Thursday, April 20, 2006

From the vaults: Google velcro

At a keynote at Usenix a few years ago I heard Rob Pike describe the Google app dev environment. He gleefully described the cheapness of the hardware Google used, at least to get going, complete with photos of loose, stacked commodity disk drives held to racks with good old Velcro. Google, the killer app, uses cheap disks that are expected to fail. The company has been able to fashion Linux to make up the difference, creating a self-healing system, although day by day, individual humans - you might call them "Healers" - must go down the racks swapping-in good disk drives for bad, using velcro.

The biggest stories in recent application development history -- and Google -- are so big that they are pretty much hidden. Both applications required a big helping of chutzpah to happen at all. And both disrupted existing industries, creating whole new's and Google's development managers stuck their necks out and trusted clusters of cheap computers to deliver the goods. In Amazon's case, it was personalized shopping. For Google, it was lightening fast Internet searches that fed-up usually useful results along with targeted advertising. And velcro, which I used today, after scavenging about, to adhere a hub to a wall.

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