Are you on it?
No, I don’t mean your fuzzy-eyed Sunday morning state after a late night of too much partying – or the big fluffy thing little cartoon characters ride on in children’s shows, and not that big scary dark blob that just blocked out the sun on your beach and brought a huge clap of thunder, a bolt of lightning and a bucket of rain to ruin your day (I will talk about ruined days though…). I mean The Cloud – “the delivery of computing and storage capacity as a service to a heterogeneous community of end-recipients.” (Wikipedia)
BING or GOOGLE The Cloud and within a fraction of a fraction of a second over 1 billion links are there for you to peruse and ponder and picture in your mind’s eye as you jump on what is not anywhere near being a new concept in computing, but is one that has taken up the cause du jour of IT providers and their customers all over the world.
Many attribute the notion of the cloud to John McCarthy, a computer scientist who came of age in the 1960s, who wrote, “computation may someday be organized as a public utility….”
Keep that in mind – Public Utility – like the power company you curse out every summer when there are brownouts or power failures because of overloaded system demands, or winter storms when snow brings down power lines or other natural disasters keep you unheated or uncooled and without light or power for days or weeks…I will come back to this….
Truth is, the idea goes back to the 1950s when there were only a few mainframes available and universities and governments needed a way to share computational power – the 1950s…hmm…but then again, we think that Facebook created word of mouth….
It’s also a fairly accepted legend that the term actually refers to the diagrams used by IT professionals to represent the Internet and its role in their configurations – The Cloud.
And most of us – that is, the real world – have been using “The Cloud” seamlessly and intuitively for years as we access information and games and make calls and send texts and share pictures – you get it – as you do it all the time, without a thought.
Somehow, though, the concept has been complicated by the providers, agonized over by the potential big buyers, misunderstood by the media and shamelessly hyped by the analysts, to the point where a fairly simple concept with, frankly, a fairly simple decision tree has become a source of almost black-magic-like wonder, fear and distress as the selling companies vie with one another to explain what it is and the buying companies wring their hands and hold their heads in pain and confusion.
Bottom line – yet another simple and intuitive natural advance rooted in best-practice behavior, with hundreds of cumulative years of learning behind it – becomes mired in esoterica and empty pronouncements that, in my opinion, merely confuse and obfuscate.
There are some who keep it simple – SalesForce.com for one – but read the descriptions and explanations provided by most and get ready to hire a consultant to explain….
But enough philosophical rant – let me get to the Ramble point – and why I think we need to apply the basic human element to all that is The Cloud.
A little over a year ago – in April of 2011, Amazon, a major Cloud provider, suffered a critical outage. The loss of their system caused serious downtime for a number of businesses, but worse – cost them long-term, maybe even permanent damage – as there was actual data that was lost, never to be retrieved again.
It took Amazon a couple of days to explain, and this was their basic statement of cause: “As with any complicated operational issue this one was caused by several root causes interacting with one another.”
COME ON!!!! This is lifted from the playbook of every power company we curse out when our power goes – and no doubt we add old-fashioned, out-of-date utilities to our curse (told you I’d return to that thought…) – YET – that is the truth. Strip away the façade of hyped High Tech and the sequence of events is the same – capacity issues, wrong calls, poor system structure, no planning for what had to be inevitable. Clearly this wasn’t the part of Public Utility that John McCarthy had in mind….
To make things worse, this is the note that Amazon sent out to its affected customers:
A few days ago we sent you an email letting you know that we were working on recovering an inconsistent data snapshot of one or more of your Amazon EBS volumes. We are very sorry, but ultimately our efforts to manually recover your volume were unsuccessful. The hardware failed in such a way that we could not forensically restore the data.
What we were able to recover has been made available via a snapshot, although the data is in such a state that it may have little to no utility…
If you have no need for this snapshot, please delete it to avoid incurring storage charges.
We apologize for this volume loss and any impact to your business.
Amazon Web Services, EBS Support”
HELLO????? This is CRM out of control – can you imagine if you got a note like that from a company that had just lost something of great value to you? A precious treasure? Imagine how you would curse if your utility sent this!!
My favorite report, though, was published here and you have to read it to believe it:
Actually based on data centers? What did anyone think…that The Cloud was really magically floating ponies catching invisible signals? COME ON!!!!
The disaster revealed that basic best practices from Public Utilities had not been followed – and by the way – as we all know, even those best practices fail and fail big – leading to new ones….
The real-time, off-site backup was inconsistent – or worse, non-existent – and the protocol for disaster was a joke.
All which leads us to June 29, 2012, when a big storm in the Eastern United States took Amazon down again and it was reported as if nothing like this had ever happened before in the history of the world….
Let me be really clear – I do not mean to bash Amazon. On the contrary – I love that company and believe that (seriously) “one-click shopping” ranks in the top 10 Internet game changers as it basically killed the idea of sticky (who needs to glue you to my business – get in/get out but buy…).
Further, they are like all Public Utilities (John, you were so right!!!) and no more prescient or nimble or efficient because they grew up on a digital base – ergo, I expect no more, and by the way disasters happen.
And to be fully honest, the only real issue I have with them is the dumb letter they sent.
My issue is with US – us as in those who sell The Cloud and us as in those who buy it. The Cloud is not magic – and Arthur C. Clarke did not have this in mind when he said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Let me quote an important source to explain:
“What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.” Woody Allen
Folks, it’s time to understand that we are overpaying for the carpet – across the board – we need to demand the application of common sense to everything in our digital world while understanding that at the end of the day John McCarthy gave us the key over 40 years ago – and it’s time to use it.
What do you think?