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Recap: Day 1 at GigaOM Structure #gigaomlive

GigaOM Structure, the annual gathering of the top cloud thought leaders in the world, kicked off today in San Francisco with an all-star line up of speakers that discussed the present and future of cloud computing.  Leaders from  cloud providers such as HP, IBM/Softlayer, and Joyent all took to the main keynote stage as did born in the cloud companies like Airbnb.  Almost all of the talks in the keynote theater were standing room only, but the best sessions of the day came from industry three Goliath’s representing Amazon, Google, and Facebook.

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels

The first talk of the day featured Amazon CTO Werner Vogels in a Q&A with GigaOM founder Om Malik.  The conversation quickly turned to international adoption of the public cloud with Om wondering out loud if tighter European regulations might lead to country-local clouds to enable tighter local integration.  Werner responded that as long as a cloud provider doesn’t automatically mirror data from an international data center to the US, that NSA-like concerns are not an issue.  Instead, he said, encryption of data is critical:


  He elaborated further with:

As he discussed cloud futures, he had an interesting perspective on devices, thinking of them as just a window to data you have on the cloud. Today phones and laptops are what people think of, but he saw a world where even objects like treadmills would adapt to information about you stored in the cloud. Those devices will continue to deposit plenty of information in the cloud too. Werner pointed out that Dropcam uploads more data than YouTube even today, pointing to smaller applications that can be huge data generators.

Google Fellow Urz Holzle

Later in the morning, Google Fellow Urz Holzle sat down with GigaOM Senior Writer Derrick Harris, who asked about whether or not the kind of scale we see today was even conceivable in Google’s early days.  Urz said it wasn’t but that lessons learned from their short term focus of not running out of capacity the next week forged an approach to scaling that have proved critical as time has passed, pointing to problems like having to maintain up to 2 billion active TCP connections in Google data centers from Andriod devices. He also noted that while Moore’s Law continues to bring 50% year over year scalability gains for underlying hardware, getting similar gains with the staff of people operating that hardware is harder.  He noted a way to think about it that we certainly agree with here at CliQr:

He gave his stamp of approval on the idea that in the next decade or two, workloads are moving to the cloud for all sorts of good reasons, from functionality to security compliance and cost benefits. It’s when not if.

Facebook VP of Engineering Jay Parikh

The other big hitter of the morning session was Jay Parikh, who runs engineering over at Facebook. Gigaom Senior Writer Stacey Higginbotham asked him about their data center innovations and Jay’s answers were in stark contrast to those provieded by Werner and Urz in that he discussed Facebook’s need for specialized hardware given their very specific goals. In particular, the diagram of the day revealed an example of how they handle switches:


The key component there is the red card, which is an Intel chip that essentially gives Facebook switches the computing power of a full-blown server. Jay explained that this chip enables their switches to run their custom Linux distribution and the big gain they get from that is that it more easily fits into their monitoring infrastructure so their operations team can get robust data from it. While that’s a use case that not every company will face, it showed the power of OpenCompute and how it is easier than ever to customize hardware when needed.

Anticipating Day 2

On Thursday GigaOM Structure concludes with another impressive lineup of speakers.  The headliners include DARPA’s Dan Kauffman who will talk about Heartbleed and other security issues, Rackspace President Taylor Rhodes who plans to discuss the right and wrong way to scale, and the always entertaining Adrian Crockoft from Battery Ventures formerly of Netflix fame who will present his thoughts on cloud trends.

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