The Cloud: A Historical Contest Between Hardware and Software Vendors

What are the main benefits & risks associated with using cloud applications?

AA: Before we get started, can we all agree on a definition of “cloud” we are talking about, or have we passed that era?

TL: I have always considered “cloud” to be what us old timers used to call “hosted infrastructure,” or perhaps more simply, “someone else’s computer.” When talking in those terms, the benefits and risks are simple: it is their responsibility to maintain your data, and it is your responsibility to be careful about what data you store with them because you don’t control the service.

JM: Long long ago, when Thom was a young man in his 40s, mainframes ran everything, and users used dumb terminals to run their code.

Then the dumb terminals evolved into not-so-dumb terminals, aka desktops with local memory and RAM and a proper operating system. So applications were deployed locally and everything was right in the world.

Except, it wasn’t…

Firstly, it seemed that no matter how much RAM, memory, or processing power you had at your fingertips, the latest and greatest software updates demanded more. So, users spent a fortune upgrading their machines.

This was pleasing to hardware manufacturers, as they ended up selling a lot more equipment than they ever could have in the old mainframe days.

Software vendors on the other hand were not so joyous because users were spending what little money they had on hardware upgrades and were bitter about spending even more on software. So they decided to dabble in a bit of software piracy. Creating applications on floppy disks and key generators to bypass activation codes became the norm, and users were happy.

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So the software vendors had a meeting of software vendors at an undisclosed location in a hollow dormant volcano where they decided that if they put applications in ‘the cloud,’ they then could capture information of every single user accessing their software and eradicate piracy once and for all.

The users were spun a grand story as to how hardware vendors had been screwing them for years and they were their saviour. All they needed was a laptop or tablet of minuscule specifications, and they would be able to harness the power of a million virtual machines in the grand cloud.

However, this cloud story has no silver lining. Governments, criminals, and bad people see cloud applications as a goldmine of information that can be looted and plundered at will.

TL;DR between hardware vendors, software vendors, governments and criminals users are getting screwed one way or another.

TL: That’s what I said, just without the volcano.

Andrew Agnes, Thom Langford & Javvad Malik, Founding Members, Host Unknown | @HostUnknownTV

To find out more about our panel members visit the biographies page.