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back to article What Carthage tells us about Amazon, Fukushima and the cloud

Sometimes, the Anglo Saxon parts of our language, rich though they are in epithets, insults and methods of swearing, simply aren't enough to allow one to express the complete and total lunacy of some people out there. In such cases new words are required, say, "McKibben". The need for that particular one is because a certain …

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Silver badge

'that's why the Romans ploughed the fields of Carthage with salt'

Just to be picky, no they didn't.

Nice article though, thanks.

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Salt sowers

I hate to be pedantic, but the whole "Romans sowing salt on the land" after the defeat of the Cartheginians is widely perceived to be untrue, so to make assertions that the Romans actually did so is pushing it a bit.

Still, it made me read a story about cloud computing though - so who's the sucker?

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Headmaster

"If a student changes the course of history, he's usually failing his exams."

Indeed pure myth. AFAIK the salt/carthage myth was made up by a 19th century PhD student, but it was in analogy to various middle eastern traditions (stories? myths?) about salting conquered terrain.

The economics just don't add up: salt was an expensive enough commodity, and to damage at great cost a terrain you've just acquired is doubly stupid. Plus salt is rather water-soluble, eh, so this is damage rather quickly washed away.

After the first toxic shock of saltwater + pollution washing on, the fertility of the terrain may actually go up, from all the nutrients and silt washed on.

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Headmaster

Throwing salt away - unlikely

'Salary' originally meant being part-paid in salt, which was a scarce commodity in Roman times.

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Feels like a cross between CDO's meets Big Four scenario :-)

You think you've diversified your risk by using several different suppliers for your various services, until the day comes you find out they've each moved all their IS infrastructure into one of the few big cloud providers, one of which has just suffered an outage....

What's the odds some bright(?) spark at CloudA is already pricing an entry level cloud hosting package which is actually a slice of competitor CloudB's larger package.

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Grenade

Local = within half a mile?

I think even the Grauniad's definition of 'local' extends a shade more than the mile or so any tsunami water might reach in land.

Otherwise, yeah. For the UK local = starvation without any of nature's interventions, given we only produce around 60% of the food we require.

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The fall of Rome??

The real lesson of the Carthage analogy is that the concentration of one's resources into a single place make you vulnerable to complete failure if you lose control of that place. It happened to Carthage. It happened to Rome. And it happened to Amazon.

There is an issue that the Amazon's of the world will avoid at all costs. They provide a story about fast rollover and redundant sites that is perfect for individual virtual machines or blocks of storage. But, the cost of providing for a macro failure is beyond them, or rather, their accountants won't allow it! If they have three data centers, they would in reality need to provide a fourth unused data center to guarantee up-time if one center fails. This increases cost by one third, and so is unacceptable.

I think there is a market for a lifeboat service that offers an on-call data center shareable between the large providers and providing excess capacity for failure rollovers. One way to fund this is an investment pool by the large clouders. of course, available space doesn't have to be dead space. Cost offsets could come from interrruptible uses such as RPG hosting, SETI, or university HPC work than can tolerate some schedule hits.

There are still substantial technical issues to migrating data and users, but these are tractable with a small amount of extra investment. Of course, tha big clouders will have to agree to work together and find the money. Maybe the government's CTO could find a spare billion to do this.

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Thumb Down

Surely

Surely you could have made your point without holding someone else up to ridicule?

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Silver badge

Thinking a little further, however...

The argument in favour of diverse sources of supply is quite plausible as far as it goes. Like most economic arguments, however, it is derived from an infinitely thin slice of reality - over-abstracted, if you like.

What happens, for instance, if we run out the fuels that aircraft and ships need to carry food around the world? Sure, we could fall back on blimps and sailing ships - but try getting those to transport the amount of food we need nowadays, before it rots.

Or what if those countries that, in their simple-minded old-fashioned way, have continued to build up their agricultural sectors, decide to stop sending so much food to us? Thinking of a dozen reasons why they might do this is left as an exercise for the student.

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Headmaster

Not thinking far enough?

1) The clue's in your question: "the fuels that aircraft and ships need". We already use different fuels for ships and boats (e.g. kerosene, diesel, nuclear, horse-drawn on the canals, and yes, wind) and individuals can change their use as and when they need. You've also forgotten that most food is transported over/in-land by rail/road - so add electricity (or electrified rails), petrol, coal/wood (for steam), and, again, wind. Most countries can also choose between land or sea for added diversity.

Foods necessarily transported by air are luxuries, so not relevant in a famine, and rotting is optional - there's these things called refrigeration and canning...

2) No country 'sends us food'. People send us food, or we go there and take it, in return for money. If every, say, Ethiopian stopped selling us grain, we could get it from, say, Kansas (or vice versa) and no user would notice. Fungible products, and trade, FTW! :-)

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Headmaster

Thinking far enough?

1) The clue's in your question: "the fuels that aircraft and ships need". We already use different fuels for ships and boats (e.g. kerosene, diesel, nuclear, horse-drawn on the canals, and yes, wind) and individuals can change their use as and when they need. You've also forgotten that most food is transported over/in-land by rail/road - so add electricity (or electrified rails), petrol, coal/wood (for steam), and, again, wind. Most countries can also choose between land or sea for added diversity.

Foods necessarily transported by air are luxuries, so not relevant in a famine, and rotting is optional - there's these things called refrigeration and canning...

2) No country 'sends us food'. People send us food, or we go there and take it, in return for money. If every, say, Ethiopian stopped selling us grain, we could get it from, say, Kansas (or vice versa) and no user would notice. Fungible products, and trade, FTW! :-)

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