Is “the Cloud” Overrated?

    September 30, 2011

With so much hype around how great cloud computing is, it’s hard to imagine it any way other than good. The news is full of stories about what the cloud can do, the increased adoption rate of the cloud, and how more and more businesses are developing cloud applications. As a result, it would be really easy for businesses that are not on board with cloud computing to think that they’re way behind the times.

Is this really true though? Should businesses rush to get involved with the cloud? Let us know what you think.

According to Jason Scott, a digital historian and archivist, “the cloud,” as it is known today, is entirely different from its original meaning. He said that the term was actually used all the way back in the 1980s and was essentially used to describe a “great unknown.”

Back then, when companies dealt with networking issues and used machines outside their control, he explained that they would use a cloud in their diagram in order to send the message that this area was untrustworthy. Sounds a little different from the cloud that we hear so much about today, doesn’t it?

“Somehow we reversed that completely to thinking – what a great, trustable, fluffy thing,” said Scott.

He has written several blog posts expressing his views over the past couple of years but recently updated a post and called cloud computing a “sucker’s game.” In an interview with us, he pointed out that he is not against the cloud itself but is against the way it’s being portrayed.

“When I say I’m against the cloud, I’m against the term and the use of the term,” said Scott.

In today’s world, he thinks that the use of the term “the cloud” is nothing more than a big marketing gimmick. He told us that transparency, open systems, and interoperability are all very good and effective but that the cloud has been in used in relation to all these areas, which he doesn’t think is accurate.

Sales and marketing teams always strive to simplify processes for their customers, and according to Scott, this is exactly how the misinterpretation of the cloud began.

“While I think a lot of ethics are good, the term and the use of the it and the way we’re throwing it around and the way we’re encouraging people to be less informed and less knowledgeable about their environments, is just a terrible trend,” he said.

Scott went on to warn that companies should be very careful to not take the cloud for something that it’s not. He thinks that people should remember when Friendster went down and that there was no recourse for getting data back. Another example is when Ma.gnolia died and the users also lost their data, an issue which is addressed in this video:

When Amazon Web Services went down for 3 days, more recently, a lot of people and businesses saw their sites go down as well. It’s this lack of control that people have that concerns Scott with the current interpretation of what the cloud is.

“At this point, I think the term ‘cloud’ is ruined,” said Scott. “It’s used so much for so many things, [and] it has no meaning whatsoever anymore.”

He said that companies like Salesforce are “taking a big bet” and suggests that they take proactive moves in making sure that anything they put on the cloud has certain stipulations attached. He also believes there should be standards in place that clearly states what is actually represented by a cloud service.

In an effort to raise awareness of his concerns, Scott preserves data to show that there are risks involved with depending on the cloud.

“By bringing those items to light and trying to rescue at least artifacts of that service, we show people that no matter what you’re being told, it’s not permanent,” he said.

“The cloud is a cloud, but clouds fade and clouds drift away,” he added.

Although Scott has some very legitimate points, his perspective throws quite a curveball into the fluffy, trusting representation of the cloud that so many people are pushing.

Which cloud portrayal do you think is more accurate – the fluffy, trusting cloud or the great unknown cloud?