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Please let's not talk about "clouds"

The nebulous term "cloud computing" refers to many different
scenarios, and they raise different issues.  Thus, attempting
to discuss "the issue of cloud computing" is an invitation
to go astray.  It is setting out on the wrong path.

One specific case, which is specific enough to say something about, is
SaaS (software as a service).  The article
http://wiki.debian.org/Cloud/www.d.o-draft/philoshphy compares SaaS to
various things, but I think those comparisons are all mistaken.

A library is nothing like SaaS.  A library is, traditionally, a place
where you look at others' publications.  The Internet analogue of a
library is a ordinary web site such as gnu.org.

The postal system is nothing like SaaS.  The post office is a system
of communication.  The Internet analogue of the post office is email,
or the Internet itself, used in the end-to-end form that it was
designed for.

A restaurant is nothing like SaaS.  A restaurant sells a product that
you consume, and that's not much like any digital activity.

Food varies in regard to nutrition and taste, but it always goes in
the same opening and gets digested the same way.  Food is consumed;
using digital data does not consume it, and doing computational
activity is not consuming anything except electricity.

Computing carries out a wide variety of activities, nothing like the
uniformity of eating.  Food can be unhealthy, but it can't be used to
spy on you or manipulate you in subtle ways, not even if it is
drugged.  Thus, food is not comparable to software.  The analogy is

What is SaaS?  SaaS means doing your own computing on a server run by
someone else.  It means losing control over your computing.  A better
term for it could be SaaSS: Service as a Software Substitute.  It
means that instead of doing your computing the right way -- by running
your copy of a free program -- you hand your computing over to someone
else, who has total control over it.

Usimg SaaSS is equivalent to running a nonfree program with spyware
and a universal back door (capable of forcible remote installation of
software changes).  There is no way to make SaaSS ok.

However, other network services are a totally different issue.  For
instance, the Debian servers distribute copies of software.  That's a
different kind of activity, and raises different issues.  The only
thing that can be bad about this is if the software is nonfree.

"Cloud computing" is the wrong kind of generalization -- it includes
cases that raise totally different issues.  To have a sensible
discussion we should focus first on the different kinds of network
services, to see which of them are inherently bad and find the ethical
rules for the other kinds.

Dr Richard Stallman
President, Free Software Foundation
51 Franklin St
Boston MA 02110
www.fsf.org  www.gnu.org
Skype: No way! That's nonfree (freedom-denying) software.
  Use Ekiga or an ordinary phone call

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