Seattle Scalability Conference quick take

by Robin Harris on Monday, 16 June, 2008

I’m relaxing in beautiful Port Townsend, Washington today, under the gray skies of the coldest June in almost 100 years. The fire in the wood-burning stove and Frank’s strong coffee provide the good cheer.

Temporal compare
My comments are more impressionistic than considered. No “best of” selections now.

Comparing this year’s conference to last year’s is tricky. The Googlers who selected the papers didn’t profess a theme, choosing what they found interesting. So it may be a Rorschach inkblot test to see a pattern in the 2 conferences, but I do.

Last year’s conference focused on cluster scalability – building really big clusters that go beyond the 8,000 or so node clusters Google uses. Jeffrey Dean last year was open about Google’s desire to knit their data centers into a single global name space.

This year the focus moved up the stack to file systems and programming languages. The problem of multi-core chips seemed especially pertinent.

Bradford Chamberlain’s Chapel language attacks the issue of programming multicore/processor systems and sounded promising [download a technical pdf on Chapel here].

Vijay Menon’s “Scalable multiprocessor programming via transactional memory” seeks to replace clustering’s traditional reliance on threads and locks with an atomic transactional model of file access. He noted that Azul Systems uses hardware transactional memory in their 800+ core Java servers.

And there was more.

The StorageMojo take
Scalability is a key problem. The Googler’s desire to involve industry as well as academe gives this conference a dual personality that I like. At its best we see ideas beginning to morph into platforms.

The slow take will be coming as I look further into the papers that were presented. In the meantime Garth Gibson, CMU prof and RAID paper co-author, made some interesting comments on the earlier Scalability Conference post.

Comments welcome, of course. Looking forward to returning to NoAZ tomorrow.

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