Archive for November, 2008

VMWare Enters the Cloud

November 29th, 2008 Comments off

VMWare is the virtualization king and I have been wondering when they would chose to enter the cloud competition. Until now, it’s pretty much been Amazon’s game to win or lose. According to this article, VMWare is opening a data center in Washington state. The new data center will be 189,000 square feet, of which VMWare will use over 100,000 square feet of it. That’s a nice size data center.

An interesting side note os that VMWare is not the first to build a data center in the area. Microsoft, Yahoo, Intuit, and base partners also have, or are building, data centers in the area. The article attributes that to cheaper electricity from the local dams generating hydro power.

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The Computers of Tomorrow

November 26th, 2008 1 comment

Is Cloud Computing a new idea? As a matter of a fact, it is not. Is comparing cloud computing to the electric utilities a new concept. As a matter of a fact, it is not. What does this sound like:


The computing machine is fundamentally an extremely useful device. The service it provides has a kind of universality and generality not unlike that afforded by electric power. Electricity can be harnessed for any of a wide variety of jobs: running machinery, exercising control, transmitting information, producing sound, heat, and light. Symbolic computation can be applied to an equally broad range of tasks: routine numerical calculations, manipulation of textual data, automatic control of instrumentation, simulation of dynamic processes, statistical analyses, problem solving, game playing, information storage, retrieval, and display.

Does that sounds like Nick Carr’s analogy with electricity? “Symbolic computation” – When’s the last time you heard it said like that?

How about:


The concept of an information-processing utility poses many questions. Will the role of information utilities be sufficiently extensive and cohesive to create a whole new industry? If so, will this industry consist of a single integrated utility, like American Telephone and Telegraph, or will there be numerous individual utilities, like Consolidated Edison and the Boston Gas Company? Will the design and manufacture of computing components, terminal equipment, and programming systems be accomplished by subsidiaries of the information utility, as in the telephone industry, or will there be a separate industry of independent private manufacturers, like General Electric and Westinghouse in today’s electrical equipment industry?

This sounds an awful lot like utility computing. Something just isn’t right though. An information processing utility? American Telephone and Telegraph? Is that AT&T? GE and Westinghouse?

Perhaps the most important question of all concerns the legal matter of government regulation. Will the information utility be a public utility, or will it be privately owned and operated? Will some large companies have their own information utilities, just as some companies today have their own generating plants?

That also sounds like the cloud computing that has been growing at Amazon and Google. Those are sort of like the questions people are asking. Who will own the cloud and how homogeneous will it be. And re-read that last sentence.

The high cost of capital equipment is a major reason why producers of electricity are public utilities instead of unregulated companies. A second reason is the extensive distribution network they require to make their product generally available. This network, once established, is geographically fixed and immovable. Wasteful duplication and proliferation of lines could easily result if there were no public regulation.

This above paragraph is so true. Check out the following paragraph:

Barring unforeseen obstacles, an on-line interactive computer service, provided commercially by an information utility, may be as commonplace by 2000 AD as telephone service is today. By 2000 AD man should have a much better comprehension of himself and his system, not because he will be innately any smarter than he is today, but because he will have learned to use imaginatively the most powerful amplifier of intelligence yet devised.

Did you read that? “by 2000 AD”. The article I have been quoting from was written for the Atlantic Monthly in May 1964. This article was written two years before I was born.

This article just blows my mind. The companies are different, the primary industries have changed. The vision is amazing to me. Talk about an accurate extrapolation of the computer industry.

There are a couple of items here that I love.

Dr. Bush himself was only extrapolating from the technology of the time in these particular predictions.

That’s the author of this article, Martin Greenberger, complimenting an earlier author on his foresight. Congratulations to you Mr Greenberger. You hit it dead on.

nor did he bank on the perfection of electronic logic, magnetic cores, and transistors.

heh. That one makes me smile. “the perfection of electronic logic, magnetic cores, and transistors”, oh if only he know how “more perfect” it could get.

And finally, to set it in perspective. When this was written,

Tens of thousands of computers have been perfected and successfully applied in the past two decades

“Tens of thousands”. How many is that now? 10s of billions? This article is 44 years old. I am just amazed.


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Google App Engine Gets Perl, Sort Of

November 25th, 2008 Comments off

If you are not familiar with it, Google App Engine is Google’s entry in the cloud, specifically a PaaS or Platform as a Service. With the Google App Engine, you get an IDE (python) to code your applications and then you deploy it to the Google cloud. You can integrate with other google services (as well as other http services) and use BigTable as a data store.

One of the limitation, IMHO, of Google App Engine is that it limited to Python. While I can do a little bit of python coding when I have to, I’m not a big fan of it. I don’t see anything wrong with it, I just only have so many hours in the day and getting deep into python is not a priority for me. Having said that, I think I would rather python to Java.

