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Cow Tipping and the Cloud

A lot of potential, but...

A lot of potential, but...

Growing up in the Washington DC Metro Area has some unique advantages.

DC is built on a swamp, and thus has four very distinct seasons…the two most brutal being our unforgivably humid Summers and our frigid winters for which Washingtonians are almost always completely unprepared.  DC is also home to the seat of international political power, a thriving tech community located primarily in Northern VA (Hi Mom!), and some of the most ruthless traffic congestion on the East Coast.

The District is within driving distance of staggeringly rural areas…areas that I would frequent regularly as an irresponsible kid.  These areas had cows…

…I think you know where I’m going with this.

It is not impossible to tip a cow, but it is far more likely that the cow will tip the person.

Contrary to popular belief, cows do not sleep standing up, their legs do not passively lock, and their sense of smell and hearing is far superior to yours. They can reorient themselves if someone were to shove them, and if they fell and were not hurt in the process…they could get right back up and potentially hurt the attempted tipper.

Cow tipping is a myth, a myth that everyone who ever lived near a farm loves to say they took part in. It is a socially accepted falsehood because we find it funny and exciting, perhaps because we want to do it ourselves. The legendary act of cow tipping sounds eerily similar to the current implementation of cloud services. It is a socially accepted platform because we find it cool and sexy and because we want to do it ourselves.

While I, and ServInt as a whole, don’t discount the cloud, the fact of the matter is that there is no consensus over what cloud hosting, cloud computing, or even what the overarching concept of the cloud actually is. It’s a platform that hasn’t ripened but that is being pushed…hard…by many of ServInt’s competitors and the tech world as a whole.

So far, cloud services have largely been either cloud application hosting or cloud storage.

Some of the more popular cloud applications have come from Apple with its MobileMe service, Google and Google Apps, and Microsoft’s recently announced Office Web (I assume that’s a working title) just to name a few of the largest. On the storage front, you have Amazon S3 and SC2, Rackspace Cloud (formerly Mosso), and Windows Azure.

All of these services are cool, but they’re a prime example of what is wrong with this corner of the web right now…there is no focus. Both Amazon and Rackspace have released API’s that would allow developers to better tap into their services…however this strikes me as less of a benefit and more of a symptom. Building a platform is great, but there needs to be something built on that platform, otherwise it’s just there.

Despite the attractiveness of cloud services and the genuine potential the platform carries with it, current services have shown to be spotty and unreliable. This says that the cloud should play more of an auxiliary role in a server environment instead of taking over as the environment entirely.

In all fairness, that is something that both Microsoft and Rackspace have both publicly aspired to, namely the cloud as a support role in a traditional server set up, but I would argue that’s proof that now is the time to wait on moving everything to the cloud.

At the end of the day an enterprise server — whether it’s VPS or dedicated — will still remain the most important aspect of hosting. The future of this industry lies in supplementing that vision in order to evolve with a new solution entirely…not simply creating a weak platform and expecting it to perform the same way a rack would.

The enterprise server will evolve into the enterprise cloud server. It will grow and its voice will crack, but it will not go away.

It will also NOT be tipping any cows.

Photo used and altered under Creative Commons License, courtesy of flickr user akakumo.

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