Tomorrows world of server-centric computing will need a backend infrastructure which can provide the platform for computing, communications, storage and services. This commPuting grid is what will enable the utility-like future. While in the developed markets, grid computing is taken to mean the aggregation and use of resources from across the network, I use it to refer to a centralised platform more along the lines of a power grid. I envision data centres having large clusters of commodity hardware providing all the services that users need over broadband networks.
Three secular trends provide support for the creation of the centralised grid. First, increasingly cheaper processing and storage hardware. Moore’s law in action. Second, greater availability of inexpensive open-source software. The quality and range of open-source software compares favorably to commercial software. And finally, the rapid deployment of broadband networks and the convergence of computing and communications.
In fact, if we look back at the past fifty years of computing, centralised computing via mainframes and minis has dominated for more than half that period. Many of the worlds mission-critical applications still use centralised computing. In fact, the personal computing era can be thought of as a deviant created at a time when networks did not exist. Once networks are present, computing can go back to its roots.
And in a sense, it is already doing so. The growth of the Internet over the past decade is hastening this trend, most recently exemplified by the services being launched by Google on its gigantic distributed computing platform which the outside world sees as a single, large computer. The likes of Yahoo, Amazon, eBay and Salesforce are also allies in a world that is slowly shifting away from the thick desktop to web-centric services. What all these companies have in common is a massive, scaleable grid, built for the most part with commodity hardware and open-source software.
Much of our personal world is already distributed across databases on the network. From mail (Google) to files (Yahoo), from search history (A9) to purchasing history (Amazon), from reputation (eBay) to subscriptions (Bloglines), from blog (TypePad) to photos (Flickr), we are already part of a world built on computing grids.
As the wide area networks become faster, the line blurring the desktop to the webtop will disappear. Our desktop too will become part of the grid. We will have come a full circle. Computing will have finally become a utility just like electricity and water. It will be something we take for granted. It will become invisible and yet make our world visible to us whenever we want and wherever we are.
Next Week: Tomorrows World (continued)
TECH TALK Tomorrow’s World+T