October 15, 2009, 9:37 PM — This week's cloud tempest is the very visible breakdown of Microsoft's Danger storage service for the T-Mobile Sidekick phone. An apologetic email (as reported by TechCrunch) first went out from Microsoft to users noting that all data had been lost with no way to recover it. Apparently, it now seems that some or most of the data will be recovered, which is, of course, good news. I don't know that Microsoft has provided any formal explanation of what went wrong, but most of the speculation I've seen identifies a failed SAN upgrade with no data backup available as the cause for the data loss.
People on all sides of the cloud debate have been debating this incident and treating it as though it is a proxy for the entire concept of cloud computing.
While it's unlikely that one should conflate this situation with the totality of cloud computing, there are some very, very important issues highlighted by this situation that are worth exploring and understanding.
Lessons to be Drawn
It's a cloud: Some writing I've seen on this incident downplay it because, in the view of the authors, this service isn't really a cloud offering. They say it's a limited application, or an adjunct service to a hardware device, or it's really a consumer service and therefore not a "real" cloud application because those are aimed at business users. That's baloney.
First of all, it is a cloud application. It certainly fits into the common SaaS definitions. The "it's really a consumer service" rationale won't wash, either. With the blurring of consumer and commercial use, what's personal to one person might be mission-critical to another. And trying to deflect concern about this incident by defining it away misses the point. Cloud computing is a big tent (if I may mix a metaphor), and one of its strengths is the fact that many different approaches can be considered as cloud computing. In any case, clever dissembling is beside the point. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, trying to convince someone that it's not a duck because it's actually a similar looking, slightly different species is unlikely to be successful.
This attention bespeaks intense interest in the cloud: Let's face it, all the hullabaloo about this incident is good news, because it means people recognize cloud computing is an important development. You don't spend a lot of time worrying about something you don't care about. It's obvious that the concept of cloud computing has garnered attention, to which I attribute the fact that everyone recognizes that the old methods of running IT infrastructure are expensive and don't scale.