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The Risk of a Meltdown In the Cloud 154

Posted by timothy
from the precipitating-danger dept.
zrbyte writes "A growing number of complexity theorists are beginning to recognize some potential problems with cloud computing. The growing consensus is that bizarre and unpredictable behavior often emerges in systems made up of 'networks of networks,' such as a business using the computational resources of a cloud provider. Bryan Ford at Yale University in New Haven says the full risks of the migration to the cloud have yet to be properly explored. He points out that complex systems can fail in many unexpected ways, and he outlines various simple scenarios in which a cloud could come unstuck."
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The Risk of a Meltdown In the Cloud

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  • It has to happen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:58AM (#39413429)

    At some point, there is going to be a massive failure. Someone big is going to lose *all* of their data. I still don't trust virtualization despite it being years old. It's still nascent in the grand scheme.

    Someone wake me when they invent the holodeck.

    • by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:00AM (#39413443)

      At some point, there is going to be a massive failure. Someone big is going to lose *all* of their data.

      I just hope its my mortgage company and not my bank.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, lots of people lose data or access to data "in the cloud" (i.e. "on the mainframe", to use '60s IBM parlance) all the time. Catastrophic losses happened in the '60s, happened for that short period of enlightenment when we thought we should have control of our own data, and will also happen as we revert to the past. The usual questions apply:

      - What are the motivations of your service provider? I.e. how much do /they/ care if your data is lost. This will determine how hard they try not to lose it. Recal

      • by postbigbang (761081) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @01:35PM (#39415663)

        Yes, a lot of people lose data on mainframes and the problem was generally behind the console. Online production systems and job-based systems need to be designed with practicality and component failure in mind.

        The cloud is a system, and the system needs redundancy, checks and reality checks, and quality ins-and-outs. That's right, just like what you've been doing all along. Same security, same backups, same contingencies-- as there are no shortcuts, just cheaper hardware.

        I have to dismiss the cited article as it's entirely ephemeral, with not one single citation to back it up. Financial markets, while important, are a somewhat unique context to cite; they're built differently than many cloud components. There is nothing tangible cited, no case history, just some Yale-y's bad, after-lunch tummy growling coinciding with thinking about the complexity of modern infrastructure.

        This whackamole approach serves no purpose, except to sell more inside, rather than outside, infrastructure.

    • by gweihir (88907) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:19AM (#39413657)

      Well, as the holodeck is tactile, I expect it will kill quite a few people before the kinks are worked out.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:31AM (#39413829)

      If someone loses "all" their data in the cloud, their problem has nothing to do with the cloud. If you lose all your data, it's because you kept all your data in one place, with no backups in a different place, and all fault lands on you, not the cloud, not your cloud provider, and not on any given piece of technology. There have already been large failures, and some companies have already lost massive amounts of data, but it doesn't change anything, because these problems have nothing to do with whether you host your own servers or rent them from somebody else, which is really all "the cloud" boils down to.

      Also, inherently not trusting virtualization as a concept in 2012 is is moronic and baseless. It's a technology, just like any other. It can be implemented well or it can be implemented poorly, but as a concept it is not novel or revolutionary to any degree that it should engender trust or distrust, at least not any more than the hardware underneath it.

      • by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:37AM (#39413893) Homepage

        If the cloud is not more robust than what your grandma could come up with on her own then what's the point really?

        Isn't the whole point of "the cloud" the fact that you aren't managing this stuff yourself? You don't have the burden? You don't need the expertise?

        If you push it back on the cloud consumer then a lot of it is really quite pointless.

        • by lightknight (213164) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:51AM (#39414083) Homepage

          "If the cloud is not more robust than what your grandma could come up with on her own then what's the point really?"

          Money.

        • by datavirtue (1104259) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:56AM (#39414155)

          I keep remembering the Google applications that keep disappearing. Data is one thing, application providers going out of business or discontinuing a service is another issue entirely. Hopefully the competition still stands and you can migrate your applications over to their service.