What I would love to see is a truly pluggable architecture where a developer can choose his own language to interface with the app engine. Obviously, core code would need to be in the language of Google’s choice but everything else should be pluggable via services or APIs. That may be closer than I thought.

Brad Fitzpatrick announced on his blog that he is working on a 20% project to add Perl to google app engine. He makes sure to be very specific that he is not on the app engine team and that this is not an app engine effort:

To be clear: I’m not a member of the App Engine team and the App Engine team is not promising to add Perl support. They’re just saying that I (along with other Perl hackers here at Google) are now allowed to work on this 20% project of ours out in the open where other Perl hackers can help us out, should you be so inclined.

This is also not quite what I would like in that it is an effort to add Perl, not open it up for pluggable languages. Of course, as Brad says, the need for a hardened interpreter does require internal google effort. Still, this is a nice start. I prefer Perl to python.


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Voices in the Clouds

November 24th, 2008 Comments off

One of the big difficulties of the cloud is properly defining it. I don’t think it will be completely defined for a while yet. Since that is the case, I think I would like to muddy the waters a little more.

Is VOIP a cloud service? It’s a service, runs on the internet, on someone else’s servers, in a location that I have no clue about. Isn’t that SaaS? Ok, maybe something like Vonage, Cable Phone or Verizon is really a utility. Those actually have hardware in my house.

What about Skype, MSN Messenger or Yahoo Messenger? All of those can make phone calls to others using the same service. All the things I said about the VOIP providers above apply. So, is Skype a cloud service?

Actually, let’s look at Yahoo Messenger. I can make video calls, do instant messaging and more. It really is a service and it gets more functionality all the time.

These ride a fine line. What do we call a service (SaaS) versus just a regular internet application? Or, is every internet application now a service?

It’s a conundrum. 😉

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Larry Ellison Saw the Future

November 22nd, 2008 Comments off

LewisC’s An Expert’s Guide To Oracle Technology

Larry Ellison is a technology leader. I think that’s generally accepted. Some people might not like him, but you can’t really deny what he has done with Oracle. Larry apparently has one giant weakness though. He’s way ahead of his time. I ran across this news story from 1996.

New York — Oracle Corp. CEO and Chairman Larry Ellison told a group of customers here that the first network computer conforming to the company’s specifications will be launched in October, and priced at $299.

..a keyboardless, diskless NC with 8 megabytes of RAM. The configuration used a Zenith television as a monitor, a mouse, and ran Oracle’s InterOffice groupware application.

What does that sounds like?

It may not be much to look at, but CherryPal’s new device – a $249 paperback-sized box containing an underpowered processor and a token amount of memory – is a forerunner of the oncoming revolution in “cloud” computing.

Sound a bit like that? And that is a “forerunner of the oncoming revolution in cloud computing”? That’s from an article on venturebeat, from July 21, 2008.

Maybe Larry should have named the NC, the CC, cloud computer. Oh wait, a cloud was just a bunch water way back then.

It’s not exactly comparable. The NC was supposed to be entirely diskless not just cloud based. If you want to get even closer to the NC, check out the Nimbus Cloud Computer.

This is the new NC. Not really a computer at all but a network interface to the cloud. Best of all, it’s free! Seriously, they’ll send you a cloud computer for free. Well, the free version has ads but for $19.00 per month, you can get it ad free. For free you get access to some software and 2GB of storage.

A Cloud Computer is a re-imagination of the idea of a computer. We think that an ordinary computer is too expensive, too complicated, and too much for what most people want to use a computer for. What we did is put all of the costly and complicated pieces of hardware and software into our data centers. You then use a smaller, simpler, much less expensive device thats always connected to the internet to control your computer. We think this is a much better way for you to do just what you want with a computer.

In 2008:

Use your keyboard and mouse to control your nimbus cloud computer. We manage your computer & all web-based and desktop applications & access to the internet. We send your virtual computer desktop to your nimbus.

In 1996:

During the customer presentation, nearly a year to the day after Ellison first floated the NC concept at an industry forum in Europe, an executive demonstrated a keyboardless, diskless NC with 8 megabytes of RAM. The configuration used a Zenith television as a monitor, a mouse, and ran Oracle’s InterOffice groupware application.

In 1996, the VP of Global Financial Development of Estee Lauder saw the vision of network computing:

“Not right now, but somewhere down the road,” said Philip Theiss, vice president of global financial process development at Estee Lauder Companies in Melville, New York. He said that he could see a future application for the NC in field sales.

Throw in Google Docs, Zoho, Web mail (Yahoo or Google), calendars, etc and cloud computing is here; 12 years after Ellison tried to sell the Network Computer. Larry has vision. I think he just sees to far sometimes. I wonder if he still has an NC sitting around. I wonder if he kicks now and then and shouts, “See! I told you! Morons!” I bet he does.

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