Cloud computing is making a name for itself by challenging the cost of running traditional corporate data centers. But just as the cloud is reaching critical mass, a new challenger appears with an even lower cost model. They call it clod computing.
Just what is the “clod” and why is it cheaper? The business model is based on reducing infrastructure cost by getting computing resources for free. As explained by startup vendor Chip-On-A-Shingle, “A clod is simply a cluster of unwanted computers and peripherals all hooked together to create some really awesome processing.”
It’s true that there is a surplus of computers headed for landfills simply because they are no longer the new shiny thing. Most computers go to their graves perfectly functional. They’ve simply gotten too slow due to lack of memory or processing power to keep up with the latest software applications. Some are tossed for simple ugliness as UV exposure turns their once cream colored cases a nasty shade of orange.
“What gave me the idea,” said J. Unkmann, a pioneer in the new technology of OaaP (Obsolescence as a Platform), “was when I saw all these computers sitting out by the curb on trash day. It seemed like every other house had a tower or a monitor. They didn’t even bother putting them in the recycling bins. I got to thinking about all that processing power going to waste and decided to pick up a few and see what I could do with them.”
Unkmann’s breakthrough was in networking dozens, then hundreds, of old computer CPUs and selling the processing capability as a service. As he points out, “Any old 486 may not have much throughput, but when you have hundreds or thousands of cores you’ve got yourself a super-computer. I don’t dare take my array out of the country. The government has laws against exporting this advanced technology.”
Instead, Unkmann and a legion of similar visionaries are offering their services to anyone from caffeinated gamers to corporate IT departments. Unkmann’s below-ground data center has wooden racks filled from floor to ceiling with everything from old IBM PCs to brightly colored iMacs. The primary cost of the operation is electricity. “Heat could also be a problem, he remarked, but we live up North so it’s cold most of the time. Security isn’t much of a issue, either. Mom’s got a mean dog upstairs and the storm cellar door has been rusted shut for years.”
In addition to processor cycles, Chip-On-A-Shingle offers scalable storage as a service. “You can see how extensive our disk array is,” noted Unkmann pointing at a shelf stacked high with hard drives. “Some of these are only 40 GB or so, but people are throwing out computers with 250 GB drives these days. Just call up and tell me how many you want and I’ll plug ‘em in.”
Costs for clod computing are running considerably lower than those quoted by well known cloud service providers. J. Unkmann has flexible financing available that includes anything from PayPal contributions to bartering arrangements. “I’m most interested in PoD (Pizza on Demand),” he commented.
Connectivity arrangement are flexible, too. “We can wire up just about anything you want. Dial-up works just fine if you are on a tight budget. I’ve got maybe a thousand modem cards in a box over there. We can also go wireless. Just send me a time card for my prepaid phone.”
Major carriers and cloud service providers have been loath to embrace clod computing so far. But as the recession drags on, breakthrough ideas such as this may come to fill a very low end niche in the marketplace, until the economy picks up... hopefully by next April 1.