The Meta Cloud - Flying data centers enter fourth dimension

Or do they?


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.

Next page: Meta-Cloud 1.0

Other stories you might like

  • Google opens the pod doors on Bay View campus
    A futuristic design won't make people want to come back – just ask Apple

    After nearly a decade of planning and five years of construction, Google is cutting the ribbon on its Bay View campus, the first that Google itself designed.

    The Bay View campus in Mountain View – slated to open this week – consists of two office buildings (one of which, Charleston East, is still under construction), 20 acres of open space, a 1,000-person event center and 240 short-term accommodations for Google employees. The search giant said the buildings at Bay View total 1.1 million square feet. For reference, that's less than half the size of Apple's spaceship. 

    The roofs on the two main buildings, which look like pavilions roofed in sails, were designed that way for a purpose: They're a network of 90,000 scale-like solar panels nicknamed "dragonscales" for their layout and shimmer. By scaling the tiles, Google said the design minimises damage from wind, rain and snow, and the sloped pavilion-like roof improves solar capture by adding additional curves in the roof. 

    Continue reading
  • Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module
    Anything that uses proximity-based BLE is vulnerable, claim researchers

    Tesla Model 3 and Y owners, beware: the passive entry feature on your vehicle could potentially be fooled by a new form of relay attack.

    Discovered and tested by researchers at NCC Group, the attack allows anyone with a tool similar to NCC's to relay the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signal from a smartphone that has been paired with a Tesla back to the vehicle. Far from simply unlocking the door, the hack lets the attacker start the car and drive away too.

    In its testing, NCC Group said it was able to perform a relay attack that allowed researchers to open a Tesla Model 3 from a home in which the vehicle's paired device was located (on the other side of the house), approximately 25 meters away.

    Continue reading
  • Google assuring open source code to secure software supply chains
    Java and Python packages are the first on the list

    Google has a plan — and a new product plus a partnership with developer-focused security shop Snyk — that attempts to make it easier for enterprises to secure their open source software dependencies.

    The new service, announced today at the Google Cloud Security Summit, is called Assured Open Source Software. We're told it will initially focus on some Java and Python packages that Google's own developers prioritize in their workflows. 

    These two programming languages have "particularly high-risk profiles," Google Cloud Cloud VP and GM Sunil Potti said in response to The Register's questions. "Remember Log4j?" Yes, quite vividly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022