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Did the Cloud Crack?



Unless you go out of your way to avoid current events, you know about the turmoil in Iran and the passing of  the world’s biggest pop music  icon. And if you follow computer tech news, you’ve noticed a lot of chatter on how these events are impacting the Internet, showing us either the strength or weakness of the system, depending on your point of view. Some of those POVs are darn near apocalyptic.

One camp points to web site and service shutdowns following the  crush of news seekers looking for info on  Michael Jackson’s death  as being failures. TechCrunch described the web as “collapsing.” Data Center Knowledge was less sensational, using the verb “creaks.” VentureBeat calls the event a “test” warning of the need to improve.  Cloud computing blog ElasticVapor went all in, calling it “The Day The Cloud Died.” Given  the  subject matter  relates to an actual death, I would call that a title of poor taste, but even worse, it’s obviously grossly  inaccurate. If the Cloud died Thursday, then how are we reading this today?

Meanwhile, in the midsts of citizen protests,  the Iranian government has been trying to maintain control over its people’s access to the Internet, blocking such services as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Yet, users and service providers alike are finding ways to circumvent the blockades and keep the outside world in the loop. Twitter most famously rescheduled a service outage to keep Iranian tweets flowing through daylight hours. Try as they might, short of outright  pulling the plug (which would disrupt business and government too), the Iranian government can’t stop the signal.

Between the fallout of these two events, I think the strength of the Internet has shined through. While it is inevitable that  a server will occasionally  fail or a set of IP addresses  might be blocked,  the web that connects us remains intact. I admit we saw several cracks in the Cloud this week, but far from  “collapsing” or “dying,”  I think we saw it quickly  reform as well.

My office did suffer from sluggish connectivity that morning and access was completely disrupted for a few minutes  at one point, but the entire  slowdown lasted less than an hour. If there was anything resembling a “collapse,” I didn’t see it.  In this test of the Cloud, I think it passed.  What do you think? Is the web in dire need of reconstruction?  Were  you shaken by service disruptions?  Are reports of the Cloud’s demise  sensationally  exaggerated?  And thinking deeper,  are we implementing new server technologies fast enough to ensure the Cloud doesn’t fail in the future?




    06/27/2009 at 7:46 pm

    Bah, its nothing more then the effects of needing to make a buck…

    Basically, the issue is that one need to have as much hardware as needed to keep up with what one see as the average load, but not so much that its a waste of money to maintain it.

    This result in a setup that will never be able to handle sudden surges of activity.

    I have seen the same with mobile phone networks and vacations, where people insist on gathering in some specific area, resulting in a much higher usage then average. Or for that matter new years, when the amount of calls and text messages really peaks.

    All in all, economic efficiency results in a lack of redundant capacity…

  2. Ben

    06/28/2009 at 8:04 am

    Maybe the net needs to be rebuilt, but not so it won’t “die” whenever there’s some news about some dumb celebrity. if it needs to be rebuilt, it’s so that it’ll be way faster than now and have loads more features.

    I never noticed it change at all. of course, i live in the japanese countryside and my internet connection is already slow as hell. =P

  3. GoodThings2Life

    06/28/2009 at 12:35 pm

    I agree with what everyone has said so far… it’s completely sensationalism to claim the Cloud has died and similar nonsense.

    I also agree it’s a complete waste of money for most organizations to buy the infrastructure to support massive surges in traffic. However, there are certain entities– and I feel the major news sources and any type of “infrastructure business” (power, communications, etc) are an example– that need to be capable at any given moment (waste or not otherwise) to handle those loads in the event of a true emergency.

    At the bare minimum, they should at least have the sense to have “burstable” services in which they pay for X amount of traffic burstable to double in heavy load circumstances. This is the type of service my data center provides me with, so others should be taking advantage of it if they’re not.

  4. SAM

    06/28/2009 at 5:53 pm

    OK, I’m guess I’m behind the times, but
    what is “The Cloud”

  5. Ben

    06/28/2009 at 8:55 pm

    it’s the name some people call “the internet” (aka internets). it sounds more sensational than “internet”, but really refers to “cloud computing.”

  6. Sumocat

    06/29/2009 at 6:55 am

    SAM: Here’s the Wikipedia entry:

    “Cloud” is basically another metaphor for the Internet, like web, but the focus is on services offered over the Internet that used to be limited to local apps. The web metaphor still applies, but it’s such a complex and multi-layered web that the structure is less easily discerned.

    I liken it to drawing a mindmap with an endless stream of ideas layered on top of it. Early on, it looks like a web, but as the ideas get added it grows into an amorphous mass. Or think of it as being many different nodes that are tied together like the water molecules that make up a cloud. Either way, I think it’s an apt metaphor.

  7. SAM

    06/29/2009 at 10:28 am


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