Almost, but not quite …

Matt Asay has an interesting article at The Register. In it, he argues that Microsoft needs to adapt to the world that has evolved around it, and do something drastic. This article references a Wall Street Journal article/post on the state of Microsoft and the lack of motion of its share price over the last decade.
In the quoted WSJ article, Matt points to a paragraph that I’ll repeat here:

Even disregarding Microsoft’s bubble valuation when Mr. Ballmer took over in 2000, the stock has been the proverbial dead money for a decade … At bottom, this is a corporate governance problem. Manifestly, the solution is not to let management keep stepping up to the plate with shareholder money and promising home runs that never materialize…

That is, hold them accountable for failure, and more to the point, question the business objectives and assumptions behind various efforts.
One obvious one is HPC. How, exactly, is Microsoft planning on turning its HPC offering into a billion dollar per year revenue source, rather than a loss maker?
There are other obvious ones, such as the Kin, WinCE, etc.
I’ve argued in the past that they are trying too hard to be all things to all people. Going after Google in search, and failing … again, and again, and … Building an Xbox game console, and not making much money in that division. And so on.
Matt argues that they should go long on open source. I agree, but in a different way than I think he opines in this article.

Read moreAlmost, but not quite …

A view of Bluearc … and to a degree, a fair number of storage companies

At The Register, Chris Mellor has an interesting article on Bluearc. In it he notes that they just raised a new series of capital

BlueArc, the hardware-accelerated NAS array supplier startup, has pocketed another $20m in a seventh funding round, taking total funding to around $225m.

Seven rounds. Total capital input is $225M USD. For a VC to be really interested, they need to see some serious multiplicative effects of this investment. Assume that they can exit at 10x valuation … assume that for $20M they sold 50-ish percent of the company. VC’s typically want in the 33-50% region, and the money is expensive. That means that their post money valuation is of the order of $40M or so. So they need to exit around $400M and up to be interesting to the folks who just put in money.
Several things fascinate me about this. First, if we changed “Bluearc” for another set of vendors, we’d have a very similar story.
Second, as Chris points out

The company was started up in 1998 and, 12 years later, still isn’t able to stand on its own feet and make profits.

Yeah, this is an issue. But not simply for them. Other folks in this market have had many many tranches, and aren’t at a self sustaining profitability yet.
Thats whats interesting about this. Does the market support very high cost per gigabyte and high cost per IOP storage anymore? It may have in the 90s and early part of the last decade … but times have changed.

Read moreA view of Bluearc … and to a degree, a fair number of storage companies

Unifying the JackRabbit and DeltaV baseline loads

For a while, we’ve used Ubuntu 8.04 as the baseline distribution for DeltaV. In the earlier days, it was easier to get some aspects of the load working, as we had a modern kernel and userspace to work from.
Ubuntu 10.04 has come out, and I am not sure I like it as much. It has some good features, but Canonical has been pushing Ubuntu into some not so great directions as of late, IMO. Not directly relevant for DeltaV, but the nVidia/nouveau driver bits is an example of what I consider ill-advised. Grub2 (which sort of … kind of … works) is another, directly relevant issue.
Basically, I realized our default load was causing us something of a larger set of problems on OS load than I had intended. It was harder to automate than we liked, and I couldn’t share much of the programmatic configuration code between the JackRabbit and DeltaV lines. That is, we wound up spending a great deal more time setting up the DeltaV, which is a simpler system in general.
So we decided to simplify this.

Read moreUnifying the JackRabbit and DeltaV baseline loads

The day job laptop

… died. Display randomly quits. Just weeks after the warranty expired. Ugh. Spec’s for new one: 8+ GB RAM, quad core Intel, Nvidia graphics. So far, Dell has a 4500 workstation that looks good, and HP has a multimedia laptop that looks good. Anyone else I should look at? Need to run Linux, Windows 7. … Read moreThe day job laptop

So what do we do when our software RAID is faster than their hardware RAID?

Results from our baseline tests of our Delta-V unit is showing a sustained write speed north of 850 MB/s, and a sustained read speed north of 1 GB/s. I compare these numbers to some of our competitiors systems, and note that these are a bit higher than what we have seen reported from them in … Read moreSo what do we do when our software RAID is faster than their hardware RAID?

In a world of vector and intrinsically parallel machines …

… why are we still programming them with serial languages? And more to the point, why are these language compilers so terrible at converting serial code to parallel code? No, seriously … I know there are several constraints on the semantics of the serial language code processing. Debugging and exceptions for one … you wouldn’t want to signal a floating point exception in code that had nothing to do with the FPE in the first place.
But this may be more due to thinking about machines as big serial processing engines, rather than a hierarchically organized collections of parallel and asymmetric processing elements. Most programming languages encourage these thought processes. Parallelism is either an explicit bolt on system, or an intrinsic ‘directive’ driven system.
Neither of these models works well at expressing a parallel algorithm.

Read moreIn a world of vector and intrinsically parallel machines …