The Computer is the new Valve

Interesting geek insight today: I was chatting to Cisco about how grid application servers look to be pretty darn interesting these days. For those of you who don’t know the grid application server model is where instead of getting a couple of large, over-powered computers to run your website, you get 10s if not 100s or even 1000s of cheapo, lower powered commodity computers and run then as a bit cluster. Each computer runs its own copy of code and sharing between the machines is kept to a minimum. This is he model used by Google, Amazon and eBay to keep scaling costs down. In fact when I was listening to Peter Yared talk about GASLAMP, his company’s grid enable application stack, he mentioned that at eBay they don’t even get support for computers any more – if one breaks, they just throw it away as it’s cheaper!

This line of conversation led to the stunning realisation that these days there are guys at Google whose only job is to walk around pulling dead computers out of racks and putting in new ones. Compare this to the old days, when some guy’s job at the original Eniac computer was to walk around pulling dead valves out of the system and replacing them. So now computers, made of 10s of silicon chips (for now), each holding millions of ‘transistors’, each of which is equivalent to a old school valve – have become the new valve themselves. Imagine 50 years time…

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