        • by DarkOx (621550) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @12:46PM (#39414983) Journal

          If the cloud is not more robust than what your grandma could come up with on her own then what's the point really?

          That is exactly it. The cloud is more robust than what grandma could come up with or what I have time to manage for her. Grandma has some family photo's, a cookie recipe or two, and *maybe* some financial statements etc. Some of it might be tragic to loose but its a loss we can live with.

          The F1000 I work at on the other hand certainly can build something more robust at least as relates to their specific needs; if they simply put up the dollars. Certain parties are trying bill the cloud as way to save money without sacrificing reliability. Perhaps it does offer good security against traditional risks of hardware failure, run away support costs, etc; but it brings new risks to the table as well. The truth is as an industry we know less about identifying, controlling and mitigating those risks than we do about in house solutions. That is a point that is being missed by lots of decision makers.

          • by tqk (413719)

            The truth is as an industry we know less about identifying, controlling and mitigating those risks than we do about in house solutions.

            Actually, I think it's more that as an industry, you've lost all of that knowledge and are presently attempting to reinvent it, kind of like porcelain glazes we've forgotten how to recreate. Pretty much all "cloud" stuff is old tech. implemented first decades ago, and IBM's been flogging mainframes intended to run multiple VMs for at least three years that I know of.

            I've worked with outfits that rolled out (Solaris pizza box) servers for five grand apiece, started them up, then forgot about them. They're

        • Re:It has to happen (Score:5, Interesting)

          by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @01:28PM (#39415555) Homepage

          While I agree with you, a little perspective.

          I've seen systems, verified backups, and duplicate backups simply fall over. Every best practice was followed, backups were taken regularly, and the backups had been verified by Industry Leading Backup Software Everyone Still Uses (arg). But the system and data on the backups could not be restored.

          It eventually got fixed through some virtualized gyrations, but it took the better part of a week for the company's top engineer to figure it out.

          Shit happens.

        • by Raenex (947668)

          Even your grandmother can copy some files to a USB drive and chuck it in a drawer as a backup to the cloud. The cloud offers on-demand scalability, accessibility while traveling, and offsite storage should something happen locally. It's not an either-or proposition.

      • If someone loses "all" their data in the cloud, their problem has nothing to do with the cloud. If you lose all your data, it's because you kept all your data in one place, with no backups in a different place, and all fault lands on you, not the cloud, not your cloud provider, and not on any given piece of technology.

        It's worth noting that a lot of the bitching about the cloud stems from creating content ON the cloud. Google Docs, for example, you create your docs and write them directly to the server. You have to go out of your way to get your content back out of Google. Unfortunately Google Docs came out several years before DropBox, SpiderOak, and iCloud, services that require you to send your files to them, so that little distinction hasn't percolated up into the conscience of the '+5, Insightful' chasers yet.

    • "We should study [these unrecognised risks] before our socioeconomic fabric becomes inextricably dependent on a convenient but potentially unstable government model."

    • by jriding (1076733) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @12:22PM (#39414543)

      Just a thought. Forget actual failure. What happens when they have IP data or licensed data that is being hosted by a cloud provider, or company to company lawsuit. Court case starts. Could or would they they seize all computers / servers that could house the data? What would happen to the other peoples data that resides on the same physical hardware?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I remember reading article a couple of years ago where the feds siezed everything at a hosting provider because *one* of their customers had been naughty. This naturally drove several unrelated businesses into the ground because they couldn't get to their data.

      • What happens when they have IP data or licensed data that is being hosted by a cloud provider, or company to company lawsuit. Court case starts

        IP in the cloud is worse to deal with than you can possibly imagine. For starters, when somebody grants you a license to use IP, as often as not (and especially in the case of IP licensed to big companies) the licence is restricted to a particular country. This is in part because your IP is a different thing in each country, governed by different rules. If you go s

      • Good point - you've hit on a major concern of Cloud migration.

