Wednesday Dec 16, 2009

48 Core Microprocessors... What's next? - Quantum Computing?

Intel has produced a gem with the Nehalem microprocessor.  While the architecture limits the chip to 8 processing cores today, Intel is doing research and advanced development with much bigger ideas.  The samples of 48 core processors (see picture on left) that some people in the industry are envisioning capable of scaling to 100 plus cores one day is impressive.  In the old days when I was doing large SMP server development, single core clock rate was a major vector that drove computational performance.  Then, as predicted, a few years into the twenty first century the technology started to run into the laws of physics.  Increasing the clock rate was no longer an available option.  However scaling problems were now starting to be addressed by building multi core architectures.  In other words placing multiple processing engines on a single die addressable by software.  CPU to cache interconnects become smaller and parallel computing is beginning to approach a commodity.   Introduce software to program these multi-core CPUs and parallel computing can realize significant gains.

An impressive fact of the Intel 48 core research chip is the power consumption of 125 Watts.  That averages to about 2.6 Watts per core.  This 48 core chip also has the ability to dynamically control voltage and frequency via software.  So the power consumption can be much lower than 125 Watts.  Keep in mind in the early 2000 time frame, 32 microprocessors in a SMP server would alone consume ~2 Kilowatts!  In my opinion the rising costs of energy and cooling will become a barrier similar to that of the laws of physics.  If your interested you can find more info on extreme core architecture here.

What are the industry folks in academics and research thinking 10, 20, 30 or more years out?  The semiconductor world is quickly approaching process geometry limits.  For example 45 nanometer technology is so small that you are manipulating layer thickness measured by atoms in the single digits.  Margin of error keeps getting smaller and smaller.  Is reliability a factor too?  Absolutely.  So where could technology lead us once we are manipulating single atoms to produce silicon?  In research labs today the industry has already been able to manipulate single atoms.

One option would be to discover another variable beyond clock rate or multi core.  Another option may have some promising hopes.  Have you heard of Quantum Computing?  All of us in Computer Science can relate to binary, octal, hexadecimal and decimal.  Are you ready to learn about the difference between bits and qubits?  Click here.

Blog is also available at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Wednesday Dec 02, 2009

Isn't Chrome OS another Linux distribution?

Google released the Chrome OS open sourced code base on November 19, 2009.  The first netbooks running the Chrome OS are not expected for at least another year.  There are some nice features of this streamlined Linux variant such as fast boot using solid state disk technology built into the netbook. However just about any OS has the ability to support SSDs.  In fact more than a few operating systems, file systems and databases are SSD aware.

With several other Linux offerings such as RedHat, OpenSuse, OEL, Centos, etc. why yet another?  (Have you heard of Moblin?)  Chrome OS appers to me as more of a thin client rather than desktop device.  All applications on a Chrome OS device execute via the Web somewhere.  The users interface to the given application is through the Chrome web browser.  All the data and the application code is NOT on the netbook running The Chrome OS.

The major software desktop platforms want to optimize seamless operation of the desktop and the World Wide Web. Microsoft has Windows 7 and Linux desktops are no longer only for the hobbyist.  Also look how far Apple has come with the UNIX based operating system developed at NeXT, now called Mac OS X.

Now this desktop/netbook/Web client situation sounds familiar to the various smart devices already all over the world.  A particular embedded OS in smart phones really does make a difference.  The Blackberry OS can multitask and therefore you can run multiple applications at once.  The iPhone OS cannot run more than one application at a time but the iPhone experience and application portfolio has set the standard.  Google has the Android OS for intelligent handsets now coming to market.  Will there be a Windows 7 CE?

My opinion is that two camps emerge.  The set of companies whose business model is totally focused to monetize the Web.  Everyone else is focused on maintaining their business model AND creating ways to monetize the Web.  Consumers want simplicity and low prices.  Unfortunately simplicity and low price are inverse proportions for the enterprise. 

Crossing this chasm is what makes the IT industry very exciting today and for the next several years!

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Wednesday Nov 04, 2009

A Time Capsule for the Enterprise?

