Infrastructure Opportunities, The Return

In 2007 I wrote a quick post about infrastructure opportunities.

I’ve also wondered previously about opportunities with cheap electricity, seems The Google and other huge server farms are spending more on electricity than on hardware, hello Hydro Québec joint venture?

Found this in September 2011:

The facility will run on geothermal and hydroelectric power – in Iceland, all electricity is from renewable energy sources. The project was commissioned by the UK start-up Verne Global, itself a data hosting company, which plans to use Iceland’s cheap power to undercut rival European offerings.
World’s first zero-carbon data centre to be built in Iceland

And then this just last week:

The enormous server farm facility in Luleå, northern Sweden, to be announced officially on Thursday morning, is the first time that the social networking giant has chosen to locate a server farm outside the US.
“The climate will allow them to just use only air for cooling the servers,” said Mats Engman, chief executive of the Aurorum Science Park, which is leading the push to turn the city into a ‘Node Pole’, luring in other international computing giants.
“If you take the statistics, the temperature has not been above 30C [86F] for more than 24 hours since 1961. If you take the average temperature, it’s around 2C [35.6F].”
Facebook to build server farm on edge of Arctic Circle

See, now that would have made for an interesting Plan nord.

[Update on Nov. 7th] Thought so, seems they are on it (FR) but Hydro didn’t find the idea interesting enough 3 years ago. Merci Josée pour le tip.

November 1st, 2011


Well well well, Amazon finally updated their Canadian website, there were at least 2 versions of the US shop since .ca last matched it. How the hell it doesn’t follow, I’ll never get.

September 7th, 2008

Cheaper in Canada

Yes! Just switched from .ca to wislist a book and realized, that, finally, books are sold and listed as cheaper here than in the US!

December 12th, 2007

Infrastructure Opportunities

Last week a client (book editor) decided to go with a canadian hosting company because of certain copyright and public domain problems their lawyers were fearing if their content was hosted in the US. This morning I read this post about the Amazon S3 SLA and the author comments:

Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Acts (FIPPA) don’t allow me to store sensitive information (e.g., students’ work) in jurisdictions that permit secret warrants, like those mandated by the USA PATRIOT Act. It wouldn’t even help if Amazon ran a cluster farm in Canada, since the PATRIOT Act applies to subsidiaries of American firms operating in other countries as well.

Different but related issues. I’m sure those same issues apply to a lot of countries. Opportunity for canadian companies to step in with similar services? I can’t think of someone already well positioned to “just add” the service but I’m sure there’s expertise somewhere.

I’ve also wondered previously about opportunities with cheap electricity, seems The Google and other huge server farms are spending more on electricity than on hardware, hello Hydro Québec joint venture?

October 10th, 2007

Bunch of Links

Ok, enough with the small posts, here’s one with various things I found while catching up on feeds:

  • Didn’t take all that long for Derek to get back to printing cool stuff. Great choice too, he’s starting up Fray again and will make it a quarterly published book instead of the online magazine. Should be fantastic.

  • Chris announced OAuth 1.0 Public Draft basically a way for developers to duplicate Flickr’s FlickrAuth but with an industry wide standard. Important piece for portable social networks.

  • Interesting new art site, they make 200 small prints at $20 and 20 at $200 for each piece of art offered, 20×200.

  • A new blog at the NYT, The Conscience of a Liberal features a fascinating chart showing the fall and rise of inequality in the US, should prove a great read, same goes for the book.

  • Impressionist vs Realist bloggers, I gather I’m an impressionist.

  • According to Montréal Tech Watch’s Montréal blogosphere tag cloud, a lot of people are talking about me!

  • Amazon opens up a new DRM-Free music store which seems to be getting good reviews so far but, of course, like all new content based stores it seems, it’s US only. Screw you very much Jeff.

