Cloud Computing Could Invite Data Lock-In

Web 2.0 initiative such as cloud computing and the programmable Web could take us back to the days of proprietary centralized systems, warned Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media and the originator of the term "Web 2.0."

While we think of the Web as an open platform, there is no guarantee that tomorrow's use of the Web will be based on open standards, O'Reilly said.

"One of the things that is happening is immense centralization. We need to think what will make this web platform of the future open. How do we redefine the world so that it matches our values," O'Reilly said to the crowd of open source developers at the O'Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON), being held this week in Portland, Ore.

One example is the emerging industry of cloud computing. In cloud computing, a third party hosts a computing service that an organization may access over the Internet. Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud offers hosted computational capabilities.

The danger is using such services is that it could lock customer data into a provider's infrastructure, O'Reilly said. He quoted a Microsoft executive as saying that, in the future, using a vendor's platform means being hosted on their infrastructure.

It is not just cloud computing that holds this danger. Other initiatives such as the programmable Web and the emerging market for mobile computational devices.

Any new Web-based software could hold the danger of data lock-in. Other examples O'Reilly offered included Apple's iTunes software, which provides a unpublished service to look up track names for music CDs, and Amazon's Kimble electronic book reader, which uses a proprietary format for the e-books.

O'Reilly called for open source based alternatives to these initiatives. Along these lines, Dirk Hohndel, chief Linux and open source strategist for Intel, introduced a new initiative, called Moblin, for building an open source software stack for new devices for low-cost subnotebooks, mobile Internet devices and other emerging low-cost devices.

Hohndel said that while there are multiple efforts to port Linux over to smaller mobile platforms, none are entirely open source in nature. Although it will be build around Intel's Atom low-power processor, though it can be ported to other platforms as well. Dirk Hohndel, said that the initiative hopes to get a working build ready for release within a few weeks.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the chief technology editor of Government Computing News.