        There are two answers to this scenario, the first being "the law needs to catch up with the tech", so that this situation could not arise, and the second being "anything that is critical, e.g. IP, should be stored off-cloud, and accessed only when necessary via secure communication". Encryption is your friend - and there are ways of ensuring that encryption keys will only be available if your company is sued, etc. (i.e. the situation we have rig

    • Re:It has to happen (Score:5, Informative)

      by DarkOx (621550) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @12:33PM (#39414739) Journal

      I am sorry but we have been virtualizing things by one name or anything going back to 1960's mainframes. In other words almost as long as commercial computing has existed.

      The cloud is a different matter. The issue is not with virtualization but with creating dependencies on and between parties who don't really talk to each other.

    • by mcavic (2007672)
      For the most part, there's nothing wrong with the technology. The question is who you're trusting to maintain and secure it.
    • . . . until it does. No one with a vested stake can afford to speak the unspeakable of the greatest boon to the networking industry in the 21st century. This is the goose that is laying golden eggs, and the entire industry is cashing in on it. Before it is over, the bulk of all data will have shifted to the cloud at a cost of over a trillion dollars. The only people who can speak ill of this are those who have not learned to profit from it. Someday, there will be a great business in getting everyone ou
    • At some point, there is going to be a massive failure. Someone big is going to lose *all* of their data. I still don't trust virtualization despite it being years old. It's still nascent in the grand scheme.

      Someone wake me when they invent the holodeck.

      "nascent in the grand scheme" ... of what, exactly?

      it's been in use in computation [nearly] since the beginning

  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:03AM (#39413477) Homepage Journal

    I don't understand the intent of the article other than to provide a knee-jerk chicken-little response to cloud processing and storage.

    Not one of the items mentioned is unique to the cloud. It can happen to any data center with more than two nodes involved in a cluster.

    But that's not surprising, because "the cloud" is just a distributed collection of cluster servers, the same as large multi-nationals have been running pretty much since their customer loads exceeded the ability of one server to span the global community.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:13AM (#39413597)

      Problem is that half the people buying cloud services thing their system is imune to any new problem, and might not implement the same failback procedures they would have in a traditional way.

      We are in many way seeing a new generation of IT people and managers with far less understanding of the fragility of their system then the previus generation, emerge onto the scene.

      • by NatasRevol (731260) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:18AM (#39413653) Journal

        Doubtful.

        More likely, bean counters don't listen to the IT people who say offline backups are important. Beancounters just hear extra expense, think everything in the cloud is secure, and deny redundancy/backups.

        • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:35AM (#39413877)

          This. A million times this!

          Our brass is also abuzz with "the cloud". Nobody has the foggiest (pun intended) idea what it is about, what it is or what the hell is going on, but it is the best thing since bread has been sliced. The cloud. It will help us safe millions. How? I dunno, I don't care, but it does! We hear it everywhere, we see it in our manager magazines, and there it is kinda-sorta explained but I didn't understa... I mean, I didn't read it throughly, I don't have the time, my time is valuable, ya know? But it will help us cut costs in a big way, we gotta push towards the cloud!

          The risks? They are not aware of the risks. They don't even know they exist. Why would they exist, they didn't exist so far, right? Redundan..what? Backup... whazat? Now why the hell do we need that suddenly?

          • by Dan667 (564390) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:44AM (#39413967)
            "the cloud" is just dumb terminals all over again. After businesses make a bunch of money on the cloud they will then start selling local solutions again to try and mitigate problems with being on the cloud.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by lightknight (213164)

              Indeed. I can't believe that after we had finished ditching mainframes as a technological way of life, the pointy-heads want to go back to it. Like we missed something the last time we were there...

              • by DarkOx (621550)

                I am not a cloud advocate by any means, but there is somethings different this time. The network is more portable. The trouble with those terminals was they we tied to that rs232 line either back to the FIP or to a modem and phone line. Now cellular and wireless let you take the network *almost* anywhere. Second at least form a human interactivity standpoint time sharing no longer means you sit and wait while someone else uses the computing resources. There is less need for independent processing, and

            • "the cloud" is just another dumb buzzword, that's all. Just as "multimedia" was in the early 90s, "dot com" was in the early 2000s, I guess the 2010s will be "the cloud" decade in the history of buzzwords.

