Posts Tagged ‘Cloud Computing’

I can’t hear you, I Want to see you

November 12, 2011

This extremely funny clip serves as a good demonstration to the state of the art in conferencing. But if humankind can ride 30 meter waves, maybe there is a chance we can improve here as well.

Video conferencing is going to hit mainstream – the technology and bandwidth are available for couple of years , but now the software and hardware are also ubiquitous.

Smart phones and new laptops have an excellent built-in camera and microphone built-in and all the new messengers have built-in Video calling.

I have been evangelizing video usage in EMC Beer Sheva new site, and while it takes some time to get used to , it is hard to go back.

Don’t be surprised if the breakthrough here would come from a new player  and not the traditional players.

Unified Messaging – while there is no technology barrier to get it done, I know very few people who actually get all their email, phone, cellular ,calendar, voice mail and SMS information in aggregated fashion,in the same location and accessible through multiple views and devices. This is quite weird since the technology is around for a long time.

Even my $300 Cisco smart VOIP phone is no smarter than the $100 Panasonic wireless phone at home or the $10 unizen phone. No integration with email and messenger, no integration with cellular , no video capabilities. This seems like a product management issue.  Again, who ever gets it right and create the “DropBox” of unified messaging would “surprisingly” create a huge company.

High (Normal) Quality Voice Conferencing – at least 50% of the voice conferencing I attend have a horrible sound quality. People drop of, people can’t connect , there is background noise from traffic, annoying echoes, low sound quality and the list goes on. While the market is “commoditized” in theory this is , IMHO, BS.  While there are many free conferencing solutions they all suck, pardon my French. To make matters worst , the paid services are just as bad. I would be very happy to pay 10$ a month for a great audio conferencing service that always works, has easy sign on,  great sound quality, built-in recording and email\SMS reminders.

Why the F22 Crashed and the iPad Took Off

October 20, 2011

In the 20th century the majority of innovation started as evil nations wanted to destroy other nations.

As a result, the evil (and peaceful) nations devoted large chunks of their tax money to the defense budget.

The flow of research money was the following:

Public (taxes) -> Government -> Defense Agencies -> Universities -> Private Companies (implementation)

Research Budget Flow

Research Budget Flow

Many of the most important contributions to technology and science were created or commercialized through this path: the internet, GPS, atomic energy , satellites and plenty more.

The innovation flowed from the government to enterprises and only then into consumers.

Space and Aviation -> Military ->  Large Enterprises -> Civilian Government -> Small Enterprises -> Consumers

The early experiments or products were extremely  expensive  and sold in small quantities and required public financing.

In the 21st century the flow of innovation and new technology has reversed.

innovation Flow in a Consumer World

innovation Flow in a Consumer World

The recent launch of an iPhone into space with GPS tracking by civilians, is one amazing example.

The following stock chart provides more evidence. It plots the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Aerospace & Defense Index Fund compared to some major consumer oriented companies like Google, Sony, Amazon.

Chart of Defense Index Vs Consumer Companies 2006-2011

Chart of Defense Index Vs Consumer Companies 2006-2011

The new innovations are derived from consumer demand and consumer services or products : cellular phones, smart Phones, social networks,cloud computing, personal computers and online advertisement.

I believe this is the reason the Intel, Apple and Google are now the largest companies in the world, displacing companies like SUN, Nortel, Lucent, HP , IBM and similar companies more focused on enterprise and governmental markets. While IBM, Microsoft and Intel are still leading the patent table, one can claim it implies more on the inflation of patents , rather than true  innovation.

Top 10 Companies Patents ROI from MSN

Top 10 Companies Patents ROI from MSN

The reversal of innovation can be explained by multiple theories:

Moral – the global society has become more civilian and democratic. Individuals have more civil rights, more control of the public spend and therefore there are fewer wars, less dictators  and less weapons. Unfortunately , I’m not sure all of the facts support this theory. I have found some evidence. For example, from 1988 to 2009 the global military spending share of GDP has dropped by 34% from 3.5% to 2.4% , global average. The number of conflicts decreased by 40% from 1992 to 2009.

