15 Minutes of Real Time Fame

I have time on the brain today. Rob Kolstad of USENIX once wrote that systems administration is one of the few disciplines in which you deal with time scales ranging from the microsecond to the year (megasecond), depending upon what you are dependent upon (memory, disk, grep output or purchase order). As human beings, we are real-time by nature, and living in the metropolitan New York area, those real time bounds are short and regularly tested (it's called impatience and marked by car horns).

Real time, historically, was the domain of embedded devices such as nuclear reactors, industrial controls, and medical equipment. If missing a time deadline meant melting down or flaming out, you had to worry about application architecture down to the level of scheduling sub-tasks. How long your application would run without stopping, how long it might sleep without handling data, and squeezing latency out of every routine made real-time programming slightly less oppressive and tedious than raking a lawn full of autumn leaves.

Real time is enjoying a renaissance today, thanks to (a) an increased emphasis on managing latency out of financial applications (b) the abundance of media and media manipulating applications available on the network and (c) the ease of developing applications that operate within hard time constraints. Greg Bollela, Distinguished Engineer in the Java software group, sat down with me for an Innovating@Sun podcast about real-time Java. Greg discusses how these Java libraries manage the time management for the developer, abstracting away the all-too-real bean counting at the CPU cycle level.

Applications are only as much fun as the data we have to feed them. What good is real time without a boundless supply of media types to synchronize, deliver and edit? With our ability to post videos of everyday life to YouTube, and better than hobby quality video editing capabilities on the desktop, we are enjoying a world equidistant between Andy Warhol's supposed universal fifteen minutes of fame and Spinal Tap keyboardist Viv Savage's motto to "have a good time, all the time."

We did just that -- Dave Cavena, systems engineer for many of the production and entertainment studio companies, and Bob Sokol, Chief Media Architect in our field organization, joined me to talk about what happens on the other side of the microphone, camera lens or sound board. We run the table from digital rights management, content transcoding, why tape (of all flavors) is still good, and what customer designs Sun has to offer in the digital content management space. It's fifteen minutes that preface delivering a customer or employee's online fame.

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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