              Ask your manager the next time he starts dreaming up wonderful scenarios about "the cloud" what it really is. I wish I could say you're in for a chuckle, but actually, you're more in for a frightening experience.

              Managers dream of something that takes away the need for their IT department because it's outso

            • Great idea; we'll call it Fog Bank
              "Put your Cloud's feet back on the ground with New FogBank LocalServers(tm)!
              Your all new revolutionary In-House Cloud
              "

              "the cloud" is just dumb terminals all over again. After businesses make a bunch of money on the cloud they will then start selling local solutions again to try and mitigate problems with being on the cloud.

            • by dave420 (699308)
              The cloud is anything but dumb terminals. I take it you've never used it for anything more than just storing files.
          • by eljefe6a (2289776)
            I published my research in to cloud costs. Maybe that will help your company. http://www.jesse-anderson.com/2012/02/ec2-performance-spot-instance-roi-and-emr-scalability/ [jesse-anderson.com]
        • by geschild (43455)

          Let's convince the bean counter's boss that Somali accounting methods and bookkeeping practices
          - require less staff
          - require fewer resources
          - are much easier to use

          It would amount to a great cost reduction and the boss would have to deal with less of those pesky bean counters!

          What's more, the bean counters can hardly protest such a smart business measure...

    • I agree. Too many people seem to think of computing as magic. Microsoft's cloud suffered a massive outage on Feb 29. All is well now, there is no ghost in the machine.
      • by Lennie (16154)

        Sill 4 year until the next leap day :-)

        • by tqk (413719)

          [Still] 4 [years] until the next leap day :-)

          WRT MS, that joke just never gets old.

      • It isn't magic, but things do get spooky when you start hooking together disparate systems (none of them have ANY bugs, right?) and interdependencies. From my point of view "cloud" is a marketing strategy of large corporations aimed at managers and generally non-technical people. Microsoft has been pushing for subscription based software as soon as they determined the internet wasn't a fad. Sure, there are some neat cloud services and APIs available (Amazon, Google, FB, Twitter, etc...), but considering the

        • by tqk (413719)

          It isn't magic, but things do get spooky when you start hooking together disparate systems (none of them have ANY bugs, right?) and interdependencies.

          Spooky? No, they don't get spooky. They may be complex, but sticking complex stuff together trying to get them to talk and play nice together demands testing and verification, that's all. There is no such thing as magic, despite what Space Channel may be saying these days. There is no ghost in that machine.

          I hope you're not in charge of buying decisions.

      • Well, to be fair (and as someone else pointed out around here), they do call it "Office 365" and not "Office 366".

    • by gweihir (88907) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:20AM (#39413691)

      In the cloud, you have no idea who else is on the same hardware as you and what their usage patterns are. You cannot be careful yourself anymore, you have to trust your service-provider. The past shows that unless you have huge contractual penalties in place, that is a losing game.

      • I'd be modding this up if I had points right now.

        Even if your servers are dedicated, they are part of an infrastructure that you not only don't control, but don't know much about. How the network is run is probably actually very closely guarded competetive business information for your cloud provider.

    • by Stargoat (658863) *

      Pretty much. Just define The Cloud the way you like it, and then explain why your definition could fail. Yet more proof that the only people who really understand The Cloud are marketing reps.

    • by Hartree (191324)

      "I don't understand the intent of the article other than to provide a knee-jerk chicken-little response to cloud processing and storage."

      Let me paraphrase this a little to a known example:

      I don't understand the intent of the article other than to provide a knee-jerk chicken-little response to financial derivatives. The individual financial instruments making them up have risks, but when they are bundled together, the random risks will cancel out. And given that there are a number of types of mortgag

  • Oscillator (Score:5, Informative)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:07AM (#39413527)

    The TLDR version of the article is that load balancers can oscillate.
    Its spun into a cloudy-thing because thats trendy, but the basic argument is nothing new.
    Perhaps there's more "meat" in the original paper?

