Sunday, September 25, 2011

EDA clouds?

Resource management has been around since clusters started in production, and even earlier in main-frames. There is something that it should happen in a cloud, invisible for the user, but in resource intensive applications this a different discipline and know-how. Grid computing, the predecessor cloud computing, could not exist without a resource manager.   Runtime Design Automation, (RTDA), a 16 year old privately held company from Santa Clara California, explains:
Our products are designed to help you get the most of your resources, whether they be computing hardware or expensive software licenses. Our goal is to maximize your efficiency while reducing waste.

RTDA has  a workload scheduler,  NetworkComputer™ and  three more complementary  products.
  1. FlowTracer automated the design flow. In real life, all resource managers handle "jobs" a single piece of work which is part of a design flow process normally done with scripts or GNU Make. FlowTracer can speed up ten times the design cycles
  2. WorkloadAnalyzer™ : Workload Automation Simulator.
    Taking a job scheduler's workload (NetworkComputer™, LSF™) along with the configuration of the compute farm (hardware & software resources) as input, a workload simulation can uncover advanced analytics of a particular compute farm configuration.
  3. LicenseMonitor™ : Monitor Software License Utilization
The last product is perhaps the main reason why resource managers still exists. Prices in hardware and networking dropped drastically, but the design automation, like EDA (Electronic Design Automation) have licenses costing in six digits per year per user and seven digits  per year for entire design teams

The entire EDA industry was not ready for applying the concept of Cloud Computing in resource managers, because of the silent opposition from large EDA ISVs whose business model was to make money from few expensive licenses and not many more lower cost licenses priced as utility..

The company does not do marketing on ongoing basis.  The word of mouth generated a worldwide customer base. The company has offices in Europe, Israel, Japan. Resource management is not a growing market, largely because the high cost of licensing prevents the widening of the market.

The need of a cloud in EDA is an ongoing effort and Synopsis published a white paper on this, very convincing that this is the next step to go. You can download it from here (requires registration). Synopsis even implemented a verification AWS cloud solution.

This online service is not for everyone. As Synopsys stated in their White Paper:
Rapidly increasing gate size and complexity in the ASIC/SoC industry has fueled an exponential growth in verification demands. Unfortunately, server technology has failed to deliver the performance increases necessary to keep up. A few years ago, for example, a directed test simulation at the register transfer level (RTL) on a 10-million ASIC gate design with a 10Hz clock targeted to operate at 1GHz required 100,000,000 seconds, or 1,157 days (3.1 years) to simulate one second’s worth of real-time operation. Things really slowed down when the rest of the system and software were added. Gate-level simulation on the same design would be an order of magnitude slower.
Moreover "Even if computers today were doubling in performance every year, they still could not keep up with this exponential verification gap"
  • Even companies that can afford large server farms and the best verification technology face a major challenge, namely the variability of verification workload. Typically, the earliest stages of verification focus on individual blocks and subsystems, which are relatively small compared to the entire project. The server farm works at optimal capacity and even test queues are manageable. But as noted above, performance of individual tests drops precipitously as multiple subsystems are integrated and the project transitions to full ASIC and eventually system-level simulation. Individual tests are then lengthy, and queues grow large. Only through careful project planning and an advanced verification methodology can the project complete on time with a reasonable level of confidence that the design will work.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What Happens with Netflix?



This is what everyone sees: Netflix has fewer subscribers, plummeting stock price They lost big money in the 1997 to 2002,, but since 2003 , they shot up with spectacular profits year after year. There was a roller coaster from about $20 a share to $250 in 2011 first half  a cool drop to $155 in just weeks after September 1, 2011.



The challenge is how Netflix will stop the share price drop? Is it stoppable?
I have many friends and acquaintances in Netflix. I see them  in meet-ups, at Structure 2011 show. They are rather inebriated with success, and techie talks by Adrian Cockcroft can attracts more than 600 people. They love the rock-star metaphor; after all they invented the movie streaming technology, running on AWS, when Amazon was never designed with this end in mind

The other day an executive from Online.com explained me their business: “We stream games as Netflix streams movie” . Netflix created the standard for streaming something over the Internet. It is an impressive technology. Everything they do has logic, like A/B and Hadoop testing to determine the taste of the subscribers.

But technology can not make successful a movie streaming service. People see movies and they don’t give a damn about the science behind. A crap movie seen in 3D it is still a crap movie. A crap movie with clear reception no one will order anyway.

This is my experience, as I had the most expensive subscription to Netflix, as movie buff . The Blue-Ray DVD mailings deteriorated. This is what Netflix did best in the first years. Many DVD came broken or scratched, as the focus on streaming heightened . One returned DVD get lost in the system, and I could not order DVDs for months in a row. Finally I gave up and I subscribed for streaming movies only.

I like having access to foreign movies, like French, but I am atypical in America. No more really new releases on Netflix streaming. For example Woody Allen “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” is available from Netflix only via DVD, but Amazon has it for instant video Sure it is more expensive per movie on Amazon, but it offers an instant gratification. Even old classics, like Casablanca, one must order a DVD in Netflix

IMHO #1,  Netflix can emulate Amazon and offer all recent video released titles at individual prices for instant streaming. They can offer “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” as instant video and charge a nominal fee. The customers who do not want to pay, still have the option of one DVD a month.

I am grateful that Netflix has a great collection of Indie movies, like Arranged. But one cannot see up to date releases of French, English, German and East European movies. The horror movie from Romania  “Strigoi. The Undead” is on Amazon, but not available at all on Netflix.

Most annoying is the lack of captioning on Netflix’s  streamed video. Cohen brothers True Grit where all characters mutter an indistinguishable words in a thick, over-exaggerated Texan accent, must have captions even for my native English daughter.

IMHO #2   Please add option to see recent video releases in Europe and charge for it in US necessary. Different markets will pay different prices

IMHO #3 Please add captions to all streamed movies. Charge 50 cents to 99 cents more, if required

IMHO  #4. Refine your Hadoop clever algorithms, as they are just a machine, and just code. They can lead to inaccurate (not to say stupid)  conclusions. As my son and daughter use the account, their go into the Cassandra Data base and. I get as recommendations to see Power Rangers, Thomas the Train Engine or Princess Diaries

Success is not rooted in the technology. Success is rooted in the people desires to pay for entertainment delivered in their homes. Once the streaming technology has been developed, and here Netflix has a big merit, it becomes like generic drug. Anybody can use it at lower and lower costs. It is no longer a differentiator. The content and pricing of the content are the differentiators now.

Can Netflix make it? If they focus to hire more carbon-copy engineers, selected by the existing engineers  who believe in the God of noSQLdata bases and to a lesser degree in God, they will not make it.

And another idea I promote for few years, Netflix must seek an alternative to AWS public data center model. Speaking about online.com, the have their own servers in co-located  Data Centers all over the world, and this way they can stream games

As Netflix likes to quote, there is no certitude, there are only opportunities Netflix will react. I hope with humility, as without humility, one looses the gift of prophecy

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AI and ML for Conversational Economy