Speculating on Microhoo!, Amazon’s Utility Bandwidth Boom

By Derrick Harris

February 4, 2008

Of the hundreds of announcements I read last week, the two most fascinating (and most shallow) had to be Microsoft’s proposal to buy Yahoo for $45 billion and Amazon’s announcement of its fourth quarter results. For although neither has much real substance at this point without some real digging, both leave themselves wide open to rampant speculation.

Starting with the latter, the most interesting aspect of Amazon’s fourth quarter announcement, to me, has to be its acknowledgement that the company’s two public-use Web services — EC2 and S3 — utilized more bandwidth during the quarter than the entirety of Amazon’s global Web sites combined. While Amazon has been quiet thus far about the number of customers actually making use of the services, the number must be significant if these users are outdoing Amazon.com’s hundreds of millions of global customers in terms of bandwidth. Granted, it’s unlikely Amazon will forego its online superstore business to focus solely on providing utility computing, but this kind of usage could have a serious impact on the resources being funneled in Amazon Web Services’ direction. Many IT-department stalwarts seem to find enjoyment in nay-saying utility services, but if there is real substance to this piece of information about the usage of EC2 and S3, and if Amazon pumps a proportionate amount of money into Amazon Web Services as a result, the anti-utility crowd might end up eating their words sooner than anyone could have expected.

As for Microsoft’s pitch to Yahoo’s board of directors, this one tells us even less, but below the surface, it seems like a thinly veiled attempt to dethrone Google as King of the Web — and with Yahoo just announcing its job cuts, the timing couldn’t be better. Both are large companies with their hands in all sorts of lines of business, so the effects of such a merge should be very far-reaching. What it might mean in this space, though, is that Google would finally have some real competition in terms of cloud computing and offering software as a service over its expansive pool of resources. Obviously, software provider Microsoft has much to gain from taking a bite out of Google’s legions of users, and Yahoo seems to have the R&D personnel — when combined with Microsoft’s endless resources — to make the battle for Web services supremacy an actual competition. After all, Yahoo has a program comparable to Google’s in regard to bringing Web-scale resources and development skills into our universities, and Yahoo Research is working on a variety of potentially groundbreaking projects of its own. Of course, there is the battle of the search engines at play, as well. If this merge really does go down, I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to say about its impact — and something tells me we won’t be alone.

Also, I promised an article about advances in handling extreme transaction processing (XTP) environments, and you can find said piece in the form of “High Latency Times, We Have You Surrounded.” It focuses on two recent partnerships by GemStone systems that combine the company’s GemFire data grid software with high-performance hardware set-ups to form some very low-latency solutions. From e-commerce to financial services, the amounts of data and transactions that infrastructures are being asked to handle are increasing rapidly, and — especially when it comes to electronic trading — latency times are expected to be decreased concurrently. I’m not claiming these two solutions are the be-all, end-all in XTP platforms, but they certainly seem more than up to the task of improving lives in their respective target markets. We should have more on XTP next week, as we look at how IBM and Appistry are addressing the ever-more-important trend.

Looking into the rest of this week’s issue, there are dozens of worthy announcements from a diverse group of vendors and organizations. Some of particular interest might include: “Utility Metering Company Deploys Oracle Grid Computing”; “Virtual Human in HIV Drug Simulation”; “IBM to Build Cloud Computing Center in China”; “Infiniflow Brings OSGi to Spring Apps”; “Trigence Allies with Virtualization Consolidation Academy”; “Infinera Launches Bandwidth Virtualization”; “Xsigo Announces I/O Integration w/ VMware ESX Server”; “Permabit Delivers Scalable Data Reduction, Multiple Petabytes”; and “‘Grids for Kids’ Gives Next-Generation IT an Early Start.”

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Comments about GRIDtoday are welcomed and encouraged. Write to me, Derrick Harris, at [email protected].

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