George Gilder writes a brilliant price about the power and reach of Google and the transformation it has brought along.Excerpts with edits"
Moore's law corollary Bell's law states, every decade a new class of computer emerges from a hundredfold drop in the price of processing power. As we approach a billionth of a cent per byte of storage, and pennies per gigabit per second of bandwidth, what kind of machine labors to be born? How will we feed it? How will it be tamed? And how soon will it, in its inevitable turn, become a dinosaur? One characteristic of this new machine is clear. It arises from a world measured in the prefix giga, but its operating environment is the petascale. Just last century – the PC was king. The mainframe was deposed and deceased. The desktop was the data center.Today Google rules a total database of hundreds of petabytes. The data centers these companies are building began as exercises in making the planet's ever-growing data pile searchable. Now, they're morphing into general-purpose computing platforms, vastly more powerful than any built before. All those PCs are still there, but they have less and less to do, as Google and the others take on more and more of the duties once delegated to the CPU. Optical networks, which move data over vast distances without degradation, allow computing to migrate to wherever power is cheapest. Thus, the new computing architecture scales across Earth's surface and is interlinked with the Internet.
In the PC era, the winners were companies that dominated the microcosm of the silicon chip. The new age of petacomputing will be ruled by the masters of the remote data center – those who optimally manage processing power, electricity, bandwidth, storage, and location. They will leverage the Net to provide not only search, but also the panoply of applications formerly housed on the desktop. This change is as momentous as the industrial-age shift from craft production to mass manufacture, from individual workers in separate shops turning out finished products step by step to massive factories that break up production into thousands of parts and perform them simultaneously. No single computer could update millions of auctions in real time, as eBay does, and no one machine could track thousands of stock portfolios made up of offerings on all the world's exchanges, as Yahoo does. Google appears to have attained one of the holy grails of computer science: a scalable massively parallel architecture that can readily accommodate diverse software.Google's success stems from more than foresight, ingenuity, and chutzpah. In every era, the winning companies are those that waste what is abundant – as signalled by precipitously declining prices – in order to save what is scarce.As large as the current Google database is, even bigger shocks are coming. An avalanche of digital video measured in exabytes (10 to the 18th power, or 1,000 petabytes) is hurtling down from the mountainsides of panicked Big Media and bubbling up from the YouTubian depths. The massively parallel, prodigally wasteful petascale computer has its work cut out for it.Google's magical ability to distribute a search query among untold numbers of processors and integrate the results for delivery to a specific user demands the utmost central control. Google has pioneered the miracle play of wringing supercomputer performance from commodity CPUs, and this strategy is likely to succeed as long as microchip progress remains in the doldrums. But semiconductor and optical technologies are on the verge of a new leap forward.The next wave of innovation will compress today's parallel solutions in an evolutionary convergence of electronics and optics: 3-D and even holographic memory cells; lasers inscribed on the tops of chips, replacing copper pins with streams of photons; and all-optical networks in which thousands of colors of light travel along a single fiber. As these advances find their way into an increasing variety of devices, the petascale computer will shrink from a dinosaur to a teleputer – the successor to today's handhelds – in your ear or in your signal path. It will access a variety of searchers and servers, enabling participation in metaverses and it will link to trillions of sensors around the globe, giving it a constant knowledge of the physical state of the world, from traffic conditions to the workings of your own biomachine.Such advances promise to transform the calculus of storage, bandwidth, and power that gives centralization its current advantage. Very thought provoking perspective from George Gilder.