Archive for March, 2008

Twenty Grains of Rice

March 25, 2008

You can improve your vocabulary and help feed the hungry at the same time by choosing the correct definitions of a series of vocabulary words. For every word you get right, 20 grains of rice will be donated to the UN World Food Program. The non-profit FreeRice is funded by discreet advertising banners provided by companies interested in promoting education and helping to alleviate hunger in the world.

Lest you scoff at the impact of a mere 20 grains of rice, the site has so far donated over 23.5 BILLION grains of rice. According to Wiki Answers, there are about 29,000 grains in a pound, so Free Rice has donated over 400 tons of rice to date. How cool is that?

I’ve donated about 8300 grains of rice so far. I occasionally reach vocabulary level 49 (max 55), but generally hover a few points lower. It’s a fun site, even more so knowing that you are helping people by using it.

Sun, let’s build a pyramid of rice! Start here.

Data Ships and Floating Datacenters

March 22, 2008

Back in October of 2006 when we announced Project Blackbox, I joked about the advent of what I called Suezmax Datacenters — ships loaded with Blackbox containers offering incredible amounts of compute and storage capacity.

How forward-looking of me. 🙂 The buzz now is all about floating datacenters or data ships. Companies are buying cheap old ships that will be docked and connected to shore power and data. These ships will offer acres of floor space for massive amounts of compute and data and will use sea water as an integral part of their cooling systems. The first such ship is apparently going to be deployed in San Francisco at Pier 50.

I haven’t heard any talk of Blackbox as part of these deployments, but if containers revolutionized the shipping industry, perhaps they are also a good fit for quickly moving customized chunks of compute and data in and out of these floating datacenters. Time will tell…

SAM-QFS Open Sourced: Delivering on the Promise of Open Storage

March 22, 2008

[opensolaris logo]

We call them Sun StorageTek QFS and Sun StorageTek SAM these days, but long-time HPC people will remember them simply as QFS and SAM (or collectively as SAM-QFS), the very well-respected file system and archive management software created by LSC, Inc and acquired by Sun back in 2001. These products are very well-known and widely-used in certain segments of the HPC market, particularly those with high-performance SAN requirements and with a need for kick-butt streaming IO performance. More recently, these products have had some huge successes in non-HPC areas, demonstrating that they not only scale and offer high performance, but that they have enterprise-class stability as well.

The big news is that we’ve open sourced SAM-QFS. The latest development bits are now available for download on, modulo a few pieces owned by 3rd parties which we either need to rewrite or will release if permission is obtained. Ted Pogue has done a nice writeup about all of this, including pointers to the discussion forums for the SAM/QFS OpenSolaris project.

Take a look at Sun’s 2001 press release about the LSC acquisition (but do NOT click on the link–it has been reaped by spammers.) We were talking about Open Storage, even in 2001. As Bob Porras points out, we have now created an entire open source storage stack with this release. How cool is that?

Amazon Recommendation Engine: Single Cylinder at Best

March 22, 2008

I just received an email from Amazon, recommending a book, The TreasureHunter’s Gem & Mineral Guides To The U.S.A.: Where & How to Dig, Pan And Mine Your Own Gems & Minerals: Northeast States. Admittedly, they did a good job of predicting this title might be attractive to me. However, the single review on the Amazon site gives the book only a single star and provides some fairly damning evidence that the book is, in fact, totally useless. Hardly an incentive to make a purchase…or to trust future Amazon recommendations.

While I do understand that opinions vary widely across many Amazon reviews and they should not be the final arbiters in a buy/no-buy decision, I would think the Amazon recommendation engine would make some attempt to factor the reviews into their ratings. Or, at the very least, the marketing email should include the overall reviewer rating in the advertisement.

Jefferson in Menlo Park

March 17, 2008

[thomas jefferson]

Coyote Hill Road

March 16, 2008

There is something about the light that seems different in California…something I don’t see in Boston. This shot was taken late in the day on Coyote Hill Road in Palo Alto, not far from Xerox PARC and VMware.

[tree and grass]

Fun and Opportunity at Intel

March 16, 2008

[ics2008 program committee meeting]

I spent 10 hours this Saturday at Intel attending a program committee meeting for the International Conference on Supercomputing (ICS 2008) to be held in Greece in June. About a dozen of us met in person with several others on the phone as we evaluated the 140+ papers that had been reviewed and made final selections for the conference. I was impressed by the care and thoroughness taken by the committee and am confident we selected a strong set of papers that will make for a good HPC conference.

It just so happened that two of my fellow committee members expressed interest in evaluating Sun’s new UltraSPARC T2 processor. One, from the University of Cyprus, lamented the fact that export restrictions prevent him from getting access to a machine–I need to check to see if that is still true and to find out whether network access to a machine would be viable for evaluation purposes, assuming these systems will be shippable to Cyprus in the future. It was great to see an HPC person so interested in trying the system. Based on other customer data, there is clearly a real value proposition for this processor in HPC.

The second interested committee member works at a small startup in San Francisco. He is tasked with evaluating how well various machine architectures support their application in preparation for scaling up for web deployment. He is interested in assessing the T2’s integer and threading capabilities against their requirements.

His company sounds like a prime candidate for the Try and Buy program under which Sun ships the customer an UltraSPARC T2 system for free with full support for up to 60 days. If the customer doesn’t want the system, we pay to ship it back. If they do want it, it is sold at a significant discount. It’s a pretty cool program, designed to let people try this new technology with as little effort as possible. The Sun Startup Essentials program, which is specifically designed to help start-ups get moving with Sun technology might also be appropriate.

Sun Fellow Art

March 16, 2008

[sun fellow flower]

Bored in Menlo Park?

March 15, 2008

[techshop logo]

I recently discovered that TechShop‘s headquarters is five minutes from Sun’s Menlo Park campus, so I took their CNC milling machine class earlier this week. It was a short class on basic safety and usage rather than a comprehensive introduction to the machine, but it was still useful.

If you are visiting MPK on business, have a free evening, and have an interest in milling machines, laser etchers, 3d printers, or a host of other cool tools, check out TechShop’s classes or if you really travel too much, sign up for a membership. Of course, California residents are welcome as well. 🙂

Wake Up Call, München-style

March 5, 2008

On my last trip to Germany I spent my final evening in the Sheraton München Airport Hotel and started my trip home the next morning with a smile after receiving the following wake-up call:

Please get out of bed
Another day, another dollar
We wish you a successful day