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July 21 2011

About recent web developments and its challanges - 4 articles on cloud computing, balkanization and federation - radar.oreilly.com - mondaynote.com - newscientist.com

 
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The problem is that this concentration of power in the hands of a few creates problems for resilience and availability. "From an engineering standpoint, the downsides to this are the same things you get with monoculture in agriculture," says Labovitz. Ecosystems without genetic variation are the most vulnerable to being wiped out by a single virus. Similarly, as more of us depend on ever fewer sources for content, and get locked into proprietary technologies, we will become more susceptible to potentially catastrophic single points of failure.

That problem will only intensify with the ascendancy of the cloud, one of the biggest internet innovations of the past few years. The cloud is the nebulous collection of servers in distant locations that increasingly store our data and provide crucial services. It started with web mail services like Hotmail, which let you store your email on central servers rather than on the computer in front of you. The concept quickly spread. Last month, Apple announced the iCloud, a free service that will store all your music, photos, email, books and other data - and even apps - for seamless access via any Apple device, be that an iPhone, iPad or MacBook laptop.

Some companies have moved their entire IT departments into the cloud. Indeed, there are companies that barely exist outside the cloud: in addition to backing up data, Amazon lets internet-based companies rent space on its servers.

The cloud could generate exactly the single points of failure that the internet's robust architecture was supposed to prevent. And when those points fail, they may fail spectacularly. During an outage of Amazon's cloud service in April, when the company's servers went dark, entire companies briefly blinked out of existence. Cloud services also raise security concerns. "One big issue with being connected to the cloud is that a lot of information is in different places and shared," says Labovitz. "You no longer have one castle to protect. It's a much more distributed architecture, and a connected one. You just need one weak link."

[...]


— Welcome to the age of the splinternet - tech - 20 July 2011 - New Scientist


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#1 Technological control. Protocols, hardware, software are mostly US-designed. If, overnight, a couple of players such as Apple and Microsoft decide that Flash sucks, their gravitational field acts upon everything else (they might be right, technically speaking for web-video, but still many Flash-based multimedia productions becomes useless, like providing glasses that won’t read old books…) The same goes for hardware designs (microchips, graphic components), operating systems and even HTML norms (even though W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium, is supposed to be an international organization).

#2 Commercial control. As the internet becomes more applications-oriented, this control over hardware and OS designs and suppliers influences the availability of contents. The perfect example is the Apple ecosystem (iPhone, iPod, iPad devices + iTunes + Applications). Willing to focus on its lucrative domestic market, and for alleged production reasons, Apple decided to postpone the release of the iPad outside the US by a couple of months.
Fine. But in doing so, it blocked the access to the iPad App store and all its related contents. To use my own [admittedly grey-market] iPad, I managed to switch from a France-based iTunes account to a US one (you must have a billing address there). Then, a new world of contents and applications materialized before my eyes. All the applications I was prevented from grabbing for my iPhone suddenly became available, so did recent movies (to rent or to purchase), TV series, documentaries… and books.

#3 Regulatory control. Apple is not the only one to territorialize its system (although it does that with a great zeal). Country blocking — i.e. the ability to implement regional restrictions though Country Code Top-Level Domain –  is in fact dictated by complex country-to-country copyright contractual agreements.

[...]


— Balkanizing the Web | mondaynote.com 2010-05-02

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‘When it comes to Cloud Computing, the relationship between the service provider and the customer is by nature asymmetrical’, he says. ‘The former has thousands if not millions of customers and limited liability; in case of litigation, it will have entire control over elements of proof. As for the customer, he bears the risk of having his service interrupted, his data lost or corrupted — when not retained by the supplier, or accessed by third parties and government agencies)’.


[...]

The CVML partner then laid out six critical elements to be implemented in European legislation. These would legally supersede US contractual terms and, as a result, better protect European customers.

1 / Transparency. Guillaume Seligmann suggests a set of standard indicators pertaining to service availability, backup arrangements and pricing – like in the banking industry for instance. In Europe, a bank must provide a borrower with the full extent of his commitments when underwriting a loan. (Some economists say this disposition played a significant role at containing the credit bubble that devastated the US economy).Soup Bookmarklet

2 / Incident notifications. Today, unless he is directly affected, the customer learns about outages from specialized medias, rarely though a detailed notification from the service provider. Again, says Seligmann, the Cloud operator should have the obligation to report in greater details all incidents as well as steps taken to contain damage. This would allow the customer to take all measures required to protect his business operations.

