flash momentum

I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas!
But it’s all right.  I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash,
It’s a Gas!  Gas!  Gas!

Those familiar with Moore’s Law have seen the disparity between disk and CPU performance increase. Today’s CPUs can easily out-process the data provided to them by even the fastest disk. Why is that?

There is a physical limitation on the rate at which we can spin platters. Our ability to engineer mechanical devices to spin highly unstable platters close to moving heads which are microns away from the surface are limited. Material science, stresses, quality of the bearings – all require tolerances that are approaching our physical limitations. Yet, we seem to be always finding new approaches to managing silicon fabrication.

The end of the mechanical age is near.

Enter flash. Freeing us from our mechanical limitations, flash enables the development of ‘silicon drives’ with speeds approaching those of their silicon CPU partners. With prices declining, these drives are fast becoming more affordable. Yet with still a significant price disparity to their slower, yet higher capacity mechanical cousins, what is the alternative?

Hybrid storage. Take the performance advantage of silicon flash, with the mechanical capacity of drives. Balance these devices for the workload, and you get unmatched price-performance. There is a whole class of devices emerging that support this philosophy. The question is, do systems engineers have the tools to understand their applications sufficiently to tune configurations to optimize this opportunity.

It’s nascent. More education than marketing is required.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

April 22, 2010 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

nab 2010

It’s the same old story
Same old song and dance, my friend
It’s the same old story
Same old song and dance, my friend

I love NAB, it is a great place to catch up with colleagues, see the new developments and occasionally stumble upon a seismic shift… but where is the really cool new stuff that is going to drive the industry back into high growth?

Is it 3D?

I don’t know, the jury is out, but the marketing folks and just about every booth rendered the 3D story in some respect. What I do know, is that there is only one company that I saw, that actually converted 2D to 3D – and it was good. It was in real-time, and it provides a really interesting path to monetizing ‘old, really long tail content’ and making it a new experience. I don’t promote companies or technologies in this blog, not my style, but if anyone is interested, drop me a line…

Is it ATSC M/H?

On April 9, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) threw its hat into the mobile TV broadcast ring with word that it has begun developing ATSC-M/H, an ATSC-backwards-compatible transmission system to reach mobile viewers via broadcast DTV transmissions. With ATSC-M/H, broadcasters can use their excess DTV broadcast bandwidth to provide new services directly to small hand-held receivers, laptop computers and moving vehicles. It all sounds great, and it will be – if a couple of things happen:

  1. Where are the handsets to drag a compelling business model? Can I get them at my local cell-phone store?
  2. Where is the content to drag the manufacturers to make the handsets to drag a compelling business model? Will the consumer really care about “yet another video service”…?
  3. How do you hand off from one broadcaster to another (like a mega cell)? Well, this problem has been solved technically and that is a seismic shift… problem, who gets the money in this multicast model?
  4. Will the telco’s have enough incentive to let this happen i.e. support a multi-protocol handset, with the vision that this will save precious unicast bandwidth from multicast-affinity content e.g. real-time news/sports?

It’s the economy?

Personally I perceived attendance was down. Floor-space was certainly down, with large curtained-off sections, and the registration are moved to fill hall space in a veiled attempt to prevent booths from rattling around in otherwise less than occupied halls. However, business activity was up… my friends and colleagues told me of a more qualified attendee, with a higher likelihood of decision-making authority, and there was certainly many discussions covering pent-up demand and a perceived relaxation of previously frozen budgetary constraints.

It was a good show. Tiring as usual, but as is so often the case, the same stuff re-packaged differently.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

April 15, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

computing gets consumerized

Oh, oh, oh
Spending all my time buying stuff
When I’ve more than enough
More than enough
Cough, cough
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
Neo consumer
Neo consumer
Consumer

Consumerized – sounds like a badly made up word, reminiscent of a presidential past.

The wordplay is only for effect, the idea is real…

Previously, in computing utilities cometh I discussed the inevitable move to utility-focused computing. A large, simple, ubiquitous and all encompassing information utility.

Well, what use is a ‘grid’ or ‘network’ without appliances? You may well argue that the PC, smartphone, small business datacentre of today are ‘appliances’ for just such a utility. Its job is to provide a common information infrastructure for sharing, backup and transfer – instead of moving current, it moves bits. Probably not far from the truth.

But.

When I was growing up, washing machines, although they had an electric motor, were beastly devices. They agitated the clothes, but to ‘wring’ those newly washed clothes, you swung the rollers into action, disengaged the agitator motor, and fed the clothes ‘through the wringer’. These appliances did the job, but they required skill on the part of the operator. The process was manually integrated. This skill was eventually replaced with mechanical, then electrical, and subsequently computer-controlled timers. Not to mention, pre-defined wash cycles (or workflows). How many of us cherish those halcyon wash days, where you intimately got involved in the process of making clothes clean?

Today’s washers do all manner of things, even steam clean clothes. What they don’t really allow is for dad or his friend to get a wrench and start into fixin’ the darn thing when it breaks, like they used to.

And so it is with the iPad.

I have been observing the pre-launch rumors, launch critiques and release reviews, along with a whole array of comments across that same time continuum. Interestingly, this is a highly polarizing device, even more so than its Apple product brethren. And I think I know why…

Every commenter who hates the iPad is religiously attached to:

  1. It is an Apple product and therefore is sex without substance
  2. Has no screws, heck, cannot even change the battery, and therefore as a technical person, this is bad engineering
  3. Lacks features – e.g. flash, usb, not e-ink etc. Therefore it is technically inept.

Most interestingly, these observations have been made in the absence of ‘actual product’, and are highly reminiscent of those strange people in NYC who bear tacky, grammatically challenged signs implying that the ‘end is near’. Seemingly warning us of the impending doom about to befall modern computerdom.

Those that gush over the product are equally religious (particularly those who believe without having seen!), wanting stuff that ‘just works’… and prepared to wait in line for hours to do just that.

Funny how we’d expect consumers not wanting stuff that ‘just works’. Vertically integrated appliances enable consumers of all ages to focus on what they want to do, without fear that they may get their hand stuck in the ‘clothes wringer’. For those that want to tinker with technology, there are plenty of things to play with… I for one, one who works in this business, am not threatened by the impending ‘lack of technical sophistication’.

I think that the iPad is really the consumer marketplace bellweather for the information appliance of the future. Yes, computing is getting consumerized – at both ends of the spectrum, the utility and the appliance.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

April 8, 2010 at 1:00 am 1 comment

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