Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Frameworks versus stacks - cross posting

Wasn't really sure if I should put this on my JBoss.org blog or here, so cross posting.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

SRC-IoT 2016

I have had the honour of working with Professor Paul Watson to create the System Research Challenges Workshop. For the first year we focussed on IoT and it's possible we may keep that high-level theme next time. But it really great to see and hear the attendees embrace the underlying issues which are presented by large-scale distributed systems, which IoT embodies: reliability, fault tolerance, security, trustworthiness, data management etc. Of course all of the presentations had an IoT focus, but even there we had a wide range of examples, from field devices through gateways and including wearables (yes, there were a lot of side discussions about whether some of these IoT devices would ever really take off.)

We had attendees from industry (e.g., Red Hat, IBM and ARM) as well as SMEs and arcademia (e.g., Newcastle University, Lyon and Cambridge). It was a great mix of practical and theoretical, highlighting some of the challenges we have ahead of us in research and development. And as with many of these kinds of events, it was the discussions around the sessions that generated as much interesting conversation as during the presentations.

As well as 2 days of 30 minute presentations (maybe we'll try and get the agenda published somewhere), we also held a 2 hour lightning talk session on the first evening. Here anyone attending, whether they had a formal presentation or not during the event, was encouraged to present on a topic for 5 minutes. There hadn't been much preparation for this beforehand, so there was a little concern about whether we'd be able to fill the time. We needn't have worried - we could have gone much longer than the allotted 2 hours. It was a lot of fun. In fact my favourite talk of the entire event was probably here when Jonathan Halliday gave a presentation onf Big Data over the centuries, going back hundreds of years and managing to also touch on open source 400 years ago!

In conclusion, I thought the event went well. I'm hoping we can do it again next year, perhaps with the same theme or maybe we need to change it. We'll know closer to the time.

Friday, January 01, 2016


Back when I was just starting at university Elite came out for the Beeb. I remember going into my local town and walking to the computer shop to buy the game, then getting the slow bus home, waiting with apprehension for the time when I could put the tape into the cassette drive and slowly load up the game! By today's standards the graphics were basic, but in 1984 they were ground breaking. And I spent the next couple of years playing Elite at every opportunity. Even when I upgraded to the Atari 520 STM I longed for Elite on it but it never arrived.

I learned about Elite Dangerous back in 2012 and that it was available on Steam earlier this year. I wasn't a Steam player at the time, preferring to do my gaming on a PlayStation 3 or 4, or perhaps an XBox 360. However, I made the plunge this morning and for my first game purchase of 2016 I decided to install Steam on my laptop and buy Elite. I'm sure I'll have hours of fun ahead if it's anything like the original game!

Monday, November 09, 2015

HPTS 2015

I've been so busy travelling to conferences and customer engagements that I haven't had a chance to write about my trip to HPTS 2015. I've written several times about previous trips to this workshop and how it's my favourite of them all, so won't repeat. The workshop had the usual high standard of presentations and locating it at Asilomar is always a great way to focus the mind and conversations.

Because of its highly technical nature of the workshop I always like to use this event to try out new presentations - I know the feedback I receive will be constructive and worth hearing. This time my submission was essentially about what I'd written earlier this year concerning the evolution of application servers (application containers) driven by immutability and operating system containers, such as Docker. And I threw in a smattering of microservices since the topic is obviously relevant and I figured Adrian would be there! My presentation was well received and the feedback clearly showed that many people at the event agreed with it.

One other positive thing to come from the workshop and my presentation was that my co-traveller and long time friend/colleague, Professor Shrivastava, saw the presentation for the first time at the event. He understood it and whilst much of what was said I and others take for granted, he believes that there are groups of people that would find it interesting enough that we should write a paper. Writing papers with Santosh is something I enjoy and it has been a very fruitful collaboration over the years, so I look forward to this!

I also want to thank James because it was our discussions after I started my initial entries on the evolution of application servers that helped to focus and clarify my thinking.

High Integrity Software 2015 conference

I was asked to give one of the keynotes at this year's High Integrity Software Conference and I have to say that I enjoyed the entire event. It's probably one of the best technical conferences that I've been to for a while and I've been thinking about why that was the case. I think it's partly due to the fact that it was a very focussed themed event with multiple tracks for just a small part (4 talks) of the day so everyone at the event was able to concentrate on that main theme. In many ways it was similar to how conferences and workshops were "back in the day", before many of them seemed to need to try to appeal to everyone with all of the latests hot topics at the time.

The other thing that appealed to me was that I was asked to give a talk I hadn't given before: dependability issues for open source software. The presentation is now available and it was nice to be forced to put into a presentation things I've taken for granted for so many years. The feedback from the audience was very positive and then we were straight into a panel session on open source, which was also well attended with lots of great questions. Definitely a conference I'll remember for a long time and one I hope to go back to at some point.

Finally there was one presentation that stuck in my mind. It was by Professor Philip Koopman and worth reading. There's a video of a similar presentation he did previously and despite the fact it's not great quality, I recommend watching it if you're at all interested in dependable software for mission critical environments.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Heisenberg's back!

A long time ago (longer than I care to remember), I made the analogy between Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and large-scale data consistency (weak/eventual consistency). It got reported by InfoQ too. Over the weekend I came across a paper from friend/colleague Pat Helland where he made a similar analogy, so I figured I'd mention it here. What's that they say about "great minds" ;) ?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The modern production stack

Over a year ago I wrote the first of what was supposed to be the start of a series of articles on how research our industry had been doing years (decades) ago was relevant today and even in use today, i.e., had moved from blue-sky research into reality. I never got round to updating it, despite several valiant attempts. However, thanks to James I got to see a nice article called Anatomy of a Modern Production Stack, I probably don't need to, or at least not as much as I'd expected. And before anyone points out, yes this stuff is very similar to what James, Rob and the team have been doing with Fabric8, OpenShift etc.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Proud ...

I have two sons. They both make me proud on a daily basis. I've been away for a week at Summit and whilst there my youngest son, who's not quite 13, did something brave that made me very proud of him. I can't go into what it was except to say that he did it through the medium of social media - that annoyed me slightly but it seems to be the way of things today for a certain generation. I've told him that what he did was brave and made me proud but I figured I would also put it here so he can refer to it in the future; it's the closest I can get to social media.