Friday, September 19, 2008

History Is Written by the Victors

There's a new book to be out in October 2008, published by Intel Press, The Business Value of Service Oriented Grids, by Enrique Castro-Leon, Jackson He, Mark Chang, and Parviz Peiravi. A few chapters are available online, or just the preface in a slightly different print layout.

First, my congratulations to Enrique and his co-authors. Getting any book out the door is more work than anybody can appreciate who hasn't done it. Kudos!

I won't comment on the main content, since I'm not really qualified, "business value" books just aren't my cup of tea, and N years (for large N) in IBM left me profoundly allergic to SOA. SOA roolz. OK? It's wonderful. But I've only read one discussion of it, about 5 pages total, that didn't make my skin crawl.

However, part 3 of the download (Chapter 1) had this, which is relevant to the issues of this blog: 2004 Intel found that a successor to the Pentium 4 processor, codenamed Prescott would have hit a "thermal wall."... the successor chip would have run too hot and consumed too much power at a time when power consumption was becoming an important factor for customer acceptance.
Big positive here: This event has been published, by Intel.

However, heat and power consumption "becoming an important factor for customer acceptance" is an excessively delicate way of putting it. 

As I recall, that proposed chip family was so hot that all major system vendors actually refused it. They stood up to Intel, a rather major thing to do, and rejected the proposed design as impossible to package in practical, shippable products. This was a huge deal inside Intel, causing the cancellation of all main-line processor projects and the elevation to stardom of a previously denigrated low-power design created by an outlier lab in Israel, far from the center of mass of development.

So history gets exposed in a way that placates the shareholders. 

The preface to this book also had some comments about the ancient history of virtualization that reminded me that I was there. Fodder for a future post.

(My thanks to a good friend and ex-co-worker who pointed me to this book and provided the title phrase.)


Anonymous said...

Shouldn't that be, "History is written by the *vectors*?" :) As you may know, I used to work for Floating Point Systems, and we had endless discussions/debates about all of these issues back in the "good old days" (1980 -- 1990 for me).

In the end, high-speed serial processors ended up ruling the world because parallel programming is at least one and probably more like three orders of magnitude more difficult than serial programming. Sure, the *languages* are better now -- you won't get shot on sight if, for example, you write software in Erlang, Haskell, OCaml, or other languages of the functional or "single-assignment" ilk. But in the end, I think you'll see a hardware solution before parallel programming makes any significant advances over the state of the art in 1990.

Greg Pfister said...

Hi, Ed. Thanks for your thoughts. Hopefully I'll stimulate more of them.

I agree with your assessment of parallel vs. serial, but a question:

What kind of "hardware solution" are you thinking of? Transactional memory?

(Right, "vectors". :)

Anonymous said...

Transactional memory is not "hardware" -- it's software. No, I'm thinking of the stuff we thought about in the good old days but never did anything with: gallium arsenide, indium phosphide, etc. They were always there, just not "cost-effective".

It's got to be easier to productize those than solve NP-complete software problems, don't you think? :)

Greg Pfister said...

Ah, you meant punt the whole parallel thing by getting clock rate increases raging again. Sure would be nice.

I don't know enough about the exotic technologies to know if that's a practical option. Maybe. But the industry isn't heading that way right now.

I thought you were referring to some hardware fix for parallel programming. If one exists, I'd really like to know of it.

I know of TM software, but there is TM hardware, too. Sun has a bunch of patents on it, and at one point was suing Azul systems for infringement in Azul's Vega systems, which certainly have shipped and do work on a large scale - 864 cores.

TM might help, possibly a lot, but it's not a panacea.

Dario de Judicibus said...

SOA is for architecture was OOP was for development :-)

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