Tiered Bandwidth and the Cloud

I should preface this update with the following statement:  I hate the term and idea of “the cloud” for anything having to do with the internet.  It’s a buzzword that commits two major crimes:

  • glosses over the fact that there’s nothing fuzzy or rainbow-magic about it: it’s a bunch of servers in a datacenter somewhere.  A lot of engineers and programmers have put a lot of time into working on it.
  • encourages users shrug their shoulders instead of understanding and to put a lot of trust into some nebulous entity (and companies).

But this post isn’t about that.  Instead, it’s about some long-running thoughts brought to the surface by today’s big internet/tech news: AT&T Just Killed Unlimited Wireless Data (and Screwed Everybody in the Process).

This post isn’t even about whether this is good or bad for AT&T or their customers.

There’s a tug-of-war going on, and the two people in it are the “cloud” companies (grr) and the network companies.  Tiered bandwidth has long been rumored and suggested for broadband internet providers (what to speak of overloaded cell providers) and hated by the users themselves.  Yet pretty much any tech / software company on the map these days is trying to push all their applications into the cloud and Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) realm.  You don’t have a mail client, you have gmail.  You don’t have imaging editing software, you have site x or y or z.  Which is all well and good, except this:  the tiered bandwidth model and the cloud model are opposed to one another.

Try to push all your data and computing into the cloud and you’re going to need the bandwidth to support it.  But ah-ha!  That extra bandwidth is now going to cost you.  So you have whatever subscription fees are a part of your SaaS platform (because you no longer purchase a disc or licenses; subscriptions are, alas, the way of the future) plus the increased tier bandwidth courtesy of your internet provider.

Which one wins?  I’m not sure.  I can’t say I’m rooting for “the cloud”, but I’m sure as heck not rooting for tiered bandwidth pricing.

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