On Halloween I upgraded the desk side PC from Windows XP to Windows 7.  Between multiple reboots, application installs, recovery of email, print server configuration, etc. my wife asked "Why does it have to be so hard?"  As she said this I was looking at the Apple Time Capsule sitting on top of a small cabinet in our home basement. The only item coming out of the Time Capsule was the power cord connected to the power outlet.  I run the Time Capsule as a wireless client in our home network for data backup.  The data consists of many pictures, video clips, songs, the kids homework and basically many various files (some of which are important).

My home (LAN) network has grown over the years from a few PCs connected via an old 802.11b router to a dual band (802.11g/802.11n) router connecting a multitude of wireless clients. These include a XBox, iTouch, PrintServer, OpenSolaris, Ubuntu, Mac, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 devices.  Basically a heterogeneous environment.  Will the older Window versions be phased out at home eventually?  Yes.  The Unix/Linux clients will remain out of necessity as well as for hobby.  It's difficult to currently beat the Mac experience.  Adding a Time capsule into my existing home network was relatively easy.  The Airport setup updated the Time Capsule firmware and configured the device in straight forward steps.  It wasn't as "fun" for a "techie" as say CLI commands, but simple is defined as "fun" for most consumers. The Windows XP to Windows 7 full upgrade was painfull but I have to admit the network configuration experience was much improved.  I was pleasantly surprised freeware Bonjour discovery services just worked and the W7 system configured the Time Capsule as a usable share.

One could imply a similar situation in the enterprise space.  For an enterprise business "fun" is defined as high margin dollars on a growing revenue stream.  This usually means your costs are contained, you implement continuous improvements on efficiency and you simplify.  Vendors in the technology industry are all trying to provide a truly "Enterprise Time Capsule" or Appliance.  There has been a large amount of innovation over the past 20 years.  However today's innovation is tomorrow's PDP-11Minicomputers were appliances that Mainframes couldn't be.  The evolution has continued over the years in every technology segment.

Enterprise customers want it simple as do consumers.  While the stakes are much higher in the enterprise, the bar is significantly raised for "just working" each and every time.  It doesn't matter if you are playing catchup, you are the incumbent or you are the new thought leader-- the winners will be the set of vendors who provide the tool that "just works" each and every time in the harshest and most complex environments. 

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/


Wednesday Oct 21, 2009

Around Oracle Open World in less than 180 hours

The turnout of customers and partners of the enterprise technology segment certainly did not disappoint at Oracle Open World this year.  While other large IT events have been canceled this year do to the economic downturn, Oracle Open World attendance of 42000 IT professionals was basically unaffected from the 2008 attendance.  Even more impressive was that virtually every enterprise vendor that partners, competes and analyzes Oracle attended this yearly gathering in downtown San Francisco. The multiple exhibit halls, sessions, events, activities and networking certainly created an environment for plenty of information exchange.

Every vendor at Oracle Open World is a cog (of varying sizes from small to large) that builds into the enterprise IT stack of:

  • applications
  • middleware
  • database

Every item from storage management, computational speeds, networking feeds, disaster recovery, hosted IT, employee productivity tools and various communication mediums all factor back into connecting the above 3 areas of the enterprise stack.

In my opinion enterprise IT is becoming much less driven by vendor loyalty and a great price to the vendors that can provide competitive advantage to their customers.  During an economic downturn as well as post recovery, the competitive advantage will more than outshine a good price.

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Wednesday Oct 07, 2009

Technology spending? Economic growth? Have you heard of UAE?

Recent news of increased economic stability in the world is comforting.  However how much of it is based on sound fundamentals?  If you are an investor or run a business where in the world do you want to invest for growth and equityUnited Arab Emerates may be a place of interest.  The UAE growth rate in GDP is astounding.  While not all economic indicators are objectively sound, you have to speculate where can you find a better risk/reward ratio. 