    One common thread is that nothing is ever really "new" in computer science / IT. Clouds are just a rehash of ye olde mainframe outsourcing from decades ago. I worked at a place that was doing that in the early to mid 90s.

    • Re:Oscillator (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:20AM (#39413673) Homepage

      The general point is that it's possible to get bad emergent behavior which is unexpected. This shouldn't be surprising to anyone (but it is, alas). We see it over and over in complex systems, and it's got pretty much nothing to do with what you implement the complex system with.

      What to do about it? Well, the only real fix is to stop the drive for efficiency at all costs. All those little inefficiencies that hit your bottom line, they also mean that when things go wrong you can weather the storm more easily. And yes, that resilience means things are going to cost more. How much more? Well, depends how much risk you want to take out of the system and how much you're willing to pay. Your call. (A local backup removes a lot of risk from things like cloud providers going belly up unexpectedly, but it does mean you're stuck with actually having to pay real money to do the backup and make sure it is working.)

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Yes, mechanical engineers and physicists might assume computer scientists are totally oblivious to control theory, but the example in this article is identical to problems posed in route selection for IP packets in networking courses, just at a higher level in the protocol stack. That's not to dismiss the issue, but it's solvable.

      Now, the researcher might say, "well, yes, that was just one trivial example of a much deeper, bigger issue." But my experience is that something that seems deep yet always see

      • by vlm (69642)

        I hate to say it but complex adaptive systems as a discipline might be a good example of this - it seems like there might be some useful underlying generalizations about all things "complex," but useful new theories don't seem to be forthcoming.

        That's because all the useful theories are old. Ask a EE about his "control system theory" assuming he's a real EE. Its all bode plots and PID controllers as far as the the eye can see. Fuzzy logic was a 80s fad that never went anywhere. There's some overlap with neural networks in that in extreme agony and wasted time you can train a NN to be a cruddy PID controller... but its better just to make a real PID controller.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      There's more to the article than just "load balancing". QUOTE: "An obvious example is the flash crashes that now plague many financial markets in which prices plummet dramatically for no apparent reason. Understanding how and why this happens is the focus of much research. Given that cloud is clearly becoming a network of networks that is rapidly growing in complexity, it's not hard to imagine that the computing equivalent of flash crashes are not just likely but inevitable."

      Flash crash - When the stock

    • ... it was called an ftp server then. If only I'd known then just what a cool technorati I was when typing "put" or "get" on a remote system.

      As for using telnet , woah , I mean , being able to use another system As If You Were There! How cutting edge and amazing is that! (for 1988).

      I can't wait for when the dribbling HTML 5 webwonks rediscover remote shell login and start dribbling how its "just like so totally ultimate clooowwwd , no, wait dude , not clooowwwd , thats like so 2012 , I mean its so totally o

    • by fermion (181285)
      Race conditions are always a primary concern when dealing with this sort of thing. I would think that not building two systems to do the same job would be a basic thing to avoid, rather a common problem. Of couse, it could be that a certain part of the cloud is being built by people who do not know what they are doing, that are putting prefab units together with no understanding of what is going on, and in such a case it could be that race conditions are created without any knowledge. In such a case, howe
    • One common thread is that nothing is ever really "new" in computer science / IT

      Totally. I don't think I've seen anything really new since maybe the mid eighties if not before. Sure it's faster/cheaper/smaller but pretty much everything new and trendy is something that has been here before under another name, had it's day and fallen out of fashion.

      It's quite painful, especially in younger IT guys seeing them reinvent the wheel over and over and feeling so pleased with their 'innovation'

    • Re:Oscillator (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IcyHando'Death (239387) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @01:16PM (#39415353)

      Pardon me mods, but +4 informative? This is a terrible summary from someone who doesn't seem to have understood what he's read. The novel "cloudy-thing" aspect of the article's argument is the very part the parent misses when he dismisses this as "nothing new".

