Are you emotionally attached to your cloud?

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I am holding back tears as I write this. Losing a guinea pig hurts a lot more than I imagined it would. Four years ago, my wife was coerced into getting a guinea pig for each of my two kids. Anyone who has had a beloved pet of any species die for any reason knows the unbearable feelings of sadness and grief that they and their family members experience.

Being easily accessible, active and affectionate, pets are natural objects of human attachment and provide confidence, friendship and security. Visually impaired people depend on guide dogs. Many are emotionally and psychologically dependent on pet companionship. No relationship that humans have is quite like the attachment we form to non-humans. But can we get attached to a non-living entity, like the cloud?

cloud computing emotionHave you lost servers in the cloud? What is your first response when you cannot log in to the servers in your cloud? What happens when you find out that your cloud service provider is being acquired or going out of business? Are these feelings and anxiety because of your dependance or attachment to the cloud resources and services? It depends on your role in the relationship. Attachment refers to the closeness and sense of trust. Attachment is a biological imperative. Dependence is the state of relying on someone or something.

I still remember my first 80286 PC with a 20MB hard drive and also my first 6502 microprocessor kit and the fun time I had with them. I have to say I was attached to them. I took care of them. One reason was that they cost a lot and I knew they would not be replaced. The other reason was that working with them was fun. The memories of all-nighters I spent working with them are irreplaceable.

Just as pets eventually pass on, systems can be compromised due to a variety of reasons. Beyond simple hard drive or video card failure, your PC could fall prey to nefarious malware. To avoid loss of your personal files or programs in case of a catastrophe, you need to back up everything regularly. I had a couple of notebooks that broke down. One fine day, they just refused to restart. I read about others having similar issues on forums and standard techniques did not force life back into the systems. I had to let go.

Just as I have feelings of guilt about what I could have done to let the guinea pig live a happier and healthier life, I wonder what I could have done to extend the life of the systems. Average life expectancy of a laptop is less than five years (incidentally quite similar to that of a guinea pig), although most of you might still be holding on to systems that have lasted much longer. When you buy a new system, are you mentally prepared to let go of it in a couple of years for a newer better one or do you expect it to last for more than six years? A cloud hosted virtual desktop or desktop as a service is a viable option if the cloud service provider can quickly restore your desktop when something goes wrong. Although latency may be an issue, you can access your desktop over the network from anywhere using a thin client.

It is said that you and your family should not rush into getting another pet immediately after the death of the earlier one. Instead, allow yourself and your family members enough time to go through the grieving process. This is definitely not possible with your computer systems, tablets, cell phones and devices that you depend on for your daily tasks. With new technology advances, lower power requirements and new interfaces, you might have to replace it as soon as possible. Yes, that means you might not be able to wait for those Thanksgiving deals. I still think about the software that I had on those notebooks. I depended on these for work. When you buy a new system to replace an old aging system that is no longer performing well or cannot run the latest demanding software, you have to spend time moving your personal files and data to the new system and getting used to it. The new system may come pre-installed with different software and even the minor differences in the placement of keys on the keyboard will take time getting used to.

How do you select a first-time pet or adopt a new pet to replace the one you lost? What does it take to add a new pet? You have to think about the age, personality, energy level and size of your pet. A pet will have mood swings. A new set of responsibilities come with the new pet. You need to be prepared to make lifestyle adjustments if necessary. There is much similarity with a cloud provider. Cloud computing has enabled companies  in a variety of markets to speed up implementation times, to become more agile and to optimize their infrastructure costs. Given the breadth and variety of services, configurations and options available in the cloud, you should always take time to be aware of  your environment and match with the requirements before selecting a particular cloud solution.

If you have multiple pets, you have to think of what effect the loss of one will have on the others. This is similar to loss of a server in the cloud that has effect on the load and high availability of the application. How soon can you bring your application back to the original state? The speed and ease with which you can scale up or scale out in the cloud will require you to evaluate possibilities and make the right decision. There are different levels of risks associated with outsourcing some or all of your data center solutions to one or more of the as a service models (infrastructure as a service, software as a service, platform as a service and others). There is pressure on providers to cut costs. Adopting a new pet could be similar to a adopting a new cloud application programming interface (API). Numerous changes will be required to your application. Even though the API performs a similar function, the error handling and service level agreement (SLA) could be different. If you go on a vacation, can you and do you take your pet with you? How about lugging your laptop or tablet? How easily accessible are your data and services on the cloud?

A cloud strives to deliver an always-on experience to the users. However, providing an always active  service is challenging. On the cloud, you rent the resources you are using for a required amount of time. These resources could be physical machines, virtual machines, storage space, databases, software or services. Cloud computing services have become a part of everyday life. You depend on cloud for work, education, backup, reservations, shopping lists, shared calendars, politics, entertainment with games, movies, music and so much more that you might not even be aware of.

If you try Codename: BlueMix with its modern and attractive interface, you might just get attached to it. You may love the composable API-based services.  I have overlapping roles being both a developer and a user of cloud and cloud services. I am responsible for some cloud deployments and services while being dependent on others. There is possibly a paucity of attachment experiences. Maybe it is responsibility more than attachment or a balance between attachment and dependence.  Whatever the case, cloud computing offers numerous advantages and is essential to today’s lifestyle. The cloud is quietly changing life as we know it.

Share your thoughts on any cloud services that you are attached to, dependent on or experimenting with in the cloud in the comments below or engage in the conversation with me on Twitter @aakarve.

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