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The fallacies of cloud computing

This year, the growth in cloud computing is set to accelerate if you listen to the vendors of cloud computing services and software. But can it, when fundamental questions remain unanswered?
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Written by Manek Dubash on

This year, the growth in cloud computing is set to accelerate if you listen to the vendors of cloud computing services and software. But can it, when fundamental questions remain unanswered?

I've just come away from a conversation with Reza Malekzadeh, who's now the marketing head honcho at Nimbula -- he used to handle marketing at VMware. Nimbula is a start-up that's making cloud infrastructure management software, aimed at companies looking to start pushing their applications into the cloud. The product is being developed by people with experience of working at Amazon on EC3 and at VMware who I'm told are are putting scalability, automation and security at the top of their priorities. Now in late beta, the system competes with analogous offerings from the likes of Abiquo and Cloud.com, about which I've written before.

And I'd like to pick up one -- or even several points from that blog entry. It reminds me of Peter Deutsch's Eight Fallacies of Distributed Computing -- there were seven originally but James Gosling added the eighth; both men worked at Sun in the early days -- very early days in Deutsch's case: he was a co-founder.

Invented around 1994, the fallacies consist of the assumptions people make when developing networked applications -- such as cloud computing, I would contend. They are: 1. The network is reliable 2. Latency is zero 3. Bandwidth is infinite 4. The network is secure 5. Topology doesn't change 6. There is one administrator 7. Transport cost is zero 8. The network is homogeneous

How accurate are those fallacies today? All of them. And cloud computing systems are all too often based on one or more of this set of assertions. If you're pushing data across the Internet, it's clear that none of these assertions can be true -- even on a private network you can't be certain of all of them. Admittedly we're better at this now but the combination of fine-grained control of cloud-based systems -- the type of control you'll need to manage high-powered virtualised systems over a range of topologies and infrastructures -- is likely to be pretty chatty, and changes in the network could affect how they work.

While cloud computing is a definite trend, there remain many unanswered questions in the minds of enterprise managers, not least the issue of security which squats solidly at the top of the list of concerns in every survey that I've seen of IT managers, CIOs and CEOs when asked about the cloud.

So it remains to be seen how good cloud service providers are going to be at soothing those furrowed brows -- but if they don't take heed of the eight fallacies, they could come to a sticky end.

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