|By Roger Strukhoff||
|March 28, 2014 11:51 AM EDT||
"Only 1% of the world has moved to the cloud," according to Google's top techie Urs Hölzle, who was speaking at the company's recent Google Cloud Platform Live event in San Francisco.
Hölzle is a Google Fellow and carries the title of Senior VP, Technical Infrastructure. He announced the company's fairly dramatic price reductions, which bring storage down to as little as 2 cents per gigabyte per month, for example. He also kicked off a day-long, two-track conference on working with Google's cloud offerings end-to-end, including how developers and IT management can integrate platforms (including MS Windows and Open Source).
One interesting demo during the day showed how Google is reducing its carbon footprint by incorporating many sources of power and, more important in my view, making its datacenters efficient to the point where non-processing energy requirements (ie, air-conditioning and facilities management) use up only 12-13% of total power requirements.
Urs also participated in a "fireside discussion" along with Jeff Dean and Eric Brewer, in which the big picture, the really big picture, was a topic of discussion.
Jeff Dean has been the behind-the-scenes wizard of much of Google's magic, including the legendary Big Table and the fascinating ongoing development of the Google Brain. (The good news about the Brain is it can now recognize a cat. But as Dean pointed out, it's still an enormous distance from being able to think like a cat.)
Eric Brewer serves as a Google VP while on leave as a Professor at UC-Berkeley. He's done stuff like co-founded Inktomi, and is currently involved with developing WiLDNet, a way to bring low-cost Internet connectivity to the rural developing world.
He and I had a pleasant, brief chat late in the day about the challenges and potential of economic and social progress in the developing world. I noted, for example, that Uganda has appeared in the research we do at the Tau Institute as a country with potential in Eastern Africa, the context being that Google has launched a fiber-optic initiative based in Kampala, Uganda called Project Link.
While not directly involved in this project, Eric pointed me to a lot of research he's done on the developing world - it's easily found through a simple, you guessed it, Google search.
Now, back to Urs and his "1%" statement. The idea is that we all have to think big, then think bigger, as increasing dataflows drive the Internet to a size that can be difficult to grasp. I and many others have written of the coming zettabyte age, and the burgeoning Internet of Things is going to take us to places we've barely considered before.
For example, a demo given by a Google exec with the name of Eric Schmidt (not the former Google CEO but a former Microsoft exec who recently joined Google) showed a grid of 400,000 smart power meters in Seattle in real-time, cranking 40,000 new reports a second, while measuring the current and average power consumption collectively, of each meter individually, or of any slices you wanted to see, while also placing the slices and individual meters into percentiles. It was, as they say, cool.
Listening to the late-day fireside discussion, one could get the impression that none of these three guys had ever done anything significant. Humility ruled the day. They noted how excited they were many years ago when they first were able to work on a cluster of 10 machines, and how what they considered to be large amounts of data then are small even by phone-storage standards today.
Urs also made a very telling comment on how he thinks, and in my opinion, how we should all think: "the smartphones five years from now won't be anything like what we have today. People tell me they'll have more storage, more processing power, etc., but we must understand that, in fact, they'll be something we can't really imagine today."
The implied insight was that there is a collective intelligence afoot, enabled and accelerated by the collective power of the million or so servers under Google's direction, and the millions more under other companies' direction large and small. Quantum leaps ensue, and all current giants stand on the shoulders of previous giants.
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