Monday, October 16, 2006

The petabyte world

A fascinating aritcle from Wired on the direction the Net is going. Wired 14.10: The Information Factories:
The desktop is dead. Welcome to the Internet cloud, where massive facilities across the globe will store all the data you'll ever use. George Gilder on the dawning of the petabyte age.
[snip]
"Just last century – you remember it well, across the chasm of the crash – the PC was king. The mainframe was deposed and deceased. The desktop was the data center. Larry Page and Sergey Brin were nonprofit googoos babbling about searching their 150-gigabyte index of the Internet. When I wanted to electrify crowds with my uncanny sense of futurity, I would talk terascale (10 to the 12th power), describing a Web with an unimaginably enormous total of 15 terabytes of content.

Yawn. Today Google rules a total database of hundreds of petabytes, swelled every 24 hours by terabytes of Gmails, MySpace pages, and dancing-doggy videos – a relentless march of daily deltas, each larger than the whole Web of a decade ago. To make sense of it all, Page and Brin – with Microsoft, Yahoo, and Barry 'QVC' Diller's Ask.com hot on their heels – are frantically taking the computer-on-a-chip and multiplying it, in massively parallel arrays, into a computer-on-a-planet.

The data centers these companies are building began as exercises in making the planet's ever-growing data pile searchable. Now, turbocharged with billions in Madison Avenue mad money for targeted advertisements, they're morphing into general-purpose computing platforms, vastly more powerful than any built before. All those PCs are still there, but they have less and less to do, as Google and the others take on more and more of the duties once delegated to the CPU. Optical networks, which move data over vast distances without degradation, allow computing to migrate to wherever power is cheapest. Thus, the new computing architecture scales across Earth's surface. Ironically, this emerging architecture is interlinked by the very technology that was supposed to be Big Computing's downfall: the Internet.

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