Thursday, June 28, 2007
Michael Kanellos, CNET News.com
26 June 2007 04:19 PM
IBM claims that its new Blue Gene/P supercomputer, operating at petaflop speed performs more operations than a 1.5-mile-high stack of laptops.
IBM has devised a new Blue Gene supercomputer -- the Blue Gene/P -- that will be capable of processing more than 3 quadrillion operations a second, or 3 petaflops, a possible record. Blue Gene/P is designed to continuously operate at more than 1 petaflop in real-world situations.
Blue Gene/P marks a significant milestone in computing. Last November, the Blue Gene/L was ranked as the most powerful computer on the planet: it topped out at 280 teraflops, or 280 trillion operations a second during continuous operation.
Put another way, a Blue Gene/P operating at a petaflop is performing more operations than a 1.5-mile-high (2.4km) stack of laptops.
The development of Blue Gene/P seems certain to extend IBM's position atop the Top 500 Supercomputer list, which comes out this week at the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany. IBM had 93 computers on the list when the rankings last came out in November; four were in the top 10.
The US Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory will deploy the first Blue Gene/P in the US later this year. Meanwhile, in Germany, the Max Planck Society and the Forschungszentrum Julich research centre will start to install a Blue Gene/P in late 2007. Others will be installed at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Labs (upstate New York facilities that have collaborated with IBM on other projects) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council in Cheshire, England.
Like the vast majority of other modern supercomputers, Blue Gene/P is composed of several racks of servers lashed together in clusters for large computing tasks, such as running programs that can graphically simulate worldwide weather patterns.
Technologies designed for these computers trickle down into the mainstream while conventional technologies and components are used to cut the costs of building these systems.
The chip inside Blue Gene/P consists of four PowerPC 450 cores running at 850MHz each. A 2x2 foot circuit board containing 32 of the Blue Gene/P chips can churn out 435 billion operations a second. Thirty two of these boards can be stuffed into a 6-foot-high rack.
The chip inside the Blue Gene/L contained two PowerPC cores running at 700MHz.
The 1-petaflop Blue Gene/P comes with 294,912 processors and takes up 72 racks in all. Hitting 3 petaflops takes an 884,736-processor, 216-rack cluster, according to IBM. The chips and other components are linked together in a high-speed optical network.
Several companies will be in the German city this week to tout supercomputer accomplishments. Sun Microsystems will use the show to show off its Constellation System, which features a switching architecture that Sun says will greatly enhance performance. The first Constellation System, which Sun hopes will be ready by October, will provide 500 teraflops of performance at its peak.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
Are your skills in need of upgrading?
By Mary Brandel
Those in search of eternal life need look no further than the computer industry. Here, last gasps are rarely taken, as aging systems crank away in back rooms across the U.S., not unlike 1970s reruns on Nickelodeon's TV Land. So while it may not be exactly easy for Novell NetWare engineers and OS/2 administrators to find employers who require their services, it's very difficult to declare these skills -- or any computer skill, really -- dead. (Readers have their own views on dead and dying skills. Others offer their own suggestions for the pyre.)
In fact, the harder you try to declare a technology dead, it seems, the more you turn up evidence of its continuing existence. Nevertheless, after speaking with several industry stalwarts, we've compiled a list of skills and technologies that, while not dead, can perhaps be said to be in the process of dying. Or as Stewart Padveen, Internet entrepreneur and currently founder of AdPickles Inc., says, "Obsolescence is a relative -- not absolute -- term in the world of technology."
Y2k was like a second gold rush for Cobol programmers who were seeing dwindling need for their skills. But six-and-a-half years later, there's no savior in sight for this fading language. At the same time, while there's little curriculum coverage anymore at universities teaching computer science, "when you talk to practitioners, they'll say there are applications in thousands of organizations that have to be maintained," says Heikki Topi, chair of computer information services at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., and a member of the education board for the Association for Computing Machinery.
And for those who want to help do that, you can actually learn Cobol at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, which according to Mary Sumner, a professor there, still offers a Cobol course. "Two of the major employers in the area still use Cobol, and for many of their entry-level jobs, they want to see that on the transcript," she says. "Until that changes, we'd be doing the students a disservice by not offering it." (see also: "Cobol Coders: Going, Going, Gone? ")
2. Nonrelational DBMS
In the 1980s, there were two major database management systems approaches: hierarchical systems, such as IBM's IMS and SAS Institute Inc.'s System 2000, and network DBMS, such as CA's IDMS and Oracle Corp.'s DBMS, formerly the VAX DBMS. Today, however, both have been replaced by the relational DBMS approach, embodied by SQL databases such as DB2, Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server, says Topi. "The others are rarely covered anymore in database curricula," he says.
3. Non-IP networks
TCP/IP has largely taken over the networking world, and as a result, there's less demand than ever for IBM Systems Network Architecture (SNA) skills. "It's worth virtually nothing on the market," says David Foote, president of Foote Partners LLC in New Canaan, Conn. Foote tracks market pay for individual IT skills, which companies usually pay as a lump sum or a percentage of workers' base pay, either as a bonus or an adjustment to their base salary. SNA, Foote says, commands less than 1% premium pay. "It's like a penny from 1922 -- there has to be someone who wants to buy it."
