Once in 25 Years (again)

Filed in Accounting, Business by on February 7, 2012

Yesterday I wrote about a supposed once in 25 years idea. Today I am writing about a better once in 25 years.

In 1993, Marc Andreessen gave us easy web browsers. This exploded web use, even for those knowing little about computers. His Netscape had 90% of web users for years. Some now feel Marc has a new once in 25 years idea.

One computer can now use software to act like 10+ computers at once. This helps use each machine more efficiently. You also can use the cloud to create new virtual machines as needed, often in minutes. Virtualization even lets you have many physical machines run one application.

Networks are not keeping up. Data center cables are getting faster, not smarter. Meeting new demand usually means new computers, routers and switches, which takes weeks or longer. This means you cannot be as flexible as you want and some machines are under-utilized.

Nicira “decouples” virtual networks from physical network hardware. You control networks in virtual space. A dumb network cable, carrying bits to two virtual machines, can now transfer data to many systems under virtual rules. One network can now act like dozens of networks. You also can make several networks act as one. You create network on the fly, in minutes, just as you create virtual machines. This saves about 50% of network costs for AT&T, eBay, Fidelity Investments, Rackspace and Japan’s giant NTT telecom.

Is Nicira a once in 25-years idea? It is excellent, but not in the once in 25 years category. Like many inventions, it became possible only after other needed inventions. It then became rather obvious. In fact, soon after reading about the first Nicira, I saw we needed a new one. Nicira now has managers decide when to add (or drop) specific computers to virtual networks. Most managers will base this on expected peak demand, not hour-by-hour actual demand.

The new Block-Nicira will only ask purchase ranges for process speed, storage and related preferences. This can feed eBay-like computer resource auctions. They can automatically set resource sales prices, minute by minute. The Block-Nicira will then automatically adjust resources automatically, as demand fluctuates. A bit of extra programming will provide big extra savings. If you think this is theoretical, then check Amazon EC2 Spot Instances and Amazon EC2 Pricing. Amazon already sells computer power on an as needed basis. They even give away subtantial amounts free.

Now that is a once in 25 years (again) idea. Of course, I was a good programmer about 25 years before Marc and I never stop learning.



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