Clearing Up /Cloud Computing

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Alex Pham

Los Angeles: Google made waves in the tech world last week when it announced plans to release an operating system called Google Chrome OS that would encourage wider use of something called cloud computing.

Although most have never heard of cloud computing, many do it every day. By uploading photos to Facebook, sending messages via gmail or playing Club Penguin online, users are accessing programs and software files that live far away in cavernous, climate-controlled rooms containing thousands of computers.

Andreas Bechtolsheim, 53, co-founder of Sun Microsystems Inc where he still consults, knows a thing or two about cloud computing.

He's chief development officer for Arista Networks, a Silicon Valley start-up in northern California that supplies networking equipment used to build these massive arrays of computer servers.

He also was one of the first people to invest in Google in 1998 when the company was just two Stanford University geeks with a laptop. His $100 000 investment in the company, started by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, helped turn the sandal-wearing engineer into a billionaire.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bechtolsheim helped explain this shift in the way we use computers.

What do you make of the potential for cloud computing, both as a market and a technology?

It is a surprising evolution in the history of computing. Every application can now shift to the Web. You can access any application remotely. IDC has estimated that by 2012 the market for cloud computing infrastructure will grow to $42 billion, up from $16bn in 2008. It's the fastest-growing slice of the spending on information technology.

Right now, it's a small sliver of the overall pie. Most of the spending is for the applications. But it's a growing slice of the pie.

What are some uses of cloud computing?

Hollywood uses high-performance clusters to... render movies. The advantage of the cloud is that it's always running and not idle. They get much better utilisation.

These computer farms can simulate car crashes, render movies. Facebook also does an enormous amount of computing behind the scenes to generate relevant content to you. …