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Sun hails rise of self-scaling software

Like Skynet (without the nukes)

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CloudWorld Lew Tucker envisions a world in which web applications can scale up their own hardware resources. Apps will not only run in the proverbial cloud, he says, they'll have the power to grab more cloudiness whenever they need it.

"As we look into the future, we're going to see that applications are going to be increasingly responsible for self-provisioning," Sun's cloud-computing chief technology officer told a sparsely attended CloudWorld conference in downtown San Francisco this morning. "As a computer scientist, I think that is an area of cloud computing that's most interesting.

"Whereas previously, it seems like only viruses and bots on the net have been able to take over computers and use them for their own purposes, now we're actually seeing that applications themselves respond to increased demand or load and are able to provision services."

Tucker seemed to realize his choice of words wasn't exactly comforting. But he assured this audience that in the end, limited IT budgets will prevent self-scaling apps from destroying humankind. "Yes, this means there is no one human in the loop - possibly a scary scenario, if you think of the Terminator series and Skynet - but we have an economic weapon against this: it costs something.

"When you're designing an application that is auto-scaling, you're likely to put in there 'But do not exceed X dollars per hour.'" There will also be constraints, he said, laid down by the outfits providing the cloud infrastructure - Sun, say, or Amazon.

Sun's cloud is still in limbo as we wait for regulators to rubberstamp Oracle's acquisition of the company. But Amazon is already moving towards the world Tucker envisions. In mid-May, the company added auto-scaling to its Elastic Compute Cloud. When an app running on EC2 is overloaded with traffic, the service will automatically launch additional server instances. Plus, it will automatically scale instances down - another bit of cloud magic that Tucker likes to trumpet.

"This means you will be able create entirely new kinds of applications that will be able to scale up - and scale down. There may be points where the application realizes that it can do with less and saves its company money."

Similar tools are already available from RightScale, a startup providing management services for EC2 and other so-called infrastructure clouds. ®

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