The information factories

Search companies are building supercomputers that can process information in petabytes ('peta' signifies numbers of the magnitude 10 to the 15th power, a million billion). In the PC era winning companies dominated the silicon chip. In the 'peta era', the winners will be those that master the management of remote data centres.

by Wired

Search engine companies will offer other applications, formerly provided by the PC. With 450,000 servers worldwide, the 'Googleplex' comprises an estimated 200 petabytes of hard disk storage - enough to copy the Net's entire 'cornucopia' dozens of times.

The shift from mainframes and client-servers to the net (known as cloud computing) represents a change as 'momentous as the industrial-age shift from craft production to mass manufacture'. The most precious resource in this market is not money but time.

Research shows that search users want to get results in less than 20 seconds. Data centres can provider faster RAM-based searches but they consume huge amounts of energy. The total amount of electricity consumed by the big search companies this year is approaching 5 gigawatts (almost enough to power Las Vegas on the hottest day of the year).

However, today's data centres could be challenged if semiconductor and optical technologies spark off the next big thing after supercomputers by shrinking the petacomputer to the size of a handheld.

The information factories,
George Gilder,
Wired, October 2006

Reviewed by Morice Mendoza

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