Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The cloud computing war ...

Back in March I hypothesised that a company, such as Microsoft, could conceivably create a cloud environment that meshes together many ISPs / ISVs and end consumers into a "proprietary" cloud marketplace. Furthermore, by extending the interface of this cloud into office the dominance of the browser as the means of interacting with the web could be diminished.

If you haven't read Mr Edwards piece on this, I'd recommend you do so.

Such a result can even be achieved if any new communication protocols are provided as open standards by using network effects, performance differences & meta data to create lock-in. You need scale to pull this stunt off and before anyone cries - "Monopoly!" - such a marketplace would provide a convenient mechanism to claim fair competition.

So why care? Why does it matter? It's all hypothetical in any case!

Well, the loss of dominance of a neutral interface to the web, such as browsers, will cause all manner of problems. Despite the different vendor versions, browsers all comply in principle to an overall open web standard. Such standards have depended upon open source software, the community and organisations like Apache. It is this which has kept the web open.

Lose this and you lose the free web.

Fortunately many companies, such as Google, depend upon the neutrality of the interface to maintain their advantages through data aggregation. This battle on neutrality, interoperability (and portability) has been going on for a long time, in various quarters. As our industry makes its first moves from a product to a service based world, this battle will intensify.

So how do you strengthen the browser and help ensure neutrality?

One possible way is to try and make the browser irreplaceable. For example you could turn it into an open source operating system for the cloud computing world and encourage everyone to build apps in it.

Into the fray steps Google Chrome. Sandboxed JavaScript virtual machines running separate processes in a multi-threaded browser. I doubt that Google hopes to gain a significant share in the browser market, but rather plans to influence the direction in which browsers should move. In my book it's another shot fired in a slowly escalating cloud war.