The rise of cloud computing has led to
hyperscale providers–i.e., companies that provide more computing services than
has ever been possible. The cloud giants are battling for control at every
layer of the technology stack, and the winners will become the new cloud
providers are empires.
The biggest cloud providers are enormous. For instance, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google App Engine, HP Public Cloud, Rackspace, and Windows Azure are either
huge in their own right (AWS turned over $3.8 billion in 2013) or are backed by huge companies (HP has approximately 331,800 employees). The hyperscale cloud providers spread across national borders and
fight for market share. These providers have massive resources of money,
employees, and equipment.
You are a citizen in
a cloud empire.
Powerful companies are fighting each other to grab land in
the new cloud world. If you think of the hyperscale providers as empires, you
are a citizen in a totalitarian state. All your interactions with technology
are turned into data and fed into algorithms,
making your life transparent.
Cloud scale has accelerated the monitoring of users. If you
have a smartphone, your movement is being logged. If you have a Facebook account, everyone you associate with has been tagged. Your email is scanned, your ISP redirects your data, and advertisers track your web surfing.
Power rests at the center, not with you. Market forces
dictate the actions of the cloud empires, and they in turn dictate your actions.
Perhaps you are a developer and the Google App Engine matters
to you, but it’s a one-way relationship–how much do you matter to Google?
Business battles in the
Hardware and networking, the base of all IT, is being
centralized into huge data centers around the world. Amazon and Rackspace are fighting over off-premise computing–both companies want
your organization to switch off its computer rooms and use their managed
Despite the vast expense of commissioning these new cloud
data center warships, they don’t get much media coverage. Every new cloud
terminal, on the other hand (i.e., your smartphone), generates vast coverage.
Hardware isn’t just about servers in data centers; for every
server, there are many clients, and the future of cloud clients is mobile.
Controlling the mobile OS is a moneymaker and enables the monitoring of all the
citizens of the cloud empire. The dozen sensors in your smartphone (camera, microphone, accelerometer, etc.) constantly
measure where you are and what you are doing.
Battles in the OS
The OS is turning into a battle between Microsoft and a few
Linux distributions. All the UNIX distros are gone, and BSD remains a small
kingdom. Microsoft holds the most on-premise space with Microsoft Server, but it is slowly losing ground to the advancing Linux
distributions. Ubuntu and Red Hat are fighting over on-premise computing–they
want your organization to run their hybrid management tools and versions of OpenStack. Google and Microsoft are
fighting to get Android or Windows onto your smartphone.
Battles in the
The application space is split between the closed
applications and the open ones. For instance, Oracle‘s closed relational database
still rules the enterprise, but cloud scale is powered by the open NoSQL
Is this true?
The business battles between competing cloud companies are
certainly true, and there are parallels with past ages of empires; there is
even a risk we could become citizens of new cloud empires. Our modern life
requires cloud computing, so the controllers of the clouds could therefore
control us. We are on that road already; these are some ways our actions are
eroding privacy and freedom of choice.
- The government erodes the privacy of its
citizens using Patriot Act orders and PRISM surveillance.
- We weaken our employers by handing over business
critical systems and sensitive data to cloud providers.
- We expose ourselves by handing over private
information to companies and allowing them to constantly monitor us.
The big cloud providers are not empires, and we still have
privacy and freedom of choice. We don’t live in AWS-funded housing or send our
children to Azure-sponsored schools.
We are building a better, faster, and cheaper IT world using
cloud computing. As long as we retain our rights and don’t accidentally give
them all away, the cloud providers will serve us rather than the other way
Do you agree that the controllers of the clouds could
control us? Share your thoughts about the rise of the cloud empires in the
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