Share of Military Expenditure as Percentage of Gross Domestic Product 1988 2099

Share of Military Expenditure as Percentage of Gross Domestic Product 1988 2099

Armed Conflicts by Region 1946-2009

Armed Conflicts by Region 1946-2009

Economics – In the end of the day we are all consumers and individuals. Economics are driven by numbers and since there are about 1 Billion consumers with a high standard of living, it is the largest market for almost any product. Selling a $300 product to every consumer translates to $300 billion market, this is equal to the global IT market spend. Selling $30 of advertisement to one Billion people …. you can do the math on your own.  Compare that with the cost of design and manufacturing of a new stealth plane.

The R&D alone would cost Billions  of dollars, and each airplane would cost $336M million dollars , if it the project is not aborted during the 20 years of development. Programming an amazing computer vision system for smart missiles would only be relevant to 20-40 customers. Delivering an amazing face recognition for  facebook generates access to 750 Million customers. The OCR domain is one example I already bogged about.

Sociological Open source software has allowed sharing of innovation and technology with zero cost of patents, licensing and removing many anti-competitive habits , either explicit or hidden that were common in past years. It also allows sharing of development costs across organizations. Younger generations are used to great user experience, and would not “go back” when entering Enterprise office. Cloud computing is also helping to build start-ups in 50 dollars.

The fact that Google and Amazon are hosting funding challenged public database of bioinformatics, that used to be funded by the government is rather  provocative.

To summarize, while there are still huge budgets in defense and commercial enterprises, there is strong trend driving innovation from the individual. Do you believe the trend is real?

Commodity Clouds, IAAS and PAAS – Part II

February 2, 2011

In the first post we looked at some common mistakes resulting in premature “Commoditization” declarations.

In this post we would look at IAAS and PAAS in more detail.

In software, it is rare to have Nobel-prize-worthy-discoveries.  Still, it does not mean all inventions  are trivial. At the high level, analyst point of view, Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 share the same technology. In the real world, there are many differences. In the real world, Vista was a complete failure although it was “a commodity operating system” and windows 7 was well accepted.

And these days we have people speaking about IAAS ( infrastructure as a service) as a “dying dinosaur” because PAAS (platform as a service) is the new king. They must be kidding.  Lets reconsider the facts.

  • Force.Com, the first  PAAS, is not working out. I don’t know of any major company that built their entire successful new company on top it. The licensing, performance and “Governor rules” caused it to fail. What works nicely inside did not work well for the rest of the world. Maybe that why they bought Heroku.  Did any of their other acquisitions (DimDim\ManyMoon\Jigsaw\Etacts) run on Force.Com ?
  • VMFORCE.COM does not exist yet, as far as I can tell. It is just a press release , at this stage. When I read through the hype, there is no cloud portability at all, and it still looks like running JAVA on a single server with no scaling or multi-tenant capabilities. The home page seems quite stale.
  • AZURE is not much better off.  At its current stage Azure is more similar to COM+ than it is to .NET . Microsoft has invested so much marketing money on Azure that people think it actually has something that can compete with EC2. In the real world, Microsoft has no solution to run Virtual Machines in the cloud for public access. Their  PAAS solution can not run any of their applications – SharePoint,Exchange,Office, SQL Server Dynamics are all running on  internal IAAS solution, not on Azure PAAS. Wait 3-7 years for this to happen.
  • Did anyone hear of “Facebook” or “Twitter” using any PAAS platform ? Funny, but they are not keen to run their services on their biggest competitors platform. I wonder why.
  • Even Amazon EC2, who is by far the market leader and innovator , has long, long  road for to achieve the core feature set. Seriously. They added user management few weeks ago,only through the API, after four years in production. That’s probably the #1 feature any enterprise expects to find in any software service .
  • No one has really solved the problem of WAN based storage replication (despite bandwidth being “a commodity” 🙂 ).  This is critical for IAAS success in the enterprise.

The most expensive and longest effort is rewriting existing software. There were trillions of dollars spent in coding existing applications. Why would anyone rewrite the same business logic in a new platform, if they don’t need the scale?

VMWARE succeeded because it has great economic benefits without requiring a rewrite. PAAS solution is probably the right way to go in the long run, but might stay marginal for quite long time, IMO. IAAS has  a great start and would continue to evolve, but is far from being a commodity when looking beyond the hype.

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Does SLA really mean anything?

January 31, 2011

I believe most SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) are meaningless.

In the world of Software as a Service and cloud computing it has become a very popular topic, but the reality is very different from theory.

In theory, every service provider promises 99.999% of availability which means less than 6 minutes per year.

In reality, even the best services (Amazon, Google, Rackspace) had events of 8 hours of availability problems which means they are at 99.9% availability, at best.

