Thursday, January 6, 2011

Google Cloud? Count me out!

I'm going to over simplify this little rant because I was never a real techie and so my basic understanding of things was and is "basic". Back in the dark ages when I began in the consulting business our clients used dumb terminals networked (read plugged in with a really long cord) to a mainframe somewhere. The data bases and applications resided on the mainframes - your dumb terminal was just a way to get to them and work in them. You didn't have a computer at home - I mean why would you? They were for work related activities and cords to the mainframe weren't going to reach to your house anyway.

I'll skip over all the intervening steps but eventually we moved from there to desktop word processing and spreadsheets and then to where we mostly are today - powerful personal computers, roaming laptops, wireless devices - all with applications and databases in our control and in our possession. We access what we need or want when we need it or want it but the core of what we do is there in our hands.

Sometimes we use things like Second Life and there's a debate between server side and client side and where what should reside. Integrating the two and worrying about performance is a pain, but we live with it.

One of the things that has happened as a result of the evolution of personal computing is that much of our lives is on our hard drives. We store everything on there and comfort ourselves with the thought that nobody else will see it - it belongs to us and we have possession as well as ownership.

I read an article today which starts off with the following:

In early December, Google sent out thousands of free laptops as part of a program to test Chrome OS, an operating system that relies on the Internet for all its software applications.

Computers running Chrome OS don't let users download data or install applications. Instead, everything happens in the cloud. So the laptop—called the CR-48—needs very little storage space, but it requires a constant Internet connection, and it has 3G wireless connectivity built in.

The design of Chrome OS changes such fundamental things as where a user's data resides and how it is managed. It also gives Google access to an unprecedented amount of user data. The company hasn't said how it will use this information, but some clues can be found in the company's previous products and in the rights it has reserved in the Chrome OS terms of service.

Image Source

Now I don't see in that little bit where maybe the Google PTB's think that this is a secondary device - something you'd have in addition to your other existing equipment. Maybe it is, but I doubt it.

This really takes me back to my early days on a dumb terminal. The big difference of course is that in those days the data sitting on the Company's mainframe belonged to the Company. These days that data on my hard drive is mine and there's no way in hell I'm putting all my data in Google's hands.

I haven't been too exercised about cloud computing til now - it's just a new word for what used to be (albeit with much better technology) and I figured you'd have some mixture of the architectures active based on what you were doing. But this Google vision of the near future is not one I'm willing to buy into. If that makes me a Luddite so be it.


Henson Duglas Sturgill said...

I don't know, I think there's definitely a place for dumb terminals -- especially if they allow people to get online at close to no cost.

But you're right. Before I create anything on my Cr-48, I have to decide, "Do I care if others could possibly read this?"

Brinda said...

OK.I gotta say it... dumb terminals for................. (I cant say it)
I totally agree Honour... there's that line about I have complete control over what information I put on the web... I have zero control over the removal.
There are consequences to all our actions, many of those we have no clue about until some years later. Witness the young people that decide to settle down and look for employment in sensitive situations....... and information on social media sites suddenly reas its non too discreet head.

Miso Susanowa said...

Where's accountability if "the cloud" loses your working data?

In Second Life, you could say your personal Inventory was "in the cloud," being that there is no one Asset Server; your inventory is being passed around and load-shared between rented server farms.

So think a bit about how many "accidents" you've had, or been told about, that result in complete and unrecoverable loss of your assets.

There's no way I'd trust my data or my ability to work to cloud computing, which, as you nicely brought up, is simply a return to dumb terminals (says it for Brinda: "dumb users").

Henson Duglas Sturgill said...

As I said before, the privacy component bothers me, but then again, I just assume privacy's dead. And while not really private, my guess is that data stored on Google is a little less free-flowing that that of Facebook. Not that it's an excuse, I just think that most people don't realize the amount of information they're _already_ sharing.

I really don't get this worry that Google would loose your data though. I'm not saying it's not possible, but being a computer tech, I see people loose data from failing hard drives every day. It seems to me that Google probably does a better job of responsibly backing up data than most people do.

I'm just trying to be pragmatic.

Honour McMillan said...

Pragmatism is a good thing. :)

However I'll disagree with a couple of your points (cause I'm old and cranky).

I don't think privacy is dead - but I do believe that a lot of people have thrown it away. They've somehow concluded that it's the responsibility of the internet to protect them - and that makes no sense to me.

It isn't necessary to put your entire life on the internet - revealing personal information on Facebook and the like certainly puts an end to somebody's privacy. But there are quite a few of us who don't do that.

There are actually people who don't use Facebook, who don't share everything about themselves on the internet.

Giving my data to Google would be sharing it with them and why would I want to do that?

I'm older and haven't been conditioned to think that the internet deserves all my personal information. I also don't have the kind of bizarre belief that somehow a website (or the company behind it) will care to protect the privacy of information when the individuals providing it don't seem to care themselves.

I think we're personally responsible for our privacy and for backing up our data. We can do both locally. :)

Us oldsters just aren't as willing to share as the younger generations are I guess. :)

Henson Duglas Sturgill said...

You make a lot of good points, and really made me think!

I guess when it comes down to it, you're right: I really don't want us relying on companies to protect us from ourselves. Ease of use can be a very dangerous temptation.