Reply to post: Computation consumes time, distance, and electricity

Pumping billions into data centres won't guarantee you an empire

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Computation consumes time, distance, and electricity

There's a video out there of Grace Hopper demonstrating the length of wire that is traversed in one nanosecond - she makes the important point of how we have to take the speed of light into account when designing computers. Our current computer science training glosses over how exactly the computation gets rendered onto the silicon - since current dogma assumes a von Neumann processor, there's no point in thinking about exactly where a bit of information is when the process calls for it..

Turns out when you scale out to the cloud this is a very very big deal.. assumptions that only cost you a few seconds or a few watts on your desktop quickly scale to hours and megawatts at cloud scale. Consider the architectural design of Facebook, and what a bit has to go through when someone interacts with the web site.. merely pressing the 'Like' button calls up at least a few roundtrips for their API and then to refresh the UI.. even though all you are transmitting is a single bit of information, you've engaged (and someone has paid for) hundreds of miles of wiring and millions of bits as this messaging works its way through the internet, to their datacenter, and through the layers of virtual machines and interpreters involved in their total process.

The reduction-ad-absurdum of this kind of thinking is the Yo app - a power and information efficiency analysis of that application sending a single bit of information would be most interesting.

The future will probably have higher energy costs and investors will demand that companies account for the bytes and watts that their business processes consume, and lay these out in their financial statements alongside the profit these are expected to produce. Companies will not be able to hand-wave their income statement to some mythical situation where billions of eyeballs somehow translate to billions of dollars.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019