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3/16/2010
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Cloud Connect: U.S. IT In Forefront

The Cloud Connect conference opens with a warning on how the rest of the world views the U.S.-driven cloud computing phenomenon.

During World War II, U.S. intelligence estimated that Germany was producing 1,400 Panther tanks a month, but skeptical mathematicians looked at evidence of tanks destroyed, captured or photographed and concluded they were producing 256 a month. The actual number, wartime records proved, was 255 a month.

How had the mathematicians done so much better than the intelligence community? He asked. The answer lay in the fact that manufacturers painted a serial number on each tank and careful examination revealed how many were coming out of the factories each month. In a similar manner, Rosen has applied his market research talent to the sizes of individual vendors' clouds and concluded they total the following daily average of virtual servers:

  • Amazon maintains about 83,000 servers in its Elastic Compute Cloud at multiple data centers.
  • GoGrid maintains 181 servers.
  • Rackspace maintains 488.

Both GoGrid and Rackspace number their servers sequentially, said Rosen, while Amazon Web Services has a coded numbering scheme that includes alphanumerics. He's been able to translate Amazon's code into numbers that he says tells him the total number of servers.

Since 2006, Amazon's EC2 has fired up a total of 23,192,900 servers or virtual machine workloads in its data centers, indicating use of the cloud for infrastructure computing may be more extensive than many people realize, Rosen said.

Rosen shares his research findings in a blog.

GoGrid has launched 75,391 and Rackspace 165,975, based on figures derived through September 2009, he said.

Rodney Joffe, senior VP and senior technologist at Neustar, a IT consulting firm, said just as cloud vendors may have greater reach than many realize, so does the underworld of cloud exploiters, who take over business and individual computers and form a virtual cloud based on their bots. They can activate and use their version of cloud services for the distribution of spam, malware, and phishing initiatives. The Conflicker worm infects over 6 million computers worldwide, despite efforts to eradicate it. Its distribution represents one of the largest clouds in existence, Joffe said.

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