High Availability 99.999 Downtime Table

High Availability 99.999 Downtime Table from Wikipedia

Moreover , the economics just don’t make any sense. SLA’s can not replace insurance.

Imagine the following scenario.

E-commerce site “MyCatsAndSnakes.Com” builds its consumer site in “BestAvailabilityHosting” which uses networking equipment from “VeryExpensiveMonopoly, INC.

If MyCatsandSnakes is unavailable, the site owner “Rich Bastardy” loses $100,000 per hour of downtime.

Rich pays BAHosting $20,000 per month and they promise him %99.999 avilability.

BAHostig bought two core routers in high availability mode ,connected to three different ISP’s. Each router costs $50,000 and Platinum support is another %30 per year. So total cost is $130,000 for the first year.

One horrible day, the core routers have a software bug and the traffic to the MyCatsandSnakes is dead.

Since the routers have the same software the high availability does not help to resolve the issue and VeryExpensiveMonopoly top developers have to debug the problem on site. after 8 hours of brave efforts, cats and snakes are being sold online again.

Try to guess the answers to the following questions:

  • How much money did Rich lose? (Hint: $100,000*8 )

  • How much money would Rich get from BestAvailabilityHosting? ( Hint:  (8/(24*30))*$20,000 = $166 )
  • How much money would BAHosting get back from VeryExpensiveMonopoly? (Hint:$0)

The networking vendor,VeryExpensiveMonopoly, does not give any compensation for equipment failure. This is true for all hardware and software vendors.

They don’t even have SLA for resolution time. The best you can get with platinum support is “response time”, which is not a great help.

As a result , the hosting provider can not have back to back guarantee or insurance for failures in networking.

The hosting provider limits its liability to the amount of money it receives from Rich ($20,000 per month), which makes sense.

Moreover, the service provider would only compensate Pro Rata, so the sum becomes even more neglible.

But that does not help Rich at all, as his losses are far bigger. He lost $800,000 of cats and snakes deliveries to young teenagers across Ohio.

The real answer, IMO, is “Insurance”. If Rich really wants ro mitigate his risk, he can buy an insurance for such cases.

The insurance company should be able to asses the risk and apply the right statistical costs model . Asking a service provider to do it is useless.

SLA’s might be a good way to set mutual expectations, but they are certainly not a replacement for a good insurance policy or a DRP.

Here is an interesting review of CRM and SalesFore.Com (lack of ?) SLA . And here is Amazon’s SLA for EC2    and RackSpace.

Amazon: “If the Annual Uptime Percentage for a customer drops below 99.95% for the Service Year, that customer is eligible to receive a Service Credit equal to 10% of their bill”

GoGrid promises 10,000% but “No credit will exceed one hundred percent (100%) of Customer’s fees for the Service feature in question in the Customer’s then-current billing month”

RackSpace promises 100% avilability , but “Rackspace Guaranty: We will credit your account 5% of the monthly fee for each 30 minutes of network downtime, up to 100% of your monthly fee for the affected server.” 

Again, i don’t think one can blame these service providers, but the  gap from the perception seems major.

There are three real answers for customers who want an SLA from a service provider:

1) It would be better than on premise

2) How much are you willing to pay for extra availability?

 3) We have a great insurance agent 🙂

Commodity Clouds? You must be kidding

January 29, 2011

A commodity is a good for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. Commodities are substances that come out of the earth and maintain roughly a universal price. Wikipedia

I find it hilarious when some people describe clouds or the IaaS market as a “commodity”, or even worse – “legacy”.

It is a common mistake that I see again and again by people who don’t have a clue in what they are talking about or just ignore the little details.

These are the little details you might call “reality”.

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The first point I want to make is that “Commodity” is often misinterpreted as “Easy to Produce” or “Low Margin,Bad Business”.

Take a look at oil production. While the end product does not have qualitative differentiation,its production requires some of the most sophisticated technology available. Drilling oil from the bottom of the sea necessitates huge investments, great science and an amazing technology.

Moreover,  six of the ten biggest companies of the world are in the oil production sector, so maybe it is not such a bad business to be in.

Another example would be X86 chips. The X86 architecture is more-or-less the same as it was 30 years ago. It is available universally and there is no qualitative differentiation between different items. However, building a new FAB costs around $2B and Intel is one of the most successful companies on earth. No one would argue that there is no intellectual property in chip design.

