Friday, October 28, 2005

Digipede Webinar on Tuesday 11/1

For a few months now, I've been hosting a webinar every other Tuesday to talk about the Digipede Network. It's been pretty fun; we've had a variety of people attend (and some have become customers!). I usually open the floor to questions at the end of the session (they run about 30 minutes).

This coming Tuesday I'm hosting a "Grid Computing for Financial Applications" webinar. A lot of the content is Digipede specific (to give people a general understanding of what the Digipede Network is and how it works); however, I will talk specifically about some finance applications, and show one in action.

If you've been reading this blog and would like to see some Windows grid computing in action, register for the webinar here. I'd love to have some attendees from the blogosphere!

Details: Tuesday, 11/1. 10:00 AM PST. Click here to register.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Are You Ready?

Hey - have I mentioned that we're going to be showing off the Digipede Network at the global launch for Visual Studio 2005 in San Francisco on November 7th?

I'd tell you to register, but it's sold out...

If you were lucky enough to register early, come find us demonstrating the greatest .NET grid computing solution on the planet--running on .NET 2.0!

Too late for Microsoft Grid?

Over on Tales from a Trading Desk a few weeks ago, Matt Davey ponders the question of whether or not it's too late for Microsoft to enter the grid market with CCS.

Given that Sun, DataSynapse, Platform etc all have grid solution, Microsoft is definitely starting from the back of the pack. From an investment banking perspective, almost every major tier-1 bank created its own cluster-compute-grid application during the last 10 years. With a number of these tier-1 investment banks having already migrated from their home grown solution to commercial grid software its hard to envisage a bank migrating again to Microsoft's Compute Cluster Solution. If we assume there are a few Microsoft centric investment banks still with home grown grids, then Microsoft should be able to sell their product in a few investment banks

It seems to me that Matt is missing the point about what CCS is all about.

Remember, CCS is an operating system with a set of low-level tools that enable some of the things necessary for scientific, technical, and high-performance computing. (MPI, support for high-bandwidth interconnects, etc.).

Microsoft's operating system has a stranglehold on the desktop OS in the world, but they're making a concerted effort to increase their market share on the servers (although they're probably doing better than you think; according to IDC, Microsoft is still shipping OSs on about three times as many servers as Linux). CCS is their move to counter the strong growth that Linux has been making in that space, and to make sure that Windows is a viable alternative to UNIX for the scientific and technical applications.

Is an OS enough to do this? Of course not. Microsoft, as always, needs partners to help them in this space. From the beginning, they have fostered partnerships and encouraged developers to work on their platform. They build the foundation, and we do the rest. I'm glad they continue to improve that OS (and the awesome development tools), making it a great platform to develop software on!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Changing my feed

I'm changing my feed structure today.

For those of you who are subscribing to my atom feed (, I'm turning it off (unless I get virulently angry comments telling me that you NEED atom or your head will explode)!

Please use my RSS feed ( instead. This'll do a couple of things for me--including make it easier for me to move to my own domain someday.

I'll watch for comments on this, and make the change later this afternoon.

[Update 2:19pm] Robert tells me that Feedburner will work for Atom feeds as well. So change those feeds!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Geek Dinner Scobletastic

Robert and I went to the Geek Dinner organized by Dave Winer last night in Berkeley. Thanks, Dave, for organizing it (and I hope you didn't get stuck with a huge tab!).

It was a huge crowd (well, many more than the 25 who were supposed to attend!), and it was a blast. An interesting crew, including young entrepreneurs and old entrepreneurs, tech analysts and tech writers (and if you ever want to have an entertaining 5 minutes, ask Marc Canter what he's up to; I'm still in awe of that guy's personality).

I loved listening to the patter between Scoble and Steve Gillmor. About 10 of us stood outside the restaurant in the cold--not quite arguing, but not quite agreeing on anything either. Everyone was contributing, but Scoble and Gillmor were the main attractions. Steve has been a respected voice in this industry forever, and he sure doesn't lack for opinions (especially when it comes to Microsoft). Scoble is not a Microsoft apologist by any means (he has no problems saying things like "MSN search sucks"), but he'll stick up for the Redmondonians when they're getting something right.

