Thursday, April 30, 2009

GCaP Seats Still Available

Although the GBoot class on May 7-8 will now be closed, seats are still available for the Guerrilla Capacity Planning class on May 11-15, but it's getting down to the wire to book for that one too.

All Guerrilla classes are held at our Larkspur Landing location.

Entrance Larkspur Landing hotel Pleasanton California
(Click on the image for details)

For those of you coming from international locations, here is a table of currency EXCHANGE rates. We look forward to seeing all of you here!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Performance Short Course in Switzerland

On June 25 and 26 2009, I will be presenting a 2-day short course on performance analysis and capacity management at Trivadis AG in Zürich, Switzerland.


This class is especially accessible if you are located in central Europe. Since it will come hot on the heels of the TrivadisOPEN conference (23.-24. Juni 2009), it should also be of particular interest if you are responsible for ORACLE database performance management.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oracle Buys Sun Microsystems (Really!?)

I just read it (7am) and ... I'm speechless.

Thinks ....
  • Larry doesn't do hardware.
  • Decimation à la PeopleSoft?
  • Oracle still runs on IBM, and HP, et al.
  • Wherefore MySQL? Just a cheap shoehorn for the Oracle RDBMS?
  • Solaris (vs. Linux, which Oracle Corp has been pushing)? Ah! SMP scalability
  • And Java? (that made sense for IBM but...) Ah ha! Larry also owns Weblogic!
  • Can't think... Need coffee ...
  • Wait! What about OpenOffice? Oh oh!
Post café noir, this EETimes article seems to hit the salient points (modulo my JVM/Weblogic/J2EE observation). Update (April 24): The Oracle @cringely weighs in on the Sunset. [ He needs to read my blog. :) But he does have the IBM memo ]

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Google's New CAPTCHA: Orient This!

The abstract in this project report (PDF) summarizes it well:
Abstract: We present a new CAPTCHA which is based on identifying an image’s upright orientation. This task requires analysis of the often complex contents of an image, a task which humans usually perform well and machines generally do not. Given a large repository of images, such as those from a web search result, we use a suite of automated orientation detectors to prune those images that can be automatically set upright easily. We then apply a social feedback mechanism to verify that the remaining images have a human-recognizable upright orientation. The main advantages of our CAPTCHA technique over the traditional text recognition techniques are that it is language-independent, does not require text-entry (e.g. for a mobile device), and employs another domain for CAPTCHA generation beyond character obfuscation. This CAPTCHA lends itself to rapid implementation and has an almost limitless supply of images. We conducted extensive experiments to measure the viability of this technique.

The performance of image retrieval is an important subject because it can be so dependent on how images are classified and keyed (e.g., human text description or automated feature extraction). The heavy-duty word is ontology. A colleague at HP Labs and I created a benchmark (called BIRDS-I) to measure the performance of content-based image retrieval (CBIR). See HP Labs Technical Report HPL-2000-162.

And, at the intersection of security and AI:
"Software that can solve any text-based CAPTCHA will be as much a milestone for artificial intelligence as it will be a problem for online security."

Intel Goes Giddy-up on GPUs

Parallel computing is not just about CPUs, anymore. Think GPUs and (perhaps more importantly) the dev tools to utilize them. From a piece by Michael Feldman at HPCwire:

"With the advent of general-purpose GPUs, the Cell BE processor, and the upcoming Larrabee chip from Intel, data parallel computing has become the hot new supermodel in HPC. And even though NVIDIA took the lead in this area with its CUDA development environment, Intel has been busy working on Ct, its own data parallel computing environment." ...

"Ct is a high-level software environment that applies data parallelism to current multicore and future manycore architectures. ... Ct allows scientists and mathematicians to construct algorithms in familiar-looking algebraic notation. Best of all, the programmer does not need to be concerned with mapping data structures and operations onto cores or vector units; Ct's high level of abstraction performs the mappings transparently. 'The two big challenges in parallel computing is getting it correct and getting it to scale, and Ct directly takes aim at both' ..."

Ct stands for C/C++ for throughput computing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Guerrilla CaP Training in May

Seats are still available for my GCaP class, May 11-15.

Because of the pesky econo-crunch, I'm aware of quite a few people trying to do CaP on their own, directly from my book. You have my deepest admiration and I would love to think my books are that well written, but the reality is DIY is a very tough slog for such a complex subject. You wouldn't try to fly an aircraft without training.

Coming to my class is like providing you with the proverbial hot knife through butter. I say this simply on the basis of the questions students ask me in class. Each point of confusion can be addressed with a few minutes discussion and then we move on the next item. Of course, we all learn from your particular question. After that, the GCaP book, together with the class notes, becomes a reference source, which you can read at your own pace. This kind of personal Q&A, to get you over any conceptual hurdles is not something that can be accomplished through (so-called) video-learning either. 'Nuff said about that ... or I'll start pushing my own buttons.

I'm also aware that people who want to attend cannot, because their employer has zipped up the corporate travel budget. That's understandable and not something I can change. However, I can come to you. Sometimes, this is a more attractive option to management. Ask them.

Barry3-Apdex Also Lives in R

As a by-product of my presentation on the Apdex Index at the NorCal CMG meeting, back in February, Guerrilla graduate, Stephen O'Connell, went off and did an implementation in R. You can read about it in this month's CMG MeasureIT and download his R-script. Free access, but requires sign-up if you're not already a member.