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The second important point is that vision is nice, but reality is nicer. My friend  told me that in the late 90’s the technologists in Check Point thought that Intrusion Detection technology is an erroneous direction to follow. They thought that comparing signatures of attacks is reactive and it does not help the customer  to passively monitor the attacks.

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While they were right  in their long-term vision, ISS sold hundreds of millions in IDS software ,in the meantime. Moreover, when the market shifted to IPS ( Intrusion Prevention systems) , ISS had good solid technology to start from, which took Check Point  five more years to accomplish. As my father, the CFO, used to say, “The markets fix themselves in the long run, but in the long run we all die”. Technology adoption cycles are longer than they seem.

Some analysts are looking too far ahead. For example, two years ago everyone talked about hyper-visors as being commoditized. Microsoft and Citrix will give it it for free, KVN is for free anyway and VMWARE would have to follow. Surprisingly, in the last 12 months VMWARE sold more than $2B worth of , guess what, hypervisors.

Why are 200,000 customers being so silly and paying so much money when the analysts say differently?

For one reason, because Microsoft Hyper-V does not support NFS, yet, which is probably used by 40% of customers. Because Hyper-V can not handle memory over-commit, which means you’ll get about 30% less capacity from the same hardware. Because VMWARE Virtual Center is two generations ahead of Microsoft’s management server, and there is not much use for a hyper-visor that can’t be managed. See a nice post from 2008 about it.

So are the analysts the stupid ones?

Of course not. But they have not installed a hypervisor in the last five years. Furthermore , they are probably right in the long run. In three years from now (five years from 2008:) ) hypervisors might become a commodity. But it is much slower pace than it seems at first.

Remember how in 2000 Broadband Internet was just around the corner ? We’re in 2010 and only South Korea has upload and download speeds above 20Mbps . More on the commodity subject and especially in clouds in my  next post.

Bar Refaeli, DNA Sequencing and Cloud Computing

December 7, 2009

Much like Bar Refaeli and Leonardo DiCaprio, DNA Sequencing and cloud computing go hand in hand together.

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I had a  very  interesting conversation with a friend yesterday about DNA Sequencing and cloud computing.

My friend is leading one of the largest cancer genome research projects in the world (and  yes, he is extremely  bright).

It appears that there is a great progress in DNA sequencing technology, based on chemical process. The pace is much faster than Moore’s law. As a result the budgets are shifting from the chemistry side to the computational side.

In the past, the budget would be 90% for biology and 10% for analyzing the data coming our of the DNA.

As the sequencing costs have fallen by orders of magnitude there is more and more data ( a single patient genome data is one TeraByte).

The more data , the more computing power needed to analyze it and hence the budget split becomes 50-50.

Each computation can take up to 24 hours, running on 100 cores mini grid.

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In theory, such tasks are great for cloud computing IAAS (Infra Structure as a Service) platforms or even PAAS (Platform as a service) solutions with Map-Redux capabilities.This EC2 Bioinformatics post provide interesting examples.

In practice there are three main challenges

  1. Since Cancer research facilities need this server power everyday, it is cheaper for them to build the solutions internally.
  1. To make things even more challenging, the highest cost in most clouds is the bandwidth in and out of the cloud. It would cost $150 to store one patient data on Amazon S3, but $170-$100 to transfer it into S3.
  1. Even if the cost gap can  be mitigated, there can be regulatory problems with privacy of patients data.After all its one person entire DNA we speak about. Encryption would probably be too expensive, but spiting and randomizing the data can probably solve this hurdle.

So, where do clouds make most sense for this kind of biological research ?

One use case is the testing of new improved  algorithm. Then, the researchers want to run the algorithm on all the existing data, not just the new one.

They need to compare the results  of the new algorithm with the old algorithms on same data set.They also need to finish the paper on time for the submission deadline :).

In such scenarios there is a huge burst of computation,needed on static data, at a very short period of time.Moreover,  if the data can be stored on shared cloud, and used by researchers form across the world, than data transport would not be so expensive in the overall calculation.

These ideas are fascinating and hopefully would drive new solutions, cures and treatments for cancer.

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Can vCloud do This ?

September 16, 2008

VMWARE announced a new cloud based VMWARE solution also quoted at . There are still quite a few details on the actual offering. Judging from the past, VMWARE products are impressive and well thought of, but the proof is in the v-pudding.

