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Thursday, September 27, 2012

ANL's OSG BOSCO Job Submission sw. Because we still need grids, in addition to clouds

So what is  the difference between Grids and Clouds, and why we still need (badly) grids 


Grids assume a fixed size of resources and the management software (LSF, PBS, GE, and so on)  assumes there is more user demand, especially at peaks, - than the resources available. As a result there are a lot of policies based on priorities, urgency, set from the top down. Users expect different levels of SLA's depending on how many want to access the grid simultaneously. For low level users, the service levels decay substantially.

A cloud is a  grid with elasticity and billing. The  elasticity means the service levels can be maintained, as resources are added or withdrawn automatically as needed. The billing means one can can always get what s/he pays for and does not depend on top-down policies. This creates an entire new business model

Another key difference from Grids and Clouds, is that in clouds the utilization of virtual resources is only 17% for small # of instances and it can drop to 2% for very large # of instances .The fact that one rents a virtual node, it does not mean that it can not  sit idle for days and weeks. This is a bombshell slide titled "Under-utilization is rampant" from Cloudyn regarding Clouds.

There is no way to submit high throughput  100,000 jobs to a cloud (AWS, RackSpace) made up from virtual nodes. We still need grids.

In grids,- manged by DRM (Distributed Management Software)  such as Grid Engine (Univa, Oracle Grid Engine, Son of Grid Engine,) ,  LSF (now with IBM), Condor  or PBS Professional, - the software knows exactly what is going on on every single node, physical or virtual and this makes possible the maximum utilization closer to 100%

Sure we can use clouds, but the clouds must have configured clusters (Grids), identified as a resource within a cloud.  Normally the grids are stand alone, and multiple grids are accessed at the time.

A new Job Submission software, called Bosco. Why we need it?

  My ex colleague in Sun, Dan Fraser is a Principal Solutions Architect with Argonne National Lab and a Production Coordinator with Open Science Grid (OSG)  

In Sun Dan created the first ever web portal to access a grid the easy way.

Those familiar with DRM software, know it is not easy to use , unless you are an experienced system administrator. And faced with a myriad of grids managed with different DRM brands, why not use a single tool to access them all ? In the cloud, outside the cloud, where grids access is permitted

Dr. Dan Fraser,
Argonne National Labs
A Campus Infrastructure is a resource sharing capability that enables faculty, students, and researchers to submit jobs to multiple computational resources simultaneously.... A campus infrastructure is not limited to resources on a campus but incorporates the ability to use resources directly from other campuses.

Bosco Job Submission   software   is probably the ideal product to implement the Campus grid concept. Imagine writing only one script, and then the software does the rest: it talks with GE or LSF or Condor or PBS, without bothering the user to change anything. This is  huge. Don't be deluded of the appearance that a Job Submission software is a legacy product. OSG  proves this tool is needed more than ever,

When one says; "Hmm, how I didn't think of this before?", this is a sign we bumped into a great idea

Bosco v1.0 is a beta release

Q. Why OSG decided to there a need for BOSCO?

We are trying to make it as easy as possible for a researcher (who in most cases is not a system administrator) to access more resources than the single cluster they may be currently using. Using this desktop tool, they can gradually expand to use other resources on their campus, or even utilize resources on a collaborators campus. Bosco provides a stepping stone to enable the automatic distribution and management of jobs across multiple resources. The beauty of this model is that once they start accessing multiple resources in this manner, they can even use Bosco to access resources from the OSG itself.

Q  Are there any similar BOSCO software Job Submission schedulers?

Most batch scheduler systems have software that schedules jobs between clusters of the same flavor. In other words PBS users can schedule and distribute jobs across different PBS systems if it is configured properly. Grid Engine has this feature, as does Condor, and LSF. Bosco allows users to schedule jobs across different kinds of batch schedulers at the same time. The only other capabilities I am aware of that do something similar are CREAM (an EGI product) and Globus-GRAM2/5, and these products are akin to what is used in the Open Science Grid.

The biggest difference between these products and Bosco is the security model. Both CREAM and GRAM use the Grid Security Interface requiring users to obtain and manage grid certificates and software. For new grid users however, this has proven to be an unfamiliar and daunting requirement. Bosco is designed to utilize whatever security  the Campus uses. This is both familiar and readily understandable to Bosco users.