Western based banks have recovered their share price as well as balance sheets, but new credit lending is still tight.  Loan losses are still surging in the West.  In my opinion there remains too many toxic, complex, leveraged, convoluted, imaginary assets out there that have not been exposed to date.  In order for the world economy to move forward the majority of bad credit instruments need to be exposed and liquidated.  Otherwise we will continue to regain the false sense of consumer comfort that eventually got us into trouble. 

Most world economies are driven by consumer spending, but consumer savings is the buffer from repeating what we are seeing today.  One issue is where (globally) to place your assets into safe saving instruments with a secure and viable return. 

I'm not sure anyone out there has all the answers...

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Monday Sep 21, 2009

China & India Fuel Growth With Infrastructure Projects

While the U.S. is still trying to stimulate spending of U.S. consumers with its economic stimulus programs, countries such as India and China appear to be making much better progress.  On a recent trip in September to China and India via Singapore one can visibly see that Asia Pacific is not standing still and putting idled factory workers toward new infrastructure projects.  Talking with customers and partners in China and India only confirms what could be described as a best practice for any nation looking for economic recovery.

Earlier this year Beijing announced a $585 billion (U.S. dollars) stimulus package (~13% of China's 2008 GDP). As part of this stimulus package China will spend this year $50 billion (U.S. dollars) alone on the ambitious worlds biggest high-speed (started in 2005 and expected to finish in 2020) railway which will connect Beijing, Dalian, Xuzhou, Lanzhou, Shanghai, Kunming and Guangzhou. Beijing's economic stimulus is directly targeted at the ~20 million idled workers in China due mostly to the 20% decline in foreign sales.  Notable statistics of the new high-speed railway include:

  • The buttresses which carry the tracks will consume 117 million tons of concrete

  • 16,000 miles (25,749 km) of new track will be built
  • The Beijing to Shanghai line will consume enough steel to build 120 "Birds Nest" Olympic Stadiums
  • In addition to construction labor the railway will create jobs for engineers and lot's of them.  The railway will be computerized and require a lot of IT spending and resources.  You can be certain the large IT companies are looking to win this business and provide hardware, software, services and support.  A great opportunity.  Bill Powell wrote a great article in FORTUNE magazine with many more exciting facts which you can read here.

    India's growth is equally impressive despite the global recession.  India still needs to build massive amounts of infrastructure while China is already upgrading infrastructure previous built.  I like to describe China as organized chaos while India is still dealing with unorganized chaos.  In Beijing you see cars, buses, trains, people, bikes, motorcycles all in congested traffic in harmony with the traffic signals.  In Bangalore you have the same as Beijing but with everyone only in harmony with themselves.  Traffic signals get ignored, motorcycles are riding on the sidewalk and intersections, at rush hour, give no clear indication as to who has the right of way.  It's simply something that every business professional should experience because you need to know the customer you are selling.  Both are beautiful cultures and part of the solution of economic recovery in the world.  India too will consume massive amount of engineers, software, hardware and services not only to fuel their IT outsourcing industry but to rapidly build their own nation, infrastructure and ultimately their own economy as a world leader.

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Monday Aug 17, 2009

Use all the Tools in the Tool Box...

Ultimately it is the software application that most IT customers look toward solving their business problems.  However software applications have a lot of moving parts sitting logically under the stack that enables the given application.  Some of these parts include operating system components, hardware and usually a large amounts of data.

A car, like an IT solution, requires more than a few set of tools to complete the job. While companies share many common problems, as do car manufactures, company solutions ultimately need the entire tool box to be fully utilized.  This is necessary in order to get the right solution to a company's IT problem.

Healthy competition amongst vendors enables multiple degrees of freedom for application solutions, but more technologies in a given vendors tool box only enables the ability to build better IT solutions.  The same applies to those who are in the business of building cars.  From a business perspective it is absolutely critical that the technologies have to be articulated into a cohesive and complementary strategy for success.  For example Ford builds cars, trucks and hybrids.  Ford does not depend on putting a truck engine into a Ford Focus and vice versa for obvious reasons.  The same applies for technology.  No "one solution fits all" has ever been successful in any market. 

