If Apple can't keep its own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

If Apple can't keep its own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

Summary: Since Apple claims iCloud will be the central hub for the digital lives of a hundred million or so iOS users, they need to be able to prove iCloud will be able to hold up under the demand.

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Update: I published this article before the heartbreaking news of Steve Jobs' passing. Our condolences go out to all of his family, his friends, and those who worked for and with him.

My thoughts: One more thing. Remembering Steve Jobs.

The original article begins here.

Yesterday's iPhone announcement was full of both surprises and letdowns. For all of us pundits, our pre-announcement of the non-existent iPhone 5 was something of a universal disappointment.

See also: ZDNet iPhone coverage

On the other hand, Apple (who, to be fair, never, ever made mention of an iPhone 5) announced a fair successor to the iPhone 4, complete with faster processor, better camera, and new voice capabilities.

But the iPhone 4S is not really the big news of the week. The big news is that iOS 5 -- the version of iOS that is meant to bring Apple users into the world of cloud computing -- is set to debut in seven days.

Seven days.

At that point, Apple is going to ask you to trust them with your documents and your mobile life, all constantly and dynamically syncing to the cloud.

Or, well sinking, anyway.

Here's what's got me thinking. Yesterday, Apple did a product announcement. Granted, every new utterance from Apple is treated as the second coming, often with almost as much interest as a Super Bowl, but even so, yesterday was just a product announcement.

Many tech Web sites buckled under the load. We, here at ZDNet, were going to live blog using a service called CoverItLive, but within minutes of our logging in, the service died, presumably under too heavy a load from the Apple faithful tuning in to watch our site (and many others) live blog the event.

But then, the Apple.com site went down, as chronicled by CNET's own Elinor Mills. Apple.com came to a screaming, screeching halt.

Did I mention that iCloud is supposed to go live in seven days?

Now, the Apple faithful out there will tell me this was an event of unprecedented popularity and Apple's not expected to keep their site up under such a load. They might even say that if other sites couldn't stay up under the massed interest, why should Apple be any different -- especially since their site is at the Ground Zero of the attention tsunami?

This would be true, except that Apple is asking you to trust them with your data. This will not be the only big traffic day Apple has to weather. There will be natural disasters, there will be Super Bowls, there will be presidential elections, there will be unfortunate news about Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and Paris Hilton to bring down servers.

If Apple claims iCloud will be the central hub for the digital lives of a hundred million or so iOS users, they need to be able to prove iCloud will be able to hold up under the demand.

This is not promising. When Apple's MobileMe service launched, it was a dog. There were complaints everywhere, and it was clear Apple didn't quite get the cloud world.

Now, they've renamed it and re-purposed it, calling it iCloud and asking you to trust them with everything digital you hold dear.

Apple couldn't even keep its own Web site up and running during a mere product announcement.

Seven days. I did mention that iCloud is supposed to go live in seven days, didn't I?

Seven days.

I don't think this is going to be pretty.

Topics: Cloud, Apple, Browser, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility, Smartphones, Software Development

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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57 comments
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  • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

    Does Apple keep their website on the same servers/infrastructure that will house iCloud?

    If so... then I'd agree there's reason for concern...
    azlan.sharom@...
    • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

      @azlan.sharom@... They are almost definitely completely different beasts. But the company's IT operations need to be judged by their entire public-facing service offerings, especially since the Web site is undoubtedly a much smaller operation than what they're trying to bite off with iCloud.

      It's just a bad sign, that's all.
      David Gewirtz
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @David Gewirtz
        I agree. Yamaha keyboards suck. That's why I never ride their bikes...
        Psyanide
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @Psyanide [i]I agree. Yamaha keyboards suck. That's why I never ride their bikes...[/i]

        More like, Yamaha Keyboards Suck... would you trust their Guitars? Personally, if I thought their Keyboards sucked, I'd take a very cautious approach to their other musical instruments.
        Badgered
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @Psyanide
        Yamaha keyboards and guitars are pretty darned good products! Their motorcycles are wonderful! I don't know anything about their bicycles...But there isn't a one of 'em that I know of that wants to store your data in "the cloud".

