Thursday, March 3, 2011

Living on the Edge

There's somethin' wrong with the cloud today, I think I know what it is. We're seeing things in a different way, but should we be judging a cloud provider by the color of their -- logo?

It's seems that for many, the only basis of comparing cloud providers is based upon superficial aspects. I know of the company, recognize the logo, or read a random review. But the reality is we're moving away from the traditional vendor driven marketing fluff of a single provider world to a multi-cloud, federated ecosystem of capacity providers, where brand recognition is less important than performance and price. I'm talking about living on the edge, the edge of the network.

One of the more interesting recent announcements was Amazon's Japan availability zone, in describing their launch AWS spoke of latency for users within Tokyo being less than 10ms. Hitting directly at the heart of the opportunity. Yet on the flip side, they also mentioned that the Japanese zone was ideal for other nearby geographies, to which I say they're missing the point. Using Japanese resources in South Korea makes little sense given the rapid advancement and availability of cloud capacity in South Korea. The opportunity going forward isn't to address generalized areas of the world, but to address the specifics, not just on a country basis but on a city or even a neighbourhood basis. A single provider will never be able to get this level of granularity regardless of how much money they have. Economies of scale will always be limited by total market size, the more granular the market the less economies of scale work in favor the large provider. The only way to address this growing movement toward edge based, latency dependent application deployment is to federate many providers with many customers across many diverse geographies.

I admit that this is easier said than done, ask anyone who's attempted to use more than one provider in a federated, intercloud connection global cloud of clouds type of deployment and tell me what you think about your sit-u-a-tion. They'll tell you it's complication, and aggravation.

I know a few of you will point back to the inevitable economies of scale that an AWS or Google bring forth. Yes, they probably spent many millions building their Japanese cloud infrastructure. But did they have to? Economies of scale are important factors mostly for true for commoditized IT aspects such as bandwidth. But for areas such as ultra-localization computing, this is not practical for even the largest web companies. Sure there are many factors that cause a cloud providers average cost per compute unit to fall as the scale of output is increased, purchasing power is probably the most relevant. Essentially the biggest Internet companies can buy the most servers at a massive volume thus getting the lowest cost per unit of compute time and therefore achieving the best margins at the lowest cost. But even this equation has a practical limit when it comes to geography.

When it comes to ultra-localization the boundaries of the so-called provider economies of scale, commoditiziation and volume quickly breakdown. Now it becomes a question of federation and aggregation. Many providers connected through a normalized or structured market interface rather then one provider attempting to address all markets. I'm not just talking about what we're doing with SpotCloud, but what I believe to be the move toward a market centric economy of federated cloud ecosystems, a move I think is inevitable. Ultra-local capacity or edge based computing, or whatever you chose to call it in a nutshell is the opportunity moving forward.

The choice will quickly become one of choosing a single provider (one to many) or an aggregator (many to many). I believe the choice will quickly become obvious to anyone who has a geographic component to their applications. The opportunity is living on the edge.

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