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Berkeley RAD Lab Cloud Computing Paper: Above the Clouds or In the Sand?

February 19th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I've waffled on how, or even if, I would write my critique of the Berkeley RAD Lab's paper titled "Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing.

I think I've had a hard time deciding where the authors have their heads, hence the title.

Those of you who know me are probably chuckling at the fact that I was a good boy and left off the potential third cranial location option…

Many people have written their respective reviews of the work including James UrquhartDavid Linthicum and Chuck Hollis who all did a nice job summarizing various perspectives.

I decided to add my $0.02 because it occurred to me that despite several issues I have with the paper, two things really haven't been appropriately discussed:
  1. The audience for the paper
  2. Expectations of the reader 

The goals of the paper were fairly well spelled out and within context of what was written, the authors achieved many of them.

Given that it was described as a "view" of Cloud Computing and not the definitive work on the subject, I think perhaps the baby has been unfairly thrown out with the bath water even when balanced with the "danger" that the general public or press may treat it as gospel.

I think the reason there has been so much frothy reaction to this paper by the "Cloud community" is that because the paper comes from the Electrical Engineering/Computer Science department of UC Berkeley, a certain level of technical depth and a more holistic (dare I say empirical) model for analysis is expected by many readers and their expectations are therefore set a certain way.  

Most of the reviews that might be perceived as negative are coming from folks who are reasonably technical, of which I am one.

To that point and that of item #1 above, I don't feel that "we" are the intended audience for this paper and thus, to point #2 above, our expectations — despite the goals of the paper — were not met.

That being said, I do have issues with the authors' definition of cloud computing as unnecessarily obtuse, their refusal to discuss the differences between the de facto SPI model and its variants is annoying and short-sighted, and their dismissal of private clouds as relevant is quite disturbing.  The notion that Cloud Computing must be "external" to an enterprise and use the Internet as a transport is simply delusional. 

Eschewing de facto models of reference because the authors could not agree amongst themselves on the differences between them — despite consensus in industry outside of academia and even models like the one I've been working on — comes across as myopic and insulated.  

Ultimately I think the biggest miss of the paper was the fact that they did not successfully answer "What is Cloud Computing and how is it different from previous paradigm shifts such as Software as a Service (SaaS)?"  In fact, I came away from the paper with the feeling that Cloud Computing is SaaS…

However, I found the coverage of the business drivers, economic issues and the top 10 obstacles to be very good and that people unfamiliar with Cloud Computing would come away with a better understanding — not necessarily complete — of the topic.

It was an interesting read that is complimentary to much of the other work going on right now in the field.  I think we should treat it as such and move on.

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  1. Roland Dobbins
    February 19th, 2009 at 09:11 | #1

    Their comments about DDoS are naive; the attackers have overwhelming resources they can bring to bear with little/no cost to himself, the defender will lose both economically and from a capacity standpoint if all he does is try to scale horizontally.

  2. February 20th, 2009 at 06:50 | #2

    I agree that the UC Berkeley paper left a lot on the table and that the views were off if not skewed to some extent.
    I actually spent some time analyzing it from a Cloud Vendor's (GoGrid) perspective. My "rebuttal" is here: http://blog.gogrid.com/2009/02/19/10-obstacles-to
    I'm glad that I'm not alone here!
    -Michael Sheehan

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