Monday, May 18, 2009

After the Cloud: Heaps of Cash

After the Cloud:
  1. Prelude
  2. So Far
  3. The New Big
  4. To Atomic Computation and Beyond
  5. Open Heaps
  6. Heaps of Cash
  7. Epilogue

A One-Two Punch

Let me give you the punchline first, this time. Imagine a service that:
  1. Combines the cloud management features of EC2 for any system (in this case, mobile devices), the monitoring and update management of Canonical's Landscape, the buying/selling power of an e-commerce application, the auctioning capabilities of eBay, and the data of marketing campaigns.
  2. Seamlessly integrates all this into a cloud (Open Heap!) provisioning/acquisition system or as part of your mobile provider's billing and information web pages.
So where does the cash come in?

Power to the People

As usual, revenue would depend upon market adoption. That would depend upon appeal (addressed with marketing), usefulness (addressed by software engineering and usability), and viability. That last one's particularly interesting, as it's where people and the cash intersect.

A product suite and service, all built around open heaps, could have a long and fruitful life if implemented with the end user in mind. Users would have the opportunity to become partners in an extraordinary way: they would be consuming a service, while at the same time, being given the opportunity to resell a portion of that service for use in the cloud-like architectures of open heaps.

The first company that does this really well would have a continuously growing following of users. This company would be helping consumers earn immediate cash back on their property. This is something I believe deeply in; it's a positive manifestation of the continuing evolution of the consumer's role in the market. I'm convinced that the more symbiotic a relationship between consumer and producer, the healthier an economy will be.


In an open heap scenario, there are two providers: the mobile phone provider and the heap provider. Phone companies get to make money from the deal passively: through a partnership that provides them with a certain percentage of the revenue or indirectly through heap-related network use.

The heap provider (e.g., someone like Amazon or RightScale), would stand to make the most of everyone. Even though they wouldn't own the devices themselves (in contrast to current cloud providers), they would be able to assess fees on various transactions and for related services.

Imagine application developers "renting" potential CPU, memory, storage and bandwitdth from a heap that included 100s of 1000s of mobile users. The heap provider would be the trusted third party between the device owner and the application developer. In this way, the provider acts like an escrow service and can asses feeds accordingly.

Imagine a dynamic sub-market that arises out of this sort of provisioning: with millions of devices to choose from, a user is going to want to make theirs more appealing than 1000s of others. Enter auctions. Look at how much money eBay makes. Look at the fractional fees that they asses... fees which have earned them billions of dollars.

Throw in value-adds like monitoring and specialized management features, and you've got additional sources of revenue. There's a lot of potential in something like this...

Obviously, all of this is little more than creative musing. The technology isn't quite there yet for a lot of what is required to make this a reality. Regardless, given the shere numbers of small, networkable devices in our society, we need to explore how to best exploit untapped resources in mobile computing, providing additional, cheaper environments for small applications, decreasing the dependency we have upon large data centers, and hopefully reducing the draw on power grids. We need decentralized, secure storage and processing. We need smarter, more fair, consumer-as-beneficiary, economies.

Next, we develope a new segment of the market, where any user or company with one or more networked devices would be able to log in to an open heap provider's software and offer their machine as another member in that cloud. There's a lot of work involved in making that happen, much of it focused on the design and implementation of really good software.

If we can accomplish all that, we will have reinvented the cloud as something far greater and more flexible than it is today.


  1. Interesting read and hope we get there. I would have to point out that 80% of the missive was about scale -- in the hardware, the cloud or the bandwidth. In a sense that is old hat stuff.

    If we really want to get to a world that is 'tiny apps' then we have to have a framework that manages bindings/messaging automatically. Imagine a software container one pulls from the cloud. Place it in the compute field. One places several small applications into the container that by the fact they are in the container start self assembling themselves into the proper 'order'. All the bits knowing their proper agency relationships in the container. Once bound the whole reports to the container their needed messaging demands in/out of the container. Other containers can be placed on the field to provide/interact with this container. Again self binding the messaging requirements.

    With that kind of development environment one could effectively leverage the cloud.

    Thanks for your time.

  2. Well-said, John -- thanks for your thoughts!