Tuesday Jun 02, 2009

Europe's largest supercomputer

The Forshung Julich phase two super computer, now Europe's largest, had its formal opening session last week and Mark Hamiltion, Sun VP who leads our HPC team went to visit them, and recorded it on his blog, in a couple of articles dated as at the end of May, because it runs on Sun. He wrote three articles, several of them with lots of pictures.

This is Europe's largest super computer and runs on Sun's Constellation systems, Mark's article "Memorial Day in Germany" and the Forshung Julich web page, "Systems Configuration" talk about the technology, where they state, they have 2208 compute nodes, each with dual, Intel Xeon X5570 (Nehalem-EP) quad-core processors, running at 2.93 GHz. This has over 17500 cores with 207 Teraflops peak performance, hardly surprisingly they have also taken four of Sun's Data Centre Switches.

The EU's PRACE project funded the feasibility of this and I have been tracking it for a while since we knew that phase 2 was to be based on Sun's hardware. I have a link roll...

<script TYPE="text/javascript" SRC="http://feeds.delicious.com/v2/js/DaveLevy/julich?title=My%20Delicious%20Bookmarks&icon=s&count=7&sort=date&tags&extended"></script>

which records a bunch of pages about it and this page, the Juropa Supercomputer has a rather cool picture.

the JuRoPA Super Computer

which I have linked to, but shrunk to get on this page.

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Thursday Feb 26, 2009

You can't keep the Spies out

While continuing to think about the privacy and regulatory issues that Cloud computing raises, I was point at this article in the NY Times, called "Does Cloud Computing Mean More Risks to Privacy?", which looks at the US legal position and points out that the US police and even civil investigators will find it easier to get data from third parties than from the entities orginally authorised to have access to private data. The article seems to have been categorised as news due to the release of the World Privacy Forum's latest report, "Privacy in the Clouds", which I have not yet read, but plan to.

Its probably true in the EU, and is certainly so in the UK, that a number of IT service providers have national security duties that are not well publicised and growing, but it seems that the basic principle of EU law is that data mustn't be shipped to countries with weaker laws than the originator country, although on the internet, how does one know which that is.

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Sunday Feb 22, 2009

For more about Privacy in Europe

So what was I looking for? I found and was pointed to by a lazyweb search at,

and now I have these three links collected in a single HTML page with a permalink, i.e here. The delicious links are tagged EU, but I might add a gov tag to the tag base as this seems sensible for this case.

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Searching europa, is there a limit to Google

Just some times I come across a piece of research which my search engines find hard to help me with. Since Google, they all seem to use in-list based sorting algorithms. Some resources, such as the EU's web complex don't seem to have enough sites pointing at it for this to be a wisdom of crowds solution and their own search engine doesn't seem to help me either. You'd think that the various News organisation feeds that specialise might issue permalink based pointers but querying the EU site remains hard.

A while ago, I reviewed , the research white paper, Searching the Workplace Web in my blog artice The shape of the Internet..., which argued that inlist based ranking is not necessarily the best sort order of an intranet query. Certainly the Europa site seems to have many of the properties of an intranet identifed by IBM research team. Is this true of all Government sites? Do they have to be their own in-list?

Are there any search engines that might do better?

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Monday Dec 01, 2008

Learnings from Lyon at ICT2008

I have spent this morning looking at the leaflets and notes I took at ICT 2008 in Lyon last week. I have bookmarked many of them at delicious with the "myict2008" tag. These cover mainly grids, distributed computing and knowledge management, there are a couple of consultancy sites as well.

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://feeds.delicious.com/v2/js/DaveLevy/myict2008?title=my%20bookmarks%20from%20ICT%202008&icon=s&count=20&bullet=%C2%BB&sort=date&tags&extended"></script>

I hope you'll find them useful. I have posted them here, using their link roll gadget since you can't enter del.icio.us on a date and this blog entry has both a date URL and a permalink. The lack of a date query is probably one of the reasons that people post links to their blogs. This is the first time I have done it, although the linkroll is in my sidebar on this page and on my archive page.

I hope to write up my notes in a more narrative form, which I'll back date to last week, which is when the conference took place.

