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/

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/

Wednesday Mar 18, 2009

Xbox 360 "RROD" it happended...

It took approximately 15 months for the event to occur, but as it has happened to so many others the RROD was not unexpected.  My son creates lots of computations on his 1 teraflop Xbox 360. Needless to say the gaming community is not very amused with Xbox 360 technical problems.  More about community in a future post.

The console in our house suffered from the lower right quadrant ring of red light, otherwise known as the "E74 System Error."  Microsoft has extended the 1-year warranty to 3 years for the RROD error, but the E74 System Error still only carries a 1 year warranty.  It is becoming obvious that the common hardware failures are interrelated (heat and cold solder joints) but go figure.

Next came the big decision.  Pack up the Xbox and ship it for a costly repair that will take 1 month or do it myself?  There is plenty of information out there in the cloud as to how one can fix the problems that statistically should occur at a much lower percentage.  My soon to be 15 year old son is contemplating a career in engineering so we said let's void the warranty that has already expired and see what happens...

To attempt a fix you need to disassemble the whole unit down to the bare motherboard.  This includes opening the clever injection molded plastic case that has no screws, the metal case that requires Torx screwdrivers, the control PCB that drives the (see picture above) on/off LED button, the CD drive, the air plenum, the heatsinks, the dual cooling fans, the drive power cable and the drive data cable. Next you need to unscrew the motherboard from the metal case in order to expose the back of the motherboard.  Here is where the infamous x-clamps reside. You need to remove the x-clamps that secure the heatsinks to the 2 custom ASICs. The 2 ASICs are pretty impressive. A custom multi threaded (2) multi-core (3) IBM PowerPC-based CPU and a custom ATI GPU. Polygon performance is 500 million triangles/sec and 48 billion shader operations/sec.  No wonder the HPC community is programming GPUs for their computational might.  512 MB of 700 MHz GDDR3 RAM feeds the GPU. Memory interface bandwidth comes in at 22.4GB/sec. Not bad at all but here lies the problem.  The Xbox is a screaming number cruncher which produces electrical resistance and as a result heat.  Thermal expansion (heat) and thermal contraction (cool) cause the motherboard to be bent by the x-clamps.  Repeated cycles of this causes cold soder joints. One bad connection on a signal and your Xbox is toast.  By the way server engineers have been dealing with this issue for years. The thermal problem can be solved, but it can and usually does as the result of adding cost to the product. In my opinion the issue for the Xbox is that it is an extremely high volume product and trading off added cost versus margin to a gaming console is a difficult balance.

The fix basically involves reflowing the solder balls in the CPU, GPU, RAM area with a heat gun. Assuming this is successful you have to put the whole game console back together.  But before you do this you replace the x-clamps with metric screws to attach the heat sinks.  You have to be very careful to clean the old heat paste completely from both ASICs before applying artic silver 5 thermal paste.  If you do not do this correctly your heatsinks will not work efficiently and your unit will overheat quickly.

We put the whole thing back together and powered it up around 10:30pm after spending about 6 hours working and 2 trips to the hardware store and RadioShack . It worked!  My son was happy as he was able to get to level 65 on Call of Duty 5.

I suggest that if you want to increase the odds of not getting RROD on your Xbox then mount your console in the tower position (standing on end) rather than flat like a laptop.  When the console is in the flat position the motherboard is on the bottom of the unit and cooling is more difficult.  When the console is mounted on it side (which is a valid position since it has skid pads on its side as well as bottom) the motherboard is cooled more efficiently. It's even better if you can can mount the Xbox on 4 small blocks so that more cool air can flow into the unit from all top, bottom and side intakes.

It was fun showing my son aspects of engineering in practice but even more enjoyable to actually have fixed the console for him.  On the downside-- given the data out there on these RROD problems, I know the unit will ultimately fail again...


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

Tuesday Dec 09, 2008

OpenSolaris 2008.11 is here

The latest release of OpenSolaris (2008.11) just posted a few weeks ago.  As we discussed in Brasil it is so easy to get and so easy to kick the tires using Virtual Box.  The community has been busy building out the latest enhancements to this release.  We have aggregated FOSS components such as GNOME, FireFox and Thunderbird while having innovated as well.  Take notice of our new installer, OpenOffice 3.0, ZFS Time Slider as well as the integrated packaging system (IPS) repository. Innovation and aggregation brought to you by the same source.