3 / Data restitution. On this crucial matter, most contracts remain vague. In many instances, the customer wanting to terminate his contract and to get back his precious data, will get a large dump of raw data, sometimes in the provider’s proprietary format. ‘That’s unacceptable’, says the attorney. ‘The customer should have the absolute guarantee that, at any moment of his choosing, he we have the right to get the latest backed-up version of his data, presented in a standard format immediately useable by another provider. By no means can data be held hostage in the event of a lawsuit’.

4 / Control and certification. Foreign-headquartered companies, themselves renting facilities in other countries, create a chain fraught with serious hazards. The only way to mitigate risks is to give customers the ability to monitor at all times the facility hosting their data. Probably not the easiest to implement for confidentiality and security reasons. At least, says Guillaume Seligmann, any Cloud provider should be certified by a third party entity in the same way many industries (energy, transportation, banking) get certifications and ratings from specialized agencies – think about how critical such provisions are for airlines or nuclear power plants.

5 / Governing laws. The idea is to avoid the usual clause: “For any dispute, the parties consent to personal jurisdiction in, and the exclusive venue of, the courts of Santa Clara County, California”. To many European companies, this sounds like preemptive surrender. According to Seligmann’s proposal, the end-user should have the option to take his case before his own national court and the local judge should have the power to order really effective remedies. This is the only way to make the prospect of litigation a realistic one.

6 / Enforceability. The credibility of the points stated above depends on their ability to supersede and to render ineffective conflicting contractual terms imposed by the service provider. In that respect, the European Union is well armed to impose such constraints, as it already did on personal data protection. In the US, imposing the same rules might be a different story.

The overall issue of regulating the cloud is far from anecdotal. Within a few years, we can bet the bulk of our hard drives – individual as well as collective ones – will be in other people’s large hands: Amazon S3 storage service now stores 339 billion objects – twice last year’s volume.
We’ll gain in terms of convenience and efficiency. We should also gain in security.

[END]
— Catching the Cloud | mondaynote.com 2011-07-17


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original web site:
http://radar.oreilly.com/2011/07/google-plus-social-backbone.html

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[...]

Yet one company alone should not have the power to manage identity for everyone. A workable and safe social backbone must support competition and choice, while still retaining the benefits of the network. Email interoperability was created not by the domination of one system, but by standards for communication.
To achieve a web-wide effect, Google+ needs more openness and interoperability, which it does not yet have. The features offered by the upcoming Google+ API will give us a strong indication of Google's attitude towards control and interoperability.

There is some substantial evidence that Google would support an open and interoperable social backbone:

Google's prominence as a supporter of the open web, which is crucial to its business.

The early inclination to interoperation of Google+: public content items have a URI, fallback to email is supported for contacts who are not Google+ members.

Google is loudly trumpeting their Data Liberation Front, committed to giving users full access to their own data.

Google has been involved in the creation of, or has supported, early stage technologies that address portions of the social backbone, including OAuth, OpenID, OpenSocial, PubSubHubbub.

Google displays an openness to federation with interoperating systems, evinced most keenly by Joseph Smarr, the engineer behind the Google+ Circles model. The ill-fated Google Wave incorporated federation.

The most open system possible would best benefit Google's mission in organizing the world's information, and their business in targeting relevant advertising.

[...]



Show original www site at radar.oreilly.com



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cf. Google I/O 2010

Bridging the islands: Building fluid social experiences across websites
http://www.google.com/events/io/2010/sessions/building-fluid-social-experiences-across-websites.html


Social Web - John Panzer, Joseph Smarr
Session type: 201


youtube video (~1h) - permalink:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vxj4DTGKdj0


"As more sites add social functionality, profiles, friends, and conversations are becoming increasingly fragmented and redundant. But an emerging collection of open technologies aim to help bridge these social islands, allowing users to seamlessly move between sites, bring their friends along, and have unified conversations that span multiple web sites. Come learn how OpenID, OAuth, Portable Contacts, ActivityStrea.ms, and Salmon can help you connect your site to the rest of the Social Web, increasing your traffic, engagement, and relevance to your users."


— Google+ is the social backbone | "openness to federation with interoperating systems" | radar.oreilly.com 2011-07-19 | oAnth-miscellaneous | Scoop.it




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