Dvorak Desn’t Like the Cloud

John C. Dvorak, a graduate of UC Berkeley, has been all over the media in recent years, busy as a technology pundit and columnist.

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In a column just published in that old standby, PC Magazine, he references Larry Ellison’s comments about the Cloud that we discussed in this space recently.  The surprise is that Dvorak seems to agree with Ellison.

In fact, the title of his column is, “Back When the Cloud was Dumb.”  Dvorak says that the Cloud is nothing but remote storage and client-server, saying “there is nothing new about remote storage and client-server, and that’s pretty much what we are talking about here. ”

Although Mr. Dvorak has  been official in-house geek and tech-pundit extraordinaire for all sorts of media outlets, including NPR,the NY Times, and Tech TV, he  is not very accurate in his belittling description of the cloud.

Like many seasoned industry vets, he rails against the new term, “cloud computing,”  with an emotional passion.  Like Mr. Ellison, he informs us that there is no water vapor doing the processing, that  it’s just old-fashioned mainframes:  “Why, though, does it have to be called the “cloud?” Where is this cloud anyway? It’s not in the sky and it doesn’t hold water. So why “cloud?”   Then, he goes on to his priority dislike:  the
Internet itself—-which is, of course, the “cloud” in question.   He says, “let us look at the Internet and what it has done. It has completely reversed the revolution that began with the desktop computer. It has returned us to a networked environment with centralized control. ”  Now we see the clue to his real agenda—-Mr. Dvorak believes the Internet has  undone The Revolution!    ( Perhaps it’s that Berkeley influence.)   As he says,”Don’t kid yourself. The entire idea that people should have complete control of their computing needs with complete desktop subsystems, from hard disks to printers to telemetry gear, is frowned upon by a society that prefers centralized control. No matter that centralized control is too expensive!”

But he verges on paranoia when he says,  ” One thing is for certain: They are trying to convince us that the cloud will come and go and come and go when really it’s just old-fashioned mainframe-based distributed computing from 30 years ago all gussied up. They are trying to trick us.”

Really, John?  The whole Internet is a conspiracy, and THEY are trying TRICK us?    Whoa!   If anything, Mr. Dvorak is one of THEM, one of the tech-savvy elite power structure.  But claiming that Cloud Computing is just client/server  is simply wrong.   Like Mr. Ellison, Mr. Dvorak ridicules what he clearly doesn’t understand.   Like Ellison, all he sees are products,   “remote servers, as I would prefer they be called,”  he says.   He misses the point entirely that Cloud Computing refers to a service—it’s about how the information processing is delivered, not what is delivering the processing.   And delivering processing power to endusers on an as-needed basis, with no capital investment required by them, liberates them.  It enables small businesses to get access to the same sophisticated databases and applications that the giant corporations use.  Before Cloud Computing became available, only very rich, large organizations could afford the infrastructure to manage Big Data. Using the Internet to leverage computing capacity creates a level playing field, with small and medium players being able to compete equally.   I would think that Mr. Dvorak’s Berkeley sensitivities would welcome such a  development.

Bill Patch 10/10/2012


Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is not universally respected and/or admired.  Viewing this video of him ranting about Cloud Computing may  or may not  change your opinion of him, but it will help you understand why Oracle’s “Cloud” offerings are not good deals.     For example, Oracle is now offering IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) that features Oracle selling you  some hardware and software to run your own “cloud” on your premises.

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In other words—the cloud is the same old same old—we make a product, dump it on you, say goodbye, and then you do your computing.

Ellison, and therefore Oracle, just doesn’t “get” the Cloud, which he admits in the video.  In his words, “What the hell is Cloud Computing?”Even though Ellison says, with false modesty, at one point, “Maybe I’m an idiot.,”   It’s clear that he chooses to ridicule what he just doesn’t understand.   And there’s a reason—other than him being an idiot— that he and his company don’t understand.   They are locked into the product-driven model.   The Cloud is a metaphor–Yes, Larry, everybody—except you—understands that water vapor has not replaced hardware and software—-a metaphor for the networked environment created by the Internet.
In the Cloud, economies of scale can be gained by leveraging computing resources to serve multiple users.   This computing model is service-driven, not product-driven, so it is difficult for people who have done well in a product-driven world.   Being service-driven means staying with the enduser customer, working with them , to maximize the effectiveness of their computing capacity, whether it’s owned, leased, or in the Cloud. The Product model is”Dump and run.”   The Service model is, “We’ll help you get the job done.”   For decades some technology companies have treated service as a cost center, and the only attention executives like Ellison have paid is to squeeze the costs, and to deliver as little post-sale support as  possible.  Now, with the customer more in the driver’s seat, able to buy only what they need  in the service-driven computing model, it’s understandable that some of the old-line product mavens feel lost and confused, which is a better title for the Ellison video.