Keep in mind the 2008.11 release is built using the SAME technologies that bring you an enterprise operating system.  From a scalable multiprocessing kernel to a GUI interface targeted at Web developers, 2008.11 combines the best of both worlds.  Take some time and use the package repository to add or subtract the thousands of FOSS application available to you.  While the package repository continues to grow every community member has the opportunity to contribute at their own comfort level.

Kudos to the team and stay tuned for the 2009.04 release...  Think about working with the community on the build updates that get posted every 2 weeks at OpenSolaris.org.

Give

it

a

try...

Today. 

Peter Buckingham gave it a spin.


Monday Nov 10, 2008

A new Networked Appliance is the Appliance Appliance for Storage and IT

Going against the establishment or trying to redefine standards in an industry is always hard.  While believers encourage you the industry critics are happy to knock you down.  For the critics as Dale Carnegie says: "Criticisms are disguised complements."  Today after lots of encouragement, hard work and collaboration Sun is announcing it's first wave of OpenStorage appliance solutions built from some pretty compelling systems and software technologies. 

In a nutshell the Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage System Family offers data services via:

  • - Storage Analytics
  • - VLAN support
    - ZFS Hybrid Storage Pool
    - RAID-Z (5 and 6), Mirrored and Striping
    - Snapshots
    - Clone and clone promotion
    - Snapshot Restore
    - Storage ISV integration
    - NFSv3, v4 service
    - Kernel based CIFS Server
    - iSCSI Target
    - Remote Replication
    - Data Compression
    - Active-Active Clustering
    - Thin Provisioning
    - Virus scanning
    - NDMP Server (Network Data Management Protocol)
    - System Self-Healing
    - ZFS Data Integrity
    - RAID-6 (DP) and optional RAID-6 Across JBODs
    - LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol)
    - IP MultiPathing (IPMP)
    - I/O MultiPathing between the Sun Storage 7410 and JBODs
    - Phone home telemetry
    - Multi Browser Interface support
    - Heterogeneous access
    - Role Base Access Control and more...

As true appliances the Sun Storage 7110, 7210 and 7410 offer you a seamless easy to use captive control interface.  It should not matter what is under the covers. But let's take a quick peek under and look at some of the piece parts.  The same piece parts that allow anyone in the opensolaris community to roll your own storage solution.  A great group of folks at Sun have rolled our own storage appliance for sale ($$$) if that is the right solution for you.  Some community members have money but no time and some community members have no money but timeMeet up with them.  The choice is yours and the cost savings are significant for either choice.  However it is pretty difficult to make something very easy and that's where the technical skills of systems and software expertise at Sun differentiates. 

Next up in our recipe is standard commodity hardware.  Nothing special is needed here to add or tweak the configuration.  Software turns the standard hardware into the appliance.  Stock servers with disks and dumb JBOD expansion if you really want to scale. No magic here other than well designed hardware.  Add in components such as SSD/Flash technology to optimize file serving.  Marry it all with very clever file system technology (you know what it is) so performance gains pop.  Intelligence based on a simple flow of:

if ssd_present

then

       begin {optimize ssd}

else

       begin {optimize normal};

That's right an auto sensing file system (click here to see the actual code) for solid state disks no matter how many you may have in your configuration.  Now let's look at one final component. Technology that combines, contains, configures, consolidates and choreographs all this neat stuff into one seamless appliance of fully integrated software and hardware (FISHworks).  The result is analytics for insight and management.  Integrated RAS, fault management and reporting.  Click and point for configuration, management of data services and user management.  Simply easy.

Congratulations are due to too many folks to name here across the systems, software, services, marketing, ops, etc. organizations at Sun.  The most exciting aspect for me is the almost limitless additional services and horizontal scaling that can be realized through the combination of more innovation among systems and opensolaris software.  No matter what model is right for you, as a community member, you can participate or just watch.  It's totally up to you.

As the graphic shows above we've put all hands in for a job well done.

Enough of the quick peek of what is under the covers, just get it and try it out and let us know what you think.  A select set of community members have been working with us for a while and see the glass both ways.  We have been listening too... that is why we took some extra time.



