[ExI] Backing up the Cloud

Sondre Bjellås sondre-list at bjellas.com
Thu Oct 2 09:11:43 UTC 2008

I made a blog post earlier on TED Talks, just to get people interested in
them, and one of the talks I blogged about was Kevin Kelly's talk on the
next 5000 days of the web.

It's hard to predict what will actually happen, but there is no denying that
"The Cloud" will continue to grow as a concept, with technologies adding
more and more support for the ideas.

I surely don't share Richard Stallman's view that people are stupid if they
use web-based programs like Gmail. I believe it have saved a lot of people's
important communication, but having everything stored online in The Cloud
and not locally on individual computers that have used POP to download and
remove the e-mail from the servers. My father runs his own business and I
have moved all our family e-mail accounts over to Google Apps, and his
business accounts as well. Gmail (as other Cloud Services is doing, or will
do) does support open and standard protocols which means I can easily
connect to Gmail using any desktop e-mail application I want to use.

There is actually little difference in how corporate e-mail systems works
today, most of us outsource the hosting of our Exchange or other e-mail
servers. I've experienced crash and failures, with resulting e-mails being
lost due to backups being restored (backups are always outdated from the
minute they are actually completed). Backups are disaster-recovery, it's not
a mean of actually protecting against software and computer issues. And
there will always be issues and problems.

Microsoft will announce more details about their cloud products and services
at PDC in October (if any of you is going to the conference, it would be
interesting to meet). I know a lot of what going on already, but it's going
to be interesting to hear the whole story.

Here is a scenario where Cloud computing will become a crucial function for
people: online synchronization and storage of data.

I'm willing to bet that one of the biggest hurdles people experience today,
is aquiring a new mobile phone. They have no easy way of exporting all their
contacts, SMS/MMS messages, photos, notes, etc. In the future, when you
purchace a new mobile phone (or computer), you'll just login with your
credentials (or "smart card") and your machine will be personalized and all
your information will be available. Just have a look at Google Android.

LOCK-IN of information stored in the cloud is something that all of us will
be very alert to and I don't think we will see many services that actually
is closed down and doesn't allow users to download and backup their own IP.

I believe in the opposite of what Richard does, he thinks that cloud is
about lock-in and forcing people to buy more proprietary systems, I think
the opposite will happen. I think the web and now "the cloud" will be
deciding factors that will open up and force corporations to open up.
Consumers are not stupid.

One of the reasons I'm more positive to a possible open future is how
Microsoft have opened up and commited to open forums and standards the
recent years. They have joined the OMG, they are adding UML support for
their development tools and they are building a big ecosystem around their
cloud framework: Live Mesh.

Richard goes on saying that it's a marketing hype: Well, marketing will
always jump on the latest and the newest, but that doesn't mean that SOA,
Web 2.0 and now the Cloud is not important trends that has merits.

"The 55-year-old New Yorker said that computer users should be keen to keep
their information in their own hands, rather than hand it over to a third

Technology is hard, computers crashes and people have little idea what's
going on. They have no idea how to move their application and data between
devices. I think it's pretty naive to think that the general population is
able to "keep their information in their own hands" and keep it securely. Us
techies have no problems with this, but I experience this as a problem every

I won't even begin to comment Larry Ellison, he can stand for his own

Richard is extreme (as we all know), but I still believe he is way off when
he advises users to stay locally. It's luddite thoughts, it's like saying
people should stop going to social events because there might be someone
with a virus or someone might steal your ideas. Richard doesn't have control
on his genes and how his cells are working inside his body, yet he doesn't
seem to care - they (the cells) just work. Computer doesn't work (all the
time), they crash, etc. I don't trust my local computer to work as good as
my body, and the Web has had a 100% uptime since it was first created. No
single computer can do such a task.

It's going to be a very hard sell getting corporations to trust the cloud
service providers, but it can be done and eventually there won't be any


On Wed, Oct 1, 2008 at 7:43 AM, Emlyn <emlynoregan at gmail.com> wrote:

> First of all, I retch a bit when I hear "The Cloud", but that will
> pass, you all know it will. Remember the gut reactions to "surfing the
> web" back in the early nineties? Oh actually I still hate that, but
> the internal screaming has quieted a little.
> Secondly, and actually on the topic of the post, people are raising
> the obvious questions about "Cloud Computing" - isn't it bad to have
> all your precious data and kitty cat photos in the hands of an
> unaccountable commercial entity? Well, yeah.
> Many technical people just hate the idea period, eg: all of slashdot
> (hey you kids get off my server) and RMS:
> http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/sep/29/cloud.computing.richard.stallman
> I love it, I've loved it for years and years. Well before it was
> fashionable, I was a fan of having other people look after as many of
> my computing needs as possible, because I'm efficient. Not lazy. Nooo!
> Efficient.
> But this stuff is relevant. These services do lock up your data, and
> it does all disappear when they go broke. Should see a bit more of
> that shortly, I'd think, given the state of the economy.
> So, surely there is a space for a web 2.0 (*kaff*) business whose aim
> is to back up the data of other web 2.0 businesses? It could solve
> problems like:
> - I have a hotmail account but my friends said its dag, I should be
> using gmail. How do I move my mail over?
> - I have videos on youtube but I'm worried I'll get hacked by griefers
> and lose my precious emo vlog
> - My blog is hosted on X and I want to move it to Y
> - My music is all stored at ... and I want to ...
> etc, you get the picture.
> It's got good web 2.0 ingredients; it's just a bit of programming
> savvy wrapped around the cheapest processing and storage resources you
> can get your hands on. Some stuff already exists (eg: moving mail
> around using standard protocols) but doesn't exist in a shiny web 2.0,
> unified interface.
> It's actually a service rather than a product because the "cloud" is a
> moving target. Technically you'd need to talk to stuff using a grab
> bag of techniques, from "webscraping" to reverse engineered protocols
> to bonafide APIs. It'd be under constant development, just keeping
> everything working even as commercial services changed under you.
> I have a feeling you could make it really social & viral, by eg:
> creating plugin versions for the Space Book et al.
> You could even possibly capture users for your own services from the
> existing services by offering a "why don't you just move all your crap
> in here" option.
> It'd be a good option also for the Open Cloud people (eg:
> http://autonomo.us/), because while providing backups and escape
> options, you could promote the open alternatives (eg: wordpress not
> blogger, identi.ca not twitter, etc). People using this service would
> likely have experienced (and be experiencing!) the problems with the
> closed commercial cloud that the open people warn of, and so would be
> more receptive to solutions.
> It's got incrementality (<- not an actual word). You could start this
> small and grow it. Providing escape routes for webmail users would be
> a good place to start. Just keep adding services.
> With the backup options, you could actually backup some services into
> competitors, eg: flickr <-> picasa <-> photobucket, youtube <-> google
> video <-> photobucket. Probably that violates the terms of service in
> many cases... . Or you could backup into various cloud storage
> options, or whatever.
> It might fly really well as a starting point for people's services
> too; a place to coordinate your use of flikr + youtube + wordpress +
> facebook + twitter etc etc. Not a horrible portal thing, but maybe
> some kind of dashboard?
> Anyway, I think it's an idea that could work, commercially even.
> --
> Emlyn
> http://emlynoregan.com - my home
> http://point7.wordpress.com - downshifting and ranting
> http://speakingoffreedom.blogspot.com - video link feed of great talks
> on eCulture
> _______________________________________________
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> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
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