Who Doesn’t Like Cloud Computing?
Strange as it may sound, there do exist people who oppose the meteoric rise of cloud computing. And we are not talking about established application developers like Microsoft who fear losing billions of revenue as more and more people shift towards demand-based software in the cloud. In fact, whatever Microsoft’s misgivings may be, it read the writing on the wall some time back and embraced the adage “If you can’t fight them, join them.” As a results Docs.com was born in collaboration with Facebook earlier this year.
No, we are talking about famous names in computing like Richard Stallman. Now, Stallman may be a maverick but he is no crackpot. Hence, his views should be considered, and refuted, by proponents of cloud computing. Before we go into the details of Stallman’s issue with cloud computing, a small biography is in order.
Richard Stallman has been described as the: “father of the free software movement.” A physics graduate dropout from MIT, he was one of the early hackers, much before the term entered the popular lexicon and gained the negative press it commonly attracts nowadays. Always a staunch critic of proprietary software, he started the GNU Project in 1983, a free software, mass collaboration project with the stated goal of developing “a sufficient body of free software […] to get along without any software that is not free.”
Now, let’s talk about Stallman’s issues with cloud computing. He has always been an opponent of this approach, and more recently voiced his disapproval of ChromeOS, Google’s proposed operating system on the cloud.
“I think that marketers like cloud computing because it is devoid of substantive meaning,” he said. “The term’s meaning is not substance, it’s an attitude: ‘Let any Tom, Dick and Harry hold your data, let any Tom, Dick and Harry do your computing for you (and control it).’ Perhaps the term ‘careless computing’ would suit it better.”
Stallman’s concerns regarding the dangers of placing valuable data in the cloud seems exaggerated. Whether we like it or not, we already have a lot of personal information residing on servers scattered all across the globe – credit card information, addresses, photos, etc. As long as that data is adequately protected, ‘careless computing’ wouldn’t be so careless. And, criticizing cloud computing on this single aspect seems to be missing the wood for the trees. The multiple advantages of cloud computing as regards enhanced efficiencies and reduced costs should also be part of the equation.
However, Stallman’s concerns are valid. Google realizes how the product’s adoption will be greatly influenced by the perception of trustworthiness that it can engender in users.
“We fully believe in the concept of cloud computing,” group product manager for Google Enterprise Rajen Sheth said. “I think the number of businesses [more than 3 million businesses use Google Apps] that have adopted cloud computing is evidence of the security, reliability, and the return on investment for moving to the cloud.”
With all due respect to Richard Stallman, cloud computing is here to stay.
By Sourya Biswas