Over the weekend, MicroSoft and TMobile announced that they had managed to lose some subscribers’ Sidekick data. The media has gone into overdrive blaming this on a failure of cloud computing, although it’s not entirely clear that this in fact had much to do with that. Data Center Knowledge has a nice summary of various responses.
The problem of course is that determining what exactly is cloud computing is more of a religious than technological question. If you are looking to place blame widely, then you cast everyone under the umbrella as sheep, wait for an idiot to make himself known, and blame the umbrella for it. On the other hand, if you are under the umbrella than you want to emphasize that there are idiots under there with you who you want nothing to do with.
Cloud computing has this problem because as a movement it makes so many promises that only a few of its adherents will ever keep. Yes, cloud computing offers the potential for greater resiliency, efficiency, and the ability to scale. But it’s also a collection of new technologies and concepts that can easily be implemented badly, stupidly, and even dangerously (to data). As Vijay Gill points out, humans are not really very good at risk assessment in complex systems. There will be winners in the end who take cloud computing and revolutionize the world, but on the road there will be many others who will fail. Some will fail economically while doing well with their data, and some will do the opposite. C’est la vie, get used to it.
So was this particular Sidekick event a failure of cloud computing? It’s a question with no meaning. Customers lost data that they shouldn’t have lost, and the actual technologies and companies at fault will face the consequences. Those who don’t make the same mistakes advance to the next round.
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