Scalability Perspectives is a series of posts that highlights the ideas that will shape the next decade of IT architecture. Each post is dedicated to a thought leader of the information age and his vision of the future. Be warned though – the journey into the minds and perspectives of these people requires an open mind.
Nicholas CarrA former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, Nicholas Carr writes and speaks on technology, business, and culture. His provocative 2004 book Does IT Matter? set off a worldwide debate about the role of computers in business.
The Big Switch – Rewiring the World, From Edison to GoogleCarr's core insight is that the development of the computer and the Internet remarkably parallels that of the last radically disruptive technology, electricity. He traces the rapid morphing of electrification from an in-house competitive advantage to a ubiquitous utility, and how the business advantage rapidly shifted from the innovators and early adopters to corporate titans who made their fortune from controlling a commodity essential to everyday life. He envisions similar future for the IT utility in his new book YouTube, the video network. When it was bought by Google in 2006, for more than $1 billion, it was one of the most popular and fastest growing sites on the Net, broadcasting more than 100 million clips a day. Yet it employed a grand total of 60 people. Compare that to a traditional TV network like CBS, which has more than 23,000 employees.
Goodbye, Mr. GatesSo is the title for Chapter 4 of the book. “The Next Sea change is upon us.” Those words appeared in an extraordinary memorandum that Bill Gates sent to Microsoft's top managers and engineers on October 30, 2005. “Services designed to scale to tens or hundreds of millions [of users] will dramatically change the nature and cost of solutions deliverable to enterprise or small businesses.” This new wave, he concluded, “will be very disruptive.”
IT in 2018: From Turing’s Machine to the Computing CloudCarr's new internet.com eBook concludes that thanks to the theory of Alan Turing's Universal Computing Machine and the rise of modern virtualization technologies:
- With enough memory and enough speed, Turing’s work implies, a single computer could be programmed, with software code, to do all the work that is today done by all the other physical computers in the world.
- Once you virtualize the computing infrastructure, you can run any application, including a custom-coded one, on an external computing grid.
- In other words: Software (coding) can always be substituted for hardware (switching).
Into the CloudCarr demonstrates the power of the cloud through the example of the answering machine which have been vaporized into the cloud. This is happening to our e-mails, documents, photo albums, movies, friends and world (google earth?), too. If you’re of a certain age, you’ll probably remember that the first telephone answering machine you used was a bulky, cumbersome device. It recorded voices as analog signals on spools of tape that required frequent rewinding and replacing. But it wasn’t long before you replaced that machine with a streamlined digital answering machine that recorded messages as strings of binary code, allowing all sorts of new features to be incorporated into the device through software programming. But the virtualization of telephone messaging didn’t end there. Once the device became digital, it didn’t have to be a device anymore – it could turn into a service running purely as code out in the telephone company’s network. And so you threw out your answering machine and subscribed to a service. The physical device vaporized into the “cloud” of the network.
The Great Enterprise of the 21st CenturyCarr considers building scalable web sites and services a great opportunity for this century. Good news for highscalability.com :-) Just as the last century’s electric utilities spurred the development of thousands of new consumer appliances and services, so the new computing utilities will shake up many markets and open myriad opportunities for innovation. Harnessing the power of the computing grid may be the great enterprise of the twenty-first century.
- The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google
- Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage
- IT in 2018: From Turing’s Machine to the Computing Cloud
- Rough Type: Nicholas Carr's Blog