Wednesday Oct 15, 2008

Chip Multi-Threading, Cooking and the Anatomy of a Viral Video

Here's a fun video about chip multi-threading, explained through cooking:

The Story

For those of you who don't speak German: Ingo, the hero of this movie, wants to cook German roulades. He uses his hands as registers, while his table serves as a level 1 cache. The instruction cache is his brain, where the recipe resides. Soon, he reaches the point at which it says: "Pour red wine into the pan". There's no red wine in the registers, no wine in the L1 cache, so he needs to ask his memory subsystem: "Hooooney, would you mind bringing me a bottle of Merlot from the basement, pleaaaase?"

While "honey", the memory subsystem, is busy bringing wine, Ingo explains that at this point, there's no difference whether he stirs the dish at 1.4 GHz, or at 4.5 GHz (this is the piece where his stirring gets frantic). Actually, he'd rather use his precious time to do other useful things with what he has in L1 cache already, for example cook dumplings, or prepare dessert. That would indeed help a lot in getting dinner ready sooner, even while waiting for "honey" to bring some wine.

And that is the whole point of chip multi-threading.

Now, imagine 8 Ingos, each with two hands (think pipelines) and doing 4 dishes per hand (read: threads). What a feast!

CMT Cooking Going Viral

I first saw Ingo giving this presentation in February, during Sun Germany's Partner University event. It was hilarious, the whole  room was laughing and we knew he needed to do it again. So, with the help of a few people, Ingo and Ulrike created this fun video.

They posted it on YouTube in July and we featured it on one episode of the HELDENFunk podcast for German system admins. Soon, Ingo reached a few hundred downloads and we thought: "Cool, we have a new fun video to share!"

Then, Alex Wunschel, aka the "Podpimp", one of the more well-known podcasters in Germany and a listener of the HELDENFunk podcast, twittered about Ingo's memory subsystem called "Schatz!" (the German equivalent of "honey"). That was even cooler.

Then, Thomas Knüwer saw Alex' Tweet, and blogged about it. On the "Handelsblatt" blog. Think something like "Fortune" Magazine in German. And he got 14 comments. Gulp. 

The result: Ingo's views skyrocketed, soon he was in the thousands, and last time I checked, he had more than 13,500 views, for a 3.5 minute video about chip multi-threading and a memory subsystem called "honey". Nice!

Today, Alec and I chatted about Ingo's video and apparently, he liked it very much. Well, I guess Ingo can start counting again. This time, english speaking viewers, too. Have fun!

Would you like Ingo to dub his video in English? Or do you prefer the German version? Just drop a comment below! 

Wednesday Feb 27, 2008

The UltraSPARC T2 Processor and Security

A couple of weeks ago, the Sun Partner University saw 250 technical people from Sun's german partner community gathering in Fulda, Germany. Besides showing videos, talking about Sun Visualization Software, the Sun Grid Engine and Sun Studio Compilers and evangelizing Web 2.0, I had the honor of recording an interview with Alec Muffett, one of our Principal Engineers, based in the UK.

Alec Presenting 

Alec came to Fulda to talk about the Sun UltraSPARC T2 (aka Niagara 2) Processor (here are some systems to try out) and Security. You can listen to the interview he gave at the current episode #11 of the HELDENFunk podcast (if you don't understand german, start listening after the 2nd minute or so). Now, he also published a video he recorded of himself while he gave his presentation. A very worthwhile and fun 16 minutes to watch!

Notice the fun and refreshing style of his presentation and slides A true master of the Zen Arts of Presentation!

Tuesday Oct 09, 2007

CEC 2007: JavaFX on stage, podcasting with Jonathan and Web 2.0 at the unconference

A screenshot of the CEC Message Prompter JavaFX Application 

Boy is this CEC 2007 conference a busy place! Here's a couple of things that got me excited since my last post:

