“The Cloud” or “Cloud Computing” are some of the latest buzz words in the industry. The definition of either of these terms is… well.. cloudy. The basic idea is that your applications are virtualized across a global network of hypervisors. Not too dis-similar from the VM Clusters run here at Lafayette, just on a much larger scale.
This is generally a cheap and in many cases easy solution to web application hosting. You don’t need to invest in expensive infrastructure of your own and your application benefits from the stability and redundancy of being hosted on a cluster which is pretty resilient, and fault-tolerant. However, there are issues to consider.
First is privacy. Your data is your own, but when hosted on a cloud solution, how can you secure it? It’s not on your physical hardware. You cannot prevent physical access to it because you do not have any physical location to secure. On top of that, your application could be anywhere in the world! It could be running in a foreign country!
Along with that lack of physical control, comes your dependence on whoever is controlling the cloud that your application runs on. resilient as they are, it is still possible to lose data on or outright bring down a cluster of virtualized machines.
You may recall a headline from 2009, where Microsoft managed to kill a ton of data which was being utilized by T-Mobile’s sidekick customers. Just yesterday, Google suffered similar embarrassment with their gmail service.
Am I saying that the cloud is evil? No, just that there are concerns which many are not aware of. It’s a current trend, and will pass, but while it’s here, it will be used. Those using cloud services need to be aware of these issues, and they need to know how to protect their data.