Eastbound and ... up?
LONG WAY TO GO
Welcome to Mostly Cloudy! Today: AWS vows to spend billions to fix one of its biggest problems, Google follows convention, and get ready for the nuclear data center.
Photo: Wikipedia user Patrickneil/cc 4.0
The easiest joke in cloud computing — “not known for humor or outsize personalities,” according to a New York Times article that lives rent-free in my head — involves blaming a collection of buildings in Northern Virginia for literally anything that goes wrong with the internet. On Friday, AWS decided it had seen enough.
Over the next several years, AWS will invest up to $35 billion to expand and upgrade its presence in Virginia, home to the data centers that make up its us-east-1 region. Those buildings house the company’s most important — and most fragile — computing resources, and it is long past time for an upgrade.
AWS doesn’t like to talk about it, but a staggering number of people rely on the stability of the us-east-1 region every minute of every day. It’s honestly a credit to AWS that its oldest region works as well as it does, but when us-east-1 goes down, people who know nothing about cloud infrastructure computing notice immediately. And that happens more often in Virginia than in any other region in which AWS operates, by a long shot.
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin said AWS would establish “multiple” data center campuses across the state, which could allow the company to transition customers from the current, creaky infrastructure to its newer designs without a lot of disruption. (Theoretically.) AWS customers and general internet users aren’t the only ones who would benefit from a more robust us-east-1; for some reason, AWS also runs a surprisingly large number of its own maintenance services out of the region, which compounded the effects of a prolonged outage in late 2021.
As cloud customers start to grumble about their bills and wonder if they could actually handle their own infrastructure again, stability will be one of key selling points for cloud computing over the rest of this decade. Outages will always happen, but AWS — and its competitors — are betting billions of dollars that they can run internet infrastructure better than you can, and for the last fifteen years, they’ve been right.
If AWS manages to turn us-east-1 from one of its biggest problems to one of its greatest assets, it will continue to print money.
A conventional company
I have to imagine I trot out Google’s 2004 IPO letter written by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin more often than most, but the opening lines have always stuck with me, mostly because they would later prove so ridiculous: “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.”
Google did the most conventional company thing possible Friday, laying off 12,000 employees after waiting for every other big tech company to go first. Sure, the economy looks shaky and advertising is always the first business expense to go (ask me how I know), but Google (sorry, Alphabet) still recorded almost $14 billion in third-quarter profit last year, and analysts think it will do better in the fourth quarter when it reports earnings in February.
Google chose the conventional path after following the same convention that every tech company laying off people this winter did over the last two years: it hired a ton of people without any real idea what to do with them, because fortune favors the brave, or something.
“I’m deeply sorry for that,” said CEO Sundar Pichai. “Today's news primarily impacted positions that were non-customer facing, non-engineering, and operational in nature,” Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian told employees.
Thoughts and prayers.
Around the enterprise
What’s believed to be the first nuclear-powered data center will come online later this year in Pennsylvania, about a hundred miles from Three Mile Island.
Capital One also joined the ranks of companies firing employees, citing improved operating efficiency from investments in enterprise technology built by companies laying off people.
Thanks for reading — see you next week!