Anti-Cloud Computing?

Over on Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow posted about the Adobe Creative Cloud outage:

As Adobe Creative Suite struggles with its license-server outage, stranding creative professionals around the world without a way of earning their living, a timely reminder: a cloud computer is a computer you’re only allowed to use if the phone company and a DRM-peddling giant like Adobe gives you permission, and they can withdraw that permission at any time.

I typically find Cory to be very insightful. I think he has a point here, but misses another point. True, renting cloud servers and applications, particularly ones that rely on DRM and license servers, is putting yourself and your money at the mercy of another person or corporation where you have little to no control short of taking your money somewhere else. I understand that he is speaking narrowly of renting cloud software versus purchasing licensed software to install directly on a computer that you own (although with Adobe’s phone-home licensing, this would still be an issue if you lose Internet connectivity enough when attempting to use their products).

However, we are all subject to the whims of the telecommunications providers to leverage the Internet for applications and web sites. If Comcast decides to stop accepting my money as a customer, I have no other options to connect with the outside world. (That’s not entirely true. I could still use POTS lines for dial-up, and I believe Verizon may have a DSL option in our area, but the options are not comparable to cable connectivity.) And that is a real problem. As a customer of Comcast, I must maintain a tenuous balance between being irritated with their service (or lack thereof) and preventing them from becoming irritated with me for asking for the level of service that I pay them to provide.

I realize I cannot run my own telecommunications infrastructure, but I also realize that there is a real lack of competition in most municipalities, and that is a problem. Even the server I run this site on is a rented piece of equipment that is controlled by the hosting company I pay who in turn are relying on the services of their bandwidth providers. Let’s face it. The Adobe license server outage is a huge problem for a lot of people. It is also a great example of why service level agreements are so important, and why fault tolerant enterprise infrastructure is critical.

I don’t know the details of the license server failure, but Adobe needs to ensure that they correct the infrastructure failures to prevent this from happening again. In addition, they need to reimburse customers for the failure to meet their SLA. As for the telecommunications issue… well, Cory has written far more about that state of affairs than I have or ever will, but there is room for improvement. There is a fair level of certainty that the phone company will not take its ball and go home, leaving us with no connection to the outside world, but it is true that we are entirely dependent on them in the Internet age.