Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Follow the Law" Meme Hits the Big Time

A few days ago, I checked in to my w3counter dashboard to see who was linking to my blog, and I discovered an very intelligent continuation of the "Follow the Law Computing" meme written by Greg Ness (also found on his blog). Greg's addition of the "spice trails" analogy was something new to me, and raised some interesting thoughts about what the historical significance of the cloud will be to world wide wealth distribution. There certainly has been a limited but significant wealth effect created by the Internet itself, but will the ability to physically move data and/or compute loads accelerate these trends?

Noting that I should blog about this on the plane at some point during my trip to Austin this week, I dutifully bookmarked the article for later. I had no chance to look at traffic on Monday, so it was with great shock that when I got on line this morning I saw a hockey stick graph. I investigated, and then my heart skipped a beat.

As of now, today, quotes from my "Follow the Law" post make up Nick Carr's latest post. Nick weaves together the work of Bill Thompson (which I also reference), myself and Greg to provide a clear, concise discussion of the concept of what he calls "itinerant computing". (Damn, he's good at coining these terms, isn't he?)

Ever since I discovered Nick's blog early in my career at Cassatt, I've wanted to get his attention. The Big Switch was an eye opening read--if only it served as a good counterpoint to Bill Coleman's optimistic vision. He made me look at utility computing and cloud computing with a more critical eye, and I wanted to add to his body of knowledge. I am honored to have done so in a small way.

Surprisingly, though, that wasn't whole the hockey stick trigger. Greg's post was picked up by a site called Seeking Alpha, a site I must admit I had never heard of before. Apparently a high traffic investment site (connected to Jim Cramer?), Seeking Alpha drove a record traffic load to my humble blog through a rebroadcast of Greg's post. Rereading that, I noticed that there is a very strong business message there that may in fact be actual historical significance of "itinerant computing": the flow of data and computing is simply an enabler of new business models and competitive advantages that change the face of global wealth. Being a resident of what is essentially a suburb of the Silicon Valley, I can't help but think there is more downside than upside to that story.

Finally, as I looked at the other referrers to this blog, I found an excellent summary of all of the "Follow" computing options: Follow the Sun, Follow the Moon and Follow the Law. Kevin Kelly gives very good basic definitions of each concept, and then makes the following observation:
"Most likely different industries adopt a different scenario. Maybe financial follows the moon, while commerce follows the sun, and entertainment follows the law. A single computing environment (One Machine) should not suggest homogeneity. A meadow is not homogeneous, but its does act as a coherent ecological system.

Another way to dissect the daily rhythm of the One Machine is to trace the three distinct waves of energy, data, and computation as they flow through the planetary "cloud." Each probably has its own pathways."

Amen, brother. I'll go even further. Maybe the customer server systems of a financial company follows the sun, the analytics systems follow the moon, and the trading systems follow the law. I do not mean to suggest at all that every distributed compute task will benefit from follow the law concepts. In fact, I would suggest that there are other "Follow" options that will be created over the coming decades.

All of this leads to the question of software fluidity...