Archive for October, 2009

Is vertical integration back?

Monday, October 26th, 2009

First it was Appe, with their HW-to-services (read: AppStore and iTunes) approach, which proved highly profitable and basically put them back on the map. Then, more recently, Oracle’s boss Larry Ellison declared bluntly declared that the goal of a combined Oracle-Sun will be to “integrate hardware and software and deliver revolutionary systems”, after acknowledging Apple’s success: “whatever you think of Apple, I think they’ve done a great job of tackling the hardware problem while tackling the software problem.”

So, have we run full circle and after the hype of specialization and de-coupling, are we back into fully integrated  vertical systems?

As the example of Apple and Oracle shows, we very well may be. I also remember Intel’s CTO talking about the need to tackle the issue of power management on an integrated system level – best done, of course, if everyting is delivered by one (ok, actually two) companies (the second one, of course, is Microsoft with Windows). It is pretty obvious that there are potential benefits to reap in terms of performance, cost and efficiency by vertically integrating and delivering complete systems from one source.

I think that, for vertical (re)integration to succeed, two conditions must be met:

– you must be dominant in your domain and provide the de facto model that everyone tries to copy

– you must have the financial muscle to follow through with the cost of delivering more yourself

Clearly, all three companies mentioned above – Apple, Oracle, Intel – fulfill both of these conditions. It will be intersting to watch how this game will play out in more fragmented domain such as mobile telephony. Apple had some significant success, but they are still very much a niche player. Will such vertical integration happen there? Obviously, two companies (beside Apple) are trying hard – Google and Microsoft. I think it will be an interesting battle to watch in the coming couple of years…

Big Sky Country

Friday, October 16th, 2009

This time, just a photo blog – I believe the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy.

Lone Mountain in the back

Lone Mountain in the back

Montana Ranch with the Rockies in the back

Montana Ranch with the Rockies in the back

The Prairie

The Prairie

Small town in Montana

Small town in Montana

Entering Blackfeet Indian Nation Territory

Entering Blackfeet Indian Nation Territory

The Rockies: St.Mary's Lake

The Rockies: St.Mary's Lake

The Rockies

The Rockies

The Rockies

The Rockies

The Continental Divide: where the Atlantic and the Pacific are separated

The Continental Divide: where the Atlantic and the Pacific are separated

Glacier in the Rockies

Glacier in the Rockies

The Canyon of Missouri - before it becomes the 2nd mightiest river in North America

The Canyon of Missouri - before it becomes the 2nd mightiest river in North America

Typical Butte in the Prairie

Typical Butte in the Prairie

The rest of the pictures are from Yellowstone. Unfortunately in wintertime the geysiers look more like a haze…

Typical Yellowstone Scenery

Typical Yellowstone Scenery

Firehole River: termal river due to termal water flowing into it

Firehole River: termal river due to termal water flowing into it

Bison family

Bison family

Buffalos by the Yellowstone river

Buffalos by the Yellowstone river

Dried up hot water spring

Dried up hot water spring

Mammoth Hot Spring

Mammoth Hot Spring

Hot Water impregnates trees with travertine, effectively petrifying them

Hot Water Impregnates trees with travertine, effectively petrifying them

Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River

Yellowstone Canyon & me

Yellowstone Canyon & me

Reflections from SOSP

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

I’m on my way back to Europe from the Symposium on Operating Systems Principles (SOSP), held in a stunning place in Montana. Wow, it was a huge event: over 500 attendees, good talks, lots of interactions and tones of food for thought to chew on. Many famous researchers rubbing shoulders with wanna-be OS writers, bright PhD students and quite many industry representatives (including myself) fishing for new ideas (Amazon, Facebook, Nokia even Apple were represented).

So, what would be the key takeaways?

There were two papers – one from CMU (even won the best paper award) and one from Microsoft research in  co-operation with Johns Hopkins University and Washington University – both reaching the same conclusion: same computing throughput can be obtained in data centres using arrays of low(er) capability chips (such as Intel Atom) than with server chips, but at roughy 1/10 of the power budget. This was quite a revelation for me and certainly something to think about further.

