Last week I attended a dinner hosted by Mark Anderson, CEO of the Strategic News Service. Mark looks at the future of computing and communications in his newsletter and annual conference. During his remarks at dinner, Mark talked about 21st century pyramids, referring to the super datacenters Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo and others are building in energy-friendly territories.
"The guys are building the pyramids, but they don't know what for. Is it for searching? No. An Internet Assistant delivered on a custom basis that tells us how to run our business and lives--how to get an edge is the ultimate best use of the real estate going forward," Mark said.
I asked Mark for more detail on his notion of an Internet Assistant (IA). Via email, he responded:
Today, the services we hope to get from the Web remain fairly mundane and "first order," i.e., where to buy and sell things, accounting help, etc. But large scale server farms have the potential to solve much more supercomputer-like problems, on a custom basis, throughout our lives: 1. Learning what we are like, learning how we best learn 2. Providing guidance in second-order problem situations, from running businesses to helping with negotiations. 3. Keeping track of our needs throughout our lives, so that we can spend time more creatively. This includes assisting where we may have insufficiencies. When you finish high school or college, the IA will know how you did in each course. Bad at algebra? It will help, just a voice activation away. 4. Less trivial, it may also warn us about health and other issues before they come up, based on global knowledge vs. custom knowledge about us. Plus provide financial assistance, which nearly everyone needs.
Think of it as a supercomputer "buddy" who helps you throughout your life. The step before that, which is probably what Google thinks it is shooting for, is a family of databases capable of customized delivery to you for your own needs.
Mark sees these early stage datacenters evolving into more intelligent hubs dispensing advice and ordering our lives, similar to the vision in Apple's Knowledge Navigator concept video from 20 years ago. One of the next frontiers for competition is the datacenter build out, providing infrastructure for planetary computing, serving hundreds of millions if not billions of simultaneous users on the Net.
There will be a group of companies that provide the commodity and unique technology parts to power compute utilities and those who have the expertise to deliver compute, storage and networks services at very low cost and high performance. Companies, such as HP and Sun, will try to do some of both, existing service providers powering large Web sites will try to grow their footprints, many regional compute utilities will spring forth, and large sites with their own infrastructure like Amazon, Google and Microsoft will have the capability to enter the service provider business in a big way and further cement their brand relationships with customers. Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud is an example of what's to come. Hopefully, the super- datacenter build out won't end up like the telecom build out, resulting in large, slow moving national and local monopolies with indecipherable billing plans...