The cloud supremacy

There are times when I think the Luddites were onto a good thing

Tags: Cloud computingGoogle IncorporatedMicrosoft CorporationUnited Arab Emirates
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By  Imthishan Giado Published  October 13, 2009

There are times when I think the Luddites were onto a good thing.

No, I'm not advocating that we go back to stitching our clothes by hand, or delivering our messages to each other by hand. But there are occasionally moments when technology seems to work against us, instead of for us.

Take for instance, Danger Inc, Microsoft's unfortunately-titled subsidiary in the United States, which produces the popular Sidekick range of devices for operator T-Mobile. The firm has had to announce to users that most of their personal data stored on Danger servers - including contacts, calendar entries and photographs - have been lost after the company claimed to have suffered an unexpected server outage.

It gets worse. What do users do nine times out of ten when their handset isn't working? Why, they yank the battery out of course, and attempt to reset it manually. Normally, this clears a smartphone's memory and is the equivalent of a cold boot to get it working. But for the Danger devices, it blanks out what data was stored locally, ensuring that it's really lost for good now.

Microsoft is continuing to work overtime with Danger to restore the data, but publicly admits that the chances of recovering any - or all - of it are slim. Its idea of a stopgap solution is to inform users to not turn their phones off under any circumstances; hardly ideal.

To my mind, this incident - combined with the recent Gmail outages -is the nightmare scenario for cloud computing, and proof that we're still not really able to trust our data to the cloud. The reality of every-day IT is that much of it is highly reliant on physical pieces of hardware that can and will eventually wear out and need replacing.

When that happens, without proper backups in place, we lose data, the value of which varies considerably from individual to individual. It's not just about random server failure. Without a network connection - which is a very real possibility in a region with only a few cable links to the outside world - your cloud computing portfolio is completely inaccessible, leaving you completely paralysed. Yes, we're supposed to have multiple redundant links and things like satellite access, but really, how many people actually go that far? If you have a remote office with thin clients connected by a high speed pipe, what happens when it goes down? Do you stop serving your customers? Of course not.

Of course, I don't want to be too negative. I dream of a future where one day, we'll have forgotten what local machines are and we can simply move from terminal to terminal, with our digital life following us around. That future is absolutely going to happen, but I'm annoyed that vendors are selling enterprises on the idea that it exists right now. It doesn't, and will not for many years to come, because the infrastructure just isn't in place. But as is usual with enterprise computing, marketing has overtaken reality.

I'll let the inimitable Larry Ellison sum my thoughts up, as only he can, from his speech at Oracle OpenWorld last month:  "I can't think of anything that isn't cloud computing with all of these announcements. The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It's complete gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?"

3566 days ago

I do thinnk cloud computing can be trusted, just not cloud computing from Microsoft. They were only interested in buying the talent with the acquisition of Danger. They had no interest in fulfilling the contractual obligations with T-Mobile for instance. If you enhance your SAN and the result is a COMPLETE loss of data, that sounds to me as if someone started a rush rush project (maybe switching from Dangers Oracle RAC Servers to MS infrastructure?) without an exit strategy and fallback plan. This shows the real state of the inner workings of Microsoft. T-Mobile had SLAs in place, before the storage update disaster Sidekick Customers (T-Mobile customers using Danger/Microsoft Hardware) suffered a 2 week data already. This has never happened before in Dangers history, only after 18 months (!!!) of being owned and absorbed by the borg...ah Microsoft. Go figure yourself. Just an example: The iPhone has to be connected (or at least the user is trained/recommended to do so) to a PC or Mac running iTunes, while a full backup is always created when plugged in. In that way you have a local backup, the device AND the data in the cloud (gmail, MobileMe or Ms Exchange). Not too bad.... Same with Blackberry.... I honestly think: NO backup, not even an older one? Just nothing. What on earth did Microsoft think they do there? Weird...

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