What impresses me most about Scoble each time I meet him is how much he respects the audience. He's keenly aware that he has an audience because he's honest, and he truly believes that only being honest with his audience will keep them subscribing to his feed. He's also incredibly enthusiastic: he really, really loves technology, and seems to love the fact that he gets to write about it every day. He's not the kind of guy who loves to bash technologies and companies just to show how smart he is. Quite the opposite: I think Robert likes nothing better than finding something cool and sharing it with the world. And that love of technology is what has given him millions of readers.

Scoble (by the way, does that guy sleep? He was blogging until 4 am, then back at it before 8!) said this morning that he and Steve went and sat in a cafe 'til 1:00am, and Scoble finally started getting the gist of what Steve was saying. I would love to have been a fly on the wall there; they were both on fire with ideas.

Microsoft SaaS

[Update 4/13/2006]: Fixed egregious spelling error. Can someone start proofreading these for me?

Sam Ramji, always insightful, has a post today on what Microsoft should be doing with regards to Software-as-a-Service companies.

He got together with some major players (Intacct, Echopass, Blue Roads, and Newsgator, among others) and had a good discussion about SaaS and how Microsoft can help these companies succeed.

After describing his meeting, Sam has a call to action: he wants to know how Microsoft can provide broad customer reach for SaaS partners, help with sales and marketing, and provide ways for SaaS ISVs and VARs to connect.

Sam, at least one part of the answer is simple: expand the existing Microsoft Partner programs to embrace SaaS. Add a competency specifically for SaaS. Make it available to ISVs (who will be providing SaaS) and AppDevs (who may be called upon to build SaaS applications for their clients). Let your ISVs and AppDevs know about the third party tools available on your platform that can help SaaS developers--the "picks and shovels" that will help people build innovative, scalable software on your platform. You're right: ISVs, AppDevs, and VARs in this space need to be able to connect. Continue to grow and foster the partner programs, and they'll be able to do that.

And, as an aside: keep your Servers and Tools people innovating! If you want people developing SaaS to choose your platform, you've got to make sure that the development tools and server tools that you're producing are hands-down the best in the business.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Not enough time at Code Camp

Other obligations (my wife's college reunion) prevented me from attending the first day of Code Camp. Although I was happy to accompany my wife on her stroll down memory lane, I missed a ton of good content (the SOA through WS-Policy talk by Derek Harmon, for example, and I would love to have seen Richard Crandall's talk on Apple's ACG).

I flew in Sunday morning, expecting to see some of the sessions before mine (Jason Mauer's talk on rendering and Tim Shakarian's talk on Linq were promising, in addition to a lot of other great content).

Unfortunately, I was beset with technical problems when I arrived. My machine had trouble with the proxy server and their network, and it took a bunch of help from help from Robert to help me through it. We both have Skype, which was really useful for technical support.

As a result, I missed the sessions before mine. Although I thought my session went great, I was really disappointed not to be able to see other folks' talks. That's the point of Code Camp, right? I already knew the stuff that I was going to say; I wanted to hear what other people had to say!

I really hope that the Bay Area gets something like this going. We've got plenty of IT related user groups (E-Big, Bay.NET User Group, to name a couple, plus a ton of Linux groups). I think the overwhelming feeling from Code Camp Seattle is that it really benefits the developer community as a whole to have these "non-denominational" community meetings.

[Update 11:18]I just realized that Brad Abrams was there, too. Bummed that I missed his talk on reusable class libraries..

Friday, October 21, 2005

Code Camp v1.0 This Weekend

As I noted before, I'm off to Code Camp this weekend.

I practiced my talk on my wife last night and my co-workers today over lunch. My wife fell asleep; my co-workers peppered me with questions and helped me a bunch.

Lots of folks are attending; a quick trip around the blogosphere found references here, here, here and here before I got tired of clicking. I'm excited to be in a place with a lot of great thinkers--one of the reasons I loved PDC this year is that the attendees tend to be really smart people, and every conversation I had was interesting. I expect more of the same at Code Camp.

