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.


Wednesday May 27, 2009

For my HTML readers, more about Sun's Unified Storage

I have just uploaded my notes from a meeting where Mike Shapiro presented on Open Storage to this blog, but backdated it to the time of occurrence. See 11th March

tags: myblog

Thursday Apr 23, 2009

A short URL for the "Third Wave" slides

I have created a short URL at is.gd for the slides I used on Wednesday; http://is.gd/ueDO is the mediacaster web page that hosts my slides.


Wednesday Apr 22, 2009

Another intra-net community

Another tip from midweek, by Miles Berry, the british education community is adopting a community software product called the learning landscape for schools, its based on code from http://elgg.org/. Schools have even more concern that they control access to their communities than business and one of elgg's advantages is that you can install it on your own server and place it behind your firewall.


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Tuesday Apr 07, 2009

Thank goodness for docs.sun.com

Where's my screwdriver? I got a bit close to the 'tin' today. I have been trying to boot a lab machine, an x4600, that clearly hasn't been used for a while.

Its previous user had kindly documented the tcp/ip addresses used, but we couldn't ping either of them, so http'ing onto the ILOM server was right out. We plugged in a console into the VGA port and tried to boot from an Open Solaris live CD, this failed with the error messages zooming of the top of the console. So we tried S10 and the same thing happened. This meant we had to actually read some documentation. This is at docs.sun.com, and has a bunch of docs on the x4600. Having equipped ourselves with some knowldege,

  1. We attatched a real serial terminal to the serial console port. This involved checking the serial comms port paramters. Its a very long time since I've had to do that. We then checked the tcp/ip settings, once we realised these were correctly set,
  2. We checked the ethernet cable to ensure it was correctly connected and seated.
  3. This enabled us to log into the ILOM using the browser interface. Everything seemed OK so
  4. We used ssh to login into the ILOM service and started the console
  5. We power cycled the machine using the browser

This allowed us to capture the errors as the Live CD image of S10 failed to boot.

The lessons of this story are

  1. sometimes one should read the documentation earlier rather than later
  2. check your cabling
  3. the docs.sun.com x4600 documentation is good
  4. sometimes systems do have hardware faults


Thursday Apr 02, 2009

A second look at Second Brain

I have revisited secondbrain recently and decided I need to get to grips with its libraries and collections. I am not sure of the differences and whether I should be create broad large collections such as travel or software, or even something narrower but broad such as database, or use it for more project orientated collections such as specific journies or personal engineering tasks, a bit like what it takes to justify a new snipsnap page on my bliki. I quite like the fact they give me a domain name, and that I got their early enough to get "davelevy".

It now takes a much broader range of feeds, which was the criticism I made last time I reviewed it, and creates an aggregated tag cloud. This is neat, but I hadn't realised how many tags my picture collection generates. The tag cloud is dominated by the places tag and the geographic qualifiers. When you add the bookmarks created while planning the travel, it dominates the tag cloud, which I am not sure is what I want. (I wonder if they could or should permit us to weight the tags by feed.) Usability is also inhibited here because like most people, I don't tag a feed as belonging to itself, so my bookmarks aren't tagged as bookmarks. Also several of my feeds are not tagged at all. All-in-all, this is a feature I like, so I'd really like a tag cloud widget.

I was looking at second brain to see if I could make it my home page and consolidate the various sites I am using into one place, it could well be possible. I'd loose control of my look and feel, and I'd need to consider how to host original textual content but a blog might work for that if I have SB's collections and libraries. Perhaps I'll try and migrate one of my travel pages to SB and see what it looks like, and how useful I find it.

tags: ""


I have been busy writting a presentation on 'Why Software should be free?', it looks like it'll need an essay/paper as well. The economic theory doesn't lend it self well to a presentation. So that'll be fun.


Thursday Mar 19, 2009

Installing the Amber Road simulator on a Laptop

Sun's Open Storage software comes as an appliance from http://www.sun.com. Currently available as a VMware image, and I now have it running on my trusty laptop.

