Reflections on the (first annual) OpenDev Conference, SFO

Earlier this week, I attended the OpenDev conference in San Francisco, CA.

The conference was focused on the emerging “edge computing” use cases for the cloud. This is an area that is of particular interest, not just from the obvious applicability to my ‘day job’ at Verizon, but also from the fact that it opens up an interesting new set of opportunities for distributed computing applications.

The highlight(s) of the show were two keynotes by M. Satyanarayanan of CMU. Both sessions were video taped and I’m hoping that the videos will be made available soon.

His team is working on some real cool stuff, and he showed off some of their work. The one that I found most fascinating, which most completely illustrates the value of edge computing is the augmented reality application to playing table tennis (which they call ping pong, and I know that annoys a lot of people :))

It was great to hear a user perspective presented by Andrew Mitry of Walmart. With 11,000 stores and an enormous (2mm??) employees, their edge computing use-case truly represents the scale at which these systems will have to operate, and the benefits that they can bring to the enterprise.

The conference sessions were very interesting and some of my key takeaways were that:

  • Edge Computing means different things to different people, because the term ‘Edge’ means different things to different applications. In some cases the edge device may be in a data center, in other cases in your houses, and in other cases on top of a lamp post at the end of your street.
  • A common API in orchestrating applications across the entirety of the cloud is very important, but different technologies may be better suited to each location in the cloud. There was a lot of discussion of the value (or lack thereof) of having OpenStack at the edge, and whether it made sense for edge devices to be orchestrated by OpenStack (or not).
  • I think an enormous amount of time was spent on debating whether or not OpenStack could be made to fit on a system with limited resources and I found this discussion to be rather tiring. After all, OpenStack runs fine on a little raspberry-pi and for a deployment where there will be relatively few OpenStack operations (instance, volume, security group creation, update, deletetion) the limited resources at the edge should be more than sufficient.
  • There are different use-cases for edge-computing and NFV/VNF are not the only ones, and while they may be the early movers into this space, they may be unrepresentative of the larger market opportunity presented by the edge.

There is a lot of activity going on in the edge computing space and many of the things we’re doing at Verizon fall into that category. There were several sessions that showcased some of the things that we have been doing, AT&T had a couple of sessions describing their initiatives in the space as well.

There was a very interesting discussion of the edge computing use-cases and the etherpad for that session can be found here.

Some others who attended the session also posted summaries on their blogs. This one from Chris Dent provides a good summary.

A conclusion/wrap-up session identified some clear follow-up activities. The etherpad for that session can be found here.

Quick test drive of #amazon #ec2 Provisioned IOPS EBS volumes

After getting the email this morning about the new provisioned IOPS EBS volumes, I took a small test drive.

It is really easy to get yourself a provisioned IOPS volume; when creating the volume there’s a new selection.

One of the things that has long annoyed me about Amazon EC2 network and storage performance is that it is highly variable. The target for provisioned IOPS is exactly in the sweet spot of where I want it to be; database servers.

With provisioned IOPS, it appears that we’re seeing the first semblance of SLA’s or guaranteed quality of service for storage in the cloud. This is huge!

I’ve setup a multi-volume RAID set and am running performance tests and the numbers look good but what I like the most so far is that they are steady. That’s just awesome! More to come as I get the results.

Comparing parallel databases to sharding

I just posted an article comparing parallel databases to sharding on the ParElastic blog at

It was motivated by the fact that I’ve been asked a couple of times recently how the ParElastic architecture compares with sharding and it occurred to me this past weekend that

“Parallel Database” is a database architecture but sharding is an application architecture

Read the entire blog post here:

Cloud CPU Cost over the years

Great article by Greg Arnette about the crashing cost of CPU Costs over the years, thanks to the introduction of the cloud.

Personally, I think the most profound one was in December 2009 with the introduction of “spot pricing”.

Effectively you have an auction for the cost of an instance at any time and so long as the prevailing price is lower than the price you are willing to pay, you get to keep your instance.

Do one thing, and do it awesomely … Gimmebar!

From time to time you see a company come along that offers a simple product or service, and when they launch it just works.

The last time (that I can recall) when this happened was when I first used Dropbox. Download this little app and you got a 2GB drive in the cloud. And it worked on my Windows PC, on my Ubuntu PC, on my Android phone.

It just worked!

That was a while ago. And since then I’ve installed tons of software (and uninstalled 99% of it because it just didn’t work).

Last week I found Gimmebar.

There was no software to install, I just created an account on their web page. And it just worked!

What is Gimmebar? They consider themselves the 5th greatest invention of all time and they call themselves “a data steward”. I don’t know what that means. They also don’t tell you what the other 4 inventions are.

Here is how I would describe Gimmebar.

Gimmebar is a web saving/sharing tool that allows you to save things that you find interesting on the web in a nicely organised personal library in the cloud, and share some of that content with others if you so desire. They have something about saving stuff to your Dropbox account but I haven’t figured all of that out yet.

It has a bookmarklet for your browser, click it and things just get bookmarked and saved into your account.

But, it just worked!

I made a couple of collections, made one of them public and one of them shared.

If you share a collection it automatically gets a URL.

And that URL automatically supports an RSS Feed!

And they also backup your tweets, (I don’t give a crap about that).

So, what’s missing?

  • Some way to import all your stuff (from Google Reader)
  • An Android application (more generally, mobile application for platform of choice …)
  • The default ‘view’ on the collections includes previews; I will have enough crap before long where the preview will be a drag. How about a way to get just a list?
  • Saving a bookmark is right now at least a three click process; once you visit the site, click the bookmarklet and you get a little banner on the bottom of the screen, you click there to indicate whether you want the page to go to your private or public area, then you click the collection you want to store it in. This is functional but not easy to use.

I had one interaction with their support (little feedback tab on their page). Very quick to respond and they answered my question immediately.

On the whole, this feels like my first experience with Dropbox. Give it a shot, I think you’ll like it.

Why? Because Gimmebar set out to do one thing and they did it awesomely. It just worked!