Sep 30

News sites and blogs are abuzz right now with reaction to Richard Stallman’s statement that “Cloud computing is a trap.” Unfortunately none of the commentary I’ve read so far has caught the key fallacy here: he has confused two entirely orthogonal concepts, Software as a Service and Utility (Cloud) Computing. While often seen together, the two are completely independent of one another (ie. you can have a SaaS offering delivered via servers running in your datacenter, and conversely you can deliver OSS software on a cloud-based system – we in fact make this very thing possible now with various JumpBoxes on Amazon’s EC2 service).

The vendor lock-in he’s railing against in his interview (and wrongfully attributing to the cloud computing aspect) is actually related to the fact that most SaaS offerings are based on proprietary software. But it’s the same dependence one develops to proprietary software running on the desktop only it’s easier to take the first cocaine hit when there’s nothing to install. That offering may happen to be delivered via servers that are running in the cloud but that’s completely tangential. I doubt Stallman would take issue with a site like using a cloud computing service to host free demos of open source software in order to encourage its adoption… Making the argument he has is about as silly as going after the steel industry because you don’t like guns.

6 Responses to “Richard Stallman is officially confused”

  1. Rob McMillin says:

    Wake me when “cloud computing” is more than a pair of marketing buzzwords.

  2. sean says:

    @Rob – wake up dude. It’s real now and plenty of people are using it including ourselves. Read this case study for a scenario that wouldn’t be possible any other way->

  3. Jamaal says:

    I think that you are confusing SaaS with a web client. Let me explain the difference: Software as a Service is software in someone else’s datacenter. Software as a Purchase is software in your own.

    Web GUI != SaaS.

    Also, Stallman’s objections to cloud computing are similar to his objections to proprietary closed-source software, but he doesn’t equate them. Arguing against him by arguing that they are not the same thing is a straw man.

    Sorry for sounding snarky. I think JumpBoxes are cool.

  4. sean says:

    @Jamaal – I’m well-aware Web GUI != SaaS. You can just as easy use an IVR system or an Asterisk service as SaaS…

    Can you explain where the lock-in is with cloud computing though? I don’t see it. Unless you do something special with your application that binds you to a particular cloud computing service there’s no reason why you can’t pick up your application and go elsewhere with it. For instance I can take a JumpBox running on EC2 and in theory (once we make it work) pick it up and walk next door to 3Terra or GoGrid and drop it on their cloud computing platform- no vendor lock-in. Undoubtedly someone will develop an open source cloud computing platform and when they do we’ll build compatibility for that for the ultimate in freedom.

    I fail to see the straw man argument you refer to. Please elaborate.


  5. sasha says:

    Richard Stallman is right

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