Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Risk of a Meltdown In the Cloud

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the precipitating-danger dept.

Cloud 154

zrbyte writes "A growing number of complexity theorists are beginning to recognize some potential problems with cloud computing. The growing consensus is that bizarre and unpredictable behavior often emerges in systems made up of 'networks of networks,' such as a business using the computational resources of a cloud provider. Bryan Ford at Yale University in New Haven says the full risks of the migration to the cloud have yet to be properly explored. He points out that complex systems can fail in many unexpected ways, and he outlines various simple scenarios in which a cloud could come unstuck."

cancel ×

154 comments

Not a big risk (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413421)

Not a big risk, compared to having a Muzzie drive up on a scooter and shoot you.

Re:Not a big risk (-1, Offtopic)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413431)

Not a big risk, compared to having a Muzzie drive up on a scooter and shoot you.

I don't know, in terms of being personally affected it is probably a bigger risk. Also a higher global impact, though admittedly a lower personal impact.

It has to happen (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413429)

At some point, there is going to be a massive failure. Someone big is going to lose *all* of their data. I still don't trust virtualization despite it being years old. It's still nascent in the grand scheme.

Someone wake me when they invent the holodeck.

Re:It has to happen (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413443)

At some point, there is going to be a massive failure. Someone big is going to lose *all* of their data.

I just hope its my mortgage company and not my bank.

Re:It has to happen (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39414289)

But, but... you don't understand. You're money's not here. It's in Joe's house, and Jimmie's house and... it really is a wonderful life.

Re:It has to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39414673)

We have this signed contract from you 10 years ago, but we don't appear to have had any repayments...

Re:It has to happen (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413515)

It will most likely happen with a company that creates security certificates with invalid expiration dates.

Re:It has to happen (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413543)

Well, lots of people lose data or access to data "in the cloud" (i.e. "on the mainframe", to use '60s IBM parlance) all the time. Catastrophic losses happened in the '60s, happened for that short period of enlightenment when we thought we should have control of our own data, and will also happen as we revert to the past. The usual questions apply:

- What are the motivations of your service provider? I.e. how much do /they/ care if your data is lost. This will determine how hard they try not to lose it. Recall that a businesses future depends on the interests of its owners and executives - there is no maxim requiring that the business last as long as possible, especially not in the field it is currently in;

- Who else can bother you? I.e. who wants to access your data and who of those people has the resources to pay government or crackers?

Re:It has to happen (3, Funny)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413657)

Well, as the holodeck is tactile, I expect it will kill quite a few people before the kinks are worked out.

Re:It has to happen (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413829)

If someone loses "all" their data in the cloud, their problem has nothing to do with the cloud. If you lose all your data, it's because you kept all your data in one place, with no backups in a different place, and all fault lands on you, not the cloud, not your cloud provider, and not on any given piece of technology. There have already been large failures, and some companies have already lost massive amounts of data, but it doesn't change anything, because these problems have nothing to do with whether you host your own servers or rent them from somebody else, which is really all "the cloud" boils down to.

Also, inherently not trusting virtualization as a concept in 2012 is is moronic and baseless. It's a technology, just like any other. It can be implemented well or it can be implemented poorly, but as a concept it is not novel or revolutionary to any degree that it should engender trust or distrust, at least not any more than the hardware underneath it.

Re:It has to happen (5, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413893)

If the cloud is not more robust than what your grandma could come up with on her own then what's the point really?

Isn't the whole point of "the cloud" the fact that you aren't managing this stuff yourself? You don't have the burden? You don't need the expertise?

If you push it back on the cloud consumer then a lot of it is really quite pointless.

Re:It has to happen (4, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414083)

"If the cloud is not more robust than what your grandma could come up with on her own then what's the point really?"

Money.

Re:It has to happen (4, Insightful)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414155)

I keep remembering the Google applications that keep disappearing. Data is one thing, application providers going out of business or discontinuing a service is another issue entirely. Hopefully the competition still stands and you can migrate your applications over to their service.

Re:It has to happen (3, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414983)

If the cloud is not more robust than what your grandma could come up with on her own then what's the point really?

That is exactly it. The cloud is more robust than what grandma could come up with or what I have time to manage for her. Grandma has some family photo's, a cookie recipe or two, and *maybe* some financial statements etc. Some of it might be tragic to loose but its a loss we can live with.

The F1000 I work at on the other hand certainly can build something more robust at least as relates to their specific needs; if they simply put up the dollars. Certain parties are trying bill the cloud as way to save money without sacrificing reliability. Perhaps it does offer good security against traditional risks of hardware failure, run away support costs, etc; but it brings new risks to the table as well. The truth is as an industry we know less about identifying, controlling and mitigating those risks than we do about in house solutions. That is a point that is being missed by lots of decision makers.

