Friday, August 03, 2007

Game Changer

Wag the dog
Arguing that EC2 has no intrinsic business value, is like arguing that an electrical grid or a telephone network has no intrinsic business value. Speculation: one reason business systems can't adapt is because the assumptions about what the business used to do, are embedded deep in the code. Very deep, not easy to pull out. And not just in the code but in the physical architecture the system is running on. Business "logic" is like bindweed - by the time you've pulled it out, you've ripped out half the garden as well.

So I missed lunch with a friend earlier this year because he was stuck in an Exchange upgrade. This was at the same time I was looking into Google's architecture and it struck me that there's no real upgrade process or data conversion process that needs hand holding for their architecture. It was at that point that I thought a lot of the jobs system administrators currently do will be greatly simplified or removed with the right software. The ratio of system administrators to servers at Google has to be much smaller (i.e. more servers to people) because they need so many more servers and there just aren't that many system administrators to look after software written in the usual way.

It came up again when I got roped into a meeting with a bunch of guys that administer several clusters. I was quite happy to be quiet but it was brought up that I was looking at cluster techniques. I explained about EC2 and how you can run a server for as little as 10 cents per instance hour and experiments for $2. I think it came as a bit of a shock to them - first the cheapness (obviously) and second the availability (basically its removing the gatekeeping to resources). The second benefit is something that really removes a lot of the politics - something not to be underestimated.
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