Monday, May 16, 2011

In The Cloud

I have a few concerns about cloud computing. In mid-2000, I saw a wonderful Internet computer called the I-Opener. This was an Internet-only device, basically a web appliance, that would allow anyone access via a built-in 56.6k modem. The idea fascinated me immensely, and I began looking for ways to make applications for these devices. By the time I had given it any consideration, however, the notion of an Internet-only device had died; the I-Opener and a few other related devices were commercial flops. The notion of Web-based applications, however, stuck with me, though I never went further then than thinking about them. By 2005, though, it was evident that there was a surge in cloud based computing, and soon I was using Google Docs for quite a bit of my work.
I like the term "the cloud". It conjures up wonderful images of a vast, hovering, somewhat ambiguous place where everything is connected. Cloud computing has arrived in full force now, and with recent advances in mobile computing, it is here to stay.
But, and that is a big 'but', there may be too much thinking about the cloud being the end-all-be-all of personal computing. There is increased emphasis on doing everything via the Internet, if only for portability's sake. The idea here is that access to the Internet/Web/Cloud would always be convenient. While the word may not have been used in that last sentence, that is a mighty big 'if'.
There are really three concerns here. The first is the assumption that the cloud will always be within reach of these devices. This is one of the reasons why Google and many of the other content providers are behind the National Broadband Plan and the National Wireless Initiative. That they want to make it more widespread is not a bad idea. Even if they succeed, though, there will be places that it may still be restricted, either deliberately or by geographical circumstance.
My second concern is the nature of the Internet/Web/Cloud; while there may be efforts to keep it neutral, the truth is that any agency or group can shut it off, or at least your access to it. Don't think that the government of the United States would ever shut it off? Guess again; if there was a big enough crisis, you bet they'd throttle it down or kill it entirely. The whole of the Internet is built upon the skeleton of a government-backed program to link crucial data centers together. They built it, they can wreck it. Or, worse, somebody else could.
My final concern is simply this; whose data is it, anyway? If I create it, I want to be able to store it where I can, and not only, or strictly, in the cloud.

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