Despite the fact that many banks, insurance firms and other companies still have large investments in SNA networks, the educational offerings in this area are also rare, according to Topi. "The dominant model of protocols is TCP/IP and the Internet technologies," he says.
This store-and-forward LAN-based e-mail system from the 1980s was once used by about 20 million people. However, as e-mail was integrated into more-complex systems such as Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, its popularity waned, and in 2000, it was withdrawn from the market. According to Foote, "cc:Mail is a bygone era. Now e-mail is tied into everything else, and cc:Mail didn't make that leap." Just the same, the product continues to be commercially supported by Global System Services Corp. in Mountain View, Calif.
This once-popular Web programming language -- released in the mid-1990s by Allaire Corp. (which was later purchased by Macromedia Inc., which itself was acquired by Adobe Systems Inc.) -- has since been superseded by other development platforms, including Microsoft Corp.'s Active Server Pages and .Net, as well as Java, Ruby on Rails, Python, PHP and other open-source languages.
Debates continue over whether ColdFusion is as robust and scalable as its competitors, but nevertheless, premiums paid for ColdFusion programmers have dropped way off, according to Foote. "It was really popular at one time, but the market is now crowded with other products," he says.
6. C programming
As the Web takes over, C languages are also becoming less relevant, according to Padveen. "C++ and C Sharp are still alive and kicking, but try to find a basic C-only programmer today, and you'll likely find a guy that's unemployed and/or training for a new skill," he says. (see also: "Hot Skills, Cold Skills ")
Recruiters that have been around since the 1990s, such as David Hayes, president of HireMinds LLC in Cambridge, Mass., remember when PowerBuilder programmers were "hot, hot, hot," as he says. Developed by Powersoft Inc., this client/server development tool in 1994 was bought by Sybase Inc., which was once a strong Oracle competitor.
Today, PowerBuilder developers are at the very bottom of the list of in-demand application development and platform skills, with pay about equal to Cobol programmers, according to Foote. Nevertheless, the product keeps on trucking, with PowerBuilder 11 expected this year, which has the ability to generate .Net code. (see also: "35 Technologies that shaped the industry ")
8. Certified NetWare Engineers
In the early 1990s, it was all the rage to become a Certified NetWare Engineer, especially with Novell Inc. enjoying 90% market share for PC-based servers. Today, however, you don't have to look far to find CNEs retraining themselves with other skills to stay marketable. "It seems like it happened overnight," Hayes says. "Everyone had Novell, and within a two-year period, they'd all switched to NT." Novell says it will continue supporting NetWare 6.5 through at least 2015; however, it has also retired several of its NetWare certifications, including Master CNE and NetWare 5 CNE, and it plans to retire NetWare 6 CNE. "Companies are still paying skill premiums for CNEs, but they're losing value," Foote says.
9. PC network administrators
With the accelerating move to consolidate Windows servers, some see substantially less demand for PC network administrators. "You see the evidence for that in the demise of those programs at the technical and two-year schools and the loss of instructors," says Nate Viall, president of Nate Viall & Associates, an AS/400 (iSeries) recruiting company.
A rough translation of OS/2 could be "wrong horse." Initially created by Microsoft and IBM and released with great fanfare in 1987, the collaboration soon unraveled, and after repeated rumors of its demise, IBM finally discontinued sales in 2005. OS/2 still has a dedicated community, however, and a company called Serenity Systems International still sells the operating system under the name eComStation. (see also: "IBM, Bankers at Odds Over OS/2 Migration Path ")
This Article Reprinted Courtesy of http://www.computerworld.com
Thanks to Wayne Hicks for posting on the BDPA E-group.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Without any sort of fanfare, AT&T Inc. has started offering a broadband Internet service for $10 a month, half the price of its cheapest advertised plan. The DSL, or digital subscriber line, plan introduced Saturday is part of the concessions made by AT&T to the Federal Communications Commission to get its $86 billion acquisition of BellSouth Corp. approved last December. The $10 offer is available to customers in the 22-state AT&T service region, which includes former BellSouth areas, who have never had AT&T or BellSouth broadband, spokesman Michael Coe confirmed Monday. Local phone service and a one-year contract are required. The modem is free. More.
Friday, June 15, 2007
20 Ways to Use LinkedIn Productively
If the number of requests to join LinkedIn, the business networking network, that clog your email inbox is any indication, then you know it is becoming a legitimate business tool, and one that most professionals need to effectively leverage to boost their professional prospects. LinkedIn, in fact is a web worker’s best professional friend.
And although it’s just one of many such networks, LinkedIn, is in short a network for business opportunities. On LinkedIn, people don’t chat about music or what they did on Saturday night, but instead focus on opportunities and how the network can help you. And that’s a winning formula. Here are just some of the most common and productive uses of LinkedIn. :
1) Increase freelance work. If you’re a freelancer, or you want to be, getting work can sometimes be a challenge. Or perhaps you get a lot of work, but you want to focus more on quality work that gets you the highest pay per hour. Set up a profile that shows what you can do, your experience, what you have to offer. Link up with others you know, and you’ve got a free way to market your services. It could take awhile before the jobs start rolling in, but it can’t hurt to start now.
