Yahoo: Clouds or Fog

October 2, 2009

I found Steve Shankland’s “How Yahoo Is Betting Its Cloud Will Pay Off” a useful look at what Yahoo wants to be—someday. Unlike the frou frou in the Hewlett Packard “analysis” of mainframe computers, Mr. Shankland reports what Yahoo wizard Shelton Shugar, Yahoo’s senior vice president of cloud computing, explained in one or more conversations with Mr. Shankland. Several points struck me as interesting:

First, the focus and investment in cloud computing is aimed at some tough Yahoo problems. Here’s the statement that sums up this point:

although rebuilding Yahoo on its own cloud-computing foundation is expected to save some money, the primary motivation is to liberate the company’s programmers from the difficulties and drudgery of coding for gargantuan audience on the Internet.

The wording suggested to me cost control and a step toward reducing the work and rework method that has kept Yahoo from leveraging certain revenue opportunities.

Second, I found the reference to multi-tenancy fascinating. The passage I noted says:

it’s [the Yahoo cloud] got a variety of interfaces that many Yahoo services can use–a concept often called multitenancy–so they don’t have to build them on their own. For another, it’s global, handling thorny issues such as operating at large scale and replicating data for reliability and responsiveness. And it’s got a degree of elasticity built in, so the infrastructure can expand, contract, or otherwise adjust to changing work load demands.

Multi tenancy is the technology that has worked hard to tame and even harder to drive patent applications on its systems and methods into the ever efficient USPTO. I must admit I never thought of Yahoo operating a multi tenant system. I think that’s because Yahoo kept services separate in silos. Whatever was going on across silos was mostly a mystery to me. Within silos, my research suggested a fruit cake of solutions., bless its heart, is more homogeneous even though its dark heart pulses in tune with Oracle reads and writes.

Finally, Yahoo had performance problems and judging from this statement Yahoo still has performance problems. This is the passage I marked:

We need to be able to tweak it [Yahoo’s virtualization implementation] quite a bit for performance, to match it with our hardware,” Shugar said.

When I access Yahoo mail from outside the US, I have to deal with multiple time outs. In my opinion, the latency makes Yahoo unusable from some of the fine places I work. Even more annoying is the hit and miss results from Yahoo’s email search system. Once a week, the system reports I have no matches for my email queries. Not too good since I pay for a premium Yahoo service.

I hope Yahoo moves from “as is” to a platform that works better for me. My thought is that Yahoo is years behind in infrastructure, and if the economy goes south, cash will be tight and the job won’t be completed. If that happens, Yahoo adds to its already significant handicap.

Stephen Arnold, October 2, 2009


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