Adding to what my colleague Todd has written on the Microsoft/Danger data loss issue…
What has been billed as a large scale failure of cloud computing, more specifically, cloud storage, is making headlines and generating lots of heat but little light.
- Major outage hits T-Mobile Sidekick users: “Users of T-Mobile’s Sidekick have been suffering through a major outage over the past several days that left many without access to the Web or their address books.”
- Lawsuits filed over Sidekick outages: “In that lawsuit, Thompson’s lawyers argue why the outage of the Sidekick was particularly devastating, noting the device’s cloud-basedarchitecture in which the primary copy of the data is stored, not on the devices, but on servers operated by Microsoft’s Danger unit. “
Reliability is the first objection to anything “cloud”-related, especially storage. The Microsoft/T-Mobile/Sidekick fiasco seems at first glance like a knife aimed at the heart of cloud storage.
However, given public reports of the nature of the Microsoft/Danger back end service architecture for the Sidekick device — Oracle RAC on top of EMC SAN — this is not an architecture that serious engineers working on fault tolerant distributed infrastructure would term cloud infrastructure. In fact this is a traditional data center architecture that failed! Oh, the irony. This is not the Google architecture, for example, or Amazon’s, nor what Trend is working on with a variety of initiatives. In these, data is truly replicated and distributed via shared nothing architectures with multiple redundancies. I think this distinction may be lost on many people however. The Sidekick business model was selling the idea that user data would be available from everywhere/anywhere, which is the definition most people have of “the cloud”. More irony: The Microsoft subsidiary involved is named of all things Danger, Inc.
Meanwhile the damage to T-Mobile can be measured in real and immediate terms, with many industry pundits mistakenly conflating the issue as a black eye for cloud storage, not merely Microsoft:
- Phone sales hit by Sidekick loss: “The issue is seen by industry experts as the largest failing for cloud computing in recent memory…It is also being painted as a black eye for Microsoft which has pushed cloud or online services as a less expensive solution for enterprise data storage…This is the most spectacular loss of data on the web to date,’ Harry McCracken, editor of Technologizer.com told BBC News.”
This is unfortunate. Truly redundant cloud storage technology can be more reliable, scalable, and cost effective than the the traditional technologies at the root of the Microsoft/Danger problem. Meanwhile there are rough spots and areas of legitimate concern that require addressing — for example, privacy, security, and manageability of data in a fluid multitenant world — and on these terms we can and should discuss whether cloud storage is appropriate for a given customer or service, and we can and should work to further develop cloud storage solutions to address these issues.
For service providers which themselves operate on top of cloud infrastructure (SaaS, IaaS) such as Trend Micro, we can employ true cloud storage technology for fault tolerance, redundancy, and disaster mitigation and recovery. This will provide our customers highly reliable services that degrade gracefully — definitely not catastrophically — whenever the realities of fickle hardware, networks, and natural or geopolitical disasters intrude. We can employ good end to end security principles to assure data privacy and integrity. As is so painfully highlighted by the developing Sidekick fiasco, reputation will be crucial, our reputation, the reputation of our platform providers. We can gain trust with careful engineering, openness, and reputation. We can maintain trust through transparency, development as an industry of secure open data exchange solutions for cross service and cross provider data backup, and intolerance of substandard or sloppy vendors who may poison the well.