Tuesday, March 13, 2012

µVM - A Kilowatt for the Cloud?

It's been interesting getting settled into a new company, specially one that's not mine. From expense reports to new platforms and new systems to learn, I'm actually quite enjoying the change of pace and scenery. Over the last couple of weeks a big part of my job has been getting a feel for our Virtustream technology and platforms. One of the more interesting descriptions I keep hearing is our "µVM" (micro VM) tech, the basis for how our cloud is measured, metered, and billed.

First of all let me start out with the term. Micro (μ) is a prefix that comes from the Greek μικρός (mikrós), meaning "small". It's also a prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of 10-6 (one millionth). So its ideal when talking about a unit of cloud measurement, at least from a marketing standpoint.

Marketing gimmics are useful, but lets take a closer look at the actual technical analogy. When I ask what it is, I keep hearing the same response. Me: What's a µVM ? Geek: It's like a kilowatt for the Cloud?

According to Wikipedia, one watt is the rate at which work is done. Or to put it another way the measurement of the actual work or power required to do something or the amount of energy consumed while doing it. It's a unit of measure for getting something done - a perfect anology for cloud, where we are typically forced to look at cloud  from the point of view of a traditional CPU. But really, the idea of RAM or GHZ as the basis for work is a little off the mark for a uniform unit of measure, it's importance is in a group or collection of elements. What we're really talking about is how much aggregate resources are required to get something done, and moreover how much those resource will cost on the smallest of increments as possible. So essentially a µVM is an aggregate, a collection of technical items that are gathered together to form a total quantity (in our case for cloud resources). It allows us to pack a much greater quantity of resources into a much smaller area. (How you ask? That's another post)

So enter the Kilowatt for the Cloud. Although technically if we're talking about "Micro" maybe the MicroWatt is a better phrase, it's equal to one millionth (10−6) of a watt and uses the same µ symbol :)

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