Venture Capitalists and public companies have been chasing "the" goal for many years that one given technology can satisfy all aspects of a given marketHowever when you combine and use multiple technologies in your portfolio and present the right business and sales focus the results can be pretty awesome.

Here is a good example of software technologies:

from the tool box combined with partner technology to produce an ultimate software application solution.

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Tuesday Jul 21, 2009

Do you remember your 1st job after graduating university?

Do you remember your first job out of college?  More importantly do you remember your first manager?  Yes that  person who decided to give you a chance.  I was on vacation during the July 4th holiday weekend in Maine and had a chance encounter.  This young person named Pat R., who was working the concierge service, was off in the corner being quiet on a slow night.  My wife Ellen and I along with our gang of three Michael, Michelle and Mikayla (are all versions of the name Michael) were the only guests having an early evening snack.  So I struck up a conversation with Pat.  I asked him if he was from Maine and was this his summer job, to which he said yes to both questions.  I also found out that he was entering his senior year at Colorado College.  I asked Pat what was his major and he replied Computer Science.  Bingo... my wife and kids were probably thinking: "we are going to be here for a while..."  I told Pat I worked at Sun Microsystems and then he started talking about Java, Java and more Java.  Pat admitted to being a Xbox 360 heavy user, especially at college.  My son really liked this part as I pester him for his diligent practice of his  Xbox dexterous skill.  My son enjoyed that Pat was a Halo 3 and Call of Duty player as well.  As we left to go back to our room I wished Pat good luck and we agreed to keep in touch via Facebook or Linkedin since he is a member of both networks.  Even though I only interacted with Pat for a short period of time I sensed he was well rounded and envision him doing well in his future.

There are many stories throughout the world from people who speak of remembering that first chance that “someone” gave them.  Through all walks of life from business, entertainment, sports, cuisine, medicine, etc. there are instances of people not forgetting that initial opportunity that started their climb in life.  I was in New Zealand recently and was told a story by my driver of his friend. His friend is the sole provider of beef in New Zealand for a large U.S. based fast food franchise.  Many years ago this gentleman responded to a small local newspaper advertisement.  He eventually won the contract over much larger companies in New Zealand because the decision maker had a good instinctive feeling about him and was willing to give him a chance.

I've been fortunate to have given several college graduates their first chance in their career and it is one of the most satisfying parts of the job.  To be able to watch young college graduates transform into seasoned industry veterans is similar to watching your own children grow into adults.  Listening to graduates from all over the world tell their story of what education has enabled for their lives is humbling.  It reminds me of the stories of my grandparents when they immigrated to the U.S. They too got that first chance which eventually led to my own first chance in the working world here in the U.S.

As an engineering undergraduate I had to complete 2 years of full time work experience in order to graduate from Northeastern University.  In 1979 Tom Seiker gave me my first cooperative education job at AVCO Research Laboratory in Everett, MA.  I also completed cooperative education at the Mitre Corporation in Bedford, MA.  Bob Preuss, Dr. Greg Robertshaw, John Roberts and Dr. B.N. Suresh Babu all gave me a chance at Mitre.  In fact, Bob Preuss made me do an official daily written status report that was logged and filed as part of the company record.  As you can imagine few engineers enjoy writing words, myself included, but because of his insistence writing became much easier for me.

My cooperative education was  mostly working on classified projects that required a secret clearance, so I naturally interviewed with the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  I decided that the commercial industry was right for me.   Ten companies wanted to give me a chance and I picked Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).  Bob Raspallo, Jim Scott and Mike Pennington gave me my first chance at DEC.  Thank you, I have not forgotten and continue with what you started with me.

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Tuesday Jul 07, 2009

Congestion, Creativity, Capital and Competition

Despite the global economic downturn some businesses are aggressively spending for the opportunities of the future.  However the spending of today has conflicting objectives that some would argue are necessary.  Let's take wireless mobile providers throughout the world.  In this market, competition is fierce and beneficial to consumers.  The services offered to subscribers are plentiful and rich but they do come at a high cost for the providers.  Subsidizing the phones from the likes of Nokia, Apple, Samsung and Blackberry is one big cost to get the customer's subscription.