Re:It has to happen (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414089)

"We should study [these unrecognised risks] before our socioeconomic fabric becomes inextricably dependent on a convenient but potentially unstable government model."

Re:It has to happen (5, Insightful)

jriding (1076733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414543)

Just a thought. Forget actual failure. What happens when they have IP data or licensed data that is being hosted by a cloud provider, or company to company lawsuit. Court case starts. Could or would they they seize all computers / servers that could house the data? What would happen to the other peoples data that resides on the same physical hardware?

Re:It has to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39415013)

What if another client of those providers host content that the media cartels don't like and they yank all the servers in a raid? 2-3 years before you get your data back?

Re:It has to happen (4, Informative)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414739)

I am sorry but we have been virtualizing things by one name or anything going back to 1960's mainframes. In other words almost as long as commercial computing has existed.

The cloud is a different matter. The issue is not with virtualization but with creating dependencies on and between parties who don't really talk to each other.

Re:It has to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39414761)

"At some point, there is going to be a massive failure. Someone big is going to lose *all* of their data."

And statistically speaking, the end user's data is STILL safer in S3/Azure. Redundancy is NEVER a replacement for back-ups.

Re:It has to happen (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39415221)

For the most part, there's nothing wrong with the technology. The question is who you're trusting to maintain and secure it.

Potential Major Un-Oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413473)

What are the bets on the first cloud-company meltdown?

I've Got My Fingers Crossed For A Singularity! (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414651)

Maybe the network of networks won't melt down but instead become self aware... ;-)

Re:Placing bets on first cloud company meltdown (1)

DickBreath (207180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414823)

Can I place my bet on Microsoft please?

T-Mobile Sidekick Disaster: Danger's Servers Crashed, And They Don't Have A Backup [techcrunch.com]

Microsoft Red-Faced After Massive Sidekick Data Loss [pcworld.com]

Or just google for Microsoft Sidekick/Danger

Re:Placing bets on first cloud company meltdown (2)

DickBreath (207180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414879)

Just to add a footnote: it's interesting to note the differences for this search term using google vs. bing.

Why not stick to real risks? (5, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413477)

I don't understand the intent of the article other than to provide a knee-jerk chicken-little response to cloud processing and storage.

Not one of the items mentioned is unique to the cloud. It can happen to any data center with more than two nodes involved in a cluster.

But that's not surprising, because "the cloud" is just a distributed collection of cluster servers, the same as large multi-nationals have been running pretty much since their customer loads exceeded the ability of one server to span the global community.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413597)

Problem is that half the people buying cloud services thing their system is imune to any new problem, and might not implement the same failback procedures they would have in a traditional way.

We are in many way seeing a new generation of IT people and managers with far less understanding of the fragility of their system then the previus generation, emerge onto the scene.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (5, Insightful)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413653)

Doubtful.

More likely, bean counters don't listen to the IT people who say offline backups are important. Beancounters just hear extra expense, think everything in the cloud is secure, and deny redundancy/backups.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (5, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413877)

This. A million times this!

Our brass is also abuzz with "the cloud". Nobody has the foggiest (pun intended) idea what it is about, what it is or what the hell is going on, but it is the best thing since bread has been sliced. The cloud. It will help us safe millions. How? I dunno, I don't care, but it does! We hear it everywhere, we see it in our manager magazines, and there it is kinda-sorta explained but I didn't understa... I mean, I didn't read it throughly, I don't have the time, my time is valuable, ya know? But it will help us cut costs in a big way, we gotta push towards the cloud!

The risks? They are not aware of the risks. They don't even know they exist. Why would they exist, they didn't exist so far, right? Redundan..what? Backup... whazat? Now why the hell do we need that suddenly?

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (4, Insightful)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413967)

"the cloud" is just dumb terminals all over again. After businesses make a bunch of money on the cloud they will then start selling local solutions again to try and mitigate problems with being on the cloud.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (2, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414113)

Indeed. I can't believe that after we had finished ditching mainframes as a technological way of life, the pointy-heads want to go back to it. Like we missed something the last time we were there...

