November 2014


Scalability Techniques for Practical Synchronization Primitives

  Davidlohr Bueso

Designing locking primitives with performance in mind

In an ideal world, applications are expected to scale automatically when executed on increasingly larger systems. In practice, however, not only does this scaling not occur, but it is common to see performance actually worsen on those larger systems.

Concurrency



Internal Access Controls

  Geetanjali Sampemane

Trust But Verify.

Every day seems to bring news of another dramatic and high-profile security incident, whether it is the discovery of longstanding vulnerabilities in widely used software such as OpenSSL or Bash, or celebrity photographs stolen and publicized. There seems to be an infinite supply of zero-day vulnerabilities and powerful state-sponsored attackers. In the face of such threats, is it even worth trying to protect your systems and data? What can systems security designers and administrators do?

Security



Disambiguating Databases

  Rick Richardson

Use the database built for your access model.

The topic of data storage is one that doesn't need to be well understood until something goes wrong (data disappears) or something goes really right (too many customers). Because databases can be treated as black boxes with an API, their inner workings are often overlooked. They're often treated as magic things that just take data when offered and supply it when asked. Since these two operations are the only understood activities of the technology, they are often the only features presented when comparing different technologies.

Data



Kode Vicious: Too Big to Fail

Visibility leads to debuggability.

Our project has been rolling out a well-known, distributed key/value store onto our infrastructure, and we've been surprised—more than once—when a simple increase in the number of clients has not only slowed things, but brought them to a complete halt. This then results in rollback while several of us scour the online forums to figure out if anyone else has seen the same problem. The entire reason for using this project's software is to increase the scale of a large system, so I have been surprised at how many times a small increase in load has led to a complete failure. Is there something about scaling systems that's so difficult that these systems become fragile, even at a modest scale?

Kode Vicious, Development




October 2014


The Responsive Enterprise: Embracing the Hacker Way

  Erik Meijer and Vikram Kapoor

Soon every company will be a software company.

As of July 2014, Facebook, founded in 2004, is in the top 20 of the most valuable companies in the S&P 500, putting the 10-year-old software company in the same league as IBM, Oracle, and Coca-Cola. Of the top five fastest-growing companies with regard to market capitalization in 2014 (table 1), three are software companies: Apple, Google, and Microsoft (in fact, one could argue that Intel is also driven by software, making it four out of five).

Development



There's No Such Thing
as a General-purpose Processor


  David Chisnall

And the belief in such a device is harmful.

There is an increasing trend in computer architecture to categorize processors and accelerators as "general purpose." Of the papers published at this year's International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA 2014), nine out of 45 explicitly referred to general-purpose processors; one additionally referred to general-purpose FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays), and another referred to general-purpose MIMD (multiple instruction, multiple data) supercomputers, stretching the definition to the breaking point. This article presents the argument that there is no such thing as a truly general-purpose processor and that the belief in such a device is harmful.

Computer Architecture



A New Software Engineering

  Ivar Jacobson, Ed Seidewitz

What happened to the promise of rigorous, disciplined, professional practices for software development?

What has been adopted under the rubric of "software engineering" is a set of practices largely adapted from other engineering disciplines: project management, design and blueprinting, process control, and so forth. The basic analogy was to treat software as a manufactured product, with all the real "engineering" going on upstream of that—in requirements analysis, design, modeling, etc.

Development




September 2014


JavaScript and the Netflix User Interface

  Alex Liu

Conditional dependency resolution

In the two decades since its introduction, JavaScript has become the de facto official language of the Web. JavaScript trumps every other language when it comes to the number of runtime environments in the wild. Nearly every consumer hardware device on the market today supports the language in some way. While this is done most commonly through the integration of a Web browser application, many devices now also support Web views natively as part of the operating system UI (user interface). Across most platforms (phones, tablets, TVs, and game consoles), the Netflix UI, for example, is written almost entirely in JavaScript.

Web Development



Productivity in Parallel Programming: A Decade of Progress

  John T. Richards, Jonathan Brezin, Calvin B. Swart, Christine A. Halverson

Looking at the design and benefits of X10

In 2002 DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) launched a major initiative in HPCS (high-productivity computing systems). The program was motivated by the belief that the utilization of the coming generation of parallel machines was gated by the difficulty of writing, debugging, tuning, and maintaining software at peta scale.

Concurrency



Evolution of the Product Manager

  Ellen Chisa

Better education needed to develop the discipline

Software practitioners know that product management is a key piece of software development. Product managers talk to users to help figure out what to build, define requirements, and write functional specifications. They work closely with engineers throughout the process of building software. They serve as a sounding board for ideas, help balance the schedule when technical challenges occur — and push back to executive teams when technical revisions are needed. Product managers are involved from before the first code is written, until after it goes out the door.

Education



Kode Vicious: Port Squatting

  George Neville-Neil

Don't irk your local sysadmin.

A few years ago you upbraided some developers for not following the correct process when requesting a reserved network port from IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). While I get that squatting a used port is poor practice, I wonder if you, yourself, have ever tried to get IETF to allocate a port. We recently went through this with a new protocol on an open-source project, and it was a nontrivial and frustrating exercise. While I wouldn't encourage your readers to squat ports, I can see why they might just look for unallocated ports on their own and simply start using those, with the expectation that if their protocols proved popular, they would be granted the allocations later.

Kode Vicious, Networks



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