Monday, April 14, 2008

Ephemeral Hardware

Someone, somewhere, once quipped that hardware is out of date software. One can just about take that at face value; Wall Street quants run engines out of FPGA arrays to rapidly calculate banyan fibonacci mojo ratios, let alone the insights given to March Madness here in the United States coming, no doubt, from hijacked cloud computing resources.

Meanwhile, the "not all gigabytes are created equal" applies to this industry where unit costs of storage hardware drop precipitously (and mostly predictably) whilst total storage management costs increase....but at typically lower unit costs.

Then the state diagram of "where does the market find equilibrium" sloshes in another direction with emergent nano densities (we visited that topic in November or December 2007 in here) which sloshes further with announcements of IBM Racetrack topologies (updating previous announcements from neoBUNCH forces on the development of first gen nano which was expected to ship late this year) for chips with billions of atomistic nanowires and even higher densities.

It's interesting to note that Buckminster Fuller, for whom the nanostructures of carbon called "Buckyballs" due to their resemblance to his Geodesic Dome (we've got the one he built and lived in when he taught at the local University here around 37.5W and 89N) also coined the word "ephimeralization".

Do more and more with less and less until you're doing everything with nothing basically sums up that principle; however, what is added to that koan? Haiku? whatever is information.

Seems that, to me, information is what holds that airy ship aloft, information represented as software and rules. So, the perfect storm (strike that, cliché) the fuzzball of storage becomes a witches brew of rapidly increasing "consumer driven" data (oodles of video, oodles of endpoints). And boy howdy, don't them metas get busy?

Problems of managing versions (dedupe, mirrors backups, recoveries), placement of data to manage service levels (cache, multiple copies, P2P or P4P) and (jargon alert) semantic web wherein constructs of tags of tags and winding hyperlinks reflecting states and relationships, not just for catching the great Diet Coke and Mentos research but to get the skinny on what the latest method is to build something, cure something, learn something, share something, price something, buy something, sell something.....

Or use the stored images to catch a thief (or worse) or provide compliance (not just for the SEC; as part of researching video applications for education, a fine gentleman named Mike Fink advised that some hospitals and emergency rooms are adopting video as anticipatory evidence when conducting particularly parlous procedures. (Perspicacity!)

The technology and methods approach not only Kurtzweil's "singularity" of intelligent machines, but the holodeck (hold on, Chief!) appears in the form of a walk about simulation of the hours before Pompeii's demise. The user of the system can move through that simulation by walking. (Heard that one on late night radio just before a discussion of alien abduction but I'm all about eclectic.) This, plus Wii systems have seen rapid adoption in physical therapy....

Consumers all over the joint.

Explicitly: this does not (yet) forecast the immediate demise of spinning media or tape, but the pricing pressures are and will continue to approach "unit costs of zero", with improving wide area connectivity which, while not allowing (for now) ignoring special relativity, multiple managed instances of information and stateful knowledge will appear more and more as abstractions within a deeply interconnected network. Seems not unreasonable to expect some form of bid/ask mechanisms to appear for dynamic allocation of, particularly, entertainment or thematically oriented information linking secure objects, generating additional copies, cleaning out the old data, and optimizing data (and processing) placement based upon dynamic needs.

Given that software itself decays, through maintenance in particular as cited in COCOMO models, etc., the management of storage more becomes the art of software as an increment to the art of understanding the more physical mechanisms of striping, RAID, densities, and mirrors. And the dark force of entropy, lo, will drive more preemptive testing and quality assurance (said the winner of sundry service packs).

And with the flat out impossibility of exhaustively testing every combination of lines of instructions (NP completeness means never having to say you're done) more nuanced and practical methods have emerged to do statistical measures akin to Design Of Experiment methods; however, still better hang on to that last working version.... Given that pretty much every buzzword required in a tech oriented article has been used here (oops, yeah, and Social Networking too!) we might as well toss in quantum computing.

And part of the quantum and string theory models is the many universes theory, which comforts me because it suggests, if true, I might finally be one of the smartest guys in the room, albeit a Cub Reporter.

Happy Spring!

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