Tuesday, November 03, 2009

IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, ..., CaaS?

In recent years, cloud computing has gotten everyone excited, and rightly so. After all, who does not like the scalable, elastic and near-instantaneous access to computing (and storage resources)? Today, we learn the formation of the Virtual Computing Environment, a joint partnership among VMware, Cisco & EMC.

With increasing complexity of cloud implementations, it becomes necessary to create an abstraction that hides the details of server CPUs, storage and the networking needed between them. Where would this abstraction live? Where else? In the cloud, public or private. The vBlock package definitions seem to offer a good start for this abstraction. Perhaps we can regard vBlock as Cloud-as-a-Service or CaaS, to accompany the three others - IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is 50Mbit/s enough of backhaul bandwidth?

If we say there are about 1,000 subscribers per cell tower and each will need about 1 Mbit/s bandwidth, 50 Mbit/s will only serve about concurrent 50 users well. Is this enough?
in reference to: Unstrung - Fixed/Mobile Convergence - Sprint: Please, Sir, Can We Have Some More Ethernet Backhaul? - Telecom News Analysis (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

IEEE's 125-year Anniversary in Silicon Valley.

As professionals, it is always valuable to take stock on how far we have come. The IEEE 125-year anniversary event at the Computer History Museum yesterday was one such. One quick takeaway from the presentations that Vint Cerf and Howard Charney gave is that the future will be even more exciting than the past!

Vint related how round-trip computer-based translations can sometimes go awry:
"Out of sight, out of mind" when translated to Russian and back to English got translated as "invisible idiot".

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Virtualization and the Indian Driver.

After the conclusion of a recent 3-week vacation in India, I feel compelled to state that virtualization as a concept has been practised in India much before VMware (NASDAQ: VMW) came on the scene in 1998, and even before the advent of the virtual machine by IBM as VM/360 in 1972.

Consider lane markings. Lane markings are a way to physically partition a road so as to promote effective sharing of the road. However, drivers in India routinely ignore lane markings probably because they feel they can promote better sharing of roads without paying the needed amount of attention to the markings. How else can you explain the following driving behavior?
A driver prefers to drive on a road so that the lane marking is at the center of the moving vehicle span. Indeed, many drivers seem to make an attempt to use the lane marking as a guide to keep the center of the vehicle right on top of the lane marking.
An illustrative behavior arising from the use of the virtualization concept can be seen in the following style of driving.
A vehicle A is going on an undivided road 2-lane highway at a certain speed. (For planning purposes, the maximum speed you can expect on most Indian roads is 30Km/hour, and that is a separate subject). Another vehicle B close behind A determines that it needs to overtake A, unmindful of whether there is a vehicle C coming in the opposite direction in the other half of the road. You as a passenger in the vehicle B squirm in your seat. However, this is where virtualization happens! Thanks to the honking by vehicle B, drivers of vehicles A and C promptly swerve away from the median mark towards their respective shoulders and a clear virtual lane in the middle is formed for vehicle B. In other words, what was a 2-lane highway to begin with is now transformed into a 3-lane highway, the lanes now virtual.

Clearly, this is partly in jest, but you get the idea.

Friday, May 29, 2009

HTML 5, Google I/O and Evolution of Applications.

Earlier this week, I had occasion to attend the Google I/O conference. This blog post is more reflective than a factual report on the event. (For factual reports, e.g., see Google: The browser is the computer, Google Wave: A new kind of mega-application).

In the beginning, e.g., with the ENIAC, people programmed in 1s and 0s. The initial tedium was avoided by the invention of assembly language programming. The primitives that the programmers dealt with included registers, memory and i/o in the form of tapes and disks.

Subsequently, there were several high level programming languages invented, stack machines supported block structured languages. For a very long time, the stack machine seemed sufficient, and even the concept of classes were implemented on top of the stack machines. The primary commercial successes in this arena are C/C++ and Java and their variants.

In this conference, the primary message appears to be that the communication content, in Google Wave, is modeled as hosted XML documents, and the primitives that a programmer uses within a browser are the ones that manipulate the document object model (DOM); and, there are several new primitives, i.e., tags like canvas, video, audio, etc., built natively into HTML 5. (A good introduction to the model methods is available at HTML DOM Primitives and XML DOM Primitives). Thus, while the stack machine continues its reign, additional functionality is being expected of the platform in terms of the DOMs.

