I just did something remarkably easy that reminds me about why Amazon is winning and will continue to win. I started up three different databases and then threw them away. For anyone who has worked in the Amazon ecosystem, this may seem like just an ordinary thing. Indeed it is, but let me take you back in time.
In 1985, I took my second summer internship at Xerox in El Segundo, CA. I reported to a guy named Jack Starkey who was one of those starched-shirt engineers of the first order. I loved the guy. My assignment was to build a data dictionary for the parts and service database that Xerox used to keep track of the maintenance of their top of the line laser printers. Xerox was considering migrating from an IBM VSAM hierarchical database to something called Focus, a new fangled relational database. My job was to insure that I had all of the definitions correct. I asked Jack if I could use the new Xerox Star Workstation in order to complete my job, which was essentially all about documentation. He agreed.
My first internship was more interesting because it was more technical. I actually wrote a financial modeling program. But my boss was loathed and feared in that area and a lot of people hoped everything he did would fail. That guy, whose name I actually cannot remember Jim somebody, was a notorious pipe smoker back in those days when you could smoke in the office. He liked something called Amphora Green. My project did not fail, although there were some interesting twists. My job was specifically to make a realtime pricing model that salesmen could use to develop a quote for customers based upon the way they actually did their electronic printing. At the time, most computer printing came out of printers attached to mainframes and the most popular one was the IBM 3800. But the Xerox printer had duplex and quadplex, meaning it could print on both sides of the same sheet of paper. My program would show the long term economic benefits of using the Xerox tech which often came down to power and supply costs. So I learned 'Total Cost of Ownership' at a fairly young age. The MBA intern with whom I was working had her HP calculator. My code was being held up because she was late in delivering a 'cost matrix' to me. I sat down with her finally to discover that she had just been plugging numbers into a formula run on her HP 12C. The MBAs didn't sit with the engineers, you see, so getting this meeting took weeks. I had to explain to her that this CP/M based computer could actually do that kind of formula calculation. She was shocked that Xerox actually made a computer that could do the same things as an HP 12C. We all learned a little something. I recall later on that a cat named Burkhart, whom I seem to have never forgiven in person, got the chance to present the wonders of my completed program to Xerox folks in London, while I went back to school that September.
But that was the pace of things in the mid 80s. Three months just to build the equivalent of a DDL script to help move data from one database technology to another. Today I do that in realtime. Another dude I vaguely recall had the radical attitude I might have enjoined were I not so desperate to drive a BMW. He advised me to get all my hacking done before the implementation of ACF2. What we were dealing with was the gap between the time you could get engineers to understand a technology, the time it took them to implement it, the time it was adopted by the business, and the time that an actual payoff could be seen. Then there was the time it took for the capacity of the business to exceed the design limits of the system in place and the time it took for that problem to arise to the level of necessity and a new replacement process begun.
In the 80s, all of that was glacial. Moore's Law kept us all expectant about the future, mostly in terms of how much of all of the business processes could be captured outside of the pocket calculators of MBAs, but the process of business adaptation as well as the process of re-sizing systems have continued to be slow all the way to the current day. Amazon has emerged to understand these kinds of problems very well because of how e-commerce begat DevOps. And yet the majority of businesses still use 'Enterprise' architecture in their systems implementations. 'Enterprise', for all intents and purposes, was the term used to convince IT buyers that UNIX based servers could handle all of the business once only owned by the sort of mainframe computers that spit data out to Xerox and IBM printers. And then came e-business which introduced the 'n-tier' solutions, multiple tiers required because no single vendor, not even IBM, could provide hardware, networking and software solutions for the new class of applications being envisioned and built.
I don't have a buzzword we could reliably depend upon to be what this time of transition to cloud architecture will be. 'Post-Enterprise' is all I will hazard. However, what processes can and will be improved is a lot clearer. So I hope to speak to you, my fellows still using the systems designed with on-premise Enterprise class architectures in mind. That's my aim for this year, to help you see what I see and what my company, Full360, can do to help you realize some of the promises of computing that were made a long time ago and have been a long time coming.
So what I just did, single-handedly, today and yesterday, was build three different database servers Oracle 11g, MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server. They were each 4 core 15GB servers with at least 300GB of SSD. They took about 15 minutes to configure and secure, with automated backups in an alternate data center. I was able to connect to them directly through a secure VPN I had previously setup with my RazorSQL client using JDBC. Today, I'm shutting down the Oracle and MySQL services because my customer only has the MSSQL license. But it was actually fun playing with the alternatives. Fun!
What's going to happen next is that I will start using AWS Config to keep track of all of my compute and networking assets for my customers. I'll be able to tell, at a glance, which server is doing what in which stack in which VPC. I will be able to manage services to an even greater extent for this and my other customers.
Back in 2001, I had a dream about a company I might work for in the future. I called the company 3DB because as a fundamental competency I wanted people who understood object, relational and multidimensional database technologies. We could then build the kinds of systems I envisioned. Now I work at Full360, but the 3DB concept is reality. We use multiple database technologies in our data management framework called ElasticBI. I didn't envision them running in a cloud architecture, but that is even better. Stay tuned.