Cloud computing for Business

Cloud Computing

With ever increasing need for computing, IT industry has once again created a new buzz word. Its called computing in the cloud, or more clearly, cloud computing. I wonder why cloud? Why not phantom computing or something of the sorts.

From Wikipedia:

Cloud computing infrastructure as of 2009 consists of reliable services delivered through data centers and built on servers with different levels of virtualization technologies. The services are accessible anywhere that has access to networking infrastructure. The Cloud appears as a single point of access for all the computing needs of consumers. Commercial offerings need to meet the quality of service requirements of customers and typically offer service level agreements. via Cloud Computing (Wikipedia).

Is cloud computing really good for small business like us? Well, I don't know. On one hand, cloud computing avoids sudden infrastructure costs, maintenance, backups, failures and provides flexible demand based costing. However, things can go wrong and anything critical to your working could lead your business hanging in the middle.

One Sunday in July 2008, the images began to wink out on the popular micro-blogging service Twitter. The photo-sharing site SmugMug flashed up "Service unavailable". Jungle Disk, which advertises "Reliable online storage", stopped working. The reason: Amazon's Simple Storage Service, known as S3, went offline for up to eight hours. It was the second significant outage in 2008, following a similar but shorter incident in February. Amazon S3 is a celebrated example of cloud computing, meant to be the wave of the future. "Using Amazon's S3 has about the same cost and complexity as hosting the images ourselves, but we had thought that the reliability of Amazon would be significantly higher. But that now seems wrong," said Lukas Biewald, who runs an image assessment service called FaceStat (bit.ly/cloudy2). Failures like this have a domino effect, and the more cloud computing catches on, the bigger the impact. Amazon does offer a service level agreement, but reimbursed fees are small compensation for loss of business. via Is it all clear skies ahead for cloud computing?

So far, I have less faith in moving our critical infrastructure to web based on demand computing. What happens when the infrastructure fails to deliver what it promised? In my opinion, there are just too many failure points. Internet, provider, data services. For small businesses, the cost of management of systems is high. However I feel it is not so high that we need to resort to cloud computing for rescue.

The industry too seems to have a mixed opinion. Some pundits say cloud computing is the natural progression of grid computing. However not all agree. According to GNU's Richard Stallman and Oracle's Larry Ellison:

The concept of using web-based programs like Google s Gmail is "worse than stupidity" according to a leading advocate of free software. Cloud computing – where IT power is delivered over the internet as you need it rather than drawn from a desktop computer – has gained currency in recent years. Large internet and technology companies including Google Microsoft and Amazon are pushing forward their plans to deliver information and software over the net. But Richard Stallman founder of the Free Software Foundation and creator of the computer operating system GNU said that cloud computing was simply a trap aimed at forcing more people to buy into locked proprietary systems that would cost them more and more over time. "It s stupidity. It s worse than stupidity it s a marketing hype campaign " he told The Guardian. "Somebody is saying this is inevitable – and whenever you hear somebody saying that it s very likely to be a set of businesses campaigning to make it true." The 55-year-old New Yorker said that computer users should be keen to keep their information in their own hands rather than hand it over to a third party. His comments echo those made last week by Larry Ellison the founder of Oracle who criticised the rash of cloud computing announcements as "fashion-driven" and "complete gibberish". "The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do " he said. "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 " via Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder | Technology | guardian.co.uk.

For now, we are keeping our fingers crossed and waiting for the 'Natural Progression' when we may jump on this bandwagon. Right now, our servers are happy cranking hard drives at our premises.