When I started to seriously think about Cloud Computing a couple of years ago, the metaphor that first came to mind was that the IT industry was now entering its Cambrian age.
The Cambrian geological period marked a profound change in life on Earth. Before it, most organisms were very simple, composed of individual cells, sometimes organized into colonies, such as sponges. But, starting around 550 million years ago, and over the following 70 or 80 million years, evolution accelerated by an order of magnitude and ushered what is termed the Cambrian Explosion, - a highly diverse set of larger, more complex life forms.
Although with far shorter time periods, the IT industry has been going through something similar. Over several decades, we were perfecting our digital components - microprocessors, memory chips, disks, networking and the like, and we used them to build a variety of computers. Then about ten years ago, the digital components started to become powerful, reliable, inexpensive, and ubiquitous. The acceptance of the Internet introduced a whole new set of technologies and standards for interconnecting all these components, not only in IP networks but across the World Wide Web, different kinds of communications, computer Grids, distributed applications, and so on.
Today, digital components are becoming embedded into just everything and connected to the Internet through an IP address, so that personal devices of all sorts, - consumer electronics, medical equipment, cars, buildings, and just about the whole physical infrastructure around us,- is now part of IT’s life forms. We are using variations of the same digital components to build very large servers and supercomputers with hundreds of thousands of nodes. When we look into the future, we see a not far-off world of billions of mobile devices, trillions of smart-sensors, and a variety of million-node servers, all optimized and co-evolving to support different kinds of workloads. Indeed, it feels like IT is now entering its own Cambrian age.