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Amazon: Why Not Patent Flying Data Centers?

January 3rd 2017

First of all we wish our fellow medium writers and readers a very happy new year, may 2017 be a great year for all!

According to recent press report, Amazon has recently filed for a patent on “flying warehouses” — essentially kind of airborne fulfillment centers that would be stocked with a certain amount of inventory and positioned near a location where Amazon predicts demand for certain items will soon spike. Good idea right? Flying warehouses make all sense for Amazon as they appear to be taking drone delivery seriously.

Now flying warehouses are related to the eCommerce business side of Amazon. However as we all know Amazon is also a leading public cloud provider. This fact can make one to naturally wonder whether the same idea couldn`t be applied to data centers within the context of AWS! :) Crazy and stupid idea?

What could be the use case for flying data centers?

Well, let say we are traveling on an advanced driverless car powered by the latest image recognition SaaS that is hosted on a popular public cloud provider such as AWS. Now while the car is moving through a busy road with plenty of traffic lights and road signs, it is very important that the latency is very low in order to give enough time for the software to process different road signs near real-time and then send the feedback to the car. Otherwise the car will not be able to for example come to an stop on a stop sign!

The hypothetical example above is very sensitive to latency and so will ideally require the virtual machine(s) doing the image processing closer to the car in order to prevent a potential road crash. Now imagine that instead of the data center hosting the virtual machine(s) being located in another city, it is actually flying right above the city where the car is.

Of course there are some obvious challenges with flying data centers, the most obvious one is how effective the data is transmitted and at what rate. The simplest and probably the most likely way of flying data centers transmitting data will be through beaming via electromagnetic waves, similar to satellites and cell phones. This method of transmission is of course much slower than the wired transmission via fibre optics used by modern data centers. Another challenge of flying data centers is the potential for collision with other airborne objects like airplanes and choppers. Even if you consider putting flying data centers in orbit to escape the earth`s airborne hazards, you still need to consider a small chance of potential collision with other objects in orbit ( not to even count the very small chance but possible meteor collision!).

Finally, let`s consider the use case of IoT and the challenges that billions of connected devices bring to mainstream cloud computing. A recent report by Cisco predicts the following:

● By 2020, the gigabyte (GB) equivalent of all movies ever made will cross the global Internet every 2 minutes.

● Globally, IP traffic will reach 511 terabits per second (Tbps) in 2020, the equivalent of 142 million people streaming Internet high-definition (HD) video simultaneously, all day, every day.

● Global IP traffic in 2020 will be equivalent to 504 billion DVDs per year, 42 billion DVDs per month, or 58 million DVDs per hour.

To cope with such high volume of data, there will be need to analyse the most time critical data at the network edge i.e. close to where the data is generated instead of sending vast amounts of device generated data to the cloud for analysis and then having to wait extra crucial seconds for the results to come back to you.

What do you think? Should Amazon patent flying data centers? :)

Happy New Year!

Posted by Bambordé Baldé, Co — Founder | Twitter: @cloudbalde | LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/bambordé|

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