September 08, 2006

Mark Cuban Learns From Dr. Jim Gray

Mark Cuban, entrepreneur-turned-bball mogul, caught a lot of buzz lately for his statement that shipping hard drives full of movies around is better than downloading content:

The reality is that it's cheaper and faster to send (hard drives with terabytes of) content overnight via UPS than it is to download it over the Net. Brown is faster than the Net.

Mark is a tech industry genius, if only for his negotiating skills at getting $5 billion from Yahoo!. But I think he just read the interview with Dr. Jim Gray in ACM's Queue magazine, from June 2003. Dr. Jim gets interviewed by Dave Patterson, one of the inventors of RAID from Cal Berkeley:

Jim Gray (JG): I've been working with a bunch of astronomers lately and we need to send around huge databases. I started writing my databases to disk and mailing the disks. At first, I was extremely cautious because everybody said I couldn't do that—that the disks are too fragile. I started out by putting the disks in foam. After mailing about 20 of them, I tried just putting them in bubble wrap in a FedEx envelope. Well, so far so good. I have not had any disk failures of mailed disks.


JG: If I were to send you only one disk, the cost would be double—something like $400 to send you a computer versus $200 to send you a disk. But I am sending bricks holding more than a terabyte of data—and the disks are more than 50 percent of the system cost. Presumably, these bricks circulate and don't get consumed by one use.

Dave Patterson (DP): Do they get mailed back to you?

JG: Yes, but, frankly, it takes a while to format the disks, to fill them up, and to send around copies of data. It is easier than tape, however, both for me and for the people who get the data.

DP: It's just like sending your friends a really great movie or something.

JG: It's a very convenient way of distributing data.

DP: Are you sending them a whole PC?

JG: Yes, an Athlon with a Gigabit Ethernet interface, a gigabyte of RAM, and seven 300-GB disks—all for about $3,000.

DP: It's your capital cost to implement the Jim Gray version of "Netflicks."

The whole article was more on the subject of disk-versus-tape, but I'll bet Cuban still keeps up with his geek cred subscriptions. The rapidly falling cost of the new hotness, direct-to-disk backup, versus old and busted tape cartridges, is really making these previously wacky ideas sensible.

And this meme is from a guy who is really revered in the tech community. I was in a few meetings with Dr. Jim back at Tandem, and everyone hung on his every word. Made me feel like I had a few more IQ points just being in the same room.

Posted by jameshom at September 8, 2006 11:32 AM | TrackBack
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