      The cloud is an abstraction that intentionally hides detail. Cloud providers do that to make the service being offered simple to package, sell and use. They also do what they can to keep the tricks of their trade secret from competetors. But their infrastructure is actually very complex relative to what the average small to medium client would need for themselves. This is important in three ways:

      1. 1) Your own engineers can't take all aspects of a deployment into account when making decisions.
      2. 2) As a moderately sized company, using the cloud will expose you to the risks of emergent behaviour that would simply not be an issue on the smaller scale you would operate on if you ran your own infrastructure.
      3. 3) Your system may be humming along smoothly one moment, then start thrashing disasterously the next in the absence of any action on your part and for no apparent reason, simply because your cloud provider has tweaked some seemingly innocuous parameter (even after extensive testing)

      This is an important and novel issue and worthy of some real consideration.

      • by vlm (69642)

        The novel "cloudy-thing"

        Thats the mistake. cloud is not new or novel, just a remarketing of the same old same old.

        I worked for a "cloud provider" in its declining years in 1996. My desk was in the SW corner of a two acre dinosaur farm. Yes I'm well aware of how big that is, its almost exactly twice the size of the land my house is on. You'd think that could all be processed by one or two rackmount servers, but financial activity volume has increased by almost as many orders of magnitude as processing power has increased... I w

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:09AM (#39413545) Journal
    I think the safest bet is to have local copies in addition to copies in the cloud, even if all the processing and computing is actually done in the cloud. Companies should set stuff up to keep a local copy of critical services on a good old fashioned tape drive or backup server. This is sort of a reverse of the cloud based backup solutions, where local processing and databases took place on local servers, but had backups in the cloud in case of a local disaster. Same idea: Have a local backup in case of the meltdown of the cloud. You may find your primary app is temporarily useless, but you at least have all your critical data (hopefully in a format that can be transferred.)
    • by gweihir (88907)

      Indeed. Although, looking at cloud prices, it may often be cheaper to use the cloud as backup, not the other way round. The prices may come down, though.

      • There are some advantages to true cloud solutions, though. No mucking around with VPN connections or RDC connections that fail (due to end user error more often than not) and paying someone else to handle the headaches of database corruption and equipment maintenance. (We had a site go through a triple punch of having 1. a stick of RAM go bad on the main server, causing blue screens randomly 2. their main database getting so corrupted it would take thirty minutes to open and 3. these two issues causing cor
    • by TheGreatDonkey (779189) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:35AM (#39413873)
      As a SaaS Operations Manager, I believe you are spot on. While I have no major issue with sending data up to the magical "cloud" in many cases, shame on me if I am not taking some responsibility on my own for backups, etc. Even if a cloud provider provides an SLA and claims full backups, should that fall apart, its still going to be my butt in the sling for recovery.

      Their are of course numerous technical solutions to the problem, including cross-site replication, etc. The challenge is the more timely/accurate the replication, usually the higher the cost (bandwdith/limit latency expenses). When the finance folks start to see these numbers, or the customer, suddenly it becomes less "urgent" to them. The trade-off is often times a subtle expectation of HA due to potential direct impact on company profitability, but nobody wants to actually pay for it. I am aware of way to-many orgs that cut corners in this area and simply lie to the customer.

      Hence, to your point, hedge your bets and do the best you can with regular backups
      • We set ours up for once a day (local to cloud or local to tape, for the most part.) What we've found is that losing one day's worth of data is a major headache and annoyance, it's something that is survivable. Anything more than that, as you said, eats up too much bandwidth, and anything less than that could cause irrecoverable disasters from the business perspective. But we're medical, not finance or anything else where real time backups are probably the best bet.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      What a lot of smarter companies do is set up their base load infrastructure with real actual servers under their control, and then fire up cloud resources as the load gets to be too high (or the primary can't function, because, say, the building they were housed in burned to the ground).

