The Big Switch

My wife had an outpatient surgery appointment this morning so while I waited for her I decided to catch up on some reading.  The topic for this morning was Nicholas Carr's new work, "The Big Switch".  In case you don't recall Nicholas is the author of the now infamous book, "Does IT Matter".  Anyway, his latest work which focuses on utility computing (the area I'm presently focused on here at Microsoft) and the impact he sees this having on the corporate and consumer space is quite interesting. 

First, the analogy's that the author chose are actually quite fitting (and ones frankly I've used myself before to consider the problem).  He chooses to use the electrical system as the analogy for the future of computing and if you have a look at some of the large scale systems out there in this space you can see why.  Most of the systems in this space are built from different machine types (commodity hardware) as was the early electrical system.  Secondly, things such as how to meter the system, determine the maximum load of the system are all key questions that need to be answered (and I might add are indeed tough problems).

Finally, and this was frankly the bit I found most interesting, was the discussion of the social impact these utilities (be that electricity or utility based computing) will (or have) had on society as a whole.  The author points out to the impact electrification had on the house wife.  Previously, she tended to have helpers (family, hired help) that brought either brought the family as a whole together (since all had a part to play) or simply made the load easier bear.  While the introduction of new electrical appliances however these jobs, individually, became easier but collectively the work was larger since those helping no longer saw the need to help since the individual tasks became much easier....  All of this leads me wondering what the social implications of the work that we, Google, Amazon, etc do will be in the long run?