Unified Storage Simulator screen shot

The management panel in in the browser, the appliance console is the black window, I have started the CIFS service, mounted a file system using SMB onto my host image (the windows folder) and I have opend a file using notepad. It was easier to do than attach my Vista systems to my legacy home windows network.

I had to install VMware Player first and when the VM starts for the first time, you are offered a text menu to install the network identity and point to the network gateways. I was nervous about VMware because I wasn't sure about what VMware does to implement the network interface. This wiki page has been created by the FISHworks team to help you, which discusses how you configure each of the four netowrk interfaces and I advise you to think hard about the node name and domain name as I havn't yet worked out how to change it. The wiki's advice on the network gateways didn't work for me so I used dor both the default gateway and DNS server. Anyway the boot screen looks like this,

unified storage simulator first time screen

I am off to install it on my home server and maybe I'll try the Virtual Box version and use the appliance to manage my home network storage, I think its legal, but in order to get the performance advantage at scale, you'll need to buy the hardware.


Wednesday Mar 18, 2009


There is a conversation on google groups, cloud computing [XML] about CISCO's plans to enter the server market, kicked off by this article at Business Week.

The dimension, only just, missed in that conversation is the opportunity to get design synergies on the hardware between networking and systems. Why do large scale users have to buy switches and servers as seperate procurements? Perhaps the next stage is to migrate the network functionality to a software appliance, so one buys a box and then decides what to do with it. (I know that a switch needs a lot of ports where a non-switch system only needs two, but modern blade systems are modularising this design area as well.)

The interesting questions then left are whether the data centre, or network can consolidate to one cabling standard and perfromance. When will the need for seperate networking (or interconnect) technologies between CPUs and Systems decline? (If ever?)

I know some computer scientists thinking about tomorrow's problems are interested in this sort of thinking.


Monday Mar 16, 2009

Gambling with Finance

CIO Connect, in their winter 2008 magazine, have published an interview with Robin Osmond, Betfair's CEO about his plans to utilise their software platform as a vehicle for trading financial products. They claim to be starting with spread betting, which seems available at http://www.tradefair.com/ but are looking to offer FX trading at some time in the future.

Spreadbetting for financial products has been around for a while and has already played the regulatory arbitrage by being considered as gambling and treated that way by HMRC. Betfair innovated the ambkling world by building a betting exchange, and removing the risk of running a book from their business model. Their software, and more importantly their information systems architectural skills might well apply to financial products exchanges but can they build the trust that'll bring consumers to their site, and solve the problem that the real money is in trading.

I expect that meeting a new group of regulators who in the UK at least have a reputation problem of their own will keep them busy. While it seems a simple diversification to many, I wonder if the difference in customer base, and regulatory environment will make this harder than it would seem.

Tradefair's CTO, Martin Thompson, was also interviewed and talked about building an integrated system, from business logic to silicon. It'll be interesting to see what they've done, if they ever make it public.

I have linked to CIO Connect, above, but they have a wayward re-direct rule set that issues some stupidly long URLs presumably to track activitty and they like to keep their stuff behind their firewall to protect their subscription revenue.


Friday Mar 13, 2009

Open Source, the price is right

I shall be speaking tomorrow on "Open Source, Free the right price!" and shall be posting my slides here. I have been busy reading up my undergraduate economics to remind me of what I learned then and check that it hasn't changed. I borrowed Beggs, Fischer and Dornbusch's "Economics", since I got rid of my text books years ago and this seems to be the modern equivilent. I have also tagged it in my living social booklist.


Tuesday Mar 10, 2009

Squaring the circle, from disruption to trust

Mike Shapiro is an expert in disruptive technology; he was working on Solaris in the early 2000s. He spoke to a number of us at Sun's Guillemont Park Campus about Amber Road, Sun's new disruptive file server technology. Sun and our customers have the opportunity to take advantage of the next big thing in network storage.