  • Well, it's funny to me. But I was thinking that what you've got is a bunch of like computers operated by a single organization, connected by management networks, and depended upon by thousands of other organizations. If there was ever a sweeter target for a virus I don't know what it would be.

    • I look at it differently.

      You can harden against malware to some significant extent. (Even if using Microsoft products.)

      Think of all that data in the cloud. If there was ever a sweeter target for a buyout by a Chinese company, I don't know what it would be.
  • ...you can't see clearly. One of the Hackers Ethics is Mistrust authority — promote decentralization.
    Now there is a reason for this and one the cloud shouldn't be hiding its centralized authority.

  • Emergent behavior in a complex system of networks? Who knew?

  • by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:14AM (#39413611)
    I think the best metaphor for cloud computing is banking. There are risks for doing it yourself and risks in trusting a bank. If you hold your money in a safe then you may be robbed by a family member, employee, or petty theif. If you keep your money in the bank you may be robbed by the goverment, bankers, or by proffesional bank robbers. This same dynamic is true of storing data. The big difference between cloud computing and banking is regulation. Federally insured banks are heavilly regulated. There are laws about home much money they can lend, who they can hire, and what rates they can charge.
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      On the other hand, if your bank fails you will likely find that you cannot access your funds for up to 18 months or more.

      Let that sink in.

      Sure, it's "insured" but you have to go through several layers of government beaurocrats in order to get paid.

      So all of the stuff that applies to the cloud does apply to banks. Although banks are much more mature and debugged "technology", people still suffer from large system failures and the fact that they had no "offline backup".

      So yeah. Keep some actual cash around.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Except, of course, that with a bank, there are laws that make it impossible for the bankers and professional bank robbers to rob you, only to rob either the bank or the taxpayers.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      I trust my own vigilance and concern for my own well being more than I trust that of:

      * bankers
      * recent immigrants with questionable training working on servers
      * others who might profit from my data or selling anything about me

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:17AM (#39413645)

    A coworker discovered when he upgraded from Kindle 1 to Kindle 2, many of the items he had purchased were no longer in the cloud (as amazon had promised). Most of what he lost was periodicals like magazines, but also some books. He was not a happy camper and asked for a refund for those books he could no longer acces, but Amazon simply told him they are not responsible.

    That was back in 2009 if I recall correctly so maybe some of the bugs have been worked-out, but I stored it in memory as a reason why I won't trust the cloud to store any books I might purchase (or anything else). I try to back up these things to USB drive and googlemail storage.

    • by Joehonkie (665142)
      And googlemail isn't the cloud?
    • This is also why, after being briefly enamored of e-books, I've gone back to buying the real thing. I still sometimes reread books I bought 20+ years ago. Will the Kindle ones I've bought still work in 20 years? I doubt it. Are they required to? Certainly not. But I have dead-tree-and-ink versions ranging from days old to 130+ years on my bookshelf. Most of them work as well as the day they were purchased.

      I'll still buy them if they satisfy an immediate need and are significantly cheaper than the dea

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Also with physical books or magazines you can resell them. I was just looking at the resale price of 3-year-old Fantasy & Science magazine, and they are going for $6 each. Not bad for something that only cost me $3 originally. (Good luck trying to resale an ebook or emag; you get a few pennies if that.)

        re: Googlemail. I use it because my house might burn down and take my USB drive with it. At least I'll still have a backup of my e-books (even if only partial) on my googlemail.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:17AM (#39413647)

    Complex systems almost always exhibit surprising behavior. Cloud computing is no exception, and it is new in addition. This leads to a high level of risk of such events emerging without warning. Of course, people with a stake in the business side will never admit the risk. For examples of this happening in other fields, look at TEPCO, BP, RSA, ... All save and risk-free. Until things blow up.

    Put simple: "The Cloud - where other peoples servers can crash yours."

    Also appropriate:
        "A distributed system is one in which I cannot get something done because a machine I've never heard of is down." --Leslie Lamport
    This holds even more for the cloud.

