Information Week:

Sometime in the next few weeks, is scheduled to release Amazon Web Services 4.0, the next version of the electronic retailer’s toolset for developing applications that tie into its Web site. It’s the next step in Amazon’s strategy is to create a “programmable” Web site. Over the past two years, 50,000 developers have downloaded earlier versions of Amazon Web Services. InformationWeek senior editor-at-large John Foley asked Al Vermeulen (pictured right), Amazon’s chief technology officer, about how the model works.

The whole interview is great. I love this quote from Al Vermeulen:

There’s a host of [services], probably 15 or 20, maybe more, and they range from components like personalization and search applications, to fulfillment applications, supply-chain services, and on and on. The basis is, let’s think about everything we do at and about how we break it up into individual pieces, smaller pieces. What we try to do is break apart a piece of the business. From a technology point of view, that becomes a service. From an organizational point of view, it becomes an autonomous team with their own mission, and then we work on defining the interface to get to that service. We try to solidify that interface and make it permanent and robust. It’s kind of a bottom-up, decentralized way of building your technology, as opposed to a top-down way where you try to make all the technology look like one piece.

It’s very exciting to see where Amazon is going with this…

Toyota Manages Quick Recovery from Fire

Wall Street Journal
8 May 1997
Page A-1
by Valerie Reitman staff reporter

Toyota Motor Shows Its Mettle
After Fire Destroys Parts Plant

KARIYA, Japan — No one knows what sparked the fire that roared through Aisin Seiki Co.’s Factory No. 1 here before dawn on Saturday, Feb. 1, leveling the huge auto-parts plant. But one thing is clear: The crisis-control efforts that followed it dramatically illustrate one reason Toyota Motor Corp. is among the world’s most admired and feared manufacturers.
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Decentralized Intelligence – What Toyota can teach the 9/11 commission about intelligence gathering. By Duncan Watts

I found this a captivating read, though it’s about risk management and problem solving, not decentralization of power per se. The vivid lessons excerpted in the full entry are a reminder that complete risk analysis is impossible, so the only sure strategy is containment.

We don’t do that often enough in software — tracing how errors propagate as ever-longer chains of legacy software are automated together…
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I know it’s a little rude to just post links and little more, but I at least wanted to note four papers I came across today. The first is pretty fanciful, but I think it actually speaks to a real set of problems for programming “mass quantities” of computing devices: Spray Computers: Frontiers of Self-Organization for Pervasive Computing Marco Mamei, Franco Zambonelli Dipartimento di Scienze…

Abstract: We envision a future in which clouds of microcomputers can be sprayed in an environment to provide, by spontaneously networking with each other, an endlessly range of futuristic applications. However, beside the vision, spraying may also act as a powerful metaphor for a range of other scenarios that are already under formation, from ad-hoc networks of embedded and mobile devices to worldwide distributed computing.

The 2003 Blackout – Reference and Analysis from the Kennedy School of Government, particularly pointing to the US-Canada Power System Outage Task Force. Final Report on the August 14, 2003 Blackout in the United States and Canada: Causes and Recommendations.
April 2004. 238 pages.

These last two seem like important theoretical contributions, regarding heirarchical composability of policies in coalitions. I really ought to come back to this and write more soon…

Flexible Regulation of Distributed Coalitions – Ao, Minsky

Developing Multiagent Systems: The Gaia Methodology – Zambonelli, Jennings, Wooldridge