Free software activist Richard Stallman is taking a break from his campaign to stop people from buying Harry Potter books to blast the concept of cloud computing. “It’s stupidity,” he tells the Guardian. “It’s worse than stupidity: it’s a marketing hype campaign.” He’s right, of course, about the “marketing hype campaign,” but his real beef with the cloud is the same as his beef with corporate-owned software programs. “Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program,” he says. “If you use a proprietary program or somebody else’s web server, you’re defenceless. You’re putty in the hands of whoever developed that software.”
And while you’re at it, stock your cellar with lots of canned goods.
Stallman is a little late to this party. People have been voting for web apps, at least in rudimentary form, since back in the heyday of AOL. And they’re going to continue using Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo Mail, TurboTax Online, Google Maps, Wikipedia, Photobucket, Twitter, etc., just as they’re going to continue to buy J.K. Rowling’s books. Why? Because, for better or worse, they like ’em. It’s a done deal.
More on target was Larry Ellison’s rant against the cloud last week:
The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. I can’t think of anything that isn’t cloud computing with all of these announcements. The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?
It’ll stop as soon as the computer industry succeeds not only in rendering the term “cloud computing” meaningless but also in draining it of its marketing oomph, at which point the industry will move on to a new buzzphrase. Same as it ever was.
But the technology of utility computing, unlike the hype about the cloud, will continue on its appointed course, and, no doubt, Larry Ellison will be there at the appropriate time to ensure that Oracle milks the utility model for whatever profits it can churn out. Oracle is the giant cockroach of the IT business – it thrives under any conditions. That’s because Oracle, though based in Silicon Valley, is not of the Valley. Ellison long ago came to understand one of the fundamental truths about the corporate IT business: there’s more money to be made in exploiting old technology than in pioneering new technology. Hedge your bets, bide your time until the cash begins to flow, then make your move.
A few months ago, Oracle announced that, with its software-as-a-service business growing at nearly a 25% a year clip, it was breaking ground on a big new data center in Utah to help power its web apps. And at the very same conference at which Ellison went on his anti-cloud rant, Oracle announced an extensive partnership with Amazon Web Services to incorporate Oracle products into the Amazon cloud.
It’s healthy for big guns like Ellison to shoot holes in the cloud hype. But also keep your eyes on what Oracle is actually doing at ground level. Cockroaches don’t lie.