Monday, July 2, 2012

Cloud computing collapse

Blogger, which I am using to write and display this post to the web, and its rival Wordpress are forms of cloud computing.  Cloud computing is when a group of people, have some sort of hardware in hand that they use to access via the internet software, memory, and data.  The key is that the software and data are not located on, only accessed from, the device they have in hand.  It allows people to access their software from a variety of locations, eases centralized monitoring of data, makes data sharing easier, and reduces the platform requirements at the end users location. 

Of course, if you have ever had the Internet go down at your office, or tried to log in from a remote location to some sort of application and found that you have no service, there are some obvious downsides to cloud computing.  Carrying your software and data around with you has some advantages.

As it turns out, there are some systematic risks to putting all you computing eggs into the internet-basket.  From a recent conference report, written by Brian Ford, came a warning:

Researcher: Interdependencies could lead to cloud 'meltdowns'
Chris Kanaracus (reporting), IDG News Service, 7 June 2012 (hat tip: NC )

A rise in complex, composite cloud services could create dangerous 'bubbles,' according to a Yale researcher.
As the use of cloud computing becomes more and more mainstream, serious operational "meltdowns" could arise as end-users and vendors mix, match and bundle services for various means, a researcher argues in a new paper set for discussion next week at the USENIX HotCloud '12 conference in Boston.
I did not see the conference-specific report noted above.  But I am presuming that this very recent paper by the noted researcher, Bryan Ford, covers much of the same ground.  From the abstract (paragraph breaks added):

Icebergs in the Clouds, the other risks of cloud computing
Bryan Ford, Yale University, 17 May 2012 ( pdf )

Cloud computing is appealing from management and efficiency perspectives, but brings risks both known and unknown. Well-known and hotly-debated information security risks, due to software vulnerabilities, insider attacks, and side-channels for example, may be only the “tip of the iceberg.” As diverse, independently developed cloud services share ever more fluidly and aggressively multiplexed hardware resource pools, unpredictable interactions between load-balancing and other reactive mechanisms could lead to dynamic instabilities or “meltdowns".
Non-transparent layering structures, where alternative cloud services may appear independent but share deep, hidden resource dependencies, may create unexpected and potentially catastrophic failure correlations, reminiscent of financial industry crashes.  
Finally, cloud computing exacerbates already difficult digital preservation challenges, because only the provider of a cloud-based application or service can archive a “live,” functional copy of a cloud artifact and its data for long-term cultural preservation. This paper explores these largely unrecognized risks, making the case that we should study them before our socioeconomic fabric becomes inextricably dependent on a convenient but potentially unstable computing model.

Always nice to have a new technology collapse model to kick around.  The  warnings about cascading collapse of the electrical grid were getting tiresome.

Computer collapse - brought to you by FEMA of all people.


GalaktioNova said...

Oh. Thank you. Finally it starts to make sense (sort of). I really needed this article.

russell1200 said...

GN: It sounds esoteric, but the basics are fairly straightforward. It is putting as much as you can some place other than the device you carry around with you.