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Monday Nov 24, 2008

Visions of Future Computing

After lunch, with wine, it is in France after all, I attended a session called "Visions of Future Computing and Communication Paradigms". Frustratingly this was not video'd and nor can I find the slides on the USB stick they gave us. So you'll have to rely on my memory; I didn't take any notes. The first two speakers, although their presentations weren't designed to show the difference between IT people and computer scientists. Prof. John McCaskill, of BioMIP, the Biomolecular Information Processing Research Group presented on 'Constructive IT', which as far as I can tell starts from chemistry and is looking at new ways of building computers...beyond Silicon. I have to ask what sort of timescales they expect to do anything substantial. The need to change programming models because of large scale multi-threading is one thing, the abolition of silicon is quite another. This stuff just amazed me. He was followed by Micheal Wolf, who illustrated the insights that quantum physics offer to mainly software design. He was followed by Illka Tuomi also at Wikipedia, who presented on "Intellectual Property Processing After the End of Semiconductor Scaling", and his slides are available on his personal web page at meaningprocessing.com. He illustrates some interesting changes in system design after the end of Semiconductor scaling. The session was brought to end by Wendy Hall, who illustrated the holistic nature of ICT futures arguing for a 'Web Science' approach borrowing from many separate disciplines to build an understanding of the technical and social networks that are being built today.

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ICT 2008, Lyon

I got into the conference in time to hear the words of welcome from the Mayor of Lyon, and the opening panel discussion. The panel was chaired by Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, and its participants were Luc Chatel, Secrétaire d'Etat chargé de l'Industrie et de la Consommation, France, Esko Aho, Executive Vice President, Nokia Corporation, and Former President of the Finnish Innovation Fund (SITRA), former Prime Minister of Finland and one of the key commentators on FP6, he chaired the group that produced "Information Society Research and Innovation: Delivering results with sustained impact", which was published in September. Also on the panel were Ben Verwaayen, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent, previously of BT, Harold Goddijn, CEO, TomTom and Michel Cosnard, CEO and Chairman, INRIA, representing a research view. The conference has a video link on its site for this session. The panel was called "Setting the ICT Agenda for the Next Decade" , has its own page. The panelists said little of controversy, with Verwaayen arguing that trust and security were keys with Aho arguing for a global dimension, starting from a green perspective to invest in productive knowledge. He also interestingly argued that US leadership was based on entrepreneurialism and commercial innovation. I was surprised, I am not yet convinced that european basic science research is yet competitive with the US. For instance, while researching NESSI's contribution to the EU's Software Industrial policy, I was pointed at China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University's study of Academic Ranking of World Universities. I, and others, have considered the methodology and anomalies, but it illustrates a world domination of scientific excellence in the universities by the USA. However Goddijn, who was there to tell the startup story, stated that his biggest problems in building Tom Tom were not technological, but regulatory compliance, specifically, VAT and patent registration. These comments got a round of applause, and Verwaayen weighed in specifically asking when it might become possible to register patents in the EU in one language. There were further discussions on the public policy dimensions of how innovation enters the economy, discussing public/private partnerships, educational/innovation clusters with much agreement about the short term changes in ICT.

In between the opening sessions and the panel discussion, some video's from Futuris were shown. This focused on the use of ICT in health care delivery. I have argued previously that the UK's investment in i-health care has been too focused on record keepting and NHS cost control, so it was good to see a couple of case studies showing the innovative use technology in improving the ill and injured's lives. I can't find the specific video on the Futuris site, but Futuris is an EU sponsored TV show broadcast on the Euronews channel. Leave me a comment if you find it.

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Wednesday Nov 19, 2008

The EU's Call 4 for research projects funded by FP7

19th November - The Commission of the European Union have advertised FP7 Call 4 [Press Release]. This is the opportunity to undertake collaborative research into ICT with financial contrinbutions from the Commission. The press release talks of seven challanges, "Pervasive and trustworthy network and service infrastructures", "Cognitive systems, interaction, robotics", "Components, systems, engineering", the comma's are theirs, I want to check up on this, "Towards sustainable and personalised healthcare", "ICT for mobility, environmental stability and energy efficiency" and "ICT for independent living , inclusion and governance". The call also looks to promote research in three new areas of Future and Emerging Technologies, one of which is "Concurrent tera-device computing", you'd think we might be interested in that.

An interesting set of priorities, the Call for Proposal is on Cordis, the EU's Community Research & Development Information site.

Wednesday Apr 02, 2008

workshoping the future

Over the last two day, we have been in workshops, discussing aspects of the development of the internet. The workshops, their agenda and supporting papers are all hosted at the future internet site. We'll have to wait for the slides to see what agreement was discovered.

