The buzz from the Bay Area to Beijing is the programming phenomenon known as "Web 2.0." The best thing about this next "new thing" is that it will take the attention off of the hype around Grid computing, and let the cynics focus on something else they won't like because it isn't as robust as COBOL/CICS (and/or they didn't work on it before Jimi Hendrix died). Hey, Joe ... the next best thing about Web 2.0 is that the applications are cool, functional and easy to build.
Perhaps as important, these new applications -- from GoogleEarth to iTunes, and the legal version of Napster or Flickr -- demonstrate the power of service-oriented IT. These applications are modular, based on re-usable components that use Web services and Java along with a slew of new development tools aimed at simplicity. They cost significantly less to build and are much easier to modify than legacy applications or their "Web 1.0" predecessors that would attempt to deliver the same functionality.
The photo sharing service Flickr updates its application multiple times per day. The others typically update less often, but take only seconds and usually don't require a re-boot. The venture capital community is struggling to figure out how to fund these startups because they usually only require a few programmers and crank out new applications in three to four months. The founders of 37signals, who developed the open source development tool Ruby on Rails for the Web 2.0 community, just wrote a book, called Getting Real
, that describes their approach. The net is that they don't spend more than three and a half months on any of their applications before they launch.
A word to the IT community: Rich functionality is being developed with so few programmers (usually five or so) in such a short period of time (three to four months), venture capitalists can't figure out how to fund them. Because they live on the Web, they can update any errata on the fly as users engage and use the applications. They may never get out of "Beta," and no one may care because the Beta works just fine. As an IT professional, ask yourself (if you're not an IT professional, ask one): How many rich applications has your team brought to market in a calendar quarter -- where the application cost less than $150,000 to develop, and where most users rave about it and make it an integral part of their lives? If the answer is "lots," then please contact me through GRIDtoday
immediately. I'd like to buy you dinner and understand your methods.
Web 2.0 is a game-changing approach to developing new application functionality based on service-oriented architecture. We can all quibble about the business model for these new apps, but the economic benefits of the development model are a done deal. Oh, the cynics will claim there is nothing new here. They are wrong this time. While the traditional IT community has been taking its sweet time moving to SOA, the Web 2.0 community have leapt forward.
I think that the Grid community is going through a similar metamorphosis from "Grid 1.0," which was born on the Web in the early 1990s along with Web 1.0. Interestingly, many of the same folks and the organizations they worked for were involved with the birth of both. The benchmark application for Web 1.0 is Netscape, which had its roots in Mosaic, which was developed at NCSA. Similarly, the benchmark application for Grid 1.0 is Globus, which has its roots with the distributed computing project at Argonne National Laboratory. Maybe it's the water in Illinois.
As with Web 1.0 evolving to Web 2.0, the fundamental concepts remain the same. It is a natural evolution that is happening in a very organic way, largely stimulated by the open source community. The focus of Web 1.0 for the ISV was still to sell software or specialized services and provide access to the Web. With Web 2.0, the ISV is selling a service, and the Web is packaged as part of the service. Similarly, Grid 1.0 included a vision along with the basic building blocks for ubiquitous computing and communications, but its focus was on sharing compute cycles. Grid 2.0 will usher in a new world of distributed ubiquitous virtual computing, networking and storage in the enterprise that will allow a whole raft of new rich services. I started to see this coming with the demographics at SC'05 in Seattle. The scientists were being outnumbered by folks usually associated with content or content delivery.
I'll steal some concepts from Tim O'Reilly, who coined the term "Web 2.0," and argue that Grid 2.0 describes the infrastructure that Google uses to deliver the rich user interface for GoogleEarth -- which, along with Wikipedia, is one the most popular examples of Web 2.0. However, the clear winner for user volume is MySpace. "Now wait," some diehards might argue. "MySpace doesn't use a grid." I'll argue that it most certainly does. It uses a data grid. Grid 1.0 was all about computing, and Grid 2.0 is a blend of distributed computing and shared data.
In fact, it will be my premise that Grid 2.0 represents the model for infrastructure that will support rich Web 2.0 applications. It'll also be my premise that the distinction between Web 2.0 applications and the early Web applications is analogous to the difference between Grid 2.0 infrastructure and the initial Grid implementations.
So, what is Web 2.0? Well, the cynic will carp that it's another mysterious term, like "Grid," which means nothing to no one, or everything to everyone. The funny thing is that the community of people who associate themselves with Grid are too busy making it work to be confused. The same is true for Web 2.0. Perhaps a robust definitions for these "community terms" are like street signs in Boston: if you need to understand them, perhaps you shouldn't be driving there.
The great thing about Web 2.0, unlike Grid 1.0 or SOA or other abstractions, is that you can see the applications. Kind of the like the ubiquitous directions in Beantown (just go down to the Dunkin' Donuts and hang a right). Just load up GoogleEarth and see where your vacation hotel is located -- not just the map, but the satellite image of the real hotel. Or go to Zillow.com, enter in your street address and prepare to be blown away. You should have sold last month.
