As the popular Belinda Carlisle song, Heaven is a place on earth, goes, while we talk about all this virtualised computing power and clouds, somewhere there is a real physical CPU doing real work somewhere on earth.
In some data center your cloud application is taking up physical space, using real power, creating an impact somewhere, and flashing an LED in some network panel. We often get ahead of ourselves and talk about the unlimited cloud computing available to us, but in reality everything has limits, and cloud computing is no different.
If there were no limits, then why does Amazon insist in only giving the majority of people only 20 EC2 images out of the gate without first asking permission from the Amazon head teacher, "please sir can we have some more"?
Rory Cellan-Jones, a BBC journalist, has had the good fortune of seeing one of these massive data centers for himself as he prepares an upcoming report into the world of cloud computing. Situated in the small town of Quincy in Washington state, Microsoft has a huge data center that while currently powers a whole host of search and web related activities, is about to start powering Microsofts venture into cloud computing.
In addition to Microsoft, Yahoo are also neighbors taking up space in this huge out-of-town center.
It makes a whole lot of sense that these huge data centers are in remote areas where security can be met easier and the costs are low. From what I understand, cooling such data centers is one of the problems these guys have, so as cloud computing gets more popular, we're likely to see these data centers housed near places that have a naturally cool environment.
Personally I enjoy see the "real" side of our ever virtual world which reminds us that no matter how far away we divorce ourselves from the "bare metal", we still trigger a transistor somewhere.
The BBC article can be found here.