The Similarities between Airplane Travel and Cloud Computing
“Airplanes may kill you, but they ain’t likely to hurt you.”
- Satchel Paige (1906-1982), Baseball Hall of Famer.
Over the decades, Mankind has had a love-hate relationship with airplane travel. In spite of the fears of cocooning themselves in an aluminum cylinder hurtling through the atmosphere at 600 miles per hour at heights of 30,000 feet, in a situation where someone once commented “There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane…”, airplane travel has grown in popularity almost every year.
One of the notable exceptions was in the aftermath of 911, when Islamic fundamentalists hijacked commercial airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in what became the most devastating terrorist attack in American history. Expectedly, airplane travel fell off considerably in the succeeding months.
It was only later that experts realized that Al Qaeda may have killed more people indirectly by discouraging flying than directly in the attacks on September 11, 2001. That’s because the slack in airplane travel was taken over by increased travel by car, and as any statistician will tell you, the number of deaths per mile traveled on the road is much more than for comparable figures when flying. In other words, in spite of the occasional drawback, airplane travel is safer (and definitely faster than the traditional way of traveling by car.
The long introduction was necessary to justify what Simon Crosby, Chief Technological Officer of Citrix, said recently at a panel discussion on cloud computing – A cloud computing service is like an airliner – even though it can experience devastating crashes that affect many people, like Amazon’s crash last month, it’s still safer than driving your own car… or IT infrastructure.
Crosby was speaking at industry event Interop 2011 at Las Vegas, which the organizers described as “the only event to give you a comprehensive and unbiased understanding of all the latest innovations—including cloud computing, virtualization, security, mobility and data center advances.” Accompanying him on the panel were Randy Rowland, senior vice president of product development at Terremark; Andy Schroepfer, vice president of enterprise strategy at Rackspace; and moderator David Berlind, chief content officer at UBM TechWeb.
What Crosby said ties in very well what I have been mentioning in the previous articles – there may be problems with cloud computing, but the advantages considerably outweigh them making a migration to the cloud justifiable. While he did mention several of the recent cloud computing failures, especially the Amazon outage, he was of the belief that, “Broadly, you’re far better off in the cloud than doing things your own way.”
However, Crosby did express concern that cloud computing did not have a central regulatory body like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to set standards for operation. This is something that I mentioned in an earlier article (See: Cloud Computing Standards: How Important Are They?).
The overall message from Crosby was that cloud computing may experience the occasional outage, but like airplane travel, it made sense to go on the cloud rather than to experience the traffic jams and frequent failures of being on the road of traditional IT infrastructure. To add to that, I believe that that the industry should put its weight in a regulatory mechanism that can help set standards and prevent the entry of butterfingered novices in this demanding world.
By Sourya Biswas