The Sidekick Failure and Cloud Culpability

Does the Sidekick data loss reflect on the reliability of cloud computing? Or is the cloud being scapegoated for a different kind of problem? Pundits are split on the cloud's culpability.

Rich Miller

October 12, 2009

3 Min Read
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There's a been a trend recently in which every outage of a web-enabled service is interpreted by the tech media as a reflection of the reliability (or lack thereof) of cloud computing. This in turn has prompted defensive reactions from some cloud technologists and bloggers, who counter that these incidents aren't "cloud failures" at all and have nothing to do with whether cloud computing is safe.

This week's data catastrophe with the Sidekick mobile device has prompted fresh debate about cloud culpability. InformationWeek dubbed the apparent loss of all user data a "code red cloud disaster." ZDNet called it "one of the biggest cloud computing disasters so far." Cnet wrote that the incident "threatens to put a dark cloud" over Microsoft's cloud ambitions. Barron's Tech Trader Daily writes that "you have to wonder if the high hopes about cloud computing just suffered a mammoth setback."

Not a Cloud Failure?
But some analysts argue that the Sidekick snafu isn't a "cloud failure" at all. "Every outage is not a frigging cloud outage," Redmonk's James Governor writes on Twitter. "The T-mobile failure is at a traditional data center - its not running on Force, AWS, or other cloud infrastructure is it? If someone doesn't back up their data and loses it I don't call that a cloud failure."

Martin Glassborow at StorageBod agrees, saying the Sidekick incident "should not be seen as a failure of the Cloud; it's not! It's the failure of a centralised service which was apparently run by incompetents! It is yet another lesson that if you only have a single copy of your data; you might as well only have no copies of your data. So if you are archiving and deleting, you better make sure that you have two copies of the archive or at least the ability to recreate that data."

But one leading cloud blogger thinks the cloud is fair game on this one.

"Many of the cloud pundits out there will try to tell you that the Sidekick service isn't a cloud application," writes Reuven Cohen at Elastic Vapor. "Let's call it what it is, it's a cloud app - your data when using a Sidekick is hosted in some else's data center. In the most basic terms, if I choose a device such as a mobile phone that requires me to use some else's data centers for storing my personal data, I expect it to be at the very least backed up automatically, and preferably I should have the ability to do so myself. It appears that neither was an option for T-Mobile Sidekick customers."

Cohen says the Sidekick failure has implications for the type of cloud apps users should choose. "The best and easiest way to be prepared for the inevitable failures that will occur is to rely on services that allow for portability," he writes. "Make sure you have a clear exit strategy before you choose a cloud service provider and avoid the ones that attempt to lock you in."

What do you think? Will the Sidekick data loss affect the enthusiasm for cloud computing? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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