Fail and You It's been called a lot
of things: utility computing, grid computing, distributed computing,
and now cloud computing. You can come up with any CTO-friendly name you
like, but they all mean the same sh**: Renting your quickly
depreciating physical assets out because your software company is out
of ideas for computer programs.
Amazon's EC2 was likely the brainchild of a mid-level ops director
who overbought for a data center and had to come up with a way to save
his own ass. Use a free, open source project like Xen for
virtualization, give it a sunshine-up-the-ass name like Elastic Compute
Cloud, and start pulling in all those venture capital dollars like
Cisco and Sun did during the first dotcom catastrophe. F*** me, give
that man a raise.
Unfortunately, Bezos and company are a day late and a buck short.
This time around, we're working with substantially less money and
substantially more developer incompetence.
A Cloud Is Easier To Draw On A Whiteboard Than A Grid
EC2 is very popular with the Web 2.0 crowd, which is strange,
considering the hurdles that these java script all-stars need to
overcome. The first, and presumably most difficult, is that Amazon
wants money in exchange for their services. That's a stark realization
for a budding young social network developer: Web 2.0 runs on cash, not
hugs. Who would have thunk it?
Once you're past that, there's the matter of reliability. EC2 is fairly reliable, but you really need to be
on your s*** with data replication, because when it fails, it fails
hard. My pager once went off in the middle of the night, bringing me
out of an awesome dream about motorcycles, machine guns, and general
ass-kickery, to tell me that one of the production machines stopped
responding to ping. Seven or so hours later, I got an e-mail from
Amazon that said something to the effect of:
There was a bad hardware failure. Hope you backed up your s***.
Look at it this way: at least you don't have a tapeworm.
-The Amazon EC2 Team
Datacenter hardware will bend you over your desk every now and then
- no matter who owns it. If it's yours, though, you can send some poor
bloke down to the server room in the wee hours of the morning and
cattle-prod constant status updates out of him. As a paying EC2
customer, all you're entitled to is basic support, which amounts to
airing your grievances on a message board and hoping that somebody at
Amazon is reading. Being the straight-up gangster that I am, I luvz me
some phone-screamin', and I just can't get that kind of satisfaction
Of course, I could pay more for extended support, but it would be nice if the f***ing thing just worked.
What You Looking At, Google? You Want A Piece Of This?
While I'm running my mouth off here, I might as well take a swing at Wonka's Chocolate Factory.
Google App Engine launched with great fanfare from the Python
community. "Finally," they said, "somebody has figured out how to make
Python scale." The thought is that any developer will be able to run
his Twitter-Facebook mashup on the same framework that Google uses to
run their apps. Infinite, magical scalability that you don't have to
think about, data storage that you don't have to manage, and a language
that's easy to program. Sounds great!
That's all well and good, but something tells me that the Google
search engine (you know, the thing that makes money) isn't written in
Python, making this just a proper beat off for the web programming
community. I have further evidence. I have yet to see a program more
impressive than a task and time manager running on the Engine. Killer
Google App Engine offers a developer all of the things that he would
look down his nose at an ops manager to provide: data storage, web
hosting and caching. Web developers are too busy to worry about the app
to figure out why the database is running slow. No, it couldn't be a
grotesquely complex query anywhere in my code. It's a database problem.
The DBA must have f***ed something up in the config. Yeah, that's it.
If those DBAs weren't always down at the pub, we could get some real
work done around here.
I do have to give both Google and Amazon some credit, though. Both
noticed that the only ones to make any real money off of the California
gold rush were the outfitters who sold mining equipment.
Cloud Computing's Next Form: Green Tech
As time goes on and venture capitalists get pitched, this technology
will continue to change names to mask its stagnation. The next time
around, it will be pitched as a "green" technology. Why ruin the
environment with your data center? You can run a social media website
and still love the earth.
Energy-efficient computers powered by sunshine. This will be an
instant hit. There will be greenhouse gas output dashboards with neat
little Ajax widgets. You'll have calculators to figure out how much to
pay for carbon offsets each month. Don't believe me? Follow the money.
"Green" technology is the most efficient, modern way to capitalize on
liberal guilt. You also get to pass it off as altruism. Combine that
with a web development community that runs on self-satisfaction and
you've got a recipe for profit. Best of all, you can squeeze money out
of an investor for this by making him feel ashamed to be a person of
What started as a noble cause has finally finished its devolution into a racket.
No matter what the name, you, the developer, will still be dealing
reliability and accountability. Using someone else's infrastructure for
your application will forever be a business risk, but it sounds so much
less so with a cuddly name. Your CTO will fall for the next cycle
pretty easily. The compunction he feels for his latest data center
build-out will outweigh the downsides of an external dependency.