Sunday, March 04, 2007

Less' (as in not Moore's) Law and the Internet

Less law miht make you think I am some sort of anti-litigous nutter (which I am) but what I am writing about here is the same thing that John Ousterhout observed a while back (
"why arent operating systems geting faster as fast as hardware?").

The net got a lot bigger. we built a lot of big, fat pipes everywhere. Since 1987 (20 years), in accordance with Moore's law and it's variants for storage capacity and commincations bandwidth, we have had approximately 2^20, which is a staggering 1 Million-fold increase in the basic hardware performance on any metric you care to choose - check out the simplest thing, a cell phone - my cell has 1Gig of memory and a 100MHz processor, a 2Mbps wireless UMTS link and cost under 100$, so it must be true right?

Wrong. because of bloat. some of the bloat is sensible - p2p (storage localized to you rather than the data center or content provider) is there to beat the "tyranny of latency" thus a HUGE amount of storage is distributed around the world in 1 Billion pCs on the internet, just so's you don't have to wait 100msec to get it over your DSL line.

On the other hand the laptop I am typing on has a dual core intel procvessor and 2Gig of memory. in 1979, I used to use a DEC 10 which supported 300 simulataneous users doing engineering design on CAD software and it ony had 600kwords of memory (K,. not M and certainly not G) - try supporting 300 users on a Mac Book:)

Basically, there's no incentive for the software vendors to fix this because the price of gadgets keeps going down. However, service providers might think about it, as the energy consumption of the net keeps going UP. The heat death of the Internet is imminent, unless we come up with a scheme (e.g. like Bit torrent's tit for tat)

Perhaps we should have a Carbon Tax on profligate power consumption - we could start by instrumenting services and allowing people to do Ethical, Eco-Friendly Internet Browsing.

We could add meta data to HTTP/HTML (dare i say XML? - no way - XML is one of the MOST bloated bits of nonsense). And then users could vote with their feet (well, maybe with their Mice).

Governments could enforce it - Bush could invade countries that have hidden Weapons of Mass Deforestation and harbour carbon terrorists! No wait, he'd have to invade california first....oh well, thats the end of another fine idea...pip pip

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home