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39415105)

I am not a cloud advocate by any means, but there is somethings different this time. The network is more portable. The trouble with those terminals was they we tied to that rs232 line either back to the FIP or to a modem and phone line. Now cellular and wireless let you take the network *almost* anywhere. Second at least form a human interactivity standpoint time sharing no longer means you sit and wait while someone else uses the computing resources. There is less need for independent processing, and storage now.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (2)

bonkeydcow (1186443) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413631)

I agree. Too many people seem to think of computing as magic. Microsoft's cloud suffered a massive outage on Feb 29. All is well now, there is no ghost in the machine.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (2)

Lennie (16154) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413983)

Sill 4 year until the next leap day :-)

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (2)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414329)

It isn't magic, but things do get spooky when you start hooking together disparate systems (none of them have ANY bugs, right?) and interdependencies. From my point of view "cloud" is a marketing strategy of large corporations aimed at managers and generally non-technical people. Microsoft has been pushing for subscription based software as soon as they determined the internet wasn't a fad. Sure, there are some neat cloud services and APIs available (Amazon, Google, FB, Twitter, etc...), but considering them for mission critical status is a whole other ball of wax. If it is not magical like a shiny iPhone then control-freak business owners and executives are not going to be interested in giving up control of their infrastructure. No magic == no deal.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414469)

Well, to be fair (and as someone else pointed out around here), they do call it "Office 365" and not "Office 366".

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413643)

I'm just glad to see someone talking about the stupidity of pushing one's computing & storage needs on to someone else's hardware.
IT is one of the few advantages competitive business (small and large) still can still leverage, only a fool would count on centralized control to manage this aspect of their business.
The Cloud is for sheep and idiots.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39414109)

IT is one of the few advantages competitive business (small and large) still can still leverage

Right, because as a competitive advantage, the whole "creating new products and services that are better than those of your competitors" pales in comparison to "having a well-administered Exchange infrastructure to exchange lolcat images with."

The Cloud is for sheep and idiots.

And dismissing the cloud out of hand and asserting that massive IT infrastructure spending is the only thing that will save a business is for simpletons and buffoons - so it seems you're in good company with your cloud-bound brethren.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39414485)

Right, because as a competitive advantage, the whole "creating new products and services that are better than those of your competitors" pales in comparison to "having a well-administered Exchange infrastructure to exchange lolcat images with."

Dismissing the advantage of keeping competitors eyes off your internal plans & potential partnerships, and asserting that massive IT infrastructure spending is only used wastefully to share personal stupidity, is for simpletons and buffoons - so it seems you're in good company with your cloud-bound brethren.

Sharing LOLcat images are fine use of The Cloud. Any kind of filesharing, really. You know, things that you *want* the anyone/everyone to see. Only an idiot would hand over important data to someone else to manage.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (5, Interesting)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413691)

In the cloud, you have no idea who else is on the same hardware as you and what their usage patterns are. You cannot be careful yourself anymore, you have to trust your service-provider. The past shows that unless you have huge contractual penalties in place, that is a losing game.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (1)

IcyHando'Death (239387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414989)

I'd be modding this up if I had points right now.

Even if your servers are dedicated, they are part of an infrastructure that you not only don't control, but don't know much about. How the network is run is probably actually very closely guarded competetive business information for your cloud provider.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (0)

XaXXon (202882) | more than 2 years ago | (#39415223)

But your cloud provider probably does a better job than you do of running that environment, and the downsides of having an outage are immense from a trust perspective.

disclosure: I work for a large cloud provider.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413817)

I think they are shedding light to people who don't understand the hardware risks as they are. Cloud computing has been selling itself as a trusted environment. Interestingly it does not mention when the company is leveled by legal, financial, hackers, or internal sabotage.
Or if the cloud storage company decides to scan files for DRM management and delete suspected copied files.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (1)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413883)

Pretty much. Just define The Cloud the way you like it, and then explain why your definition could fail. Yet more proof that the only people who really understand The Cloud are marketing reps.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (0)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413887)

The big difference is that with local control of data, you (the biz owner) will make sure the backups are done, tested, and sent off for storage at a remote site, knowing full well that if anything goes wrong, it's up to you to fix it. There's also the fact that if anything does go wrong, and you were diligent about backups, you know where they are, and can get them quickly.

Contrast this with the cloud... not even known about by the company IT department in too many cases, you get instances where IT gets to eat the big one but can't do anything about it. Example? Joe Dumbass in Accounting whips up a cloud solution for payroll, and doesn't back up a damned thing (or worse, has some halfassed (and rarely updated) spreadsheet stored on his network file share and calls that his "backup"). Worse, he doesn't even say anything to IT about it beyond "oh, we're taking care of it now". Soon, the company is doing all of its payroll on it because it's cheaper than what the IT department 'charges' (inter-departmentally).

