Monday, March 30, 2009

Cloud Computing Follow-up

Ramsey replied via Twitter regarding my post on cloud computing: I think the new in cloud computing is the idea of a cloud OS that keeps most of the data intensive parts on a server. this would in theory allow someone with an old computer or a netbook to run a fast effiecent OS. The cool part comes when they starts shareing the load, as in all of the computers running that os make up the cloud in some small way. Speeds unimaginable! My response follows: When the data-intensive parts of computer operation reside on the Internet, everybody's speed slows down because...
  1. Even if there's a remotely operating OS, my netbook still needs a client OS to connect to what that server OS is outputting. My netbook runs perfectly quickly with a decent Linux OS on it. Windows 7 supposedly runs pretty quickly, too. But I don't want to have to pay for a licence to two operating systems just to use one computer. Windows is too pricey already, and that's a huge reason why Linux netbooks sell. A Windows licence makes up 20% of the cost of a Windows netbook. It makes up more than 50% of the cost of a cheap-ass E-Machine. And you'd like to raise that even higher just so I can make my data vulnerable and out of my control?
  2. If the data resides locally on my computer, then all of that data must be transferred across the net to get to a server where the data can be processed. Considering the generally atrocious upload speeds offered by most ISPs (and hopefully I'm not on some kind of cellular network doing this), my computing speed will decrease drastically, and that's the opposite of what you propose, and the opposite of the direction technology should be heading.
  3. If the data resides on the net, on some server in the cloud, and it can be processed on the same server that my data and the data of hundreds of other people is being processed, then my data must wait until its place comes up in the queue of data processing. It would take some pretty powerful equipment to make that happen. I'm not saying it's impossible, just that I don't want to have to pay for that service when I'm perfectly capable of making it happen on my own.
And there are a plethora of reasons why cloud computing is either bad or not viable.
  • In 2008, 61.5 million users in the United States were connecting to the Internet via some type of broadband access. That sounds like a big number until you consider that 248.2 million users are online. That means that the rest of these computers connect via dial-up or some other slow connection. Translation: less than 25% of Internet users are connecting via broadband, and that's not even considering the number of people who are not online at all, but still use a computer at home. Generalized cloud computing is not viable, at least not in the sense that it's mandatory.
  • In the setup that I described in my previous post, my data is still being passed through the cloud of the Internet, but resides on hardware that I own and control. In the popular cloud computing concept, it's on hardware that I have zero control over, and which other folks' data is also residing. This makes it an immediate target for data miners who want my data. Nothing technological is impermeable, not even my setup. But with my setup, there is less likelihood of an attack because I am only one person. This is the same reason why Mac OS X, while proven to be less secure technologically than Windows, is still a safe alternative to Windows. There are fewer people to attack. A successful general attack for Windows will yield a higher success rate than the same type of attack for Mac. If, say, Google were to have a cloud computing service with millions of users, that's a better place to attack than my single-user setup on my personal hardware. Someone would practically need a personal vendetta to even bother with mine.
  • Even with broadband access, cloud computing is still slow. X forwarding is fast enough to use, but not fast enough to be my ideal method of using a computer. I use it because it's convenient, because I can manage a web server from my cell phone or from work. Because I can write documents or stream music or move my files around on my home computer even when I'm not there. But do I dare try to browse the web using a remotely operating browser? Do I try to do any amount of image editing remotely? Do I game? Of course not! Because even though my server has a 2 Mbps upload speed (roughly 250 KBps), that's still not fast enough to transfer that much visual data back and forth at a constant rate, much less all of my input. Cloud computing will take a very long time to be able to catch up to that.
We have a long way to go before cloud computing becomes a viable option. I'd rather just stick to a configuration where it's a possibility for me when I need it, my data is as secure as I make it, where I have total control over it, and where I do not try to exceed its limitations. I can't let my computer usage slow me down. When I'm thinking faster than my computer is, isn't my comuter made unneccessary?

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