It's great that technology has enabled GSM phones to work almost everywhere in the world except Japan "where you'll need a special phone that either supports CDMA or uses the 3G standard UMTS in the 2100 MHz frequency band. Sony Ericsson, Nokia, and a few other phone manufacturers now offer multi-band GSM phones that also include support for UMTS 2100. Coverage also extends to some cruise ships." There is a crowded group of companies looking for the opportunity to connect to individuals to provide any and all content. It's as if companies have discovered another Gold Rush.

I'm excited to see wireless and cable providers compete and innovate for delivering services to all of us around the world.  Watching cable providers offering land line service over IP and phone companies offering internet connectivity is a good example of the competitiveness out there.  The days of just delivery of service or being only the data pipe are long gone.  Providers want to delivery the data but more importantly they want to create the applications that produce the data.  The telco, cable provider and handset manufacturer all want to own as much of the subscriber stack as possible.  Now that's competition!  Here in the U.S. Comcast and Verizon are aggressively competing to win one subscriber at a time for internet, phone and HD television service.  As a result both companies are making massive investments in capital expenditures.

In fact, despite the global recession, capital spending continues throughout the world by some companies as a competitive advantage for the rebounding economy in the future.  Having spent the past few weeks talking to customers in New Zealand, Australia, Germany and reading newspapers such as the Financial Times, I've collected a group of random data.  This data can be basically summarized into Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection and applies to business as well as nature.

  • world airlines have 866 Boeing 787 Dreamliners on order.  Each 787 averages ~$200M U.S. each!
  • new cargo ships ordered or under construction is ~50% \*more\* than anticipated need
  • telcos are making huge capital investments but they understand they cannot be sustained
  • will energy become so expensive that transporting it becomes prohibitive?
  • will multiple countries practice protectionism such that localization becomes attractive again?

I'm excited that new technology will be able to help address the above as well as new economic problems we will all face in the future.


Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Monday Jun 22, 2009

Customer Service - It Matters...

The random nature of life events can be summarized by the phrases "right place at the right time" or "wrong place at the wrong time."  There is a scene in the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."  that portrays the randomness of an accident.  How appropriate given the events last month for my household.  The good news is that nobody was injured and that is the most important outcome.  It doesn't stop one from wondering that if one random event was different then the whole situation might have not occurred.

One Friday rainy morning my wife was driving my son to high school.  As she was coming back home at ~7:25 am there was an electrical short circuit on a power line that had shut down the road to one lane.  A junior at the same high school was running a little late and came around the corner of the road only to see traffic stopped in front of him.  He panicked and locked up his brakes and skidded across the road and hit my wife's vehicle.  Not the car in front or behind my wife... but my wife's car as you can see in this picture above.  When I arrived at the scene the high school student was looking glum.  It may have been the surcharge on his insurance he was thinking along with the warning he received for speeding under the road conditions.  I was glad that everyone was physically fine.  Both vehicles had to be towed and the tow trucks were on site quickly.

The next set of events came as a big surprise to my wife as well as me.  Prior to this accident she had never had an accident or even a parking ticket.  She called Liberty Mutual our insurance provider to file a claim.  The woman on the other end of the phone took information from my wife for about 15 minutes.  While still on the phone with the insurance agent my wife received a call from a car rental company notifying her that her substitute transportation (a 2009 minivan with 6000 miles/9656 km) was ready.  The towing company called as well asking if my wife decided on the repair facility and was requesting authorization to deliver the vehicle.  My wife then said to the Liberty Mutual claim representative:

"This is going too easy!..." and the Liberty Mutual claim representative responded: "It's supposed to go this way..."

Needless to say my wife was speechless only having to make 1 phone call.  She was also told that your deductible is being waived and since your vehicle has less than 12000 miles/19312 kilometers; only new original manufactured parts can be used for the repair.  In less than a week the repair shop had the replacement parts and she picked up her repaired vehicle 3 weeks to the day later.  The vehicle had over $5500 in damages!  Looking behind the scenes of the insurance company they have a sophisticated IT infrastructure that automates and consolidates B2B transactions in real time.  As a result all vendors in the value chain have the incentive to respond.  Repeat business and customer satisfaction are main drivers here for everyone.

