Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jim Gray Missing at Sea

  fter several days of traveling, most of it without internet access, I just turned on Feedburner to sync for the first time in a few days.

The first post I read took my breath away: Larry O'Brien wrote that Jim Gray is missing at sea. Information Week confirms it.

Scary. I was on campus at Microsoft yesterday and today, and Jim's name came up with both conversations.

He is a bona fide genius; more than that, he cares about helping people. Meeting him was a tremendous professional honor for me. My thoughts go out to his family.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

HP and Digipede in the 425

  ttention all y'all in the 425/206...

On Monday, January 29th, HP and Digipede are giving a briefing in Bellevue titled--are you ready for this?--"Clusters and Grids Are Hot!"

Title notwithstanding, this is a chance to see HP's latest hardware running .NET's greatest grid computing software.

Details below. They want to know who's coming: if you're interested, shoot me an e-mail (dan AT digipede DOT net) and I'll RSVP for you. Oh, did I mention there's lunch?

HP Distributed Computing Briefing: Clusters and Grids are Hot!

Monday January 29th, 9:00 - 3:00 (see agenda below)

14475 NE 24th St
Bellevue, WA 98007

HP and Digipede Technologies will provide a briefing on the HP Unified Cluster Portfolio, featuring Microsoft's new Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 and the Digipede Network. Attendees will learn:
How HP blade and cluster solutions are delivering value for customers today
How the Digipede Network brings the benefits of grid computing to the Windows platform
How the HP / Microsoft / Digipede offering can help you win new customers in financial services, government/defense, life sciences, energy, entertainment/media, and other growing markets.

In financial services, for example, the market for grid computing on the Windows platform is growing rapidly.

In a recent joint engagement with one of the world's top hedge funds, Digipede Technologies provided the grid computing software and services to deliver radically improved application performance. The fund's IT and development staff were faced with growing demands from traders and analysts for higher throughput in trading analytics and risk management applications. Using Digipede's unique object-oriented grid development approach, the fund was able to adapt its applications to the grid quickly and efficiently. Using the Digipede Network running on HP's high-performance hardware and Microsoft's OS, the fund deployed a grid of 80 servers, capable of performing analysis that would take days on a single machine in under one hour. The fund is adding new compute nodes to this grid every quarter.

There are hundreds of hedge funds with similar needs -- not to mention other asset managers, banks, insurance and reinsurance companies, and investment advisors of all kinds. And the market in other verticals is growing as well.

9:00 Welcome -- Coffee, juice and rolls provided
9:05 Intro to HP's Unified Cluster Portfolio, including CCS
9:30 Digipede and CCS
10:00 Digipede Overview
11:00 Digipede Demonstrations on Compute Cluster
- Using grid computing to improve .NET application performance
- Building "supercomputing spreadsheets" with Digipede and Excel
- Scaling out Excel Services on SharePoint with the Digipede Network
12:00 Lunch provided by HP
2:00 Discussion and Next Steps
3:00 Close

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Another Reason IT Matters

  ately I've been traveling a lot. As I do so, I've been using Microsoft's Outlook Web Access increasingly. I think it's *very* well done. I had heard about it a lot in the last year (especially as Microsofties were saying things like "AJAX is nothing new, we've been doing that for years").

The UI is very, very rich for a browser application.

In the office, however, I still use the heavy, client version of Outlook--it just plain has a better UI, and it has better features. I also use the client version when I'm disconnected (on a plane, for example, or anywhere else I don't get free internet access).

I really like the option of a Thick Client when appropriate, and a Browser client when the Thick Client just isn't possible (at home on my MacBook Pro, for example).

Just now, trying to read my personal e-mail, I received another reminder of why I don't love browser-only applications:

Gmial is temporarily unavailable. I shouldn't worry; they're currently working to fix the problem.

All I can say is, thank goodness that we're not using this for corporate email!

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Grid Computing Game

rid computing has either reached a tipping point or jumped the shark; someone has written a grid computing video game.

Ok, I'm being a little facetious--the appearance of one flash-based diversion isn't a harbinger of doom or of success. It's just a fun way to spend 2 minutes.

has the game. In it, you control the world's computer grid, and you have to prioritize the grid as it solves different scientific problems. It's different than the type of grid computing that I usually write about (I'm much more interested in companies using their own machines together), but it's worth looking at.

Check it out here.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Wait. I thought S-O-A spelled "panacea."

  wo items hit my feed reader recently that served as a reminder that people still have serious misconceptions about what SOA offers.