When (not if, "when") something goes heinously wrong cloud-side (or even with a local client/workstation app), company payroll blows up, and nobody has sufficient backups on the client side. The cloud provider might have something backed up (well, likely does), but won't be able to 'prioritize' any restoration for days, or perhaps a week or more. Only problem is, your pay period ends tomorrow morning, and there's a lot of complex overtime involved, it's tax season, etc.

Are they going to jump Joe Dumbass for it? Of course not... even if they did (rightfully) sack him for it, you and I both know that the frazzled CFO is going to mosey on over to the IT department and hotly demand that someone pull a rabbit out of their ass to save his (and given that a llot of CIOs report to the CFO, well...) That, or given company politics, the CIO or IT head is going to get demands to perform some sort of magic trick to restore the missing data sooner, and "no" is not among the options.

Now certainly a slack IT department could not test backups, not have redundancy, etc... but the blame for failure lies in the same place as the responsibility for execution in that case - and not in some far-off cloud with a half-assed SLA that may or may not be honored.

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39414017)

I believe the author points out that not all cloud information is shared properly to mitigate cascading redundant failovers across shared cloud resources, and would likely give rise problems which are not recognizeable by those managing the systems.

Having your cloud app run across supporting vendors on the net, to marginalize risk, adds unintended risk if each vendor doesn't know how the other operates under failovers and how automated responses, given the conditions are in place, could likely make the problems worse for more than the 1 customer involved. Call it, cross-vendor cascade failure disease if you will.

Look, the cloud* is meant to move and transport running systems where resources are available and on the fly. Unless you want to put in massive security and firewalling such that boundaries are in place against on the fly movements, pretty much contrary to the intended design itself, this type of threat, albeit probably rare, will likely become a factor if we start seeing massive cross-vendor sharing of cloud services.

Ask yourself this: For every cloud services vendor out there, and even if they're running cloud-stack, or open-stack, or Hyper-V or whatever, do you really think the same scripts and management response are in place such that each could communicate with every other, seamlessly?

Re:Why not stick to real risks? (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414223)

"I don't understand the intent of the article other than to provide a knee-jerk chicken-little response to cloud processing and storage."

Let me paraphrase this a little to a known example:

  I don't understand the intent of the article other than to provide a knee-jerk chicken-little response to financial derivatives. The individual financial instruments making them up have risks, but when they are bundled together, the random risks will cancel out. And given that there are a number of types of mortgages included in the derivative, a systemic risk effecting all of them is unlikely.

Sound familiar?

All it's saying is that there can be sources of instability that result from the distributed nature of the cloud and having large numbers of load balancers interacting. Big deal. There are risks in any system.

Bottom line: Just evaluate the risks and failure modes for your business/project just like you would any other computing resource. The cloud isn't a magic bullet that lets you get away with poor practices.

Not the meltdown I had in mind (-1, Troll)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413483)

I wanna see Glenn Beck met down in the Cloud.

Re:Not the meltdown I had in mind (-1, Offtopic)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413745)

Glenn Beck isn't even on your TV anymore..... he's off on his own channel (website). If you don't like the guy just don't go there.

And I'd like to see the ability to "meltdown" MicrosoftNBC, CNN, and Fox News from my cable lineup, so I don't have to keep paying for them (about 40 cents per channel). Come on FCC or State legislators. When are you going to make ala carte (choose your channels) a reality? You did it for Satelite Radio and should do it for Cable TV too. IMHO.

Re:Not the meltdown I had in mind (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413959)

Warning: The post above me was made by a homosexual. Stay back so you don't catch the gay.

Oscillator (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413527)

The TLDR version of the article is that load balancers can oscillate.
Its spun into a cloudy-thing because thats trendy, but the basic argument is nothing new.
Perhaps there's more "meat" in the original paper?

One common thread is that nothing is ever really "new" in computer science / IT. Clouds are just a rehash of ye olde mainframe outsourcing from decades ago. I worked at a place that was doing that in the early to mid 90s.

Re:Oscillator (5, Insightful)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413673)

The general point is that it's possible to get bad emergent behavior which is unexpected. This shouldn't be surprising to anyone (but it is, alas). We see it over and over in complex systems, and it's got pretty much nothing to do with what you implement the complex system with.

What to do about it? Well, the only real fix is to stop the drive for efficiency at all costs. All those little inefficiencies that hit your bottom line, they also mean that when things go wrong you can weather the storm more easily. And yes, that resilience means things are going to cost more. How much more? Well, depends how much risk you want to take out of the system and how much you're willing to pay. Your call. (A local backup removes a lot of risk from things like cloud providers going belly up unexpectedly, but it does mean you're stuck with actually having to pay real money to do the backup and make sure it is working.)

