Nicholas Pell
Jul 21, 2012

Bringing the cloud down to earth

Kim Dotcom (previously Kim Schmitz) is the founder of the now shut-down online storage site Megaupload -- a shining example of the dangers of distributed storage.Cloud computing is quickly shaping up to be the biggest thing since the invention of the Internet. The mid-90s dream of an open data stream containing just about every piece of media one could ever want is upon us. For businesses, cloud computing can be a godsend, allowing them to easily store and retrieve information, outsourcing their data storage needs to third parties.
However, the cloud is not without its problems, one of which is decidedly non-theoretical. Cloud computing, in addition to driving Internet sensations like Spotify, is also the new preferred method for illegal file sharing. The FBI has shown that they are serious about cracking down on pirates by shutting down Megaupload in January of this year. Of course, not everyone who lost their data was using Megaupload for nefarious purposes. That didn’t make their family photos any less gone. Indeed, the cloud isn’t just amorphous and everywhere -- it also easily evaporates.

Further, outsourcing a company’s data storage needs to a third-party cloud computing firm removes control from the company’s hands. Pinterest, Netflix and Instagram found this out the hard way when Amazon servers crashed for several hours in June. None of these companies are Amazon subsidiaries. They just use the online retail giant for cloud storage, though they might be seeking alternate services now.Tod Nielsen is the COO of VMware Inc.

VMWare has begun seeing the problems and limitations of cloud computing and coming up with solutions for the modern business. 21st Century businesses are increasingly seeing data center hardware as a single resource, rather than partitioning it into servers, networking and storage. Indeed, the lines between these three are increasingly blurred at the consumer level, with Apple’s Time Capsule being the perfect example. One device backs up your data and connects you to the Internet. Younger, casual users of the Internet might not have any idea that servers, networking and storage are discrete entities.

Similarly, VMWare is seeing an opportunity. The parent company, EMC, doesn’t want to just provide storage hardware. It wants to expand into all-in-one data center hardware management. Specifically, it wants to be the company providing such services on-site in the form of local cloud networks.

Local cloud networks offer a number of advantages. They are off the radar, so a hacker group won’t decide to arbitrarily make it their next target. Disconnected from the rest of the Internet, they are relatively isolated from the rest of the digital world. Further, because they will be used only for company business -- which presumably will not include any illegal file sharing -- companies won’t have to worry about waking up one morning to find that Johnny Law has shut down their cloud service for the misdeeds of another.

EMC sees the future in making storage management software able to run in virtual mode. This allows for far greater flexibility when it comes to providing management for storage. Users can move their storage management wherever needs dictate, rather than locking it into one piece of equipment or another.

What lurks on the horizon is little more than a new revolution in cloud computing taking place right as the public imagination has become fixed on the cloud. Indeed, it seems such a simple and elegant solution to many of the problems of the cloud: offer data solutions for one customer at a time, sealing them off from the larger world of The Cloud with a capital “C” and giving them their own little private cloud to play in.