When you are a customer you know how you would like to be treated.  A good thought to keep in mind with your own customers.


Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Tuesday May 26, 2009

CPU or GPU? one or the other or both?

The transistor counts of both the CPU and GPU are escalating almost as fast as toxic assets from the sub prime mortgage meltdown.  As in every good debate there are usually 2 opposed sides to a given topic.  Political parties such as Democrats and Republicans thrive on the point versus counterpoint arguments.  This analogy certainly is applicable to the technology of semiconductors.  Gone are the days of the CPU as the center of the computer.  With the advancement of visual applications in both the commercial and entertainment sectors, graphic processing has made a claim as the center of the computer.  Today 50 years after the first silicon transistor, semiconductor advancements have exceeded industry predictions 25 years ago.  It is truly amazing that computer and graphic processor transistor counts have gone from 100s of millions and exceeded the billion of transistor ceiling!  That is one large mass of circuits that have to be designed, verified, placed, routed and timed for chip signoff.

As the industry has pretty much hit the celing on clock speed, multiple instances of cores have appeared.  However having a quad-core CPU does not mean that your office productivity suite will run faster on your desktop as this application is single threaded.  Applications that are muti threaded will be able to take advantage of mutiple cores.  A good example is visualization hypervisor software that will run on multiple bare metal cores.  When you are managing multiple virtual machine instances many cpu threads come in handy.

It is obvious that word processing applications do not need extreme graphics processing either.  Then what does require high end graphics?  The graphics capability of the microprocessor is pretty impressive these days.  I can think of two areas: high end video games and visualization software for high end computer modeling and manipulation.  Both of these areas have a viable market as evidenced by the sales of popular gaming consoles out there such as PlayStation3 and the new consoles under development.  In the commercial sector 3D crash simulations are very cost effective for automobile manufactures when designing a safer automobile.

Ferraris and Fiat Cinquecentos both can go 50 mph (80 kph).  However not everyone has the need or monetary opportunity to purchase a Ferrari.  The same applies for CPU and/or GPUs depending on what you are trying to do.

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Tuesday May 12, 2009

Wi-Fi, Gadgets and Applications

I recently started using a new gadget that has made mobile information access much easier.  However it took some tinkering to get it all working seamlessly. MP3 and iPod music players are almost as common as wrist watches today.  My kids and I have acquired a collection of them over the years.  The latest edition for me is the iTouch which is the newest iPod that enables you to not only listen to music, but watch movies, photos, connect to the internet via w-ifi and install applications.  Basically the iTouch is everything the iPhone offers except the phone service (which you get from a mobile carrier network such as AT&T, Vodafone, etc.).

The internet connection via wi-fi is what really sets this appliance apart from competitors.  At home I can connect to my fully encrypted network.   What astonished me was my ability to connect to unsecured networks in many different localities.  For example while sitting in a medical building waiting for an appointment with my physician, I connected to my opthamologist's office on the other side of the building.  No encryption key required.  I have been able to connect to wide open wireless networks at banks, schools, hospitals, shopping malls, restaurants, and other people's home networks!  While this is rather convenient for me, it is scary at the same time.  I've also been impressed with establishments such as a world renown teaching hospital in Boston that offers guest wi-fi services once you accept terms and conditions.  The same applies to airports around the world where airlines may offer password based complementary or pay per use w-ifi access.

Now let's get to the applications which is the best part of the iTouch.  As is the case with the iPhone you can use a rich set of both complimentary and purchasable applications.  The iTouch comes with a base set of applications such as Calendar, YouTube, Email, Safari, Clock and Stock tracker.  You can also add applications such as Google Earth, Yahoo, USA Today, The Weather Channel, Yahoo, Google Maps, Currency converters, etc.  I loaded a complementary app called Nambu which allows you to post to all of your social networks at once via services such as Twitter, FriendFeed, Linkedin, Facebook, Ping.fm and pic.im.  Posting photos, links, micro blogs, product info, etc. is all seamlessly integrated. With Ping.fm you can post via a browser, SMS or through a 3rd party client such as Nambu. 