Mike explained that for a technology to be truly disruptive

  • it must be cheaper
  • it must be good enough
  • there must be a compelling reason for adoption

and Amber Road has two killer apps. Flash and Analytics. There is a small layer of functionality that Amber Road can't provide but the bulk of the market doesn't need it, and certainly doesn't need it at the price charged. Since storage is a trust business, Sun's storage sales teams and the customers need to understand very carefully the storage requirements. It is unlikely that any functionality not available is a universal requirement but in some cases, its not the right time for customers to move from their incumbent suppliers; they need some of the missing functionality. Talking to storage users about Sun's new storage concentrates the minds of everyone involved.

Over the last 10 years, there have been only two ways that the laws of physics and economics permit to make disk arrays faster, either increase the cache size, or increase the disk speed. The cost of Flash has dropped over the last three years, thanks to those of us buying mp3 players and pdas. The Amber Road box's software allow newly economic flash to do either or both. Sun is a leader in flash and certify enterprise flash for 3-5 years. and has additional advantages including the superior reliability of ZFS and the opensource pricing of the Unified Storage arrays. We don't licence a right to use. What we charge is based on what we ship, you don't get charged more as you turn on functionality. (This has nearly always been true of Sun, I remember when buying SunOS systems that one of the advantages was that network funtionality was bundled with UNIX where as I was asked to pay extra for networking and RAID functionality by my then incumbent supplier). Crucially Sun doesn't seek to tax its customer's innovation. The "no more to pay" approach also applies to the Analytics which come with the box and you can use them all. The software is available on a try before buy basis at www.sun.com and I will be downloading have downloaded it onto my laptop, see also Installing the Amberroad simulator above, to demonstrate to anyone that wants to see it. [ Sun's 7000 series storage simulator home page ].

Some of what is argued to be missing is FCAL support. Mike stated that the long-term winning strategy is to have only one cable going into the box. If there's to be only one winner, it ain't going to be FCAL; it needs to support Ethernet, and there's a demand for infiniband. Our proposed iscsi functionality release plans means that the Unified Storage boxes can offer block devices over the network and support for most enterprise data centres will only get better. Having said that, we propose to release FC target functionality in Q4 this year.

The value proposition for Amber Road is that its cheaper, good enough and offers game changing superior management. This often gets lost in a feature benefit analysis, which often seek to disguise what the features cost. Sun knows storage and can meet the trust requirements that customer's require, Amber Road shows that a trusted source can disrupt the economics, and its only the customers that win.

This was uploaded on 28th May 2009 and back dated to the date of occurrence, 11th March


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.


Sunday Feb 22, 2009

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?

tags: :

Tuesday Feb 17, 2009

How to set up a USB Flash Drive from Windows to Windows in Virtual Box

Read the User Manual, available on http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads and think "all that stuff you need to know that's a bit poor". Then,

  1. Make sure the windows guest is dormant
  2. Plug the Flash Drive into the Computer
  3. Edit the VM Settings
    1. Enable USB
    2. Enable USB 2.0
    3. Create a Filter
      • move the mouse over the add filter button and the USB devices will appear in the display box. This box is active. Select the one you want. If this is not obvious, then you can test this by removing the USB In the example above I have also taken Sasquatch's advice and created an empty filter which will assign all USB devices to the guest operating system. This is however disabled.
  4. Start the VM and wait for Windows to do its plug and play magic.
Virtual Box USB Settings Editor

This process was developed using a Windows Vista 32 bit guest and a Windows Vista 64 bit host, and a patched version of Virtual Vox 2.1.3

I have left the "All Devices" filter disabled. It will do all devices and thus some system devices will become visible to the guest such as the fingerprint reader, and whatever Chicony Electronics provide.

Sasquatch is a regular correspondent at virtual box forums and offered his advice in a thread called "USB on Windows host and Windows guest".





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