Is Cloud Computing a Trap?

Posted in: Cloud, Technical Track

A short post to direct people’s attention to and solicit comments on the following from someone who is admittedly a hero of mine, Richard Stallman:

But Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and creator of the computer operating system GNU, said that cloud computing was simply a trap aimed at forcing more people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that would cost them more and more over time.

“It’s stupidity. It’s worse than stupidity: it’s a marketing hype campaign,” he told The Guardian.

“Somebody is saying this is inevitable – and whenever you hear somebody saying that, it’s very likely to be a set of businesses campaigning to make it true.”

The 55-year-old New Yorker said that computer users should be keen to keep their information in their own hands, rather than hand it over to a third party.

His comments echo those made last week by Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, who criticized the rash of cloud computing announcements as “fashion-driven” and “complete gibberish”.

“The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do,” he said. “The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?”

That blockquote links to the article at the Guardian where Stallman is interviewed and quoted. Please follow it to read the article in its entirety.

What do you think?



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About the Author

As Pythian’s Chief Executive Officer, Paul leads this center of excellence for expert, outsourced technical services for companies whose systems are directly tied to revenue growth and business success. His passion and foresight for using data and technology to drive business success has helped Pythian become a high-growth global company with over 400 employees and offices in North America, Europe, and Asia. Paul, who started his career as a data scientist, founded Pythian when he was 25 years old. In addition to driving the business, Paul is a vocal proponent of diversity in the workplace, human rights, and economic empowerment. He supports his commitment through Pythian’s hiring and retention practices, his role as board member for the Basic Income Canada Network, and as a supporter of women in technology.

13 Comments. Leave new

Right: cloud computing is merely the rebranding of technology that has been pushed at us for years. Peer to peer. Grid computing. Distributed computing. Software as a Service (SaaS).

Technology created for its own sake is always the wrong way to go. Use the right tools for the job, and focus on the value the tools bring, not the technology used to implement them.

For some applications, cloud/grid/distributed/SaaS is a wonderful thing. But claiming it will take over the industry is false. It’s pure marketing hype.


I am all for RMDBS as a service. Examples are MySQL\Oracle on EC2. My company(terremark) does SQL Server on huge ESX clusters. However, to call these cloud db’s is a misnomer. They are basically shared hosted databases. They are getting to where they can scale larger and larger though.
I think the real “cloud databases” like big table, simpledb, and SSDS are unproven and have a long way to go. It remains to be seen if the will be a niche product or a dominate force but some very large companies are through a lot of resources at them. It will only be a year or two before we know.


I thought that the reasons for using cloud computing are more from a hardware consideration then software ones.
For example, you can use salesforce and pay a certain amount every month instead of installing servers in several locations AND pay for someone to install and maintain them AND pay for backup tapes and software AND someone to manage and maintain firewall and active directory policies…. etc ect


The difference with SaaS is that you pay EVERY month, while if you host inhouse you pay once….


Look it doesn’t have to be someone else’s cloud. But anyway, many sites run hosted or somewhat managed, that’s ok. This is, essentially, not different. Of course it does depend on the infrastructure. Reality is, whatever choices are made, nobody is that easily portable, there’s always a degree of lock-in. That’s one of the trade-offs when outsourcing this.

Sheeri Cabral
October 1, 2008 1:47 am

Stallman is correct, but as Arjen notes, the fact that cloud computing is handing information off to someone else for a price is not unique to cloud computing. Gmail and Flickr are locked, proprietary systems that are free.

Noons says that hosting inhouse means you pay once, which is misleading — you pay for the hardware once, but you pay for power, network connectivity, air conditioning, lighting, etc. monthly. And of course system and database administrators to maintain the systems, but you’d have those in the case of a hosted service too.

Of course Ellison is playing dumb, he wants people to buy his own, recently released grid computing solution. If Ellison is so clueless….

…why does he think is Oracle partnering with Intel to “Accelerate Enterprise-Ready Cloud Computing”??

…is the Oracle Cloud Computing Center, which mentions their partnership with Amazon Web Services, a joke?

There are some interesting points here:
such as how Oracle software isn’t really suitable for the cloud.

This article:
states that Oracle’s “Chuck Rozwat, executive vice president of development….sees cloud a computing as an outgrowth of the on-demand computing technology Oracle has been working on for 10 years.”

Does Ellison need to spend less time on his boats and more time in tune with what his own company is doing?


@Jonathan: don’t you think that in the long run you are going to pay MORE for the service than in-house? Today everyone is going mad for externalization (just as they did with call centr and software development in the past years). But when people, even if protected by a SLA, start to loose their data or their fine control over it, and managers start to understand that, we’ll see company going back to more in-house computing (as we’re seeing production coming back to its original places when it makes sense).
And this is just talking about pure money.. if we put the “freedom” condition in it, then Stallman’s thoughts are not so bizarre


Vide, you fail to account for the fact that in-house hosting is likely less reliable than cloud computing, so arguments over “loosing” (sic) data are hogwash IMHO. Now, “finer control over data”, that may indeed be the case, but there is, of course, nothing preventing a company from simply using cloud utility computing for offloading peak hour traffic and doing most everything else in-house, or even using cloud-computing as a backup or failover service, which makes your argument less convincing.

I’ll agree that there is *considerable* marketing hype over cloud computing, but then again, there’s considerable hype over almost everything nowadays. The challenge is to cut through the hype and glean from the technology those things which make sense for your business specifically, and ditch the rest of it :)




As long as I can move my data around from service to service, or link data in one service to another service, or use one service to transform data another service .. there will be value in “Cloud Computing”.

Is is possible to get locked in? Certainly. But I can avoid using those services and use the one that allow me to do the things I want with my data.

What’s the alternative? I can do what some one my friends do. They run their own email, DNS, web, directory, database etc … I don’t have time to install/support all that infrastructure. I am too busy getting stuff done.

Maybe Richard would like to volunteer to help us host our own photos and blog. In the meantime, I will keep using Flickr and WordPress.

Cloud Computing? « Oracle and other
October 1, 2008 2:34 pm

[…] Questo argomento mi ha ricordato anche un altro post di Sheeri Cabral che lessi tempo fa su pythian: “Open Source: What You Own“, l’argomento mi sembra pertinente. Mentre scrivevo questo post ho notato che sempre su pythian anche Paul Vallee ne parla (”Is Cloud Computing a Trap?“). […]

Sheeri Cabral
October 1, 2008 2:58 pm

BTW, I wrote about the cloud computing/privacy column 2 months ago in

Alex Fatkulin
January 3, 2009 11:04 pm

Sheeri, I believe Noons was talking about what is known as transfer pricing. It is one of the main reasons why independent companies are sometimes less price competitive compared to their vertically integrated competitors.

It has to do with the way fixed/variable costs are passed in each case.

AU Cloud Computing
August 19, 2009 7:39 pm

Thanks for the information. You may be interested to know that Telstra – Australia’s biggest telco has just announced (on 17th August) a $500m investment into cloud computing which is pretty huge.


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