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July 08, 2003

Jim Gray on the Economics of Distributed Computing

In case you missed the slashdot reference yesterday: Turing Award winner and database pioneer Jim Gray wrote a great article (pdf) for the newsletter of the IEEE Task Force on Cluster Computing. In this article Jim refined a point he has been making for a number of years, namely that many of the distributed systems technologies fail in practice because the are just not economical.

The article discusses the economic tradeoffs of doing Grid-scale distributed computing (WAN rather than LAN clusters). It argues that computations must be nearly stateless and have more than 10 hours of cpu time per GB of network traffic before outsourcing the computation makes economic sense.

These are important observations as they cut through the hype of Grid Computing and identifies the issues that are likely to drive the possible success of Grid Computing in the coming decade.

An earlier note by Jim on the similar subject of transporting terabytes of data for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey is also worth reading.

Posted by Werner Vogels at July 8, 2003 08:17 AM