Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cloud Computing Too Costly in the Long Term?

I welcomed the IDC study of the elevated cost of cloud computing in the long run (article at linuxfoundation.org).
There are a lot of articles about cloud computing, its cost and its risks, however, I would like to underline a single point that makes a lot of difference to me between cloud and non-cloud: cloud computing is a backward step for fair competition in IT services delivery.

I think that most of the savings made in the last years by the IT services of companies have been possible because of web 2.0. Not only because of the fact it helped interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web (Wikipedia def) but essentially because it forced companies to use open*, not vendor-specific, technologies.

This helped create a true fair competition between software developers, between hosting providers and between system integrators. They all shared a single range of technologies and could not justify high prices or low quality services just because of the technology itself.

PHP comes to my mind as a brilliant example of this fair competition revolution. It's very interoperable. They even made it capable of running on MS IIS servers! It's simple and free to use. It's improvable upon and its developers were very careful to listen to requests for improvements. And now see what it has become:

The thing is: big companies like those making cloud services today do not live on perfect competition, they live on the one hand on monopolies and on the other hand on market niches. And that's their business and I am very fine with that.
They cannot survive in a true perfect competition system, yet they want to participate in the web market which has been the number one development and services source in the past years and still will remain, I guess. Cloud computing is their attempt to build monopolies on the web and they sell it with three kinds of arguments.
  1. The economical argument. They promise good services, for cheap price, and you pay by your fidelity. Okay, as long as they do provide it.
  2. The ecological argument. I am a very skeptical environmentalist. Not skeptical about ecology but rather about first-movers on the corporate side of ecology. Seems like a lot of green paint.
  3. The technological argument. They sell the idea that all hosted applications are harmonized to a single technology and that this means it will all be cheaper. VERY TRUE.
Awfully true. It will be cheaper, for them. But as soon as you get dependent on them, since each of them has completely different technology from the other (think not only programming languages but also file formats, database formats and associated skills), they will be able to increase prices without any competitor. If you want to take the data back, you will be unable to feed it to the next cloud provider.

I think it's time "interoperability" gets into corporate policies alongside integrity, confidentiality and availability.

EDIT 10/26/2009: When I say open, I mean that corporate players cannot close the market by artifacts. This means, among other things: ASCII, not binary programs, opensource languages because the developers are so much more productive, free common libraries to build upon, a unique network to share data and software, etc.

EDIT 11/5/2009: Bob Sutor also speaks about cloud interoperability.