Now if we can only get all of those institutions and folks to secure their non-public networks!


Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Monday Apr 13, 2009

Community, Cosmos and Caviar

Last week I was with community friends in the largest country in the world.  It has the largest forest reserve and its lakes contain 25% of the world's unfrozen fresh water.  Thinking China... well I was in the Russian Federation. I visited 2 prestegious universities:  Moscow State University, Russia's largest and St. Petersburg State University, Russia's oldest and founded by Peter the Great.  It is very rewarding to see adoption of ones technology being put to good use via educational training and academic research.  While commercial innovation of technology is part of every high technology company only a select few lead with open sourced technology.

I was honored to participate in the dedication of an HPC Cluster at St. Petersburg State University.  This system will be part of the world effort where there are no barriers.  Only united scientists throughout the world working together to solve the mysteries of the universe.  The physicists at St. Petersburg State University are participants at the Large Haydron Collider at CERN.  As an engineer I'm amazed how scientists take and use technology for analyzing the mountains of data generated by their experiments.  Experiments that are trying to solve how we all originated from the big bang.  After suffering through 2 years of undergraduate physics, as do all engineers, I'm glad to leave the mysteries of the universe to the physicists.  However, I'm a very interested observer...

Just as important are all the developers who create, use and share technology for the physicists as well as the corporations that need it to run their business.  St. Petersburg hosted a Tech Days 2009 mashup event for the community.  The community showed up in force to talk open sourced software.  Jeet Kaul kicked of the Day 1 keynote and spoke about technology, sharing, innovation and the value the community brings to itself.  Jeet also kicked off the JavaFX coding challenge to the community.  Developers... if you are interested get involved and click here.

On Day 2 my keynote focused on the link between technology adoption and commercial innovation in the open source community.  Independent of the open source community that you choose is the need for continued innovation.  Innovation that can be applied to solving the problems of commercial business and entities.  The benefit to the community is that early adopters get to nurture, proliferate and improve technology with no barriers to entry or exit.  Getting involved costs you only your time to join the experience.  Developers worldwide may be interested in the OpenSolaris Applications of Steel challenge for Community One West on June 1st, 2009.  Get connected.  From university academics and their research to the competitive advantage of commercial cloud solutions using opensourced technology-- the benefits are too compelling to ignore.

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Tuesday Mar 31, 2009

What is this Community thing... like FOSS about???

I get asked quite frequently about open source software and how can you make any money, especially if you give software away.  My two word response is quite simple: "business model."  Open Source software does have licensing terms & conditions and revenue is part of the business model.  Having personally spent approximately 3 years front and center in the open source software world-- I've explained it many different ways in an attempt to get others to grasp the concept and not get stuck on myths.

My latest analogy to open source software is to use a popular franchise of Major League Baseball, whom some of us know as a customer.  Take the Boston Red Sox. Clearly this is one of the most successful baseball teams in the world, especially since John W. Henry took ownership of the team in 2002.

Now the analogy can apply to any sports team but I specifically am using the Red Sox because of it's presence, reach and magnitude throughout the world which is important for open source software.  If you live in the Boston area, as I do, you know first hand that securing tickets to any home game is an expensive monetary acquisition.  Even if you gain entry into a home game there are tiers within the ball park that dictate how much revenue you contribute to the Red Sox for the service provided:

There is a very wide margin of service one can obtain if they are willing to pay money.  A bleacher seat for a single game is $26 U.S. dollars, while the cheapest seat for the Oakland A's is $9 U.S dollars... see what I meant about reach and presence of a community.   Fenway Park is an enormous revenue generating machine using game tickets, food concession, merchandising, television broadcasting rights and loyalty.