        Apples and oranges? Maybe, but there are plenty of reasons to be careful of "cloud" offerings. The user just has to be aware that a connection failure or bandwidth problem is going to isolate them... And that their data will be accessed, sold, tampered with, possibly lost, and given up to law enforcement for capricious reasons... Those who accept that risk will remain happy happy happy.
        notme403@...
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @David Gewirtz OK, so you're predicting a disaster without any basis whatsoever? Well, if you're wrong I hope to hear a Mea Culpa because I am SURE you will be screaming from the rooftops that you were right if it does happen. So tell me, what timetable are we talking here? Can't say that you're right if the site goes down some sunny day in 2015, right?
        cartman00000001
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @David Gewirtz So they are different beast but you assume they will fail with iCloud? Launch day and probably the week after will be a test and there could be some hiccups but it's not the forgone conclusion that they will fail like you make it out to be. Of course this does not surprise me from you.
        non-biased
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @David Gewirtz

        I really don't get what is the worry, so what if iCloud is unavailable to sync for a few minutes or even a few hours? It is basically an online backup copies of what I already have on my iDevice, I can continue to work with my local copies and worse thing that could happen is my iDevice become self-destruct and I lost what didn't get sync up to iCloud because iCloud is unavailable. You know what? With iCloud it is still better than without iCloud, because instead of losing a few hours of work, I still have a copy of my files, contacts... versus without iCloud, I will loss everything that I didn't backup or sync manually to my computer. So once again, iCloud with the possibility of a few hours of service interruption is still infinitely better than having to remember to backup/sync every night.
        SonofChef
    • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

      @azlan.sharom@...

      Let me get this straight. Company 'A' wants to house all your data on Server 3, yet their website crashes on Server 1... you have all the confidence in them that your data will be just fine?
      Badgered
  • Obviously, Apple's site is not situatated on Apple's datacenter for iCloud,

    ... so there is no way to connect the site's fall to iCloud stability, which remains to be seen.

    Also, iCloud is more synchronization service rather than storage service: the data is always on concrete devices. <b>It is nothing like Google's or Amazon's solutions where you can not get your data</b> if there is problem with connection to the Internet or the data centres.
    DDERSSS
    • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

      @DeRSSS Sure! Your data is safe from the man in the middle. It's JUST a synchronizing service. Sheesh. It's iCloud. Massive server banks which will store your data AND sync it (From the centralized storage) to various devices, like your iPhone, your iMac, your iPad, your iCar, your iBike, your iFridge, your iGlasses, your iShoes, your iTV, your iGun, your iBelt, your iWaterbottle, etc.
      notme403@...
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @notme403@...

        Just call them iObjects so you don't have to chant the list
        mswift@...
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @notme403@... So you missed the point that the data will be on your device and accessible? You are not working on documents in the cloud where they are then stored.
        non-biased
  • David Gwerww ... who?

    David Gewirtz, "Distinguished Lecturer" (yeah right) at CBS Interactive, is a bona fide Apple Hater who has no idea how technology works: Prima-facie evidence therein is linking a website to the iCloud. GO back to your windows machine and continue being a tool. Rory Lewis
    innertron
    • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

      @innertron
      Attack the person when you cannot argue the technology.
      notme403@...
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @notme403@... I can argue the tech - iCloud is a synchronization service not a dedicated cloud storage like Dropbox - the files are still stored locally on one's hard drive. And innertron is right in one respect - Gerwitz is an Apple Hater - that's not an attack but a fact.
        athynz
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @notme403@...

        That's what all fanbois (of all three major flavours - Apple, Windows and Linux) do as soon as they feel as if their One True God is being denigrated.

        Personally, i've said, ever since the "cloud" entered the general consciousness, that it's a real good way to lose your data, given that Finagle's Law of Dynamic Constants says that something that if something mission critical is 99.999% reliable, that .001% chance will come up exactly when it can do the most damage.
        fairportfan
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @notme403@... That does tend to be a prime Apple hater tactic.
        non-biased
    • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

      @innertron

      I'm guessing if you did a find/replaced on "Apple" with "Microsoft" the mac kool aid flowing through your veins would have you raving about how great of an article this was. Mr. Gewirtz makes a fair comparison on how can you trust a company with your data when there are parts of their infrastructure they already have trouble running during critical times.
      II2none
      • RE: If Apple can't keep it's own site up, can we really count on iCloud?

        @II2none It is a valid question but my issue is not the question, it's the fact that he presents it as a given that they will fail with iCloud. Microsoft, Amazon and Google have all had outages in the past, is he writing pieces asking why people should trust them with their data because of those outages?
        non-biased