Wednesday Oct 01, 2008

Software Freedom = Brasil

What is important in Brasil?  Obviously football, samba dance, carnival and if you come here to Brasil and talk to developers: open sourced softwareThis week in Brasil the community of developers, including students, came together for 3 days.  The above picture shows you the density of a city discovered in the year 1532.  The picture also represents a world leader, as a country, for progressing open sourced software.  Today 1 out of ever 10 software developers reside in Brasil!

I had the pleasure of personally thanking, on behalf of Sun, Sean Maloney EVP and Chief Sales Marketing Officer at Intel for his partner keynote at Sun's 1st 2008-2009 Worldwide Developers Conference in San Paulo. Sun's partner Intel along with our other partners from AMD and Ericsson certainly had lots of technology to share this past week.  Sean discussed Solaris innovation as a partner.  Innovation that is valuable to the open sourced community via OpenSolaris despite what others may think.

I keynoted after Sean and discussed value to and from the community when you innovate, collaborate and integrate together.  I demonstrated how opensourced virtualization software for the desktop enables a developer to work with multiple guest operating systems as virtual machines.  We had a OpenSolaris 2008.05 virtual machine (in local language - Brasil Portugeuse) installing and removing packages seamlessly with its package manager.  The OpenSolaris 2008.11 release coming next month just gets better.  Heck we even had the virtual machine check the followings of the U.S. stock market crisis via a Firefox browser and My Yahoo.  Finally we put the OpenSolaris virtual machine through some work to demonstrate storage data services such as ZFS and snapshots.  Important technology if your want to build open storage products. 

Keep leading the way Brasil!  Bravo.



Thursday Sep 04, 2008

Sun Tech Days 2008-2009 coming to you

Once again we are kicking off our yearly worldwide developer conference for 2008-2009.  We are coming to you, the developers, in 13 countries across 4 continents this year.  Netbeans, OpenSolaris, Java, Solaris, System Administration and best of all: hands-on-labs.  Throughout the world, developers continue to flock to these Tech Days to learn, share, develop and participate in the community of millions.

No matter if it's in South America, Asia, India, etc. it is exciting to meet with professionals, students, professors, consultants, customers, partners and vendors in a community setting where innovation and technology matters most.

If your building out your infrastructure, focusing on web 2.0 or looking to take advantage of high performance technical computing a Tech Day near you is worth experiencing.

See you soon in São Paulo Brasil.

Até lá!

Tuesday Jun 10, 2008

OpenStorage blather... maybe not

There has been much talk about open source storage software in the past several months.  It seems that it is generating more interest than open source software in general.  The debates have aligned around 2 basic camps of nonsense and practicality.  One observation is starting to become clear.  It speaks relevance to certain folks.  Usually if something is mere hype people will ignore it.  I've watched something that was previously irrelevant become a lightening rod as of late.  Just as we are aligning for a presidential election here in the U.S. we have alignment around proprietary versus open sourced storage software.  More than mere startups are interested and able to design, build and offer a solution using software that is built from software that is open sourced. Heck you can even build your product on an open sourced code base and charge for it too.  It goes against the traditional grain of what is considered the norm for storage.  There is lots of proprietary storage software out there that comes from open sourced code-- e.g. embedded controllers.   Systems companies who have the knowledge of software, integration, sheer collaboration and understanding their customers are capable of creating a similar picture to the above.  It does go beyond DIY.

In fact if you have the expertise to lead in design trends you may be able to do better.  Take the so called blather around SSDs.  Some argue replacing a spinning drive with a FLASH drive using the traditional disk I/O interface is not worth it.  Maybe they are right.  However if your software was designed to use that SSD as a tertiary cache between the disk and the computational engine that would be different.  Yes maybe even altering as was the case when very large memories (VLM) were introduced in the mid-90s.  VLMs enabled the killer application database because working sets became much bigger.  The semiconductor folks do something similar and refer to the concept as pipelining.  Yes old concepts that get reapplied with newer technologies producing significant results.

So it is merely not just a do it yourself thing.  Click on the picture above an scroll through what the product offers.  An offering from a company who leads rather than follows.  It is probably true too if your company has all the capability of using open source software, hardware design and system integration.  Big companies too... not only startups.  Interesting times...

About

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

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