Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cloud Computing and our Borders

I don't know what it is about our society, but it seems that instilling fear and doubt into people about any advance in technology is in vogue. If you read the recent article published by the BBC, "Storm warning for cloud computing", written by Bill Thompson, you would get the idea that cloud computing is popular, but highly unreliable, insecure and makes all your actions visible to the US government. I have to disagree in several places with Bill. One of the sections of his article is subtitled "Constant Outages". I am not sure what types of IT infrastructure that Bill has worked with but I would venture to say that he must be used to a utopia that I have not been able to experience where there are no bad hard drives, old memory chips, power outages, the occasional bad router or network issue. Some of these reasons are why I would move my infrastructure to the cloud where keeping up with all of the intricacies of operating such large systems are the business of the vendors providing the service. I have been very impressed with Amazon's ability to respond to issues and I can say that we have only experienced about 1 hour of down time in the entire year and a half we have been sitting on the "cloud". That is a far cry from the "Constant Outages" that Bill mentions. He also brings up Twitter as an example here. I use Twitter, and I think it provides a fun service, but Twitter is NOT the cloud. Just because Twitter goes down constantly does not mean the cloud is unreliable, it means Twitter is unreliable. Blame Twitter's architecture, not cloud computing or the platform.
I would also disagree that the cloud is insecure. It is as secure as you want it to be. Choose wisely what you store in the cloud and what you run in the cloud. Encryption does work, contrary to what Bill would have you believe. You do not have to publish your private keys or even perform the encryption in the cloud. You can encrypt locally and store. Again, this comes down to design and architecture. Be smart about what you store and how you store it.
Finally on the issue of the Patriot Act and the US government knowing everything about your or your business... Are you a terrorist? The Patriot Act is designed to allow the US government to protect its citizens from terrorist activity. If there is not a reason for them to suspect terrorist activity or need the information for prosecution, then you should be ok. That being said, it still comes down to making informed decisions about who your cloud computing providers are. I am not going to be signing up with anyone having a data center in Iran, Syria or North Korea... Just seems like the smart move to me.

2 comments:

SPeeDSiN said...

I can attest to the amount of downtime while being on the "cloud" since I was a part of dealing with what was going on.
I didn't RTFA but its the same ol' thing with the Linux vs. Windows for server application debate

- insecurity
- instability
- vulnerability
- back doors due to open source

But anyone who knows half of what they are talking about when they discuss infrastructure, hosting, e-commerce and just computers in general know that its up to the user or whoever to be aware of these things.

Yeah, install Windows XP pre SP2 while on the internet and YOU CAN be infected with a worm before you are even finished with the install.

On the same note, throw a *nix server on the internet without any firewall rules - and you'll probably be hacked.

It comes down to responsibility and also - people are afraid of what they don't understand; from computers to those of other skin tones and races.

----

Now, Troy and I might not agree on the Patriot Act or other politics, but I will respectfuly respond to the comment, that some of the concepts of our democracy - something I myself would lay down my life for, is to be "presumed innocent until proven guilty."

"If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about," doesn't jive with some of our constitutional rights. Take for instance search and seizure laws.

Unfortunately, the patriot act and other vaguely worded legeslature gives certain government organizations capabilities that pretty much make it so that every day citizens are viewed as potential terrorists.

"If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about," doesn't jive with some of our constitutional rights. Take for instance search and seizure laws.

As an example of the forementioned vagueness of the legislature, Buncombe County deputies got off scott-free for entering someones premises to "force them to turn their US flag right side flag up and remove signs pinned to it."

Kind of off topic...and I totally respect Troy's opinions and beliefs and consider him a mentor. Just had to express my views on the corrosive power of fear.

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