locked.

The data centers have surveillance cameras and are manned by security guards.

If your servers are broken into then you have avenues of inquiry and maybe compensation.

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Anonymous Coward

@pixl97

As I said above (anonymously - sorry) this really is nothing new. We could do this a very long time ago.

You're right about what you can do, and it's very useful. The point is we could already do this.

Salesmen don't approach techies when they're trying to sell stuff. In fact they hate it when techies turn up to meetings, so they bring their own techies along (I'm one of those). Salesmen would rather sell to the guy in the company who has the least idea of how IT works, is the most convinced that they are up to date with cutting-edge IT, and most importantly have the power to overrule those who know what they're talking about. They usually have an iphone, an ipad and a Blackberry and wave them about in meetings. They're easy to spot.

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Linux

The only secure cloud, IMO, is a private cloud. Oh wait, that's exactly like off-site data storage, a concept that has been around quite a while.

Will these cloud providers be here in 5 years time? What guarantee do you have, really, that a copy of your data will always be there. And that it won't be subjected to nosy eyes? Cloud storage is a risky business...

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Anonymous Coward

I've Looked At Clouds from Both Sides Now...

And still, somehow...

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Re: I've Looked At Clouds from Both Sides Now...

Lying on top of a building... The cloud looked no nearer than when I was lying on the street.

(The Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel has this written all down the outside of its hotel floors. How very apt.)

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IT Angle

Growing up with mainframes, you see a lot of ideas get reworked and remarketed. Virtualization, cloudy computing, even multitasking.

But what the actual hell was that Pigsy thing? Wow. Just wow.

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Big Brother

One is

...buzzword compliant, you hear about it all the time in the news, so it must good for your business! The other isn't.

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Go

Re: One is Buzzword Compliant

Is that BWC 9000 or 9001?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BWC 9000 or 9001?

it's just a piece of paper that says your buzzwords are documented. It doesn't say that they are good buzzwords.

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Anonymous Coward

The cloud is great if you want to create an online shop and you are happy with paypal processing your payments. The security of managing customer credit cards is handled by paypal.

When you look at the cloud you see its nothing more than a highly configurable type of web hosting.

E.g. Shared Plesk hosting, Virtual Servers, Dedicated Servers, Cloud images.

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Happy

More!

More like this please

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Anonymous Coward

Two countries separated by a common language

"slipping a wad of Adams in your back pocket and locking them down with a pop-fastener."

Can a 'Merican get a translation here?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Two countries separated by a common language

Nope. We don't have a clue either. I think it's supposed to be rhyming slang but I've no idea what it means. Someone will, hopefully.

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Re: Two countries separated by a common language

For "wad" read "handful", probably.

For "pop" read "snap", probably (I suppose it could mean "pop-rivet", which I use regularly, but almost never on my clothing[1]).

For "Adams" read ... uh, I don't know. Obscure Banknote? Local condom brand?

[1] The Levis 501s come with 'em already installed ... I repaired my favorite old half-chaps using standard leather stitching techniques, and then added rivets where the old thread failed ...

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Boffin

Re: Two countries separated by a common language

Adam Smith is on the back of 20 pound notes, not on the back of local condoms.

(For local people.)

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Re: Two countries separated by a common language

It would be cool if Adams was on the condoms though.

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Childcatcher

x.25

While we're in general 'old man drone' mode, anyone remember x.25? Basically a private-ish internet I used it a lotin mid-late 90,s Any documentation referred to it as 'the cloud' and strangely the term seemed old ffashioned/anachronistic to me back then!

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Re: x.25

That's one of the places the "cloud" term originated. The other is the ISO OSI Model. For both, everything below the "presentation layer" was depicted as a cloud for non-techie manglement types "taking a course". It started in the mid-late 1980s. I've been using the term "cloud" as applied to networking as an idiot filter for nearly a quarter century.

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Re: x.25

Yes, the cloud there is still going strong - it moved to Frame Relay and now MPLS. Of course it has a real meaning there - the "cloud" is a visual depiction of the network internals that you neither know nor care about since that's purely the telco's problem.

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Re: x.25

Middle managers & sales droids have used the cloud graphic for decades to represent where all the stuff they don't understand happens. My money says it is the most popular symbol in Visio.

In my office we call the cloud 'the fog'.

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