The virtual data center cloud and predictions of doom.

This afternoon, I had a link forwarded to me about Mark Anderson predicting dire doom and catastrophe for “the cloud”. I’m not sure I know where to start on this one.

First of all, one of the big red flags that someone may not have a clue what they’re talking about is referring to “the cloud”. Microsoft has a cloud. Amazon has a cloud. SwiftWater Telecom has a cloud (that’s us 🙂 ). There is no huge Internet wide entity called “the cloud”. Service providers clouds are all independent and not subject to impact from one providers problems.

Second, just what is the nature of this major catastrophe that’s supposed to kill everything? Will all the wires in the Internet melt? It’s easy to make grandiose dire predictions when you don’t have to be very specific (many of the best known apocalyptic prophets of history have been similarly vague on the details as well).

Most of the failures of the cloud thus far fall into two categories, infrastructure engineering errors and bozo human operational gaffes. Coincidentally, these are the same things that whack all data center services from time to time. The cloud isn’t any more susceptible to this than traditional services. Ignore long standing good system administration rules, such as appropriate data backups, and you’re playing Russian roulette, exactly as you would be with a colocated server.

As much as I’ve snapped on Microsoft and Amazon for botched engineering, operations, and customer relations in their recent cloud outages, these serve to demonstrate just how durable cloud services really are, since they only affected a very tiny portion of the providers cloud. Kill one of our cloud hosts and the rest automatically take up the slack.

As the engineer and architect of our cloud, I can tell you it would take an external disaster of epic proportions to knock any significant portion of our cloud off line for an appreciable time. Assuming a “smoking hole” disaster in data center one and the loss of cloud one, simply connect to data center two, restart all the back up copies of the virtuals on cloud two, and we’re off and running again.

Even better, if you can see it coming, such as a severe weather event, migrate the VMs across the net to a different data center out of the path of danger. Try to do that with a colocated server.

Finally, there’s the “security breach” disaster. I have news for Mr Anderson. Large numbers of security breaches happen every day on traditional services. A cloud (you’ll notice I didn’t say “the cloud”) isn’t any more susceptible to this than any other data center service. Well established good system and network administration practices and prompt updating of software are still the best defenses against security breaches.

In short, if someone wants to provide me with specific details supporting the prediction that my, or any other providers, cloud will fail catastrophically next year, I’ll be happy to listen. Meanwhile, Mr Anderson should seek a refund on the goat entrails he used for this “prediction”, I think they were past their expired date.

Vern, SwiftWater Telecom

SwiftWater virtual cloud service


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