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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Have it in the cloud, will burst !

When we rely so much on the internet for our daily dose of email and other web applications, we are exposing ourselves to its fallibilities also. For the web-obsessed amongst us relying way too much on email, blogs and wikis through the day, a couple hours of outage is indeed our idea of hell. Now imagine enterprises that expose themselves to the vagaries of cloud-based computing services? That clearly means loss of business. Apple's MobileMe service was down for a few hours yesterday, and access continues to be sketchy for some, representing the most unfortunate kind of consistency over the past month.

Google found itself apologizing for its Gmail outage yesterday: "Many of you had trouble accessing Gmail for a couple of hours this afternoon, and we're really sorry. The issue was caused by a temporary outage in our contacts system that was preventing Gmail from loading properly. Everything should be back to normal by the time you read this." And an online storage service called The Linkup (formerly MediaMax has closed up shop after losing an unspecified amount of customers' data.

That triggered another round of commentary from the blogosphere about how dicey a proposition it is to trust your data and services to the cloud, especially your business critical applications. But while trouble in the cloud carries the added annoyance of feeling powerless while someone else works on a fix, these outages are just a vaporous extension of what we know to expect with more tangible, earthbound systems, indeed with every device, appliance and service we use. Why don’t we just say, stuff breaks? Systems are going to go down, it’s a fact of life. What’s important is to be prepared when those systems go down which is a major reason that some kind of offline access should be built into systems like email. In theory we’ll reach a time when the cloud really is always on, but we’re not close and it may never happen Maybe it breaks less if you pay enough money, but it breaks. With that as a given, especially so with complex or newer technologies, any plans to use the cloud also require plans to do without it if need be. The advice from the Department of Redundancy still holds: back up. Because the alternative is on-premise enterprise software with its huge license fee, maintenance and hardware costs, frequent upgrades, revisions, consultants and system integrator fee besides long process breaks entailed by complex installation protocol.

Don’t you know there is a liquidity crisis crippling global business sentiment? Economics will win hands down anyday. Never mind the outage…

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