Re:Oscillator (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413777)

Yes, mechanical engineers and physicists might assume computer scientists are totally oblivious to control theory, but the example in this article is identical to problems posed in route selection for IP packets in networking courses, just at a higher level in the protocol stack. That's not to dismiss the issue, but it's solvable.

Now, the researcher might say, "well, yes, that was just one trivial example of a much deeper, bigger issue." But my experience is that something that seems deep yet always seems to elude good specific examples usually turns out not to be so interesting after all. I hate to say it but complex adaptive systems as a discipline might be a good example of this - it seems like there might be some useful underlying generalizations about all things "complex," but useful new theories don't seem to be forthcoming.

Re:Oscillator (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39415085)

I hate to say it but complex adaptive systems as a discipline might be a good example of this - it seems like there might be some useful underlying generalizations about all things "complex," but useful new theories don't seem to be forthcoming.

That's because all the useful theories are old. Ask a EE about his "control system theory" assuming he's a real EE. Its all bode plots and PID controllers as far as the the eye can see. Fuzzy logic was a 80s fad that never went anywhere. There's some overlap with neural networks in that in extreme agony and wasted time you can train a NN to be a cruddy PID controller... but its better just to make a real PID controller.

Re:Oscillator (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413859)

There's more to the article than just "load balancing". QUOTE: "An obvious example is the flash crashes that now plague many financial markets in which prices plummet dramatically for no apparent reason. Understanding how and why this happens is the focus of much research. Given that cloud is clearly becoming a network of networks that is rapidly growing in complexity, it's not hard to imagine that the computing equivalent of flash crashes are not just likely but inevitable."

Flash crash - When the stocks, as measured by the DOW Index, suddenly drop several hundred points due to computerized trading. It's still unclear this happens.

I used "the cloud" in the 80s.... (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413911)

... it was called an ftp server then. If only I'd known then just what a cool technorati I was when typing "put" or "get" on a remote system.

As for using telnet , woah , I mean , being able to use another system As If You Were There! How cutting edge and amazing is that! (for 1988).

I can't wait for when the dribbling HTML 5 webwonks rediscover remote shell login and start dribbling how its "just like so totally ultimate clooowwwd , no, wait dude , not clooowwwd , thats like so 2012 , I mean its so totally out there just like .... Spaaaace, yeeeah, its In Space".

Re:Oscillator (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414399)

Race conditions are always a primary concern when dealing with this sort of thing. I would think that not building two systems to do the same job would be a basic thing to avoid, rather a common problem. Of couse, it could be that a certain part of the cloud is being built by people who do not know what they are doing, that are putting prefab units together with no understanding of what is going on, and in such a case it could be that race conditions are created without any knowledge. In such a case, however, it is likely that incompetence has crated other issues. Of couse since race conditions are intermittent and often very difficult to diagnose, such a problem could create long term uptime problem, in opposition to what the summary suggests.

I would also suggest that there are two clouds, emerging from the existing infrastructure that has been popular for at least the past five years, and in use for about 10 years since the technology was cheaply available. What most people see as the cloud is extremely cheap remote capability made practical because of cheap and fast always on network connections. This will be unreliable because most customers are going to value cost over reliability. We see this with Amazon. I think the the other cloud, emerging from the traditional mainframe or mini datacenter, do provide real value and reliability over any traditional solution for those that can justify the cost. Imagine real time offsite backup to every continent. Instant redundant processing in the UK when the North American grid goes down.

Re:Oscillator (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414541)

One common thread is that nothing is ever really "new" in computer science / IT

Totally. I don't think I've seen anything really new since maybe the mid eighties if not before. Sure it's faster/cheaper/smaller but pretty much everything new and trendy is something that has been here before under another name, had it's day and fallen out of fashion.

It's quite painful, especially in younger IT guys seeing them reinvent the wheel over and over and feeling so pleased with their 'innovation'

Re:Oscillator (5, Insightful)

IcyHando'Death (239387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39415353)

Pardon me mods, but +4 informative? This is a terrible summary from someone who doesn't seem to have understood what he's read. The novel "cloudy-thing" aspect of the article's argument is the very part the parent misses when he dismisses this as "nothing new".

The cloud is an abstraction that intentionally hides detail. Cloud providers do that to make the service being offered simple to package, sell and use. They also do what they can to keep the tricks of their trade secret from competetors. But their infrastructure is actually very complex relative to what the average small to medium client would need for themselves. This is important in three ways:

  1. 1) Your own engineers can't take all aspects of a deployment into account when making decisions.
  2. 2) As a moderately sized company, using the cloud will expose you to the risks of emergent behaviour that would simply not be an issue on the smaller scale you would operate on if you ran your own infrastructure.
  3. 3) Your system may be humming along smoothly one moment, then start thrashing disasterously the next in the absence of any action on your part and for no apparent reason, simply because your cloud provider has tweaked some seemingly innocuous parameter (even after extensive testing)

This is an important and novel issue and worthy of some real consideration.