Virtual Machines Under The Clouds, sort Of

Here are some questions that are waiting for an answer :

  • Is the product really multi-tenant ready? while virtual center has a good separation of permissions and  reasonable resource control, it lacks true customer segmentation when failures take place.
  • Is the system scalable? While VMWARE offering is quite scalable within the Enterprise , cloud based offering requires a different magnitude of capacity, load and change frequency which are quite hard to achieve with a legacy architecture.
  • How much operational work is needed ? a true SaaS solution requires that very little operational work is needed on regular basis, on one hand, and that administrators have lots of control on the other hand. This implies a new level of automation and self healing,unlike the one in a typical data center controlled environment.
  • Can it handle complex networking and storage setups ? Typical enterprise environments are rarely made of a single server in a simple LAN attached to a local file server. While they can be done with VMWARE, setting them up in scalable, self service manner is far from trivial and it remains to be seen if vCloud helps here.
  • How does VDC-OS handle security and wide area networking ? It is critical for an Internet based service to handle Internet based access control and overcoming performance challenges that exist over WAN.

While it is possible to solve these challenges, it takes the right mind set and a lot of expertise.Once more information is available, it would be possible to understand the exact capabilities.

Economical Value of Reading – Porn,SPAM,OCR and Mechnical Turks

August 16, 2008

Gigaom has a nice write-up on using Captcha for improving OCR accuracy.

In essence , the service is adding a second Captcha word in order to make humans fix OCR recognition errors.

Few observations regrading the idea:

1. In Amazon’s mechanical Turk one would get $0.04 for doing human Optical Character Recognition.Why should one do it for free ?  Just to login to Craig’s list ? How long does it take before people realize they can skip the second word ?

2. It has been known that spammers used to put webmail cpatch’es in front of porn sites to automate account creation. We can draw the following non proven equation :

Webmail account for Spamming = Porn Site Login Credentials = Reading a Distorted Word = 4 Cents

3.   The world record for speed reading is 4251 words per minute. This means she could make 170$ per minute , if only she could read them that fast ( 25,000 words per minute ), but is seems voice recognition would fail here. Back to square one.

4. OCR has been stuck for many years waiting for NLP to evolve. Did spammers really imporve it that much ? I know I have a big problem reading many of the Captcha these days.

Seems that grid and passion can spark innovation.

Cloud Computing, Wine Walk, Pride Parade and Micro Macro Economics

July 4, 2008
  • Here are some really unrelated insights from my two weeks business travel in the states.
  • 1. The dollar is so weak that a haircut in New York, 45th street, 5th Avenue Is just $11. In Tel Aviv’s old north it is $18. In Nes Ziona it is $12.
  • 2. The real cost of hair cut in New York is $13. One dollar extra because the Israeli barber assumed I was a stupid German tourist .He said to his friend, in Hebrew – “You can take $12 from this guy”. Another dollar was for a tip strongly demanded, although the whole thing tookless than five minutes…
  • 3. For $15 you can eat the best ceviche in the world in Fresca, new Peruvian restaurant in the trendy Fillmore street , San Francisco. That does not even buy one a breakfast at Nir Zuk’s Noa bistro in Jaffa.
  • 4. Cloud computing is the new buzz. A year and half ago it was an early rumor. Now I was in three separate conferences in one week and all tried to focus around it – Structures08, velocity08, Gartner Israel.
  • 5. Internet Explorer 8 is going to have 6 concurrent HTTP requests for each host. Hurray. This simple change can speed up the entire Internet by 20%. In 2010 they might even support HTTP pipelining. And we thought computes would have Artificial intelligence by 2010.
  • 6. Everyone knows TCP is broken for the modern web, everyone knows how to fix it. No one is working on HTTP over UDP and CDN’s are still making a fortune.
  • 7. The San Mateo Wine Walk is a really nice event. Where else would you get 10 glasses of wine for $30 ? and where else can you see college kids performing “Born to Be Wild” and 60 year old White, Mexican and Afro American ladies in shorts shouting at them and dancing ?
  • 8. Steve Souders, Yahoo’s former chief Performance Officer now works for Google. Quite Symbolic. And he is a very nice person as well.
  • 9. 50% of the overall cost of running a data center is actually the cost of building it. Turns out that the physical and power infrastructure is very expensive.
  • 10. There were 10 firemen marching in San Francisco 2008 pride parade. There were about 40 chefs. 70% of Linux kernel contributors are working for commercial firms.