The api  is so simple it's absurd. Looking at the design I just keep on asking myself, "but how will it perform?" And the answer is, I don't know. But what I do know is that because of the simplicity of the design, if this compute model catches on, it'll be the start of a new computing paradigm—probably the first genuine attempt at something we can agree is cloud.
The essence of the model is that "caching", in whatever form, is abstracted away. It is up to the architects of the system to ensure that the system performs well on a wide variety of compute scenarios. Let me explain. Usually, in a model like App Engine, you worry about how you'll represent your data in the Datastore, how you'll shard, how you'll use Memcache, and what type of batch jobs you'll run to reduce the amount of dynamic computation that is done on a request. On Manta, you just store your data to their object store and process it as needed. You let the system figure out data locality, what to cache, on which node to perform the compute, etc.
As I said, I have no idea how, or if, this will perform, but as far as abstraction level goes, it's perfect. This is where pricing becomes an issue. At 40µ$/GB/s it works out
to 14.4¢/GB/hr with no mention or guarantee of the performance of the system. If the compute is slow, or the node is overloaded for tasks, what can a customer do? What if the compute is not limited by cpu but access to the underlying object store. Sure they say the compute is done at the edge, but what if they stick 4TB of data on a node that's the compute equivalent of an Intel Atom? So many questions about performance!
All that said, congratulations to the Joyent team. The HN response so far has been muted, but I think time will reveal Manta to be an important step towards true cloud computing.
Hopefully, Manta will mature enough to get a chance to kiss a girl.
As far as pricing goes, you're charged for the wall clock time spent running inside the zone, so if your task queues up because the system is jammed, you're not paying for that. Task runtime can be affected on busy systems, but this has been in the noise for the jobs we've looked at. We're also looking to see how the system gets used in order to understand whether it would be useful to have other pricing options (e.g., tiers of service with guaranteed resources).
As for performance: we're using the system internally every day, and we've found the performance very good. Of course, the best way to find out is to evaluate it on your own workload. :)
Finally, you'll probably be interested to read Keith's summary of our hardware choices here:
As for the "big data" interpretation, I don't have much to say.
There it is. The central dogma of "big data".
But there is a dissenting view...
Jaron Lanier said, and I paraphrase: A computer will pass the Turing Test when the human running it becomes dumb enough to be fooled.
I have been very skeptical that the "discoveries" that big data presents to us will only be useful inasmuch as we dumb down our criteria for what discoveries are.
I suspect that anyone that has tried to model data and find real insight with it for any amount of time shares this skepticism.
Last night I helped analyze an issue on Manta regarding job run time, and used DTrace to measure all process run time from all servers. It was a lot of data, but easily awk'd (in this case, not enough data to warrant map reduce), at which point I found run times from a certain set of processes that were equivalent to the job latency - taking us towards the fix.
That's just last night. A large number of real fixes have come from being able to quickly gather and process performance data, and from that spot latency outliers, unexpected workloads, and patterns over time.
I have spent time modeling systems. I wouldn't say I was left feeling skeptical of data-driven analysis, rather, I was left appreciating how complex real computer systems are, which defy accurate modeling. That's not to say that modeling is inferior or not worth doing -- it's another tool. I'll use whatever I can to fix my customer issues the fastest.
Edit: Ok, so it's called "Joyent Manta Storage Service" and the tutorial talks about creating accounts on the joyent cloud. So this is a Service, not a software? Sorry about the confusion then... I thought it would be a new software for SmartOS or Solaris...
That would at least avoid lock-in to Joyent's infrastructure.
It's a good question. Sounds like we should document or write up a blog post about the gory details.
Recall that writes always create new objects. The storage nodes are selected dynamically for each write, so in practice that won't fail for storage node failure.
The more likely way to get a 500 from the data path is if parts of the metadata tier become unavailable. As with storage nodes, such failures are typically transient. They're also unlikely to affect reads. Writes may experience transient errors as the metadata tier recovers from failures.
[Edit for grammar.]
I.e. Manta seems to emphasize the ability to use existing tools in a distributed fashion, rather than forcing you to learn a new language with unfamiliar syntax.
OMG A DATABSAE THINGIE! IMMA POST THE COMIC WHAT SAYS THE CURSE WORD!
From what I understand: KVM is hardware virtualization, SmartOS is(a distro for) OS virtualization and Docker is process virtualization?
It also inherited a subset of the Solaris community which is jaded by the popularity of Linux and its "primitive" toolset. You can often see them rolling their eyes and making condescending comments as the rest of the open-source world moves on.
The huge potential for all this is to contribute these wonderful tools to Linux, but there seems to be reluctance on that front.
The code is there for the taking. FreeBSD has ported ZFS and DTrace. Guys at LLNL are using illumos ZFS code as upstream for ZFS on Linux. Others are working on DTrace.
One can wait for efforts like that to keep progressing, help in whatever way they can, or just use illumos based distros (e.g. SmartOS) now and not wait around. Choice is a wonderful thing.
I am simply observing that porting these tools to Linux doesn't seem to be a priority for either the Linux community (which is already incubating multiple "home-made" alternatives such as btrfs, lxc userland tools etc.) or the SmartOS community (which can understandably be tempted to keep these tools as proprietary "killer apps").
I believe that, if there had been a more concerted and serious effort to get these tools into linux early on, by people knowledgeable and influential enough to get it done (ie. not me), setting aside platform rivalries and NiH, a lot of sysadmins and developers would be having way more fun at their job right now.
There was no active decision not to use it at dotCloud, our "visibility toolbox" is simply based on other tools - a combination of collectd, nagios, distributed rpc tracing, active and passive checks from the http frontends, and a decent logging setup. I'm sure you could accomplish this with dtrace and probably a dozen other tools, but I guess the same is true for every problem. At some point you just choose a tool that works and move on to the next problem.
SmartOS is something many people overlook. It's an awesome OS. ZFS is IMO enough reason to try it out (no, zfs for linux is not ready). But then zones make it even more awesome (there was a discussion about zones here on HN a few days ago).
This is usually how it is around sysadmins:
Those who know Solaris very well swear by it and implement some awesome very stable running high performance and secure machine setups. Those who don't, hate it because it's not Linux.
It takes a while to become familar with Solaris from a Linux background. But the more you read about it, the more you realize how well designed it actually is.
Also probably a better article: