About three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Bill Bain of ScaleOut Software and the two Joes, Joe Cleaver and Joe Rubino,¬†from Microsoft’s Financial Services Industry Evangelism team after I gave my presentation¬†on distributed caches at Microsoft’s 6th Annual Financial Services Developer Conference. The two Joes recorded a podcast of our conversation.

Bill, Joe, and Joe, thanks for the opportunity to talk with you guys.


The Marc Jacobs Utilization Meter has been pegged for at least two weeks now on a combination of client work, internal projects, recruiting, and writing (hence the appearance of my blog having fallen down a well.) It’s great to be busy, but I hate seeing the blog go stale.

In any event, I had an article published in GRIDtoday this morning entitled, “Grid in Financial Services: Past, Present, and Future”. Derrick Harris, the editor of GRIDtoday, reached out for an article after reading my multi-part series on “High Performance Computing: A Customer’s Perspective”. A big thanks to Derrick for giving me this opportunity.

Steve Tally of Purdue University has written a wonderful overview of the critical issue facing high-performance computing today: performance gains are no longer tied to transistor counts but to new concurrent hardware architectures, and the programmer base is lagging behind the necessary skills to drive those architectures.

The fastest of the fastest computers — supercomputers used at national research centers, research universities and major corporations — will soon gain even more performance by taking advantage of multicore computing.

Despite the promise of almost unimagined computing power, however, even computing experts wonder whether this time the hardware developers have raced too far ahead of many programmers’ ability to create software.

From ACM TechNews.

Last week, Lab49 showed up in force at the Microsoft Financial Developers Conference. One of our founders and managing directors, Daniel Chait, trotted out some powerful Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) data visualization demos for the financial services industry.

I got a chance to sneak in and out of several sessions, but overall the conference was ho-hum from a developer’s perspective. Not much new, not much technical. Not even much in the way of vendor swag. I mean, really, how many Microsoft-branded over-the-shoulder messenger bags can one person use? Yawn. Praise be for the vast aquifers of coffee and candy-coated apples.

I did learn at least one new thing, though: Platform Symphony now only supports distributing tasks as executables. According to a guy named Rene, a Platform Computing tech representative roaming the audience answering questions, though the product used to support distributing tasks as libraries, they’ve jettisoned that feature for simplicity and performance sake.

It seems rather archaic to me to have such limited choice in designing your distributed applications. The Digipede Network, for example, allows you to distribute executables, libraries, and even in-memory objects. Being locked into wrapping your logic into an executable (even when all you want to distribute is a function call) reminds me of the coding awkwardness of PVM and MPI.

Is Platform Computing old guard or just getting old?

One of the more interesting, semi-futurist ideas floated by the morning panel discussion at STREET#GRID 2007 yesterday was the idea that job schedulers would begin to use the hardware monitoring capabilities of modern blade computers to influence task assignments. Kevin Pleiter, IBM Emerging Business Solutions Executive for the Financial Services Sector of IBM, imagined a toolset that allowed job schedulers to take into account whether a particular blade or rack was running too hot, was disk-bound or drawing too much power, etc.

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I figure it’s even money that you read the title and said to yourself, “Well, duh,” or, “Dude, we are soooo not superfluous.” Either way, I think you might have raised an eyebrow at the first annual STREET#GRID 2007 Conference at the posh W Hotel in Union Square this morning. Lab49 Director Ross Hamilton and I attended a day of presentations and panel discussions and came away with the impression that developers were corporate waiters shuttling grid apps from IT service kitchen to table for tips. Who knew service-oriented architecture was about food service?

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Nope, it’s not from Microsoft Research. It doesn’t hail from Cambridge or Mountainview, nor is it some underbelly technology in Microsoft Vista that only Mark Russinovich and the responsible SDE is aware of. Rather, it’s a new service-oriented application model built on two overlapping technologies: Decentralized Software Services (DSS) and the Concurrency and Coordination Runtime (CCR). It is currently shipping as part of the Microsoft Robotics Studio (more on that later) and is poised to disrupt the way we think about the Windows Communication Framework (WCF) and the way we design, architect, and implement distributed applications. It is a work of genius.

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