The first was an article over at Linux.SYS-CON.com. Keven Smith and Lou Blick wrote a piece called "Avoid SOA Pitfalls!" They've got seven practical tips for designing and building an SOA within your enterprise. Their tips range from architecture suggestions to managing user expectations. What's important is that they make it clear that, if you don't follow good design and implementation methodologies, you will put your project at risk.

The bottom line? Calling a project "SOA" isn't a panacea for software success. Slapping a web service on top of an existing stove-pipe application won't make the project succeed, either. And, as they point out in tip number 7 (and as I've made clear many times), you need to think about scalability from the beginning.
At the end of the day, the users of your enterprise applications probably won't care that a SOA is in place. Users want functionality, and they don't want their applications to run at a snail's pace. As a result, your deployed systems will have to scale to meet the load required by the intended number of applications and end users. Enterprise architects will need to analyze the scalability requirements and start planning at design time, because the risks of not planning for scalability are huge - exposing a SOA to an organization that can't handle the load promises to ruin your entire project.
It's a point that I'll never stop hammering on, and I'm glad to see others making it as well. For more reading, see the article that Robert and I wrote for Dr. Dobb's last year.

The second item to hit my feed was from Glenn Cameron's dotnetSaaS blog--he summarizes a new report from Saugatuck Research (available for sale here). According to Glenn's summary, Saugatuck finds that SOA may not reach its full potential to transform businesses.

Why? They cite three key barriers: Upfront cost, resource sharing and allocation, and SOA Governance.

Resource sharing is the one that jumps out at me, because it's a key part of the benefits that grid computing can offer an SOA.

Grid addresses the scalability needs of an SOA by bringing the power of many machines to bear on your SOA computing needs (and providing a standard infrastructure for your developers to use). Furthermore, a good grid system addresses resource sharing as well. It will allow you to put policies in place that ensure that your most important processes get the compute power that they need. It will ensure fair sharing of resources as well.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

IT Isn't Dead; It Just Moved into My Living Room

Because I'm a devoted reader of Robert W. Anderson's Expert Texture, his post yesterday was where I first learned that Windows Home Server was announced.

Robert says he doesn't want one; I'm not so sure I won't want one sometime soon. Cindy and I would love all of our music, movies, plus the ability to videochat with relatives, right from the convenience of the Ultralounge.

In any case, this is a further of example of why I think Nick Carr is wrong on the server industry dying. Servers will never die. People will constantly be thinking of new and different uses for them.

Data centers will evolve; virtualization, consolidation, and grid technologies (along with steadily improving networking) will reshape the way we use computers and will reshape the way data centers look as well.

But make no mistake: people will always find new ways to use servers.

Updated 2007-01-09 9:04: Changed phrasing to make it clear that I'm not sure about whether I will want a media server (as opposed to not being sure about whether Robert wants a media server; I'm sure he wants one). Also added a picture of my living room (the one that was redecorated on Design Remix on HGTV), possible future home to my media server.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The end of a meme?

very time one of those "tag" memes goes around the internets, I jealously watch it happening--half hoping I'll get hit, half hoping it'll go away before it hits me.

Well, while I was visiting my mom for Christmas, Jim Benson slapped me silly.

I can't help but think that, having reached this far into the blogosphere, this meme might be dead. Still--it's not so fun if these games are just for the A-Listers. I want to keep playing.

So, without further ado, here's five things you may not know about me:

  1. I spent a year touring with a rock band called Chevelle. I originally got on the tour bus for a one-week adventure with my friends in the band; I had a blast and ended up staying. After a year of being their tour manager and watching their album go platinum, I quit and came home. I got engaged just a few months after returning.
  2. I taught myself to play guitar (well, 5 chords anyway) so I could write and perform a song at my brother's wedding. I've since learned a lot more chords, but I'm still not very good. I love it, though, and play a Martin D-35.
  3. I used to play a lot of ultimate frisbee. I think it's just about the best participation team sport. High quality games, good athletes, national and international organization. I never went to nationals, but ultimate was the reason I first went to Hawaii (which I love, and where I got married).
  4. I haven't written a resume since 1990. I got hired (as a junior in college) as a programmer at Quantum Consulting as a Windows 2.0 developer. Every job since then has happened organically.
  5. I once had an argument with my dad, in the University of California-Berkeley admissions office, about why I didn't want to major in Computer Science. Though I won the argument, I graduated four years later with a degree in Computer Science (sometimes fathers know best).
Ok, I'll propagate the meme. These things are fun, and now it's my turn.

First, three bloggers whom I should have included in my pushup challenge, but somehow forgot:
Larry O'Brien
Gianpaolo Carraro
Bill Boebel

Next, a guy who is probably still wondering why I read his blog:
Jason Follas

Finally, my colleague Kim Greenlee.

You're it!