Thursday, 24 April 2008

There's A Flaw In Cloud Plan

As I've mentioned in previous posts the computer network in my current job is very restrictive. There are good reasons for this of course and I can certainly see the logic behind it but working in this environment has brought me to a realisation that I've yet to see mentioned on other sites, Cloud Computing has to fail. In my last job and at home, obviously, I have access to all the services online I want and can hook it up to any installed software I want and create a nice services and software architecture. This is great in a limited environment. In my current situation most people do not have access to Google, Yahoo or MSN. They cannot install Live, Adobe AIR or Google Gears. This presents a massive flaw in the cloud computing mission.

I've had my reservations about the move to online services for a while now and while I'm not against progress, as long as it's actually beneficial, I can't help but feel that this bubble is going to burst sooner or later. You see Enterprises are not going to entrust their sensitive information to Google or Microsoft or anyone else. They want it stored on a nice secure server where only a very select few can get anywhere near it and the software used to access it is tightly controlled. They don't want someone working on the Q1 numbers on Google Docs! They also don't want someone installing tools that can in any way interfere with the work that's being done. A manager once told me that software, and you can stretch it to networks, have to be designed with the idea that the user is stupid and will always make mistakes. While I don't for a second believe they are stupid, and neither did my manager, you are building it with the worst case scenario in mind. Therefore Enterprise customers want total control over everything that's installed and used on the clients machine. Cloud Computing does not offer this level of control.

In the educational sector it's even worse. You can't give school children free access to the Internet and you can't give them easy access to services such as SkyDrive and GMail simply because you can't be sure what they are accessing and what they are bringing in. Therefore the school network has extreme limitations placed on it which can lead to all access to Google and others being cut.

In environments such as those mentioned above it's very hard to see how Cloud Computing can be expected to thrive. It's a great consumer oriented architecture and it will make money from advertising, no question about that, but I can't see it breaking into the same world as the one Microsoft Office currently controls. The only way Cloud Computing will ever take over is if either the Internet becomes completely free of cyber crime or if the software companies take away the option of having your software based on the client machine. Hardware makers are never going to let the client die, neither will Microsoft for that matter, and cyber crime is increasing not disappearing so I really can't see a happy future for Cloud Computing.
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