Thursday, December 22, 2011

Computing Power Like Water

Many SF stories are predicated on the idea that computing power is available like water. Simply make a request and a swarm (or cloud) of computers assemble as needed in order to answer your question. Web searches are great but they rely on pre-computed information and actually answer very limited questions and in very narrow ways. The Apache Whirr project allows the technically-savvy person to link tens of computers together for very little money. Each computer hour costs less than 5 cents. And when I say technically-savvy, the learning curve is quite gentle. A few keyboard commands gets them going without any need to understand the real complexity behind the scenes. This is an important step because people can focus on problem solving instead of plumbing. Imagine if every science project in the world could shave six months off their start-up time because they can get a computer network running inside of a day. No more need for expensive, hard-to-find computer network administrators. And if you've got the network topology wrong just tear it down and restart with just one day downtime and zero hardware replacement cost. If you thought that science was already moving too fast, you'll be shocked by the next ten years.