Planetary Computing and the Unavoidable Tidal Wave of Data

In this month’s Atlantic magazine, Mark Bowden presents a case study about the future of medicine by analyzing the self-directed system, which was previously used by Larry Smarr, Director of Research at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. From the article,

"At 63, he is engaged in a computer-aided study of the human body—specifically, his body. It’s the start of a process that he believes will help lead, within 10 years, to the development of “a distributed planetary computer of enormous power,” one that is composed of a billion processors and will enable scientists to create, among many other things, a working computational model of your body."

Notice in the quote above where Larry mentions a planetary computer with enough power and storage to record an endless supply of information coming from millions of people. While he states that this technology will be available in just 10 years, the fact is, this gigantic leap from today’s cloud systems to a planetary computer is certainly a new topic that is drawing attention within the cloud computing industry.

At the recent Cloud Computing Think Tank hosted by Dell and VMware, Robert Scoble helped moderate “The Future of Cloud Computing” discussion by focusing on this same topic, the creation of a massive cloud system. During the discussion, Dave Asprey also cited some of the medical devices he uses daily and how that data is uploaded to a cloud environment that consists of a massively scalable data set for researchers to leverage.

(Please visit the site to view this video)

It is evident that the recent ability to search and process data on a massive scale is gaining traction within the big data movement of cloud computing. However, the amount of real-time data gathering, storage, and processing required for these future ideas offer a complex challenge for architects, developers, administrators, etc.

The underlying cloud infrastructure for a planetary computer is also a major step from our current capabilities but it is intriguing  to hear about people’s ideas for the next step in cloud computing.

I am interested in your thoughts on these ideas- are these concepts realistic? Is 10 years way too soon? Do you have other ideas? Please add your comments below for a discussion.

About the Author: Stephen Spector