Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, stated the other day that he thought Cloud Computing was stupid and we were all being duped by the cloud vendors. Specifically, in an interview with London's Guardian newspaper, he said, ""It's stupidity. It's worse than stupidity: it's a marketing hype campaign," he told The Guardian. I was surprised by this response because as the economy worsens, it seems to me the Cloud is actually a safe haven where you can continue to operate without worrying about expensive infrastructure investments. On a consumer level it gives you access to free web-based apps like GMail, which by the way millions of people including many Linux users, are happily using. Sounds like a worthy trade-off, and dare I say, smart, doesn't it? Well, Stallman isn't alone in this belief.
Politics Make Strange Bedfellows
When they say politics makes strange bedfellows, never was there a truer statement than as the Guardian article points out, Stallman was actually echoing an earlier statement from none other than Larry Ellison of Oracle, two fellows who couldn't be more different. Yet Ellison, who probably has more at stake than personal philosophy referred to the Cloud in these terms. "...Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It's complete gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?" Wow, and here I was thinking that GMail was pretty cool and it turns out I'm just an idiot who is getting duped by a marketing campaign.
I will grant both these computer industry giants that the phrase "Cloud Computing" is indeed a buzz word of the highest degree and without context, it is a meaningless term. Buzz words get floated like so much flotsam and jetsam until they lose any relationship to the original meaning, but with all due respect to both these gentlemen, cloud computing simply refers to web-based applications. You don't have to load a client on your PC to run GMail. You don't have to invest in expensive infrastructure to subscribe to Salesforce.com. It's not that complicated. I'm not sure what's so hard for Ellison to understand. Nor does it seem stupid. Maybe I'm missing something, but to me it seems to be an intelligent and reasonable approach to computing, especially in a fragile economy.
Let's Look at it Another Way
To get a different perspective on this, I asked Mickey Panayiotakis, who is an IT consultant with more than 15 years industry experience what he thought about all this, and he doesn't get what the big deal is. "The principle of cloud computing is nothing new: shared servers, shared hosting, SaaS, commodity computing, utility pricing etc, have been around in some form or another for a long time. Now it has a new name, and this name implies that we don't have to worry about the hardware, the resources, the machine limitations: it's just there in some flexible extensible nebulous cloud" He adds, "But whether the next iteration will be called "cloud" or something else, shared computing is good for everyone, from the data center to the environment."
Maybe we are just dealing with an issue of semantics. Could it be that Ellison and Stallman simply don't like the phrase "Cloud Computing?" Maybe they would be happier if we called it something else. You can call it whatever you like, but in an uncertain economic times free and low-cost tools and software you can implement without investing in expensive hardware looks like a good bet, not stupidity or idiocy. It all depends on whom you ask though.