Engadget claims "biggest disasters in the history of cloud computing"

Cloud Computing eh? Love it or hate it, chances are, you probably don't know what it is. Yet you feel comfortable branding anything that runs inside a browser as "cloud computing". Why wouldn't you? You got bored of "Web2.0".

It is trendy, it is the latest buzzword to be doing the rounds, and like everything else in the computing world, if you can just get that edge on your peers and show how "in tune" you are to the latest pulse people will look upon you more favorable, and hopefully untold riches and offers of people wanting to sleep with you will rain down upon you.

Engadget, under the stewardship of Chris Ziegler, published their reporting on T-Mobile's unfortunate problem of where it looks like they may have lost all their users Sidekick data.

Not content with merely reporting the facts, Ziegler had to juice it up a bit and include in his opening sentence no less, a complete side swipe at cloud computing, laying the blame at its door. Excuse me?

What on earth has this got to do with cloud computing?

I'll tell you, just in case you are wondering, absolutely nothing. Does running out of petrol in your car, mark "disaster" for the automobile industry? Does missing a flight, mark "disaster" for the airline industry? Does failure to connect to a server, mark "disaster" for the Internet?

Havana out of fuel

Of course not and neither does T-Mobile failure to backup a server have any impact on cloud computing let alone mark it as its darkest day. No where on T-Mobile's website do they claim they are using "cloud computing".

What T-Mobile was providing here was a service. No different to your bank providing a service for your money, or the postal service for your mail. You entrust organizations to perform a duty on your behalf, and if they fail to deliver, then yes, you have to lay the blame at their door. Yet if you do rely 100% on that service, then you must take some responsibility in that contract, always looking to protect yourself against that worse-case scenario.

Cloud Computing is not new. We've been living with "cloud computing" (for some peoples definitions) ever since the first http server ever started listening for requests on Port80.

But cloud computing is more than merely providing a service. It is about the auto-provisioning of services when you need to scale up (or down) or to replicate due to failure. It is about providing a seamless service, and utilising the underlying platform to do the things that were historically difficult in traditional data centres that are tied to physical machines. Cloud computing free's us from the physical chains and allows us to build-in redundancy and failure from the start.

The industry is still trying to formulate a definition for "cloud computing", because we are always running up against this ignorance to label everything inside a browser as the wonders of the cloud.

Engadget could have easily have rewritten their attention grabbing sentence:

  • "biggest disasters in the history of the internet"
  • "biggest disasters in the history of the web"
  • "biggest disasters in the history of the mobile phone"
  • "biggest disasters in the history of the network"
each of them as relevant as the one they chose to use. They are not the only ones at fault here, they just happen to be one of the first ones out of the gate with the cloud angle, and others have followed suit.

The next time Google has an outage, HotMail inaccessible, or your favourite website goes offline, then put it down to what it is, a "breakdown". We seem to want to point the finger of blame at something bigger than the company at fault.

These the joys and warts of utilising a service and should come with a warning: "the value of your service can go down as well as up".


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