Q. Do they track downloads?

Currently they are not tracking downloads.

Q. Is Bosco in use only for Open Science Grid researchers? Any external users?

Bosco was designed for researchers that may not yet be using the Open Science Grid. They can start by using resources within their campus, or perhaps accessing resources on another campus. Once users use this model, it is very straightforward to start using the national cyberinfrastructure such as OSG.

Q. How many open grid researchers work High Throughput?

The Open Science Grid is 100% dedicated to high throughput computing.

Q. Who is responsible for project Bosco?

Dan Fraser  is the Project Lead. In addition to Argonne, he also has a joint appointment with the University of Chicago. Brooklin Gore is the Project Manager for Bosco. He works at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Q. Is support free for outside users? Or only community support?

Currently, as for many open source projects, support is free for outside users as well as community users.

Bosco will have a dedicated product URL. Until then you can download the open source, play with it,  and perhaps  make money with it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why HPC TOP500 never made any money and never will in its' present shape

In my August 10, 2012 post Tristan Kromer's Customer Development and User Experience  we talked about how any product and service in a startup must have clear descriptions of the people who want them. They do not have just lukewarm desires, they must really "Badly", "Intensely" desire them. We start by making this four quadrants, with the demographics, behavior and goals. This is the same figure 4, from the reference post.

This is a starting point of how the customers look like using our best guess and intuition. The next  step, we "go out of the building". This is a key tenet  of the lean company followers and I am one of them

In High Performance Computing, and whose top events are at  Super Computing SC'12  and ISC'12, have published the TOP500 list of supercomputer sites. In June 12, 2012, Sequoia - BlueGene/Q, Power BQC 16C 1.60 GHz, Custom installed at DOE is ranked #1, and it has - hang on your seats -  1,572,864 cores. There is nothing like it that in the world with over 1.6 millions cores. The #2 rank Riken built by Fujitsu has 705,024 cores, less than a half

I saw a video with top analysts and experts that took place at ISC'12 a few months ago. Jeff Hyman of Tabor Communication asks Peter Ffoulkes, 451 Analyst, Chris Wilard co-founder of Intersect360 Research and Earl Joseph, the IDC Lead specialist in HPC questions on the topic  "TOP500 -- 20 Years Later".

Who is the audience of TOP500 contest?  I treated this as a "going out of the building" exercise. So I tried to hear the experts  with an expanded consciousness, in plain words, to read them beyond the words they say.

The video's text is captioned, so you can follow the content and see the image. It is fascinating to capture the body language, not only the voice. These are the bullets I jotted (you may jot down something else), in a hand written piece of paper with drop of spritz (white wine and soda)  included.
Figure 5: Who needs TOP500?
I stopped and I read what I just discovered, without any rocket science,  using humbly the lean company teachings. TOP500 is not designed to start new companies. It's clear intention is to attract more and more money from mainly governments and corporations intertwined  in very large projects. What's more, after 20 years people forgot what the benchmark really means in practice and build dinosaur machines blindly, why? Because they can exist. There is no doubt TOP500 leads to technological progress, but it did not generate a startup culture. National pride, teams recognition are the primary goals

The whole model is a classic case history for Bob Dorf's brilliant Why Too Many Startups  Suck
Here are few bullets I extracted:
  • The nastiest of all startup sins: failing to involve customers and their feedback from day 1

    How dinosaurs ruled the earth
 (No one thinks what to do with the dinosaurs after they are built)

... and how they look today
  • Customer Discovery happen in two separate, distinct phases: “problem” discovery and, later, “solution” discovery
    How can the teams even think of customer discovery, when they are blinded by a mystical, unintelligible-to-mortals LINPACK benchmark? Who cares about FLOPS?
I have followed the list for the past several years. I think I can sum it as follows, more nodes, more cores, more InfiniBand, Blue Gene, bigger HPL number. Yawn.
  • Building a solution to a problem of moderate or lukewarm interest to users is a long-term death sentence for startups,
    Do you remember who was the #1 rank in TOP500 5 years ago, without looking at the list? What they do with machine today, now that other 10x to 100x machines were built?
The ISC'12 panelists had the right insights , but all I did, is to format what they said in customer discovery format. After ISC'09  I wrote about the TOP500 : Does it still make sense? Top 500 Supercomputing list
The LINPACK test, even in its' most refined modern form - tells little or nothing of how useful the supercompter is. Yet, adding insult to injury, the Top 500 judges claim that
Any system designed specifically to solve the LINPACK benchmark problem or have as its major purpose the goal of a high Top500 ranking will be disqualified..
Then, who will use this system? It is like buying a Formula One car for personal use. I can not even drive it to buy milk without cohorts of mechanics supporting me. Never mind I can not take any passengers... and the ten million dollars price tag..