I'm also really appreciative of the opportunity (thanks, Steve and Jason). It was a very useful exercise for me to put together a 65 minute (+/-) presentation on Grid Object Oriented Programming, because it forced me to think about it from the perspective of someone who hasn't done it before.

We've been working hard on the Digipede Network and the Digipede Framework (the development tools) for over two years now. I think about grid and distributed computing all day every day. So I rarely put myself in the shoes of someone who is beginning to think about these concepts for the first time. It's always a useful marketing and educational exercise to do that periodically.

As a result, I feel like I've got a really good introductory talk for developers. It introduces the key concepts, and lets them see some of the fundamentals of designing software for distributed computing.

I got some help with my talk from Kim; she'll be giving talks like this a lot in the coming months so I was glad to get her input.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

It's a Product Release!

If you have a Google news feed like mine, you already saw this somewhere:

Digipede is proud to announce the release of the Digipede Network Professional Edition! The feature set is largely the same as Team Edition, just more-more-more. More agents, more users, more pools.

It's getting routine around here: Another month, another release (the Digipede Framework SDK came out in September)!

And, coming next month, the Digipede Network 1.2!

Monday, October 17, 2005

G.O.O.P. and Code Camp

A couple of weeks ago, Steve Borg attended one of our webinars (if you're interested, we're having another one tomorrow at 10:00 AM PDT). Steve is one of the talented guys at Accentient; I love the way they describe themselves, because I totally identify with it: "All of our trainers are developers by trade - with one small exception: we can communicate!"

Anyway, Steve called us right after the webinar. He had a few questions, and a suggestion: that I give a session at Seattle Code Camp v1.0. Code Camp is a non-denominational event by coders for coders (in other words, not devoted to a particular language or platform). As they describe it in their FAQ,

The Code Camp Manifesto consists of six points: (1) by and for the developer community; (2) always free; (3) community developed material; (4) no fluff – only code; (5) community ownership; and (6) never occur during working hours.
I'm going to give a 75-minute talk on what we at Digipede call G.O.O.P.: Grid Object Oriented Programming. How is GOOP different from OOP? Well, it's definitely still OOP. But it allows you to take advantage of the grid--your objects will execute on different machines simultaneously.

My talk is Sunday afternoon at 3:00. If you're in the area (it's being held at the DeVry University campus in Federal Way, WA), come on by! I'll be giving away free copies of the Developer Edition of the Digipede Network.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

How Hoary Is Your Hedgehog?

My colleague Robert forwarded me a link he saw on Tech.Memeorandum about a new Linux distro--Ubuntu 5.10, also known as "Breezy Badger." This is replacing the previous Ubuntu 5.04, also known as "Hoary Hedgehog."

According to the article on, it's pretty good. It doesn't set up drivers for some propietary hardware and doesn't have a GUI installer, but it gets a positive review. (The reviewer notes that if you want to use the KDE desktop you should use the Kubuntu distro instead).

Aside from having a chuckle over the naming conventions, it got me to thinking about one of the unsung dangers of Linux: the sheer volume of distros and their subtle differences. The conventional wisdom with Linux is that it's easier-to-use and safer than Windows, and that the costs are much lower (of course, there's no license fee, so that part is cut and dried). And, of course, by choosing an open-source OS, you're not locking yourself in to one vendor. What isn't generally spoken about is the difficulties involved in making your particular software work with your particular flavor of Linux, and the hidden costs therein. tracks distributions of 10 different flavors of Linux, and that's just the major ones. There are well over 100 flavors around. Why so many? Simply because it's open source. Anyone is free to create their own distribution of Linux, complete with his/her own modifications.

The problem is that not all flavors of Linux work the same. Frequently, applications that run fine under one flavor don't run under another--they need to be recompiled (sometimes recompiled and relinked differently on different flavors). Some people don't mind this a bit--heck, I know people who won't run any software on their boxes unless they compile it themselves. On the other hand, the vast majority of people out there don't know what a compiler is, and sure as heck aren't going to compile software themselves.

