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Re: Please let's not talk about "clouds"

On Sat, Apr 20, 2013 at 9:05 PM, Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> wrote:
> 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.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree that we should avoid
analogies, if we are to use these terms at all. Please note the status
of the page you linked being a draft. It appears that text was taken
from someone's email post as a placeholder and hasn't really been
discussed yet by this group. I don't believe there is a consensus yet
on any sort of overall "philosophy" here, and I personally would
strongly argue against promoting that draft to official Debian

I also *personally* believe that when it comes to "cloud" Debian
should only really concern itself with two things:

1) Allowing our users the freedom to run Debian on rented remote
physical or virtual servers, if that is their desire. To date, I
believe supporting that ability is the only thing that the
"debian-cloud" team has been working on, by building Debian images for
Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure, and with others on the way, including
Google Compute Engine. If there are (DD) team members finding a need
and willing to do the work to build the images, the images can be
built entirely using Free Software tools, and the images only include
Free Software, then Debian can support publishing of such said images
as "official images".
2) Facilitating people to use existing Free Software to build "Private
Clouds" using software like CloudStack, Eucalyptus and OpenStack on
top of Debian. This includes both packaging these "IaaS frameworks" as
well as publishing either instructions or "official images" that
would allow users to run Debian on top of these infrastructures.

That all said, Debian is a strictly volunteer organization, so wishing
something existed and having people to do the work are two separate
things altogether. (We'll get there.)

(Please do not consider this any sort of official response, I am just
sharing my opinion as an unofficial member of the debian-cloud team.)


> 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
> misleading.
> 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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