There were then several papers and posters on novel OSes for massively multi-core chips, mostly sponsored by – surprise… – Microsoft. There seems to be a consensus building up around the fact that today’s time-shared OSes (Linux, Windows, MacOS) will not scale and the most promising way forward is the use of space-shared OS concepts (it was nice to see my thoughts confirmed…) Microsoft is also making forrays into OS for heterogeneous chips, covering e.g. GPUs.

A slightly worrying result – from a couple of papers – was that even with state-of-the-art technologies reliable recording and replay of parallel software behaviour is either unacceptably intrusive (overhead of 50-150%) or so unreliable that it becomes unusable in practice. This clearly is an area where would be great to see some breakthrough results…

Beside these major themes, I thoroughly enjoyed some of the sessions, such as Prof. Barbara Liskov‘s keynote (last year’s ACM Turing Award winner), the panel at the HotPower workshop or VMWare’s BoF session. Prof. Liskov re-iterated her belief that programming centred around abstract data types and encapsulation is the way to go and expressed her reservations with regards to how far chips will scale in terms of number of cores. This resonated quite well with Flautner Krisztián’s (ARM) thoughts at the panel; he was also quite clear in his message that only radical – 40% and up – power reduction really counts, anything less is a waste of research effort. Point taken… It was good to hear him stating that he believes that eventually homogeneous chips will prevail, even in the embedded / mobile space.

VMWare hosted a really interesting session primarily aimed at getting universities interested in working with them. Somewhat surprisingly, the guys – real engineers, no marketing bullhead was present – gave the impression that Amazon is VMWare’s main competitor (not a word about MS or Citrix). They were quite clear that they believe in open cloud computing standards and will push for it, primarily in DMTF. The research issues they raised were mostly related to scaling up to 1000 data-centre nodes and especially efficient resource management (I/O was a major concern), VM re-allocation / load balancing algorithms. VMWare gave the impression of an open company eager to work with academia on really exciting research issues.

Finally, here are a few gossip subjects / stuff I picked up:

– Google uses the same infrastructure for public services (such as the search engine) and internal development work; instead of power management, employees shall use the farm during low activity hours

– the search engine and indexing are fully distributed with no or very little co-ordination, thus the same search done at the same time in the US and Europe may give two completely different results

– Steve Ballmer indeed simulated destroying an employee’s iPhone at a Microsoft all-staff meeting (confirmed by two MS guys); at Apple this would never happen – anyone caught with anything else than iPhone would be fired by Steve Jobs, immediately, especially since everyone was given a free iPhone when it was launched (says a former Apple employee). Now you know 🙂

Az vagyok

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

H.-nak

Az vagyok amit az a hely adott
Ahol elöször láttam
Az Esthajnal csillagot
Ahol elöször mondtam:
Szeretlek
És a gesztenyefák alatt
Ránk esteledett
Ahol fontos a szó, a múlt és a jövö,
Némán állnak romok
a giccs és gyom között
Puszta falvak, elnémult harangok
Szilaj erdök és egy marok
Ember aki emlékszik még –
két országnak is királyt adó e vidék
Ott mondták elöször:
azt hidd amit a lelked kiván
és ebben senki nem lelhet hibát –
az vagyok amit az a hely adott
és az amit ebböl neked
majd tovább adhatok

Planet of Montana

Monday, October 12th, 2009

If you should ever land upon it
You better know what’s on it
The planet of New Orleans

(Dire Straits: Planet of New Orleans)

Az elmúlt hetet Montanaban töltöttem, egy konferencián veszek részt, a semmi és sehol között félúton, 100 km-re a legközelebbi városkától. Szerencsére volt idöm körülnézni is, de erröl majd bövebben késöbb.

Amiröl most írni szeretnék az a ‘Western way of doing things’. Majdnem olyan, mint a keleti parti stílus, de mégis egy kicsit más és európai szemmel nézve néha nevetséges, néha zavarba ejtö, néha csak … érthetetlen.