  • Yesterday we had an Unconference session coupled with a couple of speed geeking sessions. Three of the speed geeking sessions were centered around Web 2.0: Neeraj presented on CE 2.0, our new collaborative infrastructure for the field that leverages a lot of Web 2.0 principles. Hal Stern shared some fascinating thoughts about why DRM is Morons and why sharing content is always a good thing, even if it's professional music or movies or other traditional content.
  • Today, after the morning sessions and the big launch, a couple of colleagues and I sat down to record the second episode of the CEC 2007 Podcast. This time, Jonathan Schwartz and John Fowler joined in, together with Matthias Pfützner, Robert Holt, Dave Levy and Michael Ramchand. Don't miss this episode where we share our impressions of CEC and discuss some thoughts about the value of Web 2.0 to us.
  • This CEC has also probably seen the debut of JavaFX and JavaFX Script on a big stage :). To the top, you see a screenshot done by Rajesh of an application that we use to prompt questions from the audience to the presenters on stage. Questions come in through SMS, Email and Instant Messaging while the presenter on stage gives his talk. They are aggregated and fed into a database by the CEC Backstage Messaging Team. Finally, they are displayed onto a screen through the CEC Message Prompter for the speaker and the audience to see.
    The message prompter is written in JavaFX Script. It uses traditional Java classes to access the database through JDBC and it can also digest messages in an XML format through the JAXB API and this is the first significant feature of JavaFX: You can mix traditional Java Classes with JavaFX Script seamlessly, leaving all the heavy-lifting to Java so you can concentrate on the GUI through JavaFX script. Another nice feature of JavaFX Script is the declarative syntax: You just write down how what you want and the JavaFX runtime takes care of instantiating the objects, initializing their parameters and fiddling them into the Swing event loop.
    The above photo only shows a screenshot, but the application is animated: Every time a new message is highlighted, old messages are reduced in size and color while the highlighted message grows and becomes a darker color. Also, to the right, there is a dynamic tag cloud that reflects all of the words visible on screen and where the size of the word indicates its multitude. Again, the tags are animated based on the changes in the message part. Programming animations in JavaFX is very easy thanks to two constructs: Variable binding and parameter streaming. Variable binding means binding an object attribute (i.e. the HTML code that describes the rendering of the message) to a variable (the position of the message in the message list). After the binding, the attribute behaves much like a marionette: As soon as something changes in the data model (i.e. a new message is added to the display list), the attribute is updated in real time and the font characteristics are updated to reflect the change (in this case, the next message grows while the older one shrinks). And here comes another mechanism to help, the "dur" statement. A line like "myVariable = [0..100] dur 500" means: Assign the values 0 to 100 to the variable myVariable during the next 500 milliseconds. Perfect for animation control! JavaFX takes care of all the setting up of timer threads etc. under the hood, while the programmer can essentially animate everything in their application. Very nice.
    Of course, the CEC Message Prompter is not bugless, and unfortunately, the highlighting went wrong a few times :). Fortunately, this didn't seem to confuse anyone, but today I implemented a watchdog mechanism to make sure stuff always has the right size no matter what. I hope that this works more smoothly tomorrow...
    I'd like to encourage everyone to try JavaFX script out. It still feels a lot like beta but it's already quite useable, heck, we're using it in production right now at CEC :). Let me know if you want the source code to the CEC Message Prompter application.
Well, that's it for now. Off I go to drop into a session real quick before attending a meeting and then there's a party scheduled, too...

Wednesday Aug 08, 2007

A True Web 2.0 Chip

Yesterday was the big day in which we launched the UltraSPARC T2 chip, code-named Niagara 2.

Few people realize how significant this announcement really is. The UltraSPARC T1 chip already changed the game of providing a powerful web infrastructure: By providing 32 threads in parallel, the UltraSPARC T1 chip and the associated T2000 server can provide more than double the performance of today's regular chips, at half the power cost. Even now, 18 months after its introduction, this chip still remains ahead of the pack both in absolute web performance and in price/performance and in performance/watt.

UltraSPARC T2 is not just a better version of the T1 chip, it provides three significant improvements:

  • More parallelism: Instead of 32 concurrent threads, UltraSPARC T2 delivers 64 threads running in parallel. Moore's law gives us twice as many transistors to play with every 18 weeks and the best way to leverage that is to turn them into parallelism. UltraSPARC T1 and T2 are all about maximizing the return on Moore's Law. Check out the specs.
  • More networking: The UltraSPARC T2 features two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports directly on the chip. Two. Ten GigaBit. On the chip. The NIC is included, there is no bus system between the NIC and the CPU, the CPU is the NIC is the CPU. Total embedded networking. For applications that live in the network, what more can they ask for in a server?
  • Built-in, free and fast encryption. In a world where the web becomes social, private data becomes more and more common, but also more and more important to secure. Making security a default feature of your web service is now available for free and it does not impact performance.

