Mark Fletcher, Bloglines, posted on April 1st that he likes the move by GMail to offer 1 gig of storage per mailbox.
Ok, no argument with that. That is a good move, and it won’t be that expensive. I would estimate it costing $5 – $10 per user just for the storage once you add it all up. They will probably recover those costs in ads or whatever they decide to use for revenues.
Now, when he goes on to say that bandwidth, CPU and storage will be free and infinite… I say whoa trigger, where is my ‘flying car’? I hope that statement wasn’t an April Fools joke…. Mark, as your previous Dir. of Ops, don’t say this! This is dangerous talk and will lead to real service problems in short order.
Lets take Gmail for example. They probably just took your standard 7200 RPM, 200 GIG drive. If you just divide that into 200 active users, you will find that it doesn’t work so well. Disk drives are barely OK for just 1 user. What happens if the drive fails? These are interesting problems, and they need to be solved before you launch the service. Otherwise, if you make a wrong choice or ‘cut’ the wrong corner, you will either find yourself with outages or spending a lot more than you envisioned on the service.
Yahoo Mail ended up using a lot of NetApps for their storage. These cost significantly more than the typical IDE storage systems (or the google style of building a distributed system on top of a farm of PCs). I’ll be that GMail spent a lot of brain power doing it right (probably a nice distributed shared memory architecture over their standard machine type).
All of this stuff costs money, and it isn’t infinite. If you don’t believe me, go and get your own rack at a colo, fill it with decent computers, and give away some free bits. See, its not free… it’s just a lot cheaper.