I was interested to attend BO6, "Future Internet Research and Experimentation", otherwise known as FIRE where I heard a number of presentations from FP6 funded projects talking about the Grids they'd built, primarily on University sites. There's a lot going on. It's a shame we couldn't find someone to take on Sun's London "grid-for-rent". There was some innovative stuff in the re-provisioning solution.

The other working groups were called Networks, Services, Content and Security. I am eagerly waiting the slides from the plenary sessions that introduced and concluded these workshops.

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Monday Mar 31, 2008

The Bled Declaration

We closed the day by adopted the Bled declaration, calling on the Commission and member states co-ordinate their R&D and do other good things, including the support in the construction of a "Future Internet Assembly".

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What changes in technology will do to the Internet tomorrow

The afternoon panel was billed, in contrast to the morning's emphasis on society and economics, as about the technology. The session was opened by Lutz Heuser, of SAP, who had an interesting slide about the nature of innovation and a layered architecture model of the internet, which is pretty common place in these meetings, layering business services over common services over a platform, which itself has computers, switches and interconnects. He did ask where the european business services were? Thus ignoring plazes, last.fm and bebo, and if I new the non-UK economies better, I bet I could name some more of these SaaS Web 2.0 startups from Europe.

Christian Grégoire, of Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent spoke of the need to re-invest in the network's intelligence and that vertical industries adoption of remote sensor technology will change the applications portfolios, the bandwidth demands and backbone topology. A number of speakers seem to equate the internet of things with RFID, I wonder if the argument that they lack intelligence and programability has been considered and dismissed, or just not engaged with.

Jan Uddenfeldt a senior advisor to the CEO of Ericsson spoke, surprise surprise, about how mobile phones will drive change. I am not sure on two counts. Phones while very portable, have CPUs, RAM, storage, a screen, a keyboard and a network interface. This makes them computers, and if you have a consumer Sony Ericsson, its a pretty poor screen and keyboard. The volume and rate of adoption does make a difference, but the "internet of things" is a step beyond connecting people.

Krishna Nathan Vice President of Storage System Development at IBM. An interesting and thoughtful speech about how the "internet of things" will drive the evolution of an event driven network; sensors will require real time management. He explored the use of sensors to manage the data centre? They made quite a lot of noise about it earlier this month [ IBM Press Release ]. I was quite annoyed about this; I had planned suggest Sun did something about this leveraging Wonderland and Darkstar. (See also MMORPGs, making them massive, at this site.) However, it may not be too late. It interests me that no one is really talking about the nature of the services that the internet will need to provide for these new models. He was explained well the changing nature of traffic patterns that will occur as sensors become pervasive. His slides are also worth a second read.

Jean-Charles Hourcade of Thomson SA, spoke from the perspective of a content company and his speech shows why we need to consider change from different perspectives. He argues that the devices of the future are the pc, gateway and phone. (I don't think so). He argued that HDTV and Cinema Technology will raise the bar again. This is probably true, but to me what's popularising video is youtube, and the reducing of video's length. They've become snacks. A countervailing force in the UK is the BBC's iplayer and BT Vision. Maybe the UK has some more serious legacy inhibitors to change. Both the commercial structure, where content providers own their own network and the business is dominated by de-facto or de-nationalised monopolies, and the age of the local loop. I wonder how easy the rest of Europe will find it to move forward.

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The socio/economic impact

The rest of the morning was taken over with a panel presentation, which focused on the socio/economic impact of the changing internet. The first speaker was Andy Wyckoff from the OECD who spoke of a number of economic issues reinforcing the link between creativity and wealth creation. In fact the OECD are running a ministerial conference, see http://oecd.org/futureinternet, which has had massive and unexpected support from the OECD's member and candidate members. He also emphasised the need for openness & interoperability. He also argued that smarter interfaces will be needed to truly create an internet of people, and that is required before further evolutions will occur.

Led by Geert Lovink of Institute of Network Cultures, the panel explored the question of paying for creativity given the marginal cost to copy is zero. Will it be possible to implement a form of micro payments?

