The technology world is all aflame about “cloud computing”, and how businesses are supposed to move all of their stuff into the cloud, or die. Or something. In my eyes, “cloud” is simply a different name for the internet, and cloud computing is simply a different and fancier name for what most internet users have been doing for ages.
Even Wikipedia doesn’t really seem to have a clue as to what “cloud computing” actually is, and its definition is just a different way of describing the use of web applications – something we’ve been doing for a long time, with online mail clients, Facebook, and even things like Bittorrent and peer-to-peer networks. With all the talk of cloud computing, I can’t help but see the similarities between the cloud hype and the dot-com boom. In other words, the classic Southpark underpants gnomes still apply.
Australian website Technology & Business got to interview Microsoft Australia’s Director of Developer and Platform Evangelism, Gianpaolo Carraro, about cloud computing and Microsoft’s upcoming Azure platform. I thought, here’s the chance for Microsoft to explain what, exactly, this whole cloud thing is, and what makes it different from all those things we’ve been doing for ages with and on the internet.
The interview delves deep into what Azure actually is, and I can’t shake the feeling that there really isn’t anything new in there, nothing that makes me go “Ah, so that’s the cloud!”. From what I can understand, Microsoft will build a number of datacentres around the world where developers of
web cloud applications can rent server space to host their applications. Imagine, if you will, Facebook dismantling their own servers, and renting server space at Microsoft. While this could be very handy for those of us with a great web app idea but without space to run a server farm, it’s hardly revolutionary, nor does it explain what sets “cloud computing” apart.
And, well, that’s about all the interview makes clear about cloud computing. The rest has more to do with the technical aspects or Azure; for instance, while Azure infrastructure is built around .Net, people are free to use Java or PHP as well. We also learned that it will take about 12 months before Azure emerges out of beta.
I’ve read quite some articles on this whole cloud computing thing already, but I simply don’t see how it is anything other than a new buzzword to describe something we’ve had for ages: applications that do not run on your desktop, but on a server somewhere. That’s something we’ve been doing for ages, but I guess the marketing value of the term “web application” ran out.
Carraro states that “there is no doubt that Microsoft is a big believer in the cloud”. That kind of makes sense. Microsoft completely missed the internet and web 2.0 train, and now sees an opportunity to grab a piece of that pie now that its name has changed.
From what I’ve gathered about the whole cloud computing idea, though I can hardly say I’ve been searching for it, the difference with ‘traditional’ web 2.0 applications is mainly the fact it runs on a cluster of some kind. A cloud, by most definitions I’ve seen, is a bunch of resources that can be used like one. Having something running in a cloud would then somehow make it available and run it on some resources in that cloud. It’s up to the cloud to decide on that. Also, this would give scalability: instead of reserving resources that might be needed by applications when they are hosted, such resources can now be (de)allocated dynamically. The nice thing of all this is that to the user of the cloud it seems to be one system, including possible abstractions such as OS, filesystem, database, etc.
So, to summarize, we’ve got a distributed hosting service running on a number of machines, exposing one environment to the developer. But that, really, is what I’ve come to think of it.
the non-retarded version of ‘cloud computing’ is the idea of a standard platform across hosting providers that provides a bunch of useful libraries at and stuff.
This platform is supposed to offer transparent scaling, i.e the hosting provider moves your application to more servers automatically as is needed.
The standard platform means that you can move your app between hosting providers without hassle or even run your app across multiple hosting providers at the same time for redundancy.
The problem is that everyone got retard strong and marketing happy and now there isn’t a standard platform, there is just restrictive lock-in hosting on a ‘cloud'(data centre) own by single companies. It’s insane to write an app that only runs on a single hosting provider.