So what does this have to do with distributed computing? Well, Linux has made huge inroads in distributed computing over the last few years. It has really become the operating system of choice for new clusters. But I think that some of the reasons behind choosing Linux aren't as strong as people think.

The overwhelming reason people choose Linux is to save the cost of the license for the operating system; fair enough, Windows isn't free. But what about the cost of hiring or keeping on staff someone whose job it is to recompile every cluster application so it runs on your particular flavor of Linux? Or, worse, (and I've read stories of this occurring), changing the installed distro of linux in order to run different applications on the cluster. Then changing it back when you want to run the previous application.

Of course, you could just decide to stick with one distribution. But in a world where not every piece of software will run on that, you've just locked yourself in to one "vendor." Isn't that what you were trying to avoid by choosing Linux?

Now, I'm certainly not trying to say that no one should use Linux. It's a great OS with some great capabilities, and it makes sense in some situations. I'm also not saying that Microsoft has a perfect answer to this; heck, they haven't even released their Compute Cluster version of the OS yet. But one thing you can be assured of: there won't be 100 different distributions. And you won't have to recompile your applications with the correct flags to make them run on it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Partnering with Microsoft

There are lots of reason we chose the Microsoft platform on which to write a distributed (grid?) computing product: .NET is a great tool, tons of opportunities out there, no one else in the space. But another reason is the great support that Microsoft gives to ISVs.

They have a great Partner Program (including the Empower program for startup ISVs). They actively foster an independent partner group (IAMCP). They have a portal to promote the ISV community at ISV Connect. They have lots of employees who have technical blogs, but they also have blogs aimed at helping ISVs with non-technical issues, too: ISV Chalk Talk and Kari Martin's .NET Blogette help ISVs.

But the other good thing is how much help they give to startups. Microsoft helps startups? That's right! Microsoft has a team that does nothing but help startup ISVs. And they're writing about it, too: just in the last couple of days, I've found good blog entries from Don Dodge and Sam Ramji, and read a good column by Dan'l Lewin. The long and short of it? As a startup ISV, you need all the help you can get. It's great to have such a good partner.

When you look at all those benefits, the decision to build on the Microsoft platform just looks easier and easier. I'm glad we made it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Grids? Clusters? Distributed Computing?

Over at ADTMag there's a interesting article today on the use of the word "cluster" versus the use of the word "grid."

John K. Waters interviews Donald Becker, co-founder of the original Beowulf project. Becker points out that a lot of people use the word "grid" when describing something a lot narrower than "grid" may imply.

Grid is a concept that involves working with a large number of separately administered machines. With grid, you don’t control the configuration, the operating systems, the libraries installed—anything.
He makes a good, albeit tardy, point. He's tardy because the word "grid" now means so many things to so many people, it's impossible to define. I have yet to attend a grid event that doesn't start with hours of discussion over what "grid" means.

For a long time here at Digipede we avoided the term "grid" entirely, using "distributed computing" instead. And we defined it like this: "combining multiple computers to deliver increased performance on compute-, data-, and transaction-intensive applications." We avoided the term "grid" because we are only working on one OS. After all, our software doesn't run on all operating systems and it doesn't try to hide that fact. So why did we switch and start saying "grid?"

Simply because more people understand what "grid computing" means than understand what "distributed computing" means. A lot of people think that .NET remoting in and of itself is "distributed computing." The terminology becomes more confusing when you add in a term like "utility computing." Becker says:
So-called grid computing solutions for small to midsize businesses are more likely to be utility computing or clustering solutions
That's just the opposite of how I generally hear "utility computing" used; generally, people use it to mean "just plug into the network and get computing cycles, just like you get electrons." It's the ultimate in transparency, and it's years and years away. Clearly, that's not what Becker means. We have different ideas about "utility."

So what is grid? I've stopped trying to define it. Using multiple CPUs in multiple boxes, you can get more work done faster. Call it grid, call it utility, call it cluster, call it distributed computing, call it what you will. It doesn't matter to me.

All I know is that no matter what you call it: if you're not doing it, your software is running too slowly.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Not Done Googling after All...