Kezdjük a köszönésnél. Nem csak egyszerün ‘Hi’ vagy ‘Hello’ vagy ‘Good day/morning/afternoon/evening’, hanem ‘Hi, Sir’ vagy ‘Hi, Madam’ és hozzá kalapemelés, ha az illetö visel kalapot (errefele még divat a cowboy kalap). Elsöre furcsán hatott ez a ‘Szia uram!’ forma, de legalább könnyü lekezelni. Nem úgy mint a ‘Hi Sir, how are things today?’ formát. A standard válasz ‘Great! How are you?’, mire jön a ‘Cool!’ vagy – kedvencem – ‘Awesome!’. Egyszer kipróbáltam, azt válaszoltam, hogy ‘not so good’ mire csak jött a széles vigyorral körített ‘Cool!’. Hmm….

Amúgy ami itt jó, az mindjárt ‘awesome’. Nem ‘good’, hanem ‘awesome’. Ennél csak a ‘really cool’ kisebb dicséret, a fokozása ‘incredibly awesome’. Jó tudni, szerintem ez mindenhol így van errefelé 🙂 . Másik furcsaság, hogy mai napig lótávban gondolkodnak. Nem ‘2 hour drive’-ra van valami, hanem ‘2 hour gallop’-ra (igaz, ezt az indián rezervátumban hallottam, nem biztos, hogy máshol is így van).

Ami általános amerikai jellemzö az a ‘Te’-re és a szolgáltatásra helyezett hangsúly, a beszédben is. Példák: ‘You want to drive on I-90′ (Európában ez ‘You should drive…’ lenne), ‘I will get/do/make it for you‘, ‘I have two options for you‘ (nem ám csak úgy egyszerüen ‘you have two options’ – vegülis szolgáltatást kapok töle azáltal, hogy elárulja a két lehetöséget). Érdekes, nem mindenki érzi ezt így – lehet, hogy csak én látom ilyennek?

Tény, hogy más világ, más szemlélet… viszont jó volt látni, hogy az a gyerekkori ‘vadnyugat’ hangulat nem tünt el teljesen, Montana mai napig olyan – a kisvárosokat is beleértve – mintha megragadt volna valahol a 19. század második felében; csupán annyi a különbség, hogy több az autó (akár negyedóránként is találkoztam egy-egy auóval a prérin) és az indiánok is már farmer nadrágban és cowboy kalapban járnak.

Ida! Kato … hamm!

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

A szomszéd kislány 3 hónappal fiatalabb Üninél, de nagyjából egyszerre kezdték az ovit és ugyanabba az óvodába járnak. Már régröl – a játszótérröl – ismerik egymást, de az óvoda kezdete óta Ida (így hívják a kislányt) sportot üzött abból, hogy elszedte Ünitöl a játékokat, homokot szórt rá, megpróbálta leszedni a sapkáját stb – amúgy nem csak Üni volt a kiszemelt áldozat, hanem ezt tette más gyerekekkel – nagyobbakkal – is.
Történt azonban, hogy egy szép napon az óvodában azzal próbálkozott, hogy a saját ujját dugta az Üni szájába. Az eredmény várható volt: Üni úgy ráharapott, hogy az Ida üvöltése által riasztott óvonöknek közelharcot kellett vívniuk az ujj felszabadításáért. Üninek persze elmondták, mi is elmagyaráztuk, hogy ez nem szép dolog, de Ida is megkapta a maga leckéjét, ‘ne nyúlj a más szájába, mert te jársz porul’ formában (az óvonöktöl).
Nem tudjuk, hogy ezen az eseten tanult-e Ida vagy sem, de azóta elmaradt az Üni ‘molesztálása’. Eltelt már pár hét, azonban a mi kedves lányunk azóta is büszkén ismételgeti, a szülöi intelmek ellenére, hogy ‘Ida! Kato! Hamm!’ (mutatja is – biztos mély nyomokat hagyott benne a ´siker’). Szabad fordításban: Ida! Ide süss! Hamm!
A barátság amúgy helyreállt, nagy haverek lettek (maradtak) 🙂 .