Monday, February 18, 2008

Free water for my Cloudcomputing KEYWORD: GOOD

Ginger Strand has a low-cost op-ed piece presented as expensive hard-nosed investigative reporting in Harper's Magazine, Keyword: EVIL (zoom to blueprint within same article). It is about Google's new server facilities (Codename: 02 Project) located along the Columbia River.

The gist of the article is this: Cloudcomputing is the new telecommunication/computing paradigm, where thinner client machines access web pages powerfully driven by server side processing. Google is the undisputed leader in this paradigm. To lead in this paradigm means Google must build massive server farms that consume equally massive amounts of power. With 02 Project, Google (along with other big industries) is getting use of Columbia River power grid resources for extremely low or no cost.

The article asks us to be upset about this, to call all this Evil. Specifically, the article names these higher order political/economic sins:

  1. Server farms are the new heavy industry, with a given facility consuming city-sized amounts of power.

  2. The Columbia River is providing massive amounts of almost-free government subsidized power via dams.

  3. The article names two Republicans as the deal-maker lever-pullers of the evil secret deals. Pointing to Republicans is political shorthand to arouse suspicion (the Party does deserve this, actually)

Only thing is, CLOUDCOMPUTING IS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT SERVICE MY TAX DOLLARS, OR ALLOCATION OF NATIONAL NATURAL RESOURCES, COULD PROVIDE ME. I am not a money-siphoning politician, nor a higher up in corporate echelons making massive bank on these economic deals. I make the median income in my state, lower than that for my city, and would absolutely love it if our political/economic landscape was tilted towards enabling massive server farms that process for my computing activities.

And for anyone measuring cost/benefits for our poorest, cloudcomputing means lower cost computers, or computer use on cell phones. All that subsidized power for Columbia River server farms can provide computational services to the poor, which is an essential form of empowerment in the 21st century.


Supplemental and supporting material:
Race towards Clean Cloud Computing

1 comment:

B. F. said...

Where is the conversation on digital divide on this issue? I could write the book on missed opportunity because of digital divide issues: I got a blue ribbon in a science fair for a computer program I wrote - in 1988 - but my parrents were never able to cough up the $2000 it would have taken to get me serious hardware so I and other friends could have seriously pursed that interest at that critical time.

There are essentially 3 major digital divide strategies: http://freegeekvancouver.org/used_computers , OLPC, and http://www.everex.com/ . All three of these strategies are significantly enhanced through the use of browser technology that we take for granted today, most notably Google and Wikipedia (both of which are actually built into the desktop of the third option, gPC/CloudBook from Everex.)

To dismiss free-to-user megaservers is to say that everyone should have their own personal $2000 mini-server, and that Microsoft-esque strategy has thus far basically created the digital divide that stifles the very innovation needed to "save the environment" in today's world. It's a super-elitist class-boundary-enforcing notion, because not everyone can afford $2000 basic communication devices.