Cloud computing: it’s here; it’s real; and it’s cheap

UC Berkeley’s Reliable Adaptive Distributed Systems Laboratory has published a paper entitled Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing (pdf). It is a spirited and thoughtful response to “bah, humbug” critics as diverse Larry Ellison and Richard Stallman – and some attendees at the SNIA cloud storage symposium.

The demand
The RADlab team (Michael Armbrust, Armando Fox, Rean Griffith, Anthony D. Joseph, Randy Katz, Andy Konwinski, Gunho Lee, David Patterson, Ariel Rabkin, Ion Stoica, and Matei Zaharia) identifies 3 demand drivers for the cloud computing:

  1. The illusion of infinite computing resources available on demand.
  2. The elimination of an up-front commitment.
  3. The ability to pay for use of computing resources on a short-term basis as needed.

These are all eminently desirable. I remember when IBM offered 7 year leases on mainframes – and people took them!

The supply
Economies of scale drive the supply side. The authors refer to a table of data provided by former Microsoft data center architect – and current AWS architect, James Hamilton. I took the liberty of changing some labels: EDC is enterprise data center; IDC is Internet data center.

Cost advantage of Internet data centers over enterprise data centers

Cost advantage of Internet data centers over enterprise data centers

There is another fundamental physical advantage: it is cheaper to ship photons than electrons. Not only do DWDM fiber optics offers vast capacity, but the value of the cargo – data – is higher.

Next up: obstacles and opportunities for cloud computing.

The StorageMojo take
Historically, every 20 years a fundamental shift in computing worldview upsets the industry applecart: batch vs realtime in the early 60’s; PC vs timeshare in the early 80’s; and now commodity scale-out clusters vs bespoke data center infrastructures. It takes 20 years to articulate the possibilities of these changes and to create the next generation technology that leads to the next shift.

Only after a generation has grown up in the new paradigm can the next leap occur. Latterly, only after a hundred million Internet-connected PCs were installed could an ad-based search engine be a viable business proposition.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. I’l be commenting later on cloud storage. I’m not as pessimistic as some readers.