Another issue raised was the duopoly of the search engines. It was argued that it is necessary to have a diversity of search engines, and that fortunately, the smaller players are staying in the market and continuing to innovate. Search will remain the "killer app" of the internet, but where is the "only people are experts" dimension. Will the next evolution be people finders?. They may become more important than resource finders, and is a dimension of the NESSI problem. How will you find services, in a world of billions, with hundreds of thousands joing each day. (Obviously thats the vision, not today's reality).

Dag Johansen asked if can we build a 'push' search engine, and that its very important to protect one's privacy. He (and others argued) that many internet users are prepared to trade some of their privacy for free services and resources. In terms of his privacy, he deliberately uses multiple search engines to hide from those that wnat to know about everything he does, he also stated that he doesn't think Google is good enough to justify exclusive use. I am moving towards this behaviour and often use exalead which tries to use semantic technology to improve the search quality. Another thought this raised in my mind is that {english} schools are once again pretty poor, they're teaching how to use apps, not the internet, and so while todays children are being taught in class how to use Word to write a letter, they are missing how to protect your privacy and use firewalls and spam filters. Actually it would seem they are teaching how to circumvent poorly configured content filters. (Don't ban Google images for the UK & USA, if you leave Ireland, India and Australia available.)

Diogo Vasconcelos from Cisco came up with the following insight, "People like politics, with politicians it depends", he also raised the issue of sustainability. Some of his visions had a real 'Minority Report' touch. A question was raised suggesting that, sometimes selling you stuff you thought you didn't want is good. But how much more than Amazon recommendations do we need? This did remind me of the minority report scene where the shop recognises Anderton (Tom Cruise) via an eyeball scan. Diaogo repeated the idea that the EU is the most connected place in the world? I wonder if its true. I find connecting in the States when traveling easier, the network and wi-fi seems much more pervasive, although I often have to pay. You can see elsewhere in this blog for my views on Italy and Brussels. My recent travels have confused me and I can't make up my mind whether to buy a wi-fi or 3G connected hand held appliance. I hope that I will be allowed to trial a new vodafone commercial solution, or maybe I'll check out BT Fon, which reminds me, I really need to sort my household content subscriptions. It just never stops.

The morning was finished up with a presentation on internet governance, and the need to address bureaucratic degeneracy and market failure. See also http://www.intgovforum.org/, which is a United Nations body.

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A word from our sponsor

Ms Viviane Reding, the sponsoring commissioner spoke to the conference via a video cast. This isn't yet available, but I'll post a link when I can, hopefully to streaming video.

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What's the EU doing?

The conference is sub-titled, or has the tag line of "Perspectives emerging from R&D in Europe". A new web site http://www.future-internet.eu/ has been created which promotes and reports on the conference, together with other initiatives. A document "The Future of the Internet, A Compendium of European Projects on ICT Research......" was distributed to delegates documenting the EU funded projects which were invited to attend.

I can't find it on cordis, and I used the catalog number, KK-30-08-142-EN-C

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Future of the Internet, the 2nd information revolution

The conference, "The Future of the Internet" was opened by Dr. Ziga Turk. He is the Minister for Growth of Slovenia, which holds the rotating EU presidency at the moment. He opened by talking about Slovenia's adoption of the internet, which was prior to independence and stated that the internet was an important tool for the campaigners in pre-independence Slovenia. After my experiences in trying to get connected in Italy, I have been pleasantly surprised. Easy connection for both phone and laptop.

He then, cleverly (well, I thought so), compared the development of the internet and its opportunities with the discovery of cheap paper and the renaissance. I was particularly interested in his assertion that while the invention of paper came from China, it was the european's letter based writing that enabled the first knowledge based revolution since printing was easier. He also pointed out that the first global knowledge revolution, the "p-revolution" while global, was led in Europe, but today's revolution, the "i-revolution" is not. The european response to this needs to be two fold. The simplest is to continue with EU enlargement, the other political responses are within the EU's "Lisbon Strategy". This is aimed at creating and stimulating jobs and growth in europe, and places innovation and research at the heart of this effort. It is also about dynamism and entrepreneurialism in the context of caring for people and environment. The driving economies of the US and Japan are being challenged by China and India, but by placing knowledge as a 5th freedom, the EU can hopefully harness the creativity and entrepreneurialism of its citizenry.

The first four freedoms in the EU are a bit different from Roosevelt's declared at the time of the founding of the United Nations.

We've been promised the slides, but they're [still] not available yet.

This article was written from notes taken at the time, posted the following week and back dated to the approximate time the speech was given.

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