Web 2.0: Server husbandry

From Eric Schmidt’s argument that network-based computing would prove irresistibly more reliable than alternatives, to Jeff Bezos’s pitch for Amazon’s on-demand storage and computing services as a means to “let people spend more time and dollars on the differentiated part of what they’re doing, less on the undifferentiated,” to Microsoft exec Debra Charpaty’s presentation about the nuts and bolts of building and running datacenters, one focus of this Web 2.0 conference has been on the server side of the old client/server dichotomy.

Web services are great, the argument goes, but don’t forget about what it takes to deploy and maintain them. “The Cloud” is a nice metaphor for everything that’s “out there” on network-based services, Charpaty argued; then she showed slides of endless racks of machines and squat, windowless buildings sprouting on desolate flats, and declared, “This is the real cloud.”

In one sense, these vast, electricity-hogging, heat-dissipating, cycles-generating structures are the new mainframes. Yet they are also the nerve-centers for an approach to computing that’s more distributed than ever before.

How do the businesses at the heart of the Web industry manage to juggle their determination to dominate the increasingly centralized business of providing the new basics, like storage and raw network-based processing, with their professed dedication to the values that shaped the personal computing industry that gave birth to theirs — values like freedom of speech, individual empowerment, and the unlocking of personal creativity?

That’s the big question underlying all the other controversies more visible on the surface here, like Net Neutrality or intellectual property or open APIs or data mobility.
[tags]web2con, web 2.0, web services[/tags]

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