September 26th, 2007

Amazon is Teh Awesome

I’m kind of surprised Amazon doesn’t get more coverage for the fantastic web services they are producing. I guess a lot of the “missing” coverage is because it’s not stuff that’s easy to talk about or flashy but I also think they are making some of the more interesting moves out there and building an impressive package, it’s a gutsy idea on Bezos’ part to go in that direction.

It’s been around for a while but I’ve had a couple of separate discussions in the last few weeks with developers using The Elastic Compute Cloud and they are all very impressed with the ease of use and the flexibility of the service. Once your application backend can work within that system, you can switch server copies on and off, paying only for the time each virtual server is running, it makes getting Dugg or any other type of traffic surge a lot easier and cheaper to deal with.

The latest service to launch is Amazon Flexible Payments Services and offers a finely tunable platform to let any web app offer very advanced payment functionality. Fees are super competitive and they take into account the differences between credit card payments and bank account debits instead of keeping the difference. I’m looking forward to reading about how developers are using this.

With S3 (storage), EC2 and now FPS, it’s possible to build a completely virtual web application without any real physical servers, maintenance contracts or financial backend contracts, you can create a server “up in the cloud”, replicate it if needed, store client files and manage financial transactions all “up there”. I’m sure there are still factors making real physical server farms valuable but for some the cloud setup will work and for others it will make for a great testing/startup platform they can move from and use as needed.

Developers who can master these services and setup applications with such a cloud-based server package should get some real world work out there to show off and start offering their experience, there’s bound to be a lot of takers now and in the near future. I think proficiency with these tools is the next big job/contract offer hot item.

August 12th, 2007

The Starfish and the Spider

The Starfish and the Spider, Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. A number of “web 2.0 people” have recommended this book, some citing it as a huge influence. Coming at it with those expectations, I was somewhat dissapointed, not at the concept itself—how decentralized organizations can wield great power, how they happen, what they do well, etc.—but rather in the way everything is glanced over and at the transparent retorical devices they use. Some of those glances could have been more detailed, even if only a little, so that when the glancing is done on something you’re interested in, it doesn’t look too thrown together and detract from the subject (which it did for me).

The first such thing that bugged me is when describing the use of P2P networks to share music, the language they use and the way they explain the issue is almost out of the record labels’ talking point handbook where everyone on P2P networks is a pirate, stealing. It’s largely true but P2P is also used in other ways; it can help in getting the word out for smaller bands who do want people to share their music, is used to share computing loads and for legal downloads. Some mention of that and of the abuse of artists that major brands do, while not required for their main point, would have been more balanced without induely slowing down the book.

Another example is when talking with an investor who, in 1995, was repeatedly asked by french investors who was the “president of the internet”. The authors come back again and again with “the french”, “the french investors”, using the oh so easy negative bias most of their american readers will have towards the french to illicit snickers and laughs. Lame.

The last such glancing that bothered me was when explaining how Apple hit the “sweet spot” mix of spider organization and starfish behavior. They say;

Apple also realized that users wanted to share content with one another. It therefore encouraged users to “podcast”, or broadcast their own programming to other users.

Not wrong per se but not quite it either, podcasts existed before iTunes and iTunes launched without podcasts, they simply list them now alongside music. A sharp move, a great success and, yes, arnessing starfish (decentralized) crowd behavior but their phrasing makes it sound like Apple created the whole podcasting thing.

Getting past that, they do otherwise present their theory pretty well, using examples in a variety of fields from Alcoholics Anonymous to IBM using open source through the anti slavery movement in England during the eighteenth century.

Centralized organizations (spiders with a head) have some advantages but can more easily be targeted and defeated by chopping off the head while decentralized organizations and phenomena (starfish) are almost impossible to stop. (fyi: starfish can regrow cut off arms or even, in some cases, a whole starfish from that same arm). The authors present both types well, detail rules on how to build starfish structures, how to promote them, attack them, use them. There’s also a few interesting chapters on catalysts and champions and a very good finish where they show and suggest some solutions on mixing both models like eBay, Amazon, Apple and even Toyota have done.

Conclusion: mild recommendation.

May 21st, 2007