Gunther Interview - Part I

As a consequence of winning the A.A. Michelson Award at CMG'08, I was interviewed for CMG MeasureIT e-zine. The first installment appears in this month's issue. Free access, but requires sign-up if you're not already a member.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Really Don’t Know Clouds at All (video)

As the well-known cloud-architect, Joni Mitchell, said so presciently:
"I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all”
Or, as Larry Ellison put it more succinctly, "What The Hell Is Cloud Computing?"

Like all things Web 2.0, there's an overabundance of fascination with what can be done vs. how fast it can be done or how many things can be done, before the system might fail to scale.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Change is as Good as a Holiday

Not only is it Easter, it's spring! So, after staring at colored dots and white text on a dark background for more that 2 yrs (the default Courier font was particularly illegible), I decided to call in the painters and redo the whole place in new colors (and fonts).

Oh, and I changed the title too, for good measure (not to mention alliteration).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Assessing USL Scalability with Mixed Business Functions

Professional capacity planner, Raja C., has been applying my Universal Scalability Law (USL) in some fascinating and progressive ways. By that I mean, fascinating to me, because I hadn't thought about applying the USL model in the same way he has; I don't have a real job, you understand. On the other hand, this may well represent the situation that many of you are faced with on a day-to-day basis, so I'd like to present and discuss Raja's question here in some detail.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The End of Computer Performance Modeling?

I haven't had time to digest all the details, but there's been a big song and dance this week about a supercomputer program doing in a day what took scientific minds centuries to accomplish: extrapolating Newton's laws of motion from the recorded motion of a pendulum. This diagram says it all; phenomenon in, model out:

[Source: Wired magazine]

From another perspective, this is also the holy grail of computer performance analysis: convert monitored performance data directly into performance models, feed those predictions or trends back to the computer and let it tune itself (so we can all go home).

Forged in the USA

Little's law, Jackson's theorem, and JIT are concepts that we associate with computer performance analysis and capacity planning for IT systems. But the truth is, these ideas were forged while solving business and manufacturing problems. It's also true to say that both IT and manufacturing in the USA have suffered dramatically from the effects of rapid offshoring in the new global economy. In the past decade, 5 million manufacturing jobs have been eliminated in the USA.

Walmart is one of the few USA retailers that has managed to do reasonably well in this economic recession, because they (patriotically?) cut USA manufacturers loose in favor of setting up factories offshore; mostly in China. Indeed, if you look at the tags on the items in a Walmart store, you won't see Made in Anywhere USA. Instead, it's anywhere but USA. Or so it would seem.

This piece: Despite Job Loss, U.S. Manufacturing Still Leads , on NPR this morning, caught my attention when it was pointed out that the USA still ranks as the number one manufacturer, producing some 20% of all goods in the world, ahead of Japan and well ahead of China. The reason this appears to contradict simple observation (like looking at Walmart tags) is that manufacturing in the USA is two levels of indirection away. The USA manufactures things that manufacture things. In other words, USA companies make heavy equipment and machines that are used in factories and on assembly lines that make the goods we buy, and that's not stated on those Walmart tags. But that's where Little, Jackson and JIT came in.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

New Guerrilla Google Group

I've just launched a new Google Group called "Guerrilla Capacity Planning", a long overdue forum for questions, comments and ideas about computer system and data network capacity planning, system sizing and performance analysis for enterprise data centers and large-scale web sites; whether or not you apply guerrilla-style or regular CaP techniques. You do not need to be a GCaP alumnus or have purchased the book of the same name.

Come and feed the monkey!

PDQ 5.0 is on the Launch Pad

PDQ (Pretty Damn Quick) major release 5.0 is on the launch pad at Cape SourceForge. Because of a potential collision with the North Korean ICBM/satellite launch, we won't be filling the main liquid-hydrogen tank until next week (we don't want PDQ blamed for starting WW3). Of course, if you hijack the capsule ahead of time, we can't stop you, but be aware that you might not make it to full earth orbit. :-)

The mission for PDQ 5.0 includes exploration of:
  • Multiserver queues as defined in Ch. 6 of the Perl::PDQ book
  • Integration with an installed R package
PDQ-R examples have been blogged previously. Please standby for the countdown ... Update: PDQ 5.0 was launched successfully on Thursday, April 9, 2009.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Modern Microprocessor MIPS

The question of how modern microprocessors compare with mainframe processors of yore, arises from time to time. The vernacular rate metric that has persisted for a long time (long in the history of computers, that is) is MIPS. Whether you approve of MIPS as a valid performance metric or not is a different (philosophical) question. Since the mainframe has not gone away---it's just another server on the network today---even mainframers still talk about MIPS ratings. Nonetheless, it is true that the meaning of "instructions" does vary significantly across architectures so, one does have to exercise caution when making inter-architectural comparisons and not endow any conclusions with more credibility than they deserve.

Browser Wars: IE and Opera in decline

Latest stats from ars technica:

  • IE ........... 66.82%
  • FF ........... 22.05%
  • Safari ........ 8.23%
  • Chrome ..... 1.23%
  • Opera ........ 0.07%

These numbers (quoted to 4 sigdigs) don't sum to 100%:
> sum(66.82,22.05,8.23,1.23,0.07)
[1] 98.4
according to R. Caveat lector!