The Anti-Cloud

I like big storage, I work with virtualization in its various forms so that all the hype about "cloud computing" sounds like "well, duh!" to me. Still, I think it's wrong to look at it as the possible future of IT in general. We have worked hard to move away from centralized computing and I think we should not go back.

As I've written previously, I want just the opposite of the current "Cloud" fad - I want radical decentralization.

Instead of huge data centres owned by a few large corporations like Google, IBM, Dell, Fujitsu, Oracle, etc., I'd rather like a completely distributed p2p environment in which all data actually is in the cloud, but the "cloud" is taken literally - analogously to a coloidal mixture of all the particles of water vapour, a connected, non-centralized mesh of all devices, each providing storage and computing for all others.

Yes, I read a lot of SF, but nowadays it actually seems possible. My new mobile phone is at least in some tasks faster than this old (old! one year old!) netbook I'm writing this on, and it has better connectivity (3G HSDPA). We have a huge library of cryptographic algorithms that can ensure privacy of data (not to be confused with DRM, which is already proven impossible to do mostly because of physical laws of the universe), and we have started to discover many new forms of routing data reliably (p2p), securely (SSL) and, if necessary, anonymously (Tor).

What is missing is the initiative to put all these pieces together in a way that will not artificially introduce monopolies (like what happened with SSL CA-s and Telecom companies monopolies on wireless bandwidth). In essence, the original idea of the Internet which really was more P2P than C2S (see the definitions of early core protocols like SMTP, FTP, NNTP) should be continued.

#1 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2010-10-30T15:47 by CK

This is exactly my thinking too, at least the part about storage, I haven't thought about distributed computing. I'm a bit wary about the storage (usually paid) at one company. And I also think you should be able to achieve higher fault tolerance by creating a mesh of nodes consisting of the users storage, distributed around the world.

The closest I've found is wuala, <href> </href> Although a normally paid service, you can trade storage on your own computer for storage in the cloud.

#2 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2010-11-06T18:42 by CJR

Well ... just look at why MULTICS has failed ... i have not heard one single valid and consistent explanation by cloud-acolytes on why cloud computing should lead to radically different results ... so we'll just see

#3 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2010-11-11T00:02 by sprewell

But what do you gain from this radical decentralization?  When you're away from home and want to access your files, do you really want to download them over your slow upload link from your home server?  In a sense, the arrival of the "cloud" and now mobile is already decentralizing computing by not keeping all your data on your home desktop.  Neither p2p nor client-server can work on its own, I think the future is what CDNs do now: client-server for the last hop, while all the CDN server nodes use p2p or various other tech in the backend to keep the nodes current.  As for giant companies, the internet hosting market is highly fragmented; these huge data centers that Google and Microsoft are buying are pipe dreams if you ask me.  As hyped as AWS is, their hosting market share is negligible.  I've changed my webhost multiple times over the years and none of them were a large corporation; I currently rent a FreeBSD jail from a small hosting company.  In fact, I think FreeBSD could be THE OS on the server, particularly if someone really focused on pushing jails the rest of the way, but unfortunately it doesn't appear that anybody's really investing in that right now.


#4 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2010-11-11T00:12 by Ivan Voras

We gain resilience via redundancy. I'm not talking about thinking of Internet as a proper partition of all data, where each piece of data is stored only once, "somewhere" and that place is its canonical address - I say take full use of all the redundancies and inefficiencies in a good way. I want my documents to be accessible on my phone, and also replicated on my desktop and also replicated $somewhere_else, if needed. Of course, not all documents need be replicated, I'd be happy with "most frequently used documents".

That way, when I drop my phone on the sidewalk and it dies, I lose nothing. If my company or my ISP die, I lose nothing.

Of course, this needs much more bandwidth than available today. In the simple case I access an uncommonly viewed document, I want it $here (wherever "here" is) at a reasonable time.

#5 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2010-11-13T05:27 by sprewell

Yes, you potentially gain some resilience by stuffing your data into printers and toasters and every other networked device in your home cloud, but you also lose privacy and performance.  It's going to be a lot easier for someone to hack into that toaster than into your full-strength desktop OS.  Replication is happening today but it's happening in the places that make sense: the desktop, the server, and mobile.  What we'll eventually see is your data replicated across many servers run by many different companies, each with security and performance guarantees.  But taking that decentralization that is already beginning to happen to an extreme of "radical decentralization" across all devices ignores the drawbacks that come with it.

#6 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2010-11-13T12:34 by Ivan Voras

You have a point there, but I think it's valid only if the data security is mixed up with data availability, i.e. if the data isn't encrypted. Also by "radical" I don't necessarily mean "any device anywhere in the world all the time" - it would be good enough to restrict the set to something like "devices I've interacted with + devices I want to use like that."

