Next Monday, I will start at Google, in the Cloud Platform team.
I’ve been watching that platform, and especially Google App Engine (GAE), since it started in 2008. It shaped my thoughts on Cloud Computing and on the tension between PaaS and IaaS. In my first post about GAE, 4.5 years ago, I wrote about that tension:
History is rarely kind to promoters of radical departures. The software industry is especially fond of layering the new on top of the old (a practice that has been enabled by the constant increase in underlying computing capacity). If you are wondering why your command prompt, shell terminal or text editor opens with a default width of 80 characters, take a trip back to 1928, when IBM defined its 80-columns punch card format. Will Google beat the odds or be forced to be more accommodating of existing code?
This debate (which I later characterized as “backward-compatible vs. forward-compatible”) is still ongoing. App Engine has grown a lot and shed its early limitations (I had a lot of fun trying to engineer around them in the early days). Google’s Cloud Platform today is also a lot more than App Engine, with Cloud Storage, Compute Engine, etc. It’s much more welcoming to existing applications.
The core question remains, however. How far, and how quickly will we move from the abstractions inherited from seeing the physical server as the natural unit of computation? What benefits will we derive from this transformation and will they make it worthwhile? Where’s the next point of equilibrium in the storm provoked by these shifts:
- IT management technology was ripe for a change, applying to itself the automation capabilities that it had brought to other domains.
- Software platforms were ripe for a change, as we keep discovering all the Web can be, all the data we can handle, and how best to take advantage of both.
- The business of IT was ripe for a change, having grown too important to escape scrutiny of its inefficiency and sluggishness.
These three transformations didn’t have to take place at the same time. But they are, which leaves us with a fascinating multi-variable equation to optimize. I believe Google is the right place to crack this nut.
This is my view today, looking at the larger Cloud environment and observing Google’s Compute Platform from the outside. In a week’s time, I’ll be looking at it from the inside. October me may scoff at the naïveté of September me; or not. Either way, I’m looking forward to it.