2) Find your dream job. You’ve already got a job, but it’s far from perfect. What you really want to do is create the perfect widget. Well, you’ll never get a job doing that if you just sit on your keister. Put yourself out there on LinkedIn, search for companies that are looking for perfect widget makers, and contact them. The search for the dream job starts with a single click.
3) Boost your business. Got a small business but want to generate more customers? Perhaps you’re not connecting with the right people. LinkedIn can increase your chances of hitting that big deal that puts your business exactly where you want to be. Again, this can take some time, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
4) Improve your Google results. When someone Googles you, do you really want the first thing they see to be your posts on the fly fishing forum? As your LinkedIn profile will have a fairly high Google PageRank, it should rank fairly high in your search results. And you can fill it with stuff you want people to see.
5) Check references for potential hires. Trying to hire the perfect widget maker? Well, you’re not likely to find out about an applicant’s sordid past mistakes by calling the references on their application. Do a search for others who worked at the same company at the same time, and get a better background check in minutes.
6) Get advice. Use LinkedIn’s Answers feature to ask a question and get some great answers. As always, you’ll have to sort through the self-promotional fluff, but there are some true experts on LinkedIn, and it’s worth a shot to ask your question.
7) Easy resume. Don’t feel like creating an old-fashioned resume and photocopying, faxing or emailing it to 20 different companies? Create a LinkedIn profile that serves as a resume, and then send people the URL. Be sure to get a vanity URL for this, as you can set the URL of your LinkedIn profile (I think perfectwidgetmaker is available).
Do research. Need to find out about business trends for an article, need to find an expert or need to contact people for further information? LinkedIn is a decent place to start, especially if you’re running dry on Google. Start with the advanced search feature.
9) Jazz up your profile. Don’t just go with a plain Jane, boring profile — be sure to put the right information on it to give it the most impact. See Guy Kawasaki’s article on profile makeovers for more.
10) Get connections. When you start out with LinkedIn, you probably have between 0 and 1 connections. That’s not very productive. Get others you know in your network by allowing LinkedIn to access your Gmail contacts. See the Slacker Manager’s article for more.
11) Prep for an interview. If you’re going to a job interview, it’s best to know the background of the person you’ll be talking to. Check out their LinkedIn profile to find out more about their work experience, interests, education and more. This will give you an edge.
12) Batch process messages. LinkedIn, like any other social network, can become just another stream of information and messages that you need to wade through. That’s not productive, and you have enough of these streams to deal with already. Simplify that by setting it to only give you weekly messages all in one batch, or to only notify you of new messages whenever you decide to log in.
13) Increase your cred. If you’re trying to market yourself as an expert, for example, or develop credibility in your field, it looks good to have a strong presence in a network such as LinkedIn, with lots of connections. If you answer questions with the knowledge of an expert in the Answers section, even better.
14) Brand yourself. This is related to No. 13, but whatever your aim in business, be it as a freelancer, as a potential employee, as a writer, as a business … it’s only smart to develop your own personal brand. What do people think of when they hear your name? A strong presence on LinkedIn only reinforces the branding you’re doing elsewhere. And while you’re at it, be sure to link to your website from your profile.
15) Find people. Looking for old friends, for old business associates that you want to re-establish a relationship with, for former employers or employees, for someone you met at a cocktail party but can’t find their card? Do a LinkedIn search.
16) Help others. The best way to network is to help others succeed. They’ll never forget you, and you will be paid back tenfold some day. Use LinkedIn to help others — promote them, link to them, connect with them, recommend them, answer their questions.
17) Get to know a company. If you want to know about a company, you could Google them or go to their website. But using LinkedIn, you can find out much more about it. For example, do an advanced search on the company and uncheck “current companies only” to see what kind of talent has left the company, and how fast. And connect with them to see what they have to say about their former employer.
18) Throw out a net when you don’t need it. Sure, a network like this is good when you’re job hunting. But what about if you’re not looking for a job? That’s the perfect time to put yourself out there and make connections. Because when you don’t need it, people are more likely to get to know you, because you’re not pushing yourself on them. You’re just forming relationships — and that will pay off when you do need it. And who knows? Maybe the perfect offer will come in when you’re not even looking for it.
19) Get publicity. It can be hard to contact media or top bloggers. But many of them have a LinkedIn profile, and you can contact them through the profile. I highly advise you not to spam them — but a press release or a polite email letting them know about a new launch, for example, might be appreciate or at least noticed. It shouldn’t be your whole marketing strategy, but it could help.
20) Market research. Planning to launch a new product? Do a little research into what companies are offering similar things, about what kind of potential customers are out there, and what they’re like, and what their needs are, and what kind of demand there is for your type of product. It can take some creative searching, but the information is there, waiting to be mined. Talk to employees or former employees of similar businesses, or of potential customers, and you can get the answers you’re looking for.