[wwwac] Cloud Computing's Black Lining - was Community Software

8 Sep 2008 - 6:39pm
702 reads
Jeffrey D. Gimzek

An FYI from another list - I guess we are lucky we are latecomers to

Begin forwarded message:
> I am quite surprised that no one here on the WWWAC list picked up on
> the news about Ning, the white-label community building site funded,
> in part, by Marc Andreesen.
> On Friday the 22nd of August, Ning summarily banned the network of
> WidgetLaboratory, a developer of widgets that added much-needed
> basic functionality to the Ning platform. The creators,
> administrators, and users of over 1700 networks (including two that
> I manage) that depended on WidgetLab widgets stopped functioning in
> part or in whole. Well over 100,000 network members were affected,
> and the downtime ranged from a minimum of 24 hours to 72 hours or
> more before Ning engineers could provide workarounds that enabled
> the sites to run again, although not with the functionality that was
> in place before Ning shut WidgetLab down.
> There are arguments on many sides as to why this happened: Ning says
> that some WidgetLab widgets were causing unprecedented loads on some
> sites and therefore had to be stopped before taking the entire
> infrastructure down. Others posit that tiny WidgetLab (a couple of
> guys in Bratislava) is earning more money than Ning, which has about
> 100 employees and over $100 million in VC financing and a $500
> million valuation. I am sure there are valid (and not so valid)
> points on all sides and that is not really the issue here.
> What is, is a statement made by the CEO of Ning to the effect of,
> "We have to place the 'health' of the Ning platform above the needs
> of any individual network or collection of networks." From the
> perspective of Ning's business that is true. But, from the
> perspective of *my* business, that is the last thing I want to hear
> from the provider of a service my business depended on.
> One of primary benefits touted for cloud computing is that the
> resource is always available. We know that is not true as evidenced
> by downtime on Amazon's EC3 platform, challenges with GMail
> associated with Apple's MobileMe service, and the failure of some
> online backup storage provider businesses, and network and power
> outages, among others. Infrastructure downtime is inevitable
> irrespective of any claims made.
> But, to my knowledge, this is the first time that I am aware of of a
> cloud computing service deliberately blocking access to a third-
> party software tool that hundreds of thousands of users depended on,
> without warning, and without any concrete plans for providing an
> alternative way to access the content made available through the use
> of the software. As OpenSocial apps proliferate, more and more of
> these scenarios are likely to occur.
> It's now more than 10 days since my networks were affected and even
> though Ning restored the content that was rendered inaccessible
> when they banned WidgetLab, I still cannot edit the content
> directly. I get Dojo application errors and 404s and the engineers
> at Ning have not been able to provide an answer.
> The lesson I learned from this turn of events is that it makes zero
> business sense to trust my business to a *software* cloud service -
> especially not Ning. I do recognize that it makes no sense to run
> servers from my home or office so I do need to outsource those
> aspects of running my online businesses. But never again with a
> software service.
> And I find it tremendously ironic that one of the investors in the
> company is Marc Andreesen, who should know better.
> :: Clay


Jeff Gimzek | Senior User Experience Designer

jeff at springstudio.com | www.springstudio.com

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