I said "enough Google talk for me...until they announce a grid computing product." And I changed my mind; here's one final(?) post on them.

It's Greg Nawrocki's fault; he has a post today about Service Level Agreements (SLAs), and how important they may become for grid computing.

Greg's having a bad day because of some connectivity problems; this caused him to reflect on the concept of SOAs:

While I cannot currently exchange e-mail, I can use applications local to my computer. If I were part of a grid based SOA environment where my applications may not be local to me I'd be putting pen to paper right now.
Which again leads me to believe that the folks at Sun and Google can't possibly be thinking about making StarOffice available as a service. It just doesn't make sense for an application like that. I do lots of work in office applications when I don't have connectivity.

However, what does make sense?

Well, you've got a company that's a pioneer at selling CPU time by the hour. You've got a company that runs a grid of over 100,000 servers. And, by some accounts, you've got an operating system that has been enhanced to allow ease of distributed computing.

To me, that adds up to, perhaps, the largest grid-for-hire in the world. That may be what Google and Sun are hiding behind the curtain.

Now, as I said here, this doesn't necessarily make the Googlegrid the best thing since sliced bread. First of all, if you're going to use it, you have to be comfortable with your code, your data, your all-important IP leaving your building. And second, you're going to have to rewrite at least some of your code to run on a different OS.

For some people, those obstacles won't be too unpalatable. But for many people, the idea of porting your code just so it can run on someone else's machines won't be quite so attractive.

Windows? Grid? You betcha!

I saw a post on the GridTech blog that reminded me of an article I meant to write about.

Martin LaMonica had a good article that made the rounds over the last couple of days (and sparked a good discussion on ZDNet).

The interesting thing to me was that Tony Hey, VP of Technical Computing for Microsoft, describes their effor as being focused on data grids rather than compute grids. It's not clear what that means with regard to the Compute Cluster Edition--that seems to be a computing product.

John and Robert are up at Microsoft's eScience Workshop; maybe they'll run into him and get the scoop.

I certainly think that Vista, WPF, and WCF will provide fantastic ways to move and visualize data. I can't wait to release some of the technologies that we're going to be able to provide with that foundation under the Digipede Network!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Too Good to Beelieve?

With this news that Apache has released the Beehive, I decided to catch up on some Beehive-related reading.

Although this post from Ashith Raj is a couple of months old, he does a good job of looking at Beehive and the other vendors extensions to J2EE. Beehive (which was donated to Apache by BEA), is one of many extensions to J2EE that exist today--each vendor specific.

He goes on to makes a good point:

While the JCP continues to bicker over standards, innovation is continuing at the vendor level. As a result, customers will commit to a vendor-specific set of platform technologies or they will pay a huge cost in lost productivity.

Ashith makes a great point. And he doesn't mention the other all-important advantage .NET has over Java: you can write it using the world's most productive developer tools.

Seriously: if you're writing software, the quality of your tools is critical. And no matter what you say about the rest of their platform (and, I might add, that platform compares favorably with any other you can come up with), you can't deny that Microsoft's development platform is fantastic.

More on Google

Brad Feld had a quick post about the Google/Sun agreement. He seems to agree with something I said a couple of weeks ago: why would Google want to compete in that market? It's not what they're set up to do. He said it a lot more succinctly than I did:

I’d think a more effective strategy would be to simply sidestep the whole desktop OS / app thing and just continue to innovate like crazy. Why pick a fight when you don’t need to?
I think people are wrong about what's going on between Sun and Google.

And that's enough Google talk for me. No more on that until they announce a grid computing product.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Top Tech News has a great article today on Enterprise Grid. The money quote (in the first graf):

The next two years of funding will determine a lot of the outcome of grids. More innovation tends to occur outside the established big vendors, and small vendors could get funded and push grid adoption internally at their large enterprise customers.
Exactly! It is great to see someone put grid in this perspective. We're working hard to innovate, and the Digipede Framework SDK is a great example of that innovation. There are certainly no big vendors out there who have anything of the sort.

Not much more to add. It certainly was a positive bit of perspective to start a Monday morning!