Part 2, On Joyent and Cloud Computing "Primitives"

March 31, 2009 - by jason

In the first part of this series I made a key list of some of the underlying ideas at Joyent, that we believe that a company or even a small development team should be able to:

  1. Participate in a multi-tenant service
  2. Have your own instantiations of this service
  3. Install (and “buy”) the software to run on your own infrastructure
  4. Get software and APIs from Joyent that allows for the integration of all of these based on business desires and policies.

And said

The successful future “clouds” have to be more accessible, easier to use and to operate, and every single part of the infrastructure has to be addressable via software, has to be capable of being introspected into and instrumented by software and this addressability means that one can write policies around access, performance, privacy, security and integrity. For example, most of our customer really don’t care about the details, they care in knowing what is capable of providing 99.99% of their end users some great experience 99.99% of the time. These concepts have to be bake in.

I continue to think that from a developer’s perspective the future is closer to the SMART platform where Ramin’s comment on an older Joyeur article about EC2 versus Accelerators is relevant, let me quote him:

Whoever has the fewest number of steps and the fastest build/deploy time is likely to attract the most developers. Whoever can show that the operating cost scales linearly with use will have developers casting flower petals in their path :-)

As an app developer, I don’t care that it runs on Solaris, FreeBSD, or Mac-OS. I want it to work. I want an optimized deployment workflow and a simple way to monitor and keep things running.

That all said.

In the second part to this series I wanted to start talking about “primitives”. I’m saying “start” because we’re going to be going to be covering primitives over the next couple of posts.

I’m going to loosely define “Primitives” (now with a capital P) as of all the stuff underneath your application, your language and the specific software you’re using to store your data. So yes, we’re talking about hardware and the software that runs that hardware. Even though most Primitives are supposed to eventually be hidden from a developer they’re generally important to the business people and those that have to evaluate a technology platform. They are important parts of the architecture when one is talking about “access, performance, privacy, security and integrity”.

Previously, I’ve talked about a bit about Accelerators ( On Accelerators) and that fundamentally we deal with 6 utilities in cloud computing.

The fermions are the utilities where things take up space

1) CPU space
2) Memory space
3) Disc space

The bosons are the utilities where things are moving through space and time

4) Memory bus IO
5) Disc IO
6) Network IO

All of these utilities have physical maximums dictated by the hardware, and they have a limit I’d like to call How-Likely-Are-You-To-Do-This-From-One-Machine-Or-Even-At-All.

I’ll admit at this point of a particular way of thinking. I think “what is the thing?”, “how it is going to behave?”, “what are the minimums and maximums of this behavior?” and finally “why?”.

The minimum for us is easy. It’s zero. Software using 0% of the CPUs, 0 GB of memory, doing 0 MB/sec of disc IO and 0 Gbps of network traffic.

The maximums:

  1. Commercially available CPUs typically top out in the 3s of Ghz
  2. “Normal” servers typically have <128 GB of memory in them and the ratio of 4GB of memory per CPU core is a common one from HPC (we use this and it would mean that a 128 GB system would have 32 cores)
  3. Drives are available up to a terabyte in size but as they get larger you’re making performance trade-offs. And while you can get single namespaces into the petabyte range, even though ones >100 TB are still irritating to manage (for either the increased fragility of a larger and larger “space”, or the variation in latencies between a lot of independent “storage nodes”).
  4. CPUs and memory talk at speeds set by the chip and hardware manufacturers. Numbers like 24 Gbps are common.
  5. Disc IO can be in the Gbps without much of an issue
  6. For a 125 kb page with 20 objects on it, 1 Gbps of traffic will give you 122,400,000 unique page views per day and that in a 30 day month this is 3,672,000,000 page views (Check my math). Depending on how much stuff you have going on, this basically puts you in as a top 100 web property. With the number of public website is ~200 million (source), being in the top 200 is what … 0.00001% of the sites?

As something to think about and as an anchor, I remember seeing a benchmark of a “Thumper JBOD” attached to a system capable of saturating the 4×10Gbps NIC cards in the back of it. Yes the software was special, yes it was in C, and yes it was written with the explicit purpose of pushing that much data off of discs; however, think about that for a minute.

Imagine having a web property doing 120 billion monthly page views coming off of a single “system” that you can buy for a reasonable price. Starting from there, expand that architecture and I wonder with the “right software” and “primitives” where you would end up. If we change it from a web property to a gaming or a trading application, where would you end up? What is the taxonomy of applications out there (common and uncommon) and do we come up with the best architectures for each branch and leaf on that tree?

Please think about that anchor and a taxonomy for a few days and then I’m going to get into some of the key differentiators of our Primitives and answer some of the “Why?”.