Cloud services should complement, not replace (5, Insightful)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413545)

I think the safest bet is to have local copies in addition to copies in the cloud, even if all the processing and computing is actually done in the cloud. Companies should set stuff up to keep a local copy of critical services on a good old fashioned tape drive or backup server. This is sort of a reverse of the cloud based backup solutions, where local processing and databases took place on local servers, but had backups in the cloud in case of a local disaster. Same idea: Have a local backup in case of the meltdown of the cloud. You may find your primary app is temporarily useless, but you at least have all your critical data (hopefully in a format that can be transferred.)

Re:Cloud services should complement, not replace (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413723)

Indeed. Although, looking at cloud prices, it may often be cheaper to use the cloud as backup, not the other way round. The prices may come down, though.

Re:Cloud services should complement, not replace (3, Insightful)

TheGreatDonkey (779189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413873)

As a SaaS Operations Manager, I believe you are spot on. While I have no major issue with sending data up to the magical "cloud" in many cases, shame on me if I am not taking some responsibility on my own for backups, etc. Even if a cloud provider provides an SLA and claims full backups, should that fall apart, its still going to be my butt in the sling for recovery.

Their are of course numerous technical solutions to the problem, including cross-site replication, etc. The challenge is the more timely/accurate the replication, usually the higher the cost (bandwdith/limit latency expenses). When the finance folks start to see these numbers, or the customer, suddenly it becomes less "urgent" to them. The trade-off is often times a subtle expectation of HA due to potential direct impact on company profitability, but nobody wants to actually pay for it. I am aware of way to-many orgs that cut corners in this area and simply lie to the customer.

Hence, to your point, hedge your bets and do the best you can with regular backups

Re:Cloud services should complement, not replace (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39415207)

What a lot of smarter companies do is set up their base load infrastructure with real actual servers under their control, and then fire up cloud resources as the load gets to be too high (or the primary can't function, because, say, the building they were housed in burned to the ground).

How funny, I was just talking about this yesterday (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413549)

Well, it's funny to me. But I was thinking that what you've got is a bunch of like computers operated by a single organization, connected by management networks, and depended upon by thousands of other organizations. If there was ever a sweeter target for a virus I don't know what it would be.

Re:How funny, I was just talking about this yester (1)

DickBreath (207180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414991)

I look at it differently.

You can harden against malware to some significant extent. (Even if using Microsoft products.)

Think of all that data in the cloud. If there was ever a sweeter target for a buyout by a Chinese company, I don't know what it would be.

Name this quote (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413551)

Remind me to thank John for a lovely weekend.

Cloudy means..... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413571)

...you can't see clearly. One of the Hackers Ethics is Mistrust authority — promote decentralization.
Now there is a reason for this and one the cloud shouldn't be hiding its centralized authority.

What's that? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413587)

Emergent behavior in a complex system of networks? Who knew?

Cloud Computing == Banking (3, Insightful)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413611)

I think the best metaphor for cloud computing is banking. There are risks for doing it yourself and risks in trusting a bank. If you hold your money in a safe then you may be robbed by a family member, employee, or petty theif. If you keep your money in the bank you may be robbed by the goverment, bankers, or by proffesional bank robbers. This same dynamic is true of storing data. The big difference between cloud computing and banking is regulation. Federally insured banks are heavilly regulated. There are laws about home much money they can lend, who they can hire, and what rates they can charge.

Re:Cloud Computing == Banking (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413943)

On the other hand, if your bank fails you will likely find that you cannot access your funds for up to 18 months or more.

Let that sink in.

Sure, it's "insured" but you have to go through several layers of government beaurocrats in order to get paid.

So all of the stuff that applies to the cloud does apply to banks. Although banks are much more mature and debugged "technology", people still suffer from large system failures and the fact that they had no "offline backup".

So yeah. Keep some actual cash around.

Re:Cloud Computing == Banking (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39415217)

Except, of course, that with a bank, there are laws that make it impossible for the bankers and professional bank robbers to rob you, only to rob either the bank or the taxpayers.

Example: Kindle's cloud (3, Informative)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413645)

A coworker discovered when he upgraded from Kindle 1 to Kindle 2, many of the items he had purchased were no longer in the cloud (as amazon had promised). Most of what he lost was periodicals like magazines, but also some books. He was not a happy camper and asked for a refund for those books he could no longer acces, but Amazon simply told him they are not responsible.