Now let's talk about the vast majority that do not choose to spend money or do not have any money quite yet for the Red Sox.  There is an enormous following of the Boston Red Sox throughout the world.  To be a Red Sox fan costs you nothing, only your involvement with the Red Sox community.  You can watch, follow, cheer and get a similar Red Sox experience for free from a television, radio, free internet game tracker or newspaper box score.  The Red Sox welcome all types of community fans irrespective of where in the cycle of the business model they currently reside.  A subscription is available to every fan depending on their affordable level of service.  Some loyal Red Sox fans commit up front to many years of continued service.  The key point is that fans (community) can come and go and spend or not depending upon their own circumstance.  Free TV fans are adopters where revenue is not a primary focus while premium paying fans are contributing to the Red Sox revenue stream.  In the end both types of fans are customers of the Red Sox and the Red Sox nurture the needs of a varying wide fan base for profit.

The Red Sox certainly want to reach as wide of a fan base as possible including all demographics.  For example that young 11 year old female in bleacher seats with her Dad and pink Red Sox hat may be a future CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Her company may want a corporate suite at Fenway Park some day.  It's very clear to the Red Sox that young Red Sox fans of today usually become future adult Red Sox fans that are likely to contribute revenue to the Red Sox.  When the Red Sox play away games you can see many loyal Red Sox fans at baseball stadiums in Tampa Bay, Baltimore, New York, Oakland, Toronto and Cleveland.

The Red Sox model works for all fans with time and/or money but clearly the Red Sox have been successful by growing their fan base world wide and providing a superior product for their community.  So when you think open source software examples think Red Sox and opensolaris, openoffice, eclipse, ubuntu, mysql, java, opensuse, glassfish, redhat, apache, etc. and the largest contributor of open sourced software in the world.  The choice is yours for choosing the team and community that is right for you.  Developers from many FOSS communities are getting together at CommunityOne West in June.  Click here to register.


Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Monday Mar 02, 2009

Another Tool for the Cloud gets better

Almost everyone in the IT infrastructure business is feverishly working on cloud solutions today.   This includes the incumbent providers as well as the infrastructure providers to the incumbents.  An excellent blog can be found here which outlines the trends that have accelerated over the past 5 years with respect to what has morphed into the cloud.

One tool that is platform agnostic across Linux, Windows, OpenSolaris, etc. is Sun's open sourced Grid Engine.  There is no need to look for a better policy based workload manager which includes dynamic provisioning of application workloads.  We are just about to release update 2 to the 6.2 release.  More platform support (see below) and of course more and better features such as improved resource management of parallel jobs.  Grid Engine is used fairly regularly in HPC stacks throughout the world.  In fact Grid Engine is in use at some of the largest compute installations in the world.  Keeping 60,000 processor cores busy is a formidable task.  A hard requirement that only makes the product that much better.  I can't wait to see how solutions will be able to combine other tools from the toolbox and create technology for clouds, HPC engines and who knows what the limits will be.  We have come a long way since the Turing Machine from the 1930s.

In addition to being excited about the advancement of technology it is also very rewarding for your technology to contribute toward the benefit of solving some very difficult problems.

Grid Engine supports the following platforms:

  • OpenSolaris
  • Solaris 10, 9 and 8 Operating Systems (SPARC Platform Edition)
  • Solaris 10 and 9 Operating Systems (x86 Platform Edition)
  • Solaris 10 Operating System (x64 Platform Edition)
  • Apple Mac OS X 10.5
  • Apple Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), PPC platform
  • Apple Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), x86 platform
  • Hewlett Packard HP-UX 11.00 or higher, 32 bit
  • Hewlett Packard HP-UX 11.00 or higher, 64 bit (including HP-UX on IA64)
  • IBM AIX 5.1, 5.3
  • Linux x86, kernel 2.4, 2.6, glibc >= 2.3.2
  • Linux x64, kernel 2.4, 2.6, glibc >= 2.3.2
  • Linux IA64, kernel 2.4, 2.6, glibc >= 2.3.2
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003
  • Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 or later
  • Windows 2000 Server with Service Pack 3 or later
  • Windows 2000 Professional with Service Pack 3 or later
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 2008 Server


About

The blog of Bob Porras - Vice President, Data, Availability, Scalability & HPC for Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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