Unraveling Obfuscation

ob fus cate – 1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy 2. to make obscure or unclear

A world market for about 5 computers

Posted by Todd McKinney on April 8, 2008


The old quote commonly attributed to Thomas Watson, which he probably never made, just looks more and more relevant with every day that goes by. Pendulum swings are nothing new in technology and we seem to be on a tear towards consolidation of anything and everything into massive services in the cloud.

500 lb Gorrilas

The news about Google’s entry into this market seems pretty predictable – it’s not like you need to be the amazing Kreskin to imagine that they think cloud computing is significant. The news is also flying all over today, so it’s kind of unavoidable. If you heard there were 10,000 free signups available, they were gone pretty much immediately. There is a wait list, so if you like that sort of thing, go here.

Probably the most interesting thing to me about this development is what does it mean for developers. I really enjoyed the early perspective by Bob Warfield on the SmoothSpan blog. In response to people complaining that it’s Python only, he offers this:

…it doesn’t take Google very many languages before there are few complainers left.  Add Ruby on Rails and PHP, for example, and most of the Web 2.0 world is now in your camp.  Add Java and what’s really left?  Microsoft will be more isolated than ever on their .NET platform.

I think that is a really significant point, and it’s one that hi-lights what is really at stake here. In essence, it’s shaping up to be a platform war. The barriers to entry for platform wars of the past were creating a modern, robust operating system and gaining enough users to make the environment interesting then providing tools and an ecosystem for developers to be productive and make money. Today, it also looks like you need to build multi-billions of dollars worth of datacenter infrastructure too.

What’s in it for me?

In typical Google fashion, they have changed the game quite a bit here. It seems kind of simple, but the strategy of “free ’til you get big” is very powerful. I’ve personally been very aware of Amazon’s cloud platform and following with great interest. I’ve also not built anything using it because it would require me to commit to paying for storage and bandwidth bills. Even though it’s supposedly cheap at low volumes, I’ve not been compelled to take on that kind of commitment just to play around with something that I could maybe find useful someday. Better just to wait until I really need it to figure it out. With the Google model, there’s no hurdle. Sign me up. It might even be fun doing a little Python coding for a change.

What Microsoft will end up doing with this remains to be seen. They are undoubtedly heading for the same turf, it’s just too important to ignore. There is probably lots of really interesting cloud strategy tied up in the Yahoo acquisition. This latest development from Google definitely raises the bar. I really think that’s a good thing. Agree, disagree or think that’s all just obvious? Let me know in the comments, or over on FriendFeed.


photo (drawing?) credit Ethan Hein


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