That was back in 2009 if I recall correctly so maybe some of the bugs have been worked-out, but I stored it in memory as a reason why I won't trust the cloud to store any books I might purchase (or anything else). I try to back up these things to USB drive and googlemail storage.

Re:Example: Kindle's cloud (1)

Joehonkie (665142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414031)

And googlemail isn't the cloud?

Re:Example: Kindle's cloud (2)

rtaylor (70602) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414373)

My diagrams include a cloud around my clouds. Supercloud for the win.

Re:Example: Kindle's cloud (2)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414325)

This is also why, after being briefly enamored of e-books, I've gone back to buying the real thing. I still sometimes reread books I bought 20+ years ago. Will the Kindle ones I've bought still work in 20 years? I doubt it. Are they required to? Certainly not. But I have dead-tree-and-ink versions ranging from days old to 130+ years on my bookshelf. Most of them work as well as the day they were purchased.

I'll still buy them if they satisfy an immediate need and are significantly cheaper than the dead tree version. Last one I bought was three bucks, not stocked in bookstores, and I wanted something to read Right Now. Disposable entertainment. The problem with that is that it doesn't scale. I don't mind blowing $3 on a few hours amusement. I'm much happier having $20k or so in books lying about my house than spending $10k on digital versions that will one day go poof.

Serious problem, but not a surprise (4, Interesting)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413647)

Complex systems almost always exhibit surprising behavior. Cloud computing is no exception, and it is new in addition. This leads to a high level of risk of such events emerging without warning. Of course, people with a stake in the business side will never admit the risk. For examples of this happening in other fields, look at TEPCO, BP, RSA, ... All save and risk-free. Until things blow up.

Put simple: "The Cloud - where other peoples servers can crash yours."

Also appropriate:
    "A distributed system is one in which I cannot get something done because a machine I've never heard of is down." --Leslie Lamport
This holds even more for the cloud.

Re:Serious problem, but not a surprise (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413841)

Also appropriate:
    "A distributed system is one in which I cannot get something done because a machine I've never heard of is down." --Leslie Lamport
This holds even more for the cloud.

Not really. It's just as true as it ever was. The cloud is just a (viable) business model for virtualized distributed systems.

Surfing the What (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413697)

Surfing along on the information superhighway when your tubes get a flat tire and the cloud has a meltdown. Checkmate.

It's Alright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413731)

Don't worry, there isn't enough oxygen in clouds to start a fire.

It is awakening... (0)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413761)

Skynet

there just has to be a (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413831)

"Yo Dog" meme in there somewhere

http://www.google.com/search?q= [google.com] "Yo+Dog+Meme"

How can it come unstuck? (1, Redundant)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413839)

Just wait 4 years for the next leap year.

Seriously , what clueless idiots at MS didn't take leap years into account when writing certificate code that used dates?

Thanks for the clarification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413907)

"...at Yale University in New Haven..."

Not ready for primetime (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413961)

My boss signed up for a certain accounting software and quickly found out that it wouldn't work for our company because we do business internationally and the cloud version is not set up to handle different currencies. I don't know the details, but I thought that was pretty lame considering how much business is transacted internationally. So, whether a 'meltdown' is likely to happen or not, for our company it will be some time before the cloud version of this particular software is ready for us to find out!

Re:Not ready for primetime (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414417)

My boss signed up for a certain accounting software and quickly found out that it wouldn't work for our company because we do business internationally and the cloud version is not set up to handle different currencies. I don't know the details, but I thought that was pretty lame considering how much business is transacted internationally. So, whether a 'meltdown' is likely to happen or not, for our company it will be some time before the cloud version of this particular software is ready for us to find out!

Would his poor choice have been any different than if he bought software that runs on the computer in his office?

The cloud is not some magical being that suddenly makes applications work for every possible scenario, you still have to undergo the same specification and evaluation process that you do for software that you run yourself. The difference is that if the cloud provider adds international currency support, you don't have to upgrade your software. But you do still need to test the new software release to make sure it's doing what it's supposed to.

Too many people think that services in the cloud mean that there's no more software release cycle to deal with - that new functionality just magically appears and works perfectly. That's what our CFO thought when he was looking at cloud hosted accounting software - it wasn't until IT got involved and started asking questions about how to test new releases before they were migrated to our production system and how to control the release cycle (so, for example, we don't have new code released during our annual audit) that the CFO realized that cloud software doesn't magically mean perfect bug free software that never needs to be tested.

