Feeds

The Meta Cloud - Flying data centers enter fourth dimension

Or do they?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Just when you thought the cloud metaphor couldn't stretch any further, it has. The tech world is still coming to terms with the rather abstract idea of a data center that floats on air, and now more than a few free-thinking web startups are hoping to abstract the abstraction. Beware of The Meta Cloud.

Today, several high-flying net outfits operate so-called infrastructure clouds - online services that offer processing power, storage, and other distributed resources. Amazon is the obvious example, with its Amazon Web Services (AWS), but others serve up much the same thing, including Flexiscale, GoGrid, and Joyent.

In theory, these clouds give you instant access to an infinite array of compute power. You can grab more cycles, more storage, and more bandwidth whenever you like. But in real life, no resource is infinite. And clouds have been known to vanish from time to time.

What's more, these are far from public resources. Conservative thinkers may be wary of entrusting their entire web infrastructure to a single operation - e.g., Amazon.

So, it comes as no surprise that would-be web visionaries have floated the idea of a meta-cloud - a cloud-of-clouds, if you will. With this extended metaphor, you could access multiple clouds from a single web interface, seamlessly moving tasks from one to the other. If one disappears, another is there. If one disappoints - prices rise or standards fall - you have an out. Resources are still less than infinite, but there are more of them.

At least, that's the pitch.

Meta-Startup

Alex Castro and the cloud go way back. At New York's Cornell University in the mid-90s, he shared a distributed-systems lab with latter-day cloud saint Werner Vogels. And once Vogels made his pilgrimage to the West Coast, conjuring a new cloud for web demigod Jeff Bezos, Castro joined him again, lending a hand with the birth of Amazon Web Services.

Naturally, when Castro started his own web outfit - a video delivery operation dubbed Delve Networks - he decided that Amazon should run at least a portion of his online infrastructure. And just as naturally, he insists that Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud is a godsend.

"We do a lot of heavy computational work to process the video," Castro says. "We do speech recognition and analytics and transcoding - computationally intensive things. So signing up for this theoretically infinite amount of computing capacity just made sense. As our customers need more transcoding, we just spin up more machines, and when they need less transcoding, we just tear those machines down."

But Delve was among those who saw Amazon's cloud disappear for an eight-hour stretch last summer. And Castro can't help but wonder what would happen if his company made a freakish Facebook-like rise into the web's top-ten properties. Is that the point where Amazon's resources would prove less than infinite?

In an ideal world, Delve and other web apps would run on multiple clouds. And that, Castro insists, is a business opportunity. "If I didn't have my hands full with my own company," he says, "I'd launch a new one that offered a cloud of clouds."

He's not alone. According to Intel cloud guru Jason Waxman, countless startups have approached Intel Capital - the company's investment arm - with the idea of a meta-cloud. One of these, Waxman says, was an existing cloud-management operation known as Elastra - though when we phoned the company, it played coy on the matter, saying that some sort of mystery announcement will arrive in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, one philosophical outfit has already launched a meta-cloud. At least, it thinks it has.

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

Next page: Meta-Cloud 1.0

More from The Register

next story
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Microsoft boots 1,500 dodgy apps from the Windows Store
DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! Naughty, misleading developers!
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.