Richard Stallman has started a big philosophical discussion about cloud computing by giving an interview to the Guardian in September 2008. Many participants in the Web community have taken this interview as a starting point to declare clouds and cloud computing as the evil itself. Basically Richard says that clouds are not a good idea, because you lose control over who processes your data and where it is processed. Stallman declares this dangerous, because only few players will offer these services thus putting all of us subdued to the will of these few corporations. Well, this is certainly a legitimate view of the world. But is this not fear of being controlled or at least controllable by someone else (especially a corporation) standing in the way of obvious technological progress? As you may have read in my late article “Heads in the Clouds” the concept of cloud computing is a logical step in technical evolution – although (and this is where I come quite close to Richard) is badly being misused by marketing.
Personally I think we are in many parts of our life more dependent on few people and corporations making decisions than we think. If you do not believe that I suggest reading “State of Fear” by the late Michael Crichton – you will find how much we are influenced and controlled by governments, media and corporations in our beliefs that even I believe if giving up control was an issue, we lost it long ago.
The concept of cloud computing makes great sense. Technologically because it takes one of the biggest challenges (parallelization) out of the programmer´s hands and allows him/her to focus on innovation instead. In Business because it saves a great deal of money as you are no longer obliged to have all the computing power in store you might need at some stage. I found a more detailed well written reply “Cloud Competition, Lock-In, and Why Richard Stallman is All Wrong” going into Richard´s argument in detail at the SmoothSpan Blog written by Bob Warfield you might enjoy. If you are interested in the evolutionary aspects of cloud computing the current state and its off spring was described by James Urquhart in the “Wisdom of the Clouds Blog” article on “The Two Faces of Cloud Computing” which neatly fits into my current view on clouds and the future technical development awaiting us as described by “Heads in the Clouds”.
I would recommend facing the topic of cloud computing with less fear and more enthusiasm because this may actually be a step towards better software and services while at the same time cutting cost and “being green”.