04 October 2009

Da, Comrade, All You Need is Black

I was just over at the Yahoo! STEC message board, attempting to bring some sense to those folks. A heavy burden, but someone has to do it. There was a thread from August, which got restarted, which tried to find justification for SSD, STEC's in particular, in cloud computing.

I disabused the poster, pointing out that cloud is all about scads of plain vanilla resource; disc in this case. A cloud provider may not even tell the client what resources types are being provided, only CPU seconds, gigabytes of disc, and the like.

Then it hit me, the light went off, the Red Sea parted. The cloud is the implementation of the Soviet Model: "What, you want a suit that's not black? You don't need blue. Black will do". It's such delicious irony; the titans of Capitalism implementing Soviet era Communism. I'll sleep better tonight, secure in the belief that American corporations are content to be told what to do by their vendors. Ah, sweet justice. Can the pogroms be far behind?


Roboprog said...

Hi there Robert. Nice post about "corporate communism", I love the irony. It's been awhile since I trolled your blog, glad to see you've been active the last few weeks.

What's the difference between a monopoly/oligopoly and a centrally planned economy? Not much.

Robert Young said...

No not much in theory, but can have a profound difference overall. (If the following leads one to guess that I started out as an econometrician, one would be correct.)

For a centrally planned economy, the Soviet Union being the typical example, there is the opportunity to allot growth across the populace; and thus allow for more growth. The laissez faire approach, i.e. the Right Wing American Way, allots growth to a tiny fraction of the populace, and thus devolution of the economy as we have been witnessing for the last couple of decades. One can generate a long and heated debate over whether the Soviet model is an effective implementation of central planning.

That central planning occurs in the private sector here in the US, is not worth debating. It does. The only difference is who is intended to benefit. One need only look at the path IBM has taken; central planning to benefit a few, one of whom has just been arrested for insider trading along with his hedge fund buddies. I couldn't be happier.

Recognizing this opportunity in central planning, China has emerged from the Great Recession sooner and better off than either India or the US. China has taken the steps to allot growth across its populace; bolstering its emerging blue collar middle class. This is not to ignore the fact that China starts at a very much lower base of median wealth.

How this all relates to SSD in the Cloud (or not) goes back to a fundamental decision: does growth come from reducing cost through homogenization (from which Intel benefited) of production (which leads to substitutability of labour and thus lower mass wages), or from differentiation which leads to improvements to the status quo of technology? Cloud (with MySql, as an exemplar) is an implementation of the former approach, while SSD (with BCNF databases, as an exemplar) is the latter.

Those organizations with the fortitude to recognize the opportunity of SSD as a disruptive technology, rather than just a faster way to serve up bloated xml files will ultimately prevail. I expect such companies will not be the stumbling behemoths that sent the economy into a tail spin. Whether I get to participate is an open question, and not the important one, oddly. I view SSD/BCNF systems as a gift (from me, and very many others of course) to systems building.

Adam Smith (the 1776 one) posited that economies which had legions of producers of substitutable commodities were the most fair. The English economy of the time wasn't actually structured that way; he was imagining an economic Utopia. The problem with his assertion, at least if applied today, is that, Intel being the archetype, one producer controls the specification and thus production.

Cloud, if taken to the extreme, will yield further concentration of power (and homogenization of design) in systems building. As many have complained about the hazards of "mono-culture" in operating systems, those same hazards exist elsewhere.