For a more literal definition, follow this link: www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html
. Here, Tim O'Reilly does a formidable job of drawing a distinction between the early Web 1.0 applications and their 2.0 counterparts. In his words, what Britannica Online, Akamai, mp3.com and DoubleClick were to Web 1.0, Wikipedia, BitTorrent, Napster and Google Adsense are to Web 2.0. The key attribute of both Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is that they were born on the Web and they use the Web as a platform.
I see the key attributes for a Web 2.0 "application" as follows:
- Web 2.0 doesn't come in a box. Web 2.0 companies don't sell software, they sell a service (like the legal Napster that has a monthly fee, or iTunes by the tune) or ads for the service (like Google).
- Volume matters. Web 2.0 developers focus on small sites, broad base of consumers and SMB. Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief for Wired Magazine, calls this phenomenon "the long tail." Web 1.0 focused on a relatively small set of large customers.
- Like red wine (or my wife, in case she's reading this) Web 2.0 gets better with age. This is a result of the first two items. Tons of people use these apps every day and they work together with the developer to fix them. Since they are on the Web instead of in a box, they can be fixed immediately.
- It's all about the data. The core of Web 2.0 -- whether Napster, GoogleEarth, Amazon, eBAY or Flickr -- is that they all build the application functionality around the data and how it will be used.
This last point is huge, and a big item for Grid 2.0 and the implications on truly simple service-oriented IT. Many of the Grid practitioners have known this for years and have worked feverishly toward a data grid where the data, along with the computing, is ubiquitous. In kind, recent versions of the Globus Toolkit have focused on mass collaboration and data sharing. I'll contend that if you start with the data you want to re-use and work your way up to the usage model, it's a lot easier to design the software. This is a hypothesis I will be exploring in the coming months as these trends unfold.
So, if Grid 1.0 was all about sharing compute power, Grid 2.0 is all about sharing data, and the compute power, networking and storage needed to access and use that data. The two go together in the same way as Web 2.0 is an extension of the browser-based models of Web 1.0. I think Grid 2.0 will have its defining moment when the Large Hadron Collider goes online at CERN. Of course, some might argue it already had its defining moment when GoogleEarth went live. I'll let the reader be the judge. This doesn't mean the teraflops/petaflops aren't important. Teraflops are the means to the end -- which is data organized in such a way that it provides insight, innovation or amusement from petabytes of data.
Grid 1.0 and Grid 2.0 have one big thing in common with each other and with Web 2.0: they are global phenomena. Nothing gets me more riled up than when I hear someone say, "Ohhh the Grid (or Web 2.0) is just a U.S. or Western European thing." The implication is that these new methods are too sophisticated for the developers in an emerging economy.
Gil Scott Heron sang (or really rapped, but we didn't call it that then) that the revolution would not be televised, it would be live. Web 2.0 is live and it is stirring up more investor and consumer interest than anything we've seen in this short century. The revolution is live (OK, there is some latency) and taking off in all corners of the globe.
I read an article on a plane last week when I was visiting China -- an excerpt is copied here from the Web site of the Shanghai Daily
Some 60 percent of the surge will be directed toward information technology, especially new Web 2.0 applications that include podcasts, blogs and social network services such as platforms for dating and business deals, the experts said. "Many VC firms have moved into China and are eager to pump money into companies with good business potential, including Web 2.0 firms," Zhou [Hongyi, former president of Yahoo China] said in Beijing over the weekend. About 30 venture capital companies are now operating in China, each armed with $100 million to $200 million.
China and the rest of the region are also aggressively investing in grids, from Grid 1.0-style compute grids, to a number of novel applications like "Grids for Kids" in Singapore -- where PC's in the class room aim to be shared by local industry -- or Grids for the small to medium auto industry suppliers in the Shandong province of China.
Sometimes I worry that the IT community won't move fast enough to escape the gravity of legacy computing architectures that don't scale, are underutilized and cost far too much to build and maintain. The recent explosion of energy and investment in the Web 2.0 development model gives me hope that we may get into orbit after all. To achieve critical velocity, we will need a robust infrastructure based on Grid 2.0 to act as the booster rocket.
About Tom Gibbs
Tom Gibbs is director of worldwide strategy and planning in the
sales and marketing group at Intel Corp. He is responsible for
developing global industry marketing strategies, building cooperative
market development, and marketing campaigns with Intel's partners
worldwide. Gibbs joined Intel in 1991 in the Scalable Systems division
as a sales segment manager. He then worked in Intel's Enterprise Server
group, where he was responsible for business growth with all OEM
customers with products that scaled greater than 4-way. Finally, just
prior to joining the Solutions Market Development group, he was in the
Workstation Products group -- responsible for all board and system
product development and sales. Prior to Intel, Gibbs held technical
marketing management and industry sales management positions with FPS
Computing, and engineering design and development for airborne radar
systems at Hughes Aircraft Company. He is a graduate in electrical
engineering from California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo
and was a member of the graduate fellowship program at Hughes Aircraft
Company, where his areas of study included non-linear control systems,
artificial intelligence and stochastic processes. He also previously
served on the President's Information Technology Advisory Council for
open source computing.