    • by dkf (304284)

      Also appropriate:
          "A distributed system is one in which I cannot get something done because a machine I've never heard of is down." --Leslie Lamport
      This holds even more for the cloud.

      Not really. It's just as true as it ever was. The cloud is just a (viable) business model for virtualized distributed systems.

  • "Yo Dog" meme in there somewhere

    http://www.google.com/search?q= [google.com]"Yo+Dog+Meme"
  • Just wait 4 years for the next leap year.

    Seriously , what clueless idiots at MS didn't take leap years into account when writing certificate code that used dates?

  • My boss signed up for a certain accounting software and quickly found out that it wouldn't work for our company because we do business internationally and the cloud version is not set up to handle different currencies. I don't know the details, but I thought that was pretty lame considering how much business is transacted internationally. So, whether a 'meltdown' is likely to happen or not, for our company it will be some time before the cloud version of this particular software is ready for us to find out!
    • by hawguy (1600213)

      My boss signed up for a certain accounting software and quickly found out that it wouldn't work for our company because we do business internationally and the cloud version is not set up to handle different currencies. I don't know the details, but I thought that was pretty lame considering how much business is transacted internationally. So, whether a 'meltdown' is likely to happen or not, for our company it will be some time before the cloud version of this particular software is ready for us to find out!

      Would his poor choice have been any different than if he bought software that runs on the computer in his office?

      The cloud is not some magical being that suddenly makes applications work for every possible scenario, you still have to undergo the same specification and evaluation process that you do for software that you run yourself. The difference is that if the cloud provider adds international currency support, you don't have to upgrade your software. But you do still need to test the new software releas

    • Indeed, most of my users are not in the US. When I first launched in 2007 I designed for a US user-base (desktop based software). The rest of the English speaking world had different plans! I had to write a lot of code to handle all kinds of currency and tax issues. I get calls from CC processing companies all the time asking me to integrate their service into my software. First question: "Can you process international payments?" Answer: "No, no we can not." My reply: "Sorry, no can do." If you are online

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @12:07PM (#39414307)

    I've always thought that the problem would be when companies start using cloud services that rely on cloud servers that rely on cloud services and one of those cloud services has an outage.

    A problem at one cloud provider can trickle up and affect your service that's running on a completely different cloud service, so for example, your website running on EC2 depends on order fulfillment software running on Rackspace's cloud, which uses back-end software on MS's Azure cloud.

    If Azure has a hiccup, then your web store goes down, and if enough sites are affected, it can make real changes in the load (maybe less load because people can't shop, maybe more load because users keep hitting "reload" to try to place their order) on EC2 and Rackspace which could cause additional problems as load balancers try to shift load around as they respond to the sudden and huge change in load.

  • by e**(i pi)-1 (462311) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @12:28PM (#39414635) Homepage Journal
    I do not know how broadband will be able to cope with this. No thanks, I try to keep independent and use good old rsync to keep my machines in sync. If things continue as they are we soon have bandwidth caps. Relying then on the cloud could become very expensive. Not only because of prize hikes in the cloud once the public is hooked, but also because faster internet service is needed.
  • When it rains, it pours. I've noticed there's a lot of aversion to cloud based software, due to not having control over the platform and pricing at the pleasure of the vendors.
  • The cloud (Score:4, Informative)

    by javascriptjunkie (2591449) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @12:39PM (#39414831)
    I've been working in the cloud since July. The company I work for really likes the idea of it. But I'll tell you something. As a programmer and systems administrator responsible for something that lives in the cloud, I'm just not seeing the value of it. At least the way it's implemented at Rackspace. We've had problems that are absolutely bizarre, that seemingly have no explanation, that take weeks to resolve, that don't originate on our side. We've had issues with data integrity that don't happen on regular servers, and while we're able to "scale," we're very limited in the ways we're allowed to do it. Maybe this kind of set up works for other companies and groups, but I can't see myself choosing a cloud provider over traditional collocation and the standard three tier server model for 99% of what I need to do.
  • Strange behaviors = Skynet / Matrix Human Battery.

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky

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