Catching The Next Wave

April 8, 2008

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Every now and then a set of technologies gets twisted together by a small group of dedicated people, and a new industry is born — a watershed event that demonstrates a new way of thinking about things, and throws out a lot of old rules.

There are a three that are coming together to trigger another watershed.

The first is open, popular, mobile Internet devices.  Think Blackberry, iPhone, or the slew of new MIDs that Intel showed off a few days ago in Shanghai.   These are built around the assumption of ubiquitous access to the Internet, high resolution displays, multimedia capabilities, and a bit of horsepower under the hood.  Any college student can get their hands on the Android or iPhone or Windows Mobile SDKs and build a hot little application in their spare time.

The second is web services.  It doesn’t matter if it’s WS* or REST or XML or JSON — the point is being able to query and manipulate data at a distance, with open protocols across public and private networks.  Pick your web framework of choice … building a web service is almost a drag and drop process today.

The third and final piece is cheap and scalable cloud computing.  The physical infrastructure capable of serving billions of transactions is available to anyone with a credit card and a little spare time on the weekend.  Amazon’s Web Services, Google’s App Engine, and a slew of smaller providers sell scalable computing and bandwidth by the hour and gigabyte.

These three fit together to form a fundamentally different picture of mobile computing:  light weight applications that fit in your pocket that take advantage of the local hardware, but seamlessly tap into “Internet scale” computing power and storage.

I’ve talked with a dozen entrepreneurs in as many months who are exploring these waters.  Streaming media (push and pull), information discovery and analysis, mobile social interactions, and location aware applications all depend on this trinity of capabilities.  I’m just one guy in a groundswell of people who are looking at the landscape and thinking “hot damn!”

What makes this so exciting is how easy it is to do today.  You don’t need a dozen engineers and a multi-million dollar budget.  You don’t need to negotiate with a corporate gatekeeper.  You don’t need to pitch to VCs.  You don’t need to wait.

2009 is going to bring a wave of media rich, location aware, always connected mobile applications to hundreds of millions of people.  I’m confident we’ll see a real forehead slapper by the end of 2008 — a tool or service that is painfully obvious, but fundamentally changes how we think about a day to day task.  It’ll make a millionaire or two, at the very least.

This will be fun.  🙂

Behind the Curtain

October 4, 2007

Here’s an interesting excerpt from Werner Vogels’ Dynamo paper about some of the guts behind Amazon’s e-commerce platform:

“For example a page request to one of the e-commerce sites typically requires the rendering engine to construct its response by sending requests to over 150 services. These services often have multiple dependencies, which frequently are other services, and as such it is not uncommon for the call graph of an application to have more than one level.”

There’s no doubt Amazon uses extensive caching to keep performance up, but 150+ service calls to render a page is remarkable, regardless of how you cut it. Even more impressive is how all of these services are built around the assumption that something, somewhere is failing: disks are crashing, networks are flapping, and processes are dying.

Check out the paper for more details.

Update:  It looks like Ars Technica got interested and put together a little write up on Dynamo.

Container Buildings

April 8, 2007

Container House, from

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It turns out someone down the street has one of those PODS. We’re moving within the next month or so, and it occurred to us that having one of those big white boxes parked in front of our house for the next few weeks is going to make our lives a lot easier when it comes time to move. We can pack at our convenience (not frantically on moving day), and have it trucked over to our new house … whenever. Pretty cool. And cheaper than movers.

But it also reminded me of something else: shipping container architecture.

This stuff is brilliant. Mix standard shipping containers with a bit of creativity, and you have extremely sturdy and pretty sweet looking buildings.

LOT-EK has some of the best conceptual examples of how shipping containers can be used to build interesting houses, offices, and other such things. has a gallery of builders and designs for structures built from shipping containers. Container City has descriptions and photos of real world projects. has some great designs.

Very, very cool. Anyone know if any container structures here in Portland?

(illustration courtesy of