To promote concurrency in applications, the concept of Web Workers is available in HTML 5.

What happened in the last 50 or so years? Now, the basic computational platform (within a browser) is one that supports very granular manipulation of pieces of communication that is relevant among human beings (and computers), rather than registers, stack, etc. This is good; it is easy to see progress.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The state of globally accessible health information on the Internet.

The Google blog post titled Listening to Google Health users is illustrative of the work in front of us before we can claim universal accessibility of health information over the net. The ICD codes have been in use for quite some time now, since 1893 in some form or the other, but the Google Health episode brings forth the need for greater accuracy in defining these codes and their descriptions.

The point to be noted is that computerization greatly helps, and sometimes accelerates, correct classifications.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Use of arbitrary HTML in Gmail signature block.

If you have been wondering about when Google will get around to accepting arbitrary HTML in Gmail signature blocks, look no more! There is a published solution, on the web, but with one constraint: 
You have to use Firefox as your browser. A web developer named Chris Pollock has made that publicly available as a Firefox add-on.
I have started using it, and love it. Don't you relish the ubiquity, and hence the shareable characteristic, of the Internet?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Typing in Indian Languages in Gmail, Blogger, etc.

A large percentage of the Indian population can now start communicating in their local languages through computer, thanks to the recently announced availability of Indic language typing from within the Gmail compose screen.

Nearly 1 billion of the world's population has a new, easier, way of making use of computers and the Internet.

And, for the 35 million or so Kannada-speaking population: ಸಿರಿಗನ್ನಡಂಗೆಲ್ಗೆ.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Cost of Improving Secondary School Education in America.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, we now know that we can expect a deficit of $1.7 trillion for the fiscal year 2010 of the United States.

With the foregoing as background, let us review what it would mean to increase the salaries of secondary school teachers. (We all know that merely increasing the salary is not adequate).

Let us assume that the average yearly salary of secondary school teachers in America is $50,000. Let us further assume that, in order to attract and keep the right secondary school teaching talent, we will need to pay the teachers a salary of $100,000/year.

Thus, the additional yearly cost of paying the teachers a better salary is of the order of $50,000*1,000,000, or $50B/year.

Is $50B/year a high cost for educating America's children? In the light of dollar deficits in excess of $1 trillion/year? Or, even when we have surplus budgets, in a $15 trillion/year economy?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year, 2009.

For quite some time now, I have become very conscious of [even unwittingly] spamming others. Thus, I want to try a different method, other than sending out long mass e-mail messages to my contacts, of wishing a happy new year.

Let us review the magnitude of the resource usage on this wishing well for the new year. From the web site titled World Internet Usage Statistics News and World Population Stats, we see that there were about 1.4B Internet users in a total population of about 6.6B, a 21.9% Internet usage penetration. Now, even if each of these 1.4B Internet users send out 10 "Happy New Year" e-mail messages at about 100 bytes each, we would have a bandwidth usage of 1.4T bytes. In addition to the bandwidth usage, there is also the disk space used up somewhere to store these 1.4T bytes, prior to their deletion. And, there is the potential annoyance factor: When someone gets 100 "Happy New Year" messages, it is unclear how each of these messages would provide the personal viewpoint that the sender would want to convey to each recipient, other than the fact that the particular e-mail message came from a particular individual. Thus, if a personalized message to each recipient is neither necessary nor desirable, a better mechanism to use is web-based communication.

If, instead, people send out merely the phrase "Happy New Year, 2009" in their new year e-mail messages, with a hyperlink to the web-based message, the following will result:
  1. Greater bandwidth usage will be limited to those who click on the hyperlink.
  2. Disk space used is probably reduced by an order of magnitude: There is only one copy, on the Internet, of the long e-mail message that corresponds a post like this.
  3. Annoyance factor is almost completely removed: HTML rendering at the recipient will only present the 20 characters in the phrase "Happy New Year, 2009".
The RSS feed mechanism takes this communication one step further: You will only get an e-mail message if you have a subscription to the communication from the sender.

[Aside. Granted these terabytes are but a drop in the bucket in the approaching zettabyte era, but there is always a question of why a resource must be used when it is not so unavoidably required. (1.4T/1Z ≅ 1000 exp -3, or 10 exp -9). End of Aside].

Whatever the justification, this is a new experiment I want to make in this Web 2.0 world, at least for this year. So, if you happen to read this blog post, my message to you is, very simply: Happy New Year, 2009.