Re:Not ready for primetime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39415185)

We were (and still are) using the software on a computer in the office. This was set up to meet our requirements, but apparently the cloud version was somehow incompatible with our existing way of using the currency settings. So for now, we're still not using the cloud version until it can meet our needs.

Re:Not ready for primetime (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414707)

Indeed, most of my users are not in the US. When I first launched in 2007 I designed for a US user-base (desktop based software). The rest of the English speaking world had different plans! I had to write a lot of code to handle all kinds of currency and tax issues. I get calls from CC processing companies all the time asking me to integrate their service into my software. First question: "Can you process international payments?" Answer: "No, no we can not." My reply: "Sorry, no can do." If you are online you better be ready to support the entire English speaking world--and then some.

Modeling failures as independent events (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413965)

This sounds more than a little bit like the financial industry meltdown over subprime mortgage derivative "products" that were crafted by PhD's in finance.

Wouldn't it be something if these same banks were the customers victimized by the cloud meltdown? I bet they'd be plenty mad.

A Dumbocracy we live in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39414085)

Yes, the cloud is not much different than the current server world. How often are the back-ups and where are the back-ups? But if your data and your back-ups are all off-site, you have absolutely NO CONTROL because the basic questions didn't ask "where is the transport back-up?". A back-up is useless if you can't get to it. The political and corporate leaders are simply dumb and there is nothing we can do about it because the people are also technically dumb and won't vote out the incompetence. Society is going to melt down because we live in a dumbocracy - the most technically ignorant people rule. Heck, Obama has his Blackberry and only China can hack it!

As a sysadmin I love clouds. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39414165)

This article just in from the department of "no duh".

I learned as a sysadmin the best way to protect my interests in running and maintaining servers is that now everything I am responsible for is referred to as our organization's "private cloud". The best part about our private cloud is that now I don't have to explain how anything works to anyone. It's "the cloud" and "it just works". Best development in job security ever.

Nested cloud services (2)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414307)

I've always thought that the problem would be when companies start using cloud services that rely on cloud servers that rely on cloud services and one of those cloud services has an outage.

A problem at one cloud provider can trickle up and affect your service that's running on a completely different cloud service, so for example, your website running on EC2 depends on order fulfillment software running on Rackspace's cloud, which uses back-end software on MS's Azure cloud.

If Azure has a hiccup, then your web store goes down, and if enough sites are affected, it can make real changes in the load (maybe less load because people can't shop, maybe more load because users keep hitting "reload" to try to place their order) on EC2 and Rackspace which could cause additional problems as load balancers try to shift load around as they respond to the sudden and huge change in load.

bandwidth will be bottle neck (3, Interesting)

e**(i pi)-1 (462311) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414635)

I do not know how broadband will be able to cope with this. No thanks, I try to keep independent and use good old rsync to keep my machines in sync. If things continue as they are we soon have bandwidth caps. Relying then on the cloud could become very expensive. Not only because of prize hikes in the cloud once the public is hooked, but also because faster internet service is needed.

When it rains, it pours (1)

amasiancrasian (1132031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414777)

When it rains, it pours. I've noticed there's a lot of aversion to cloud based software, due to not having control over the platform and pricing at the pleasure of the vendors.

The cloud (4, Informative)

javascriptjunkie (2591449) | more than 2 years ago | (#39414831)

I've been working in the cloud since July. The company I work for really likes the idea of it. But I'll tell you something. As a programmer and systems administrator responsible for something that lives in the cloud, I'm just not seeing the value of it. At least the way it's implemented at Rackspace. We've had problems that are absolutely bizarre, that seemingly have no explanation, that take weeks to resolve, that don't originate on our side. We've had issues with data integrity that don't happen on regular servers, and while we're able to "scale," we're very limited in the ways we're allowed to do it. Maybe this kind of set up works for other companies and groups, but I can't see myself choosing a cloud provider over traditional collocation and the standard three tier server model for 99% of what I need to do.

Obligatory Skynet (1)

DontLickJesus (1141027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39415277)

Strange behaviors = Skynet / Matrix Human Battery.

Eggs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39415313)

I think the key here, which seems like common sense to me, is to not put all your eggs in one basket. I think its perfectly fine to rely on cloud computing for process intensive purposes, a high traffic website for example, but any critical data should also be stored locally and backed up using traditional methods. In general it seems more likely that your personal data center would fail before the "cloud" would, but nevertheless it would make good business sense to maintain both. I think the article pretty much states the obvious possibility that something "might" fail, at some point, for some reason, but that's not a good reason to consider abandoning it.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...