Of course, there are many more other improvements, such as 8 FP units, more memory etc., but the three points above alone make the UltraSPARC T2 the perfect chip for web 2.0 applications.

This guy needs UltraSPARC T2!For instance, check out this analysis of the Facebook platform by Marc Andreesen. If you don't want to read it all, here's a summary: Web 2.0 means explosive growth in server capacity, for any reasonably successful application. In the case of iLike, they are growing their user base at the rate of 300k a day! This kind of growth can be fatal for your company if you don't have the infrastructure to sustain it. Well, UltraSPARC T2 is just the kind of technology that was designed to do just that: Handle many, many, many concurrent users at once as efficiently and securely as possible.

So, all you Web 2.0 startups out there, get in touch with your nearest Sun rep or Sun SE and ask them about UltraSPARC T2, or better yet, get a free 60-day trial of UltraSPARC T1, do your favourite benchmark, double that number and forget about that crypto-card to see what UltraSPARC T2 can do for you real soon now. Then, sit back, relax and keep those 300k a day users coming!

Tuesday Jul 31, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

Yesterday, we've announced good financial results for the last fiscal year 07. Very good financial results. I like working for a profitable company, it makes so many things so much easier.

Tomorrow, I'm going to have a meeting with my managers to discuss what to do next. Since we're early in the new financial year 08, I'm thinking about what to do next. So, here are some new year's priorities for my FY08 at Sun:

  • Web 2.0: I've been talking to customers, partners and Sun people in Germany about Web 2.0 a number of times. Every time, the feedback has been very clear: We want More! So I'm going to do more Web 2.0 related stuff: More blogging, podcasting, perhaps a successor to the now famous ZFS movie, more participation in social networking sites, including del.icio.us, XING and Facebook, more evangelizing and of course more insight into where this journey is headed to.
  • Technology: Sun is all about technology. We create, apply and leverage technology to enable the participation age. (Did you know that we've proclaimed the participation age before Tim O'Reilly published his famous Web 2.0 article?)
    We've seen Niagara changing the rules of processor technology and building the backbone of the web, again, and we've already disclosed some information on Niagara 2. We've seen the Constellation System debut during ISC 2007. You may have noticed that the Sun Ultra 40 Workstation is the best workstation on the planet, and BTW, we're changing the economics of true Video-On-Demand Streaming as well, just to name a few favourite technologies on my list.
    The biggest problem to solve now is: Spreading the word. Let me explain. Whenever I participate in a Sun day (A customer meeting in which Sun people present on new Sun technologies), two effects consistently happen: First, more people than originally planned show up (I once had people join in over a video conference line). Second, the meeting takes much longer than originally anticipated, because customers want to hear so much more about our technologies.
    Since we don't have much money to spend on advertising, sponsoring or other forms of traditional awareness generation, we need to do a lot more of these Sun days, and talk to customers one by one. Is this more difficult and time-consuming? Yes. Does this have a more lasting effect than traditional marketing? You bet. Only by talking to the experts at our customers are we able to verify that what we do is right and make sure our technology meets the people that want/need/develop for/join/use/participate in it. In FY08, I'm going to participate in more Sun days and talk to as many customers about Sun technology as I can.
  • Solaris: This may be a sub-topic of "Technology", but it really is a topic of its own: I use Solaris at home, on my laptop, evangelize it to customers, and it feeds my need as a computer scientist to learn about interesting things every day. In FY08, I'm going to use more new Solaris features at home and at work, write more about it (German readers: Check out this ZFS whitepaper), participate more in the OpenSolaris communities and make sure OpenSolaris gets the attention with developers, customers and partners that it deserves.
All in all, I'm sure FY08 is going to be interesting and fun. FY07 has been the year of technology announcements, FY08 will be the year of seeing them all in action. A year of interesting times.
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