Cloud Computing for the Government

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BigData: Article

Mobile Cloud Growth Creating Huge Data Monster

Grendel Has Nothing on This Beast

I read a nice article this morning about the nascence of Cloud Computing, by Marten Mickos, MySQL founder and currently CEO of Eucalyptus Systems.

He spoke of the "fungible" nature of computing resources today-how after many decades of struggle, untold thousands (perhaps millions) of programmers and architects had created hardware and software with the flexibility to be uncoupled from specific resources, then spread across theoretically infinite resources. Thus, Cloud Computing was born.

He also made the single most important point about why Cloud Computing is inevitable--"The old architecture is completely unable to handle the new compute load."

That's it. There you have it. No other insight is necessary.

Big Data Living Large
Marten is referring to the rise of a new type of Big Data that is being driven-truly, deeply, madly, insanely-by mobile devices. Apple's selling iPads at the rate of about 40 million per year, and there are at least 100 million smartphones sold every year. This market's just getting warmed up.

Take just one year's worth of this stuff, and imagine a need for only 10 gigabytes of remote storage for each device. (That's a lot of storage if you're just storing email. But anyone under 30 views email as their father's Oldsomobile, and users of all ages are storing music and video.)

Those 140 million devices with 10 gigabytes equals 1,400 million gigabytes of storage. This is 1,400 petabytes of storage, or 1.4 exabytes.

I have to admit I'm not, nor will ever be, completely comfortable with these terms at the high end of the scale. It's sort of like trying to grasp the enormity of a googolplex. (I refer to the number, spelled correctly, not the headquarters.)

Mein Gott, I remember 20 years ago when we luxuriated in the notion of a "gigantic byte." Now that prefix giga- has joined the jumbo olive and jumbo shrimp as an ironic term.

Imagine a World...
What happens when we get to 10 billion devices, each wanting a terabyte of storage? This will happen. At that point, we're talking about 10,000 exabytes, or 10 zettabytes of storage. At today's prices, 10 zettabytes is about $800 billion dollars' worth of storage alone-a number that would even impress Dr. Evil, I am sure.

There's no reason to drill down into the numbers with too much granularity at this point. The point here is that mobile devices are going to create a need for data storage (and processing) that lies almost beyond our imagination.

Yet we do have to imagine it, and we have to plan for it. Governments should be aware of the stress their own people are going to put on their national IT infrastructures and power grids, and come to grips with the policy implications of where this data will reside.

The Non-Problem & Real Problem
Now that Sony and Amazon have opened Pandora's Box, there will be a steady stream of articles about how Cloud Computing is not secure, how Cloud Computing puts us all at risk. These stories follow a long tradition of "computer error" and "Internet crime" stories dating to the 70s.

This sort of facile sensationalism did not impede the growth of the personal computer or the Internet a whit. It will not impede Cloud Computing, either.

The real problem will be with cascading political efforts worldwide to control this data and intrude into it for specious reasons of national security. I also envision increased realizations that the Worldwide Web is not nearly as "green" as many wish it to be, and the tumult this discussion will cause.

But even so, as Marten Mickos so aptly points out, we are in the midst of a great inflection point in the history of IT. The data growth is real, as blind capitalism and human's insatiable need to be entertained creates a data monster of mythic proportions. Grendel has nothing on this beast.

The old systems simply cannot handle the data flows that are only starting to grow. It would be as if we expected the Wright Brothers' original plane to handle a Saturn V rocket.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.