Of course there still my be doubts about "perfect security" which may make this even theoretically impossible to implement right now, and there are certainly important obstacles (basically having to do with physical security of "trivial" things like CPU buses and rubber hose cryptography) but I think with some work we can come up with a system which relies on encryption in some kind of hierarhical way (key & subkeys) that protects data on different devices in a way that completely compromizing the device only compromizes that part of your data, not all of it.

Imagine an advertisment for toasters in the future: "With this shiny new toaster you will also receive 1 TB - count it, 1 TB of storage for your personal network! Call today to take advantage of this limited offer!" :)

#7 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2010-11-19T22:16 by Scott

You want your documents to move seemlessly from your computer to your phone??  I on the other hand do not.  If I did, I would want them where only I can reach them and no one else.  The real issues with Cloud computing are as follows:

1.  Security - No matter what anyone says, there will always be points of breach in any large system.  Look at the recent activity on wikileaks.

2.  Privacy - refer to point 1.

3.  Laws - currently there are no laws which can protect corporations from other corporations with regard to cloud computing let alone private persons.  There have already been cases of lost data due to non-existent backups, lost data due to bankruptcies and such.  Then there's corporate espianage...this actually makes it easier for one company to gain information from a competing company...all they have to know is what cloud they are on and they can start greasing some palms for it!

4.  We are talking about trusting companies with our personal, private and in some cases proprietary information.  We are trusting them to do what is right.  History shows us every day that corporations cannot be trusted with such information.  Look at the Facebook privacy issues that hit the news recently, or the google streetview image collection, or collection agencies who use facebook to track down and harass people on behalf of their clients. 

5.  VMWare and others are really pushing the cloud hard to become a new reality in order to make it so that all new computers are sold without an operating system, but rather a VMWare logon screen where you would pay a subscribership to use an OS.  VMWare reps made this assertion at the last VMWare user group I attended.  If this becomes a reality, then how likely do you think it will be that they decide to start filtering information to the masses?  Most of us obtain our news these days from the internet, how much easier it would be to get rid of any news that the political and the powerful would rather us not know?

Cloud comuting while having some benefits, has more nefarious uses than beneficial.  I see nothing useful or glamourous coming from cloud computing.  I see more danger in this course.  Glad to see an anti-cloud blog.

#8 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2010-12-04T04:50 by sprewell

Ivan, encryption won't be enough. If they can get into the toaster, they can use side-channel attacks and the like to get your data.

Scott, while your first four points are true to some extent, they first two are actually worse with your preferred alternative, ie storing the data in your home desktop. Almost no home user has their data even as secured or private as a mediocre hosted server, so they're easier to break into. I think the solution will be both better home servers that are hardened to attack and replication across many hosted servers, but anyone who thinks one or the other will dominate is not thinking straight.

#9 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2010-12-04T13:52 by Ivan Voras

I actually like the idea of "better home servers that are hardened to attack and replication across many hosted servers" but I think it will only be the starting point. I see phones coming out right now with 48 GB of storage...

#10 P2P = Anti-cloud

Added on 2011-02-13T22:04 by Olaf Ohman

I found the perfect solution for my personal and business data. B-Folders. It syncs directly between desktops, laptops and smartphones without any central server. Check it if you do not belive:

#11 Re: P2P = Anti-cloud

Added on 2011-02-13T23:31 by Ivan Voras

I did take a look: B-Folders looks just like what I'm describing! A good idea :)

#12 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2011-04-22T05:16 by itaficioando

I'm with Scott on this one, Cloud is only good for one thing, making money for someone else. I like OpenBSD, Fedora, Apache...I'll write my own OS before I pay for a subscription OS. I'll even teach Architecture if your not on my level; free/w full details, notes, and shortcuts...


#13 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2011-06-21T02:15 by scared

What worries me is , this is mainframe big business, control over content big brother oversight. this is only about control and censorship and money...

who is going to say what they can and can't do with your information and sometime in the not to distant future your not going to have a choice but to be in it. sorry all business is conducted thru the cloud.

#14 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2012-06-18T02:18 by anti-cloud computer user

Try this on your interest Likes on Facebook try typing Anti-cloud computing you get a return message that says: Creating content with this name is not allowed. Try: Body of an error/warning message. Title is: Invalid Name....Facebook is the enemy of Freedom

#15 Re: The Anti-Cloud

Added on 2014-03-19T01:23 by Felix

The cloud method is essentially centralization of information, it would in future lead to the fact that data are under control of several big cloud companies.

If politics happens (IMO it is inevitable) there would be less chance general people could win the war of their privacy.

I see cycles here again, maybe it is just a new name the market plays economics.

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