Last week I wrote Cloud
is Just Another Word for "Sucker". My objections to buying into
this whole "cloud" services fad are three-fold: trust, reliability,
But "cloud" covers a lot of different services, and there is no
need to throw out good ideas. Cloud services can be roughly divided
into four categories: ordinary hosting services for Web sites and
email, hosted applications, offsite data storage and backups, and
hosting services that use virtualization and distributed computing
to provide flexible resource allocation. The last is what I
consider to be the true cloud, and the other three items can all be
put inside this cloud.
Whatever you call it and however you want to implement it, why
not do-it-yourself? Linux has everything you need. It means being
responsible for your own security, hardware, and uptimes, bandwidth
costs. It may be that using a hosting service is more
cost-effective. But there are plenty of DIY options, and you keep
control in your hands.
Back in the day I ran a few little public nameservers, and I had
arrangements with friends where we were secondaries for each other.
No big deal, if anyone went offline there were enough of us to fill
in. We added refinements like encrypted data exchange and some
other security tweaks. If an asteroid had hit our city then we all
would have been wiped out and our customers would have been
inconvenienced. But I doubt we would have cared much, being dead
and all that. Anyway this works anywhere there is Internet, so you
can spread your net as widely as you like.
We had similar arrangements for offsite backups. Our backups
were secure and private because we exchanged whole encrypted disk
partitions, and only the people who owned the data had the keys.
The server admins did not. SpiderOak is a commercial online
backup and storage provider, and they do the same thing. If you
lose your private key you lose access to your data, they have no
back doors or any other way to get into it.
SpiderOak also provides graphical Mac, Linux, and Windows
clients, and has some nice tools for file-sharing. I always used
plain old SSH and rsync, but it wouldn't be hard to cobble up a
nice script and wrap it in a little GUI for folks who prefer
There are a number of open source "cloud" software suites: EyeOS,
Eucalyptus, and Nimbus are three that I have
heard good things about, though I have not tested them myself.
These give you nice integrated packages all ready to install and
The old standby for centrally-managed Linux desktops on diskless
clients is the Linux Terminal Server
Project. Edubuntu puts a
friendly face on LTSP. Put your money into a powerful, reliable
server, put a bunch of old PCs to work as clients, and you're in
business. This is a nice way to take care of users who are
performing specialized tasks that don't need all the bells and
whistles of a development workstation, audio/video production, or
other jobs where your users have more responsibilities and do more
complex tasks. Got a gaggle of temporary workers to manage, or a
classroom of students? A terminal server is perfect for them. When
they move on, erase their accounts to make ready for the next
Bandwidth, Security, Uptimes
The downside to keeping your datacenter in-house is more
responsibilities: you have to maintain your own hardware and
network, and take care of your own security. Though for me this is
not a downside because that is my preference. Trivial stuff can go
on the cheap hosting services; important things stay home.
The other downside is acquiring the skills and expertise to
manage all of this competently. Though again, that is not a
downside to me. Why would any IT person worth a hoot not want to be
as capable as they possibly can? With Linux and FOSS you have a
whole world of great software to use, and can practice, test, and
deploy it at your own pace, and without having to spend half your
time appeasing the license police, and the other half chasing
malware out of your systems.
That's all my thoughts on the subject, anyone with experiences
or more knowledge to share is heartily invited to comment.