The new geek chic: Data centers

At GigaOM's Structure 08 conference in San Francisco, infrastructure--"clouds" of servers, storage, and networks--is the headliner.

Forget about flashy Web 2.0 applications. The real, geeky coolness of the Web is the growing acreage of data centers that deliver bits to billions of devices. At GigaOM's Structure 08 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, infrastructure--"clouds" of servers, storage and networks--was the headliner.

Conference host Om Malik kicked off the event, which is centered on the massive build out of infrastructure to power the wired planet. Dan Farber

Jonathan Yarmis, vice president of advanced, emerging and disruptive technologies at AMR Research, said changes in the next five years will make the past Internet revolution feel like child's play. He didn't explain exactly how the next five years will be more revolutionary than evolutionary, but outlined the convergence of several technology trends.

Jonathan Yarmis Dan Farber

The combination of social networking, mobility, alternative business models (advertising and different license and revenue models) and cloud and stream computing are mutually reinforcing trends that are driving innovations. The average life of a cell phone is 21 months, which allows users to take advantage of improvements in infrastructure.

"Cloud computing is not just for software as a service, but EaaS--Everything as a Service. Many things as discrete products become cloud-based offerings. It offers us an independence of device and location that is profoundly important," Yarmis said. Spoken like a true analyst--come up with another way to market a concept that is also known as on demand, cloud, SaaS, or utility computing.

One of the infrastructure challenges is not just storing and analyzing the growing body of data but reading, reacting, and responding in real time to disposable streams of data, Yarmis explained. The network and software needs to get much smarter and faster to enable real-time filtering and streaming for every user.

"We've reached a tipping point. All of the waves of disruptive tech are coming together at the same time," Yarmis said. He predicted that the economic downturn will help spur the adoption of cloud computing. Given the lower cost model and technological advances pioneered by companies like Amazon, Google, and in cloud computing, that's a sure bet.

Click here to see more stories from the Structure 08 conference and on cloud computing generally.
About the author

Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.


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