By analogy, the computers we need to make money with are the computers our customers will make money with.
We must adapt SC competitions to stimulate as many startups as possible. How? Where is a wish, there a way.

Notes added September 23, 2012.

Some readers of this blog, suggested to add two more columns to the TOP500 list. I have no influence whatsoever on these decisions, but here are my comments.
  1. Add the price of the system listed to calculate the price performance 

    We do not know the price. We know the cost. The price assumes there is market for it, and it is not .
  2. Calculate the ROI

    The ROI assumes there are customers who buy and create steady revenues . But  there are no customers.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ahrono Associates' The Project Dandelion

Please click one by one the links below

Home Page  

Project Dandelion 

Register for Dandelion  

Project Dandelion originated in the article Autism and Entrepreneurship . We try to make reality this:

Create productive jobs for young adults with Asperger syndrome or highly functional autism - commonly referred to as "on the spectrum" - that are designed for them within corporations alongside the mainstream employees. Dandelion will supplement the HR departments of any organization with all services needed, making young adults from the autistic spectrum as easy to hire and to keep long-term as mainstream employees.

The Dandelion pages are in constant construction until we bootstrap the project.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Habit, Shmabit & Gamification

We are are going in a direction that will transform us all - I mean all of human beings - in a sort of Pavlov dogs. This is a pessimistic view..

You notice how we can use the diagram to create Habit in humans. Quoting from Nir Eyal, blog Getting Your Product Into the Habit Zone
Habits are one of the ways the brain learns complex behaviors. In order to allow us to focus our attention on obtaining new insights, neuroscientists believe habitual behaviors are moved to the basal ganglia, an area of the brain associated with actions requiring little or no cognition. Habits form when the brain takes a shortcut and stops actively deliberating about the decision being made.
 Nir is (sort of)  used with automatic criticism.  "With each article I write on the topic of habit formation, I inevitably receive comments about the moral implications of this field."

Not all habits are bad.

We walk dogs, we floss teeth, we smoke, we watch TV, we collect stamps. But the habit formation is used heavily in marketing, and Nir is just the messenger, although a well documented and authoritative one

Now imagine someone in marketing designs habits for us, with the final goal of making us buying, using and paying, directly or indirectly, for services that someone (an only that someone) benefits.

Elevating the sophistication from a dog  - I love dogs, here is Charlie - but he doesn't use a computer. ...

The habit in humans, who use a computer, is not to let them leave the site. Amazon offers competitive products ads, and competitive pricing on the same site. Nir gives a spectacular example
... a 2003 study by Trifts and Hubl demonstrates that consumer’s preference for an online retailer increases when they are offered competitive price information. The technique has also been used by Progressive to drive over $15 billion of annual insurance sales, up from just $3.4 billion before the tactic was implemented.
Interesting the year of the study is 2003, nearly a decade ago . Never too late, as Nir explains how to create Habits on line.
...  Companies can begin to determine their product’s potential for forming a habitual behavior by plotting two factors: frequency (how often the behavior occurs) and perceived utility (how rewarding the behavior is in the eyes of the user). “The Habit Zone,” as I call it, is where an action occurs with enough frequency and perceived utility for it to become the default behavior
Reproduced from Nir Eyal Blog

Amazon introduced a few weeks ago. One can sign with amazon name and password. It is a fashion site, because fashion is something that illustrates Nir's habit diagram best.

The elegant feature of MYHABIT is set in such way, that it imposes no "bad" habits, but just entices them. Sales people can influence the decisions. So a 60%  discount (however real this can be) it is already an influence for goodness, not for badness.

Amazon MYHABIT is not George Orwell Animal Farms, is not fascism, communism, used car salesmanship is not even Dr. Pavlov, Nobel Prize 1904. MYHABIT is something to make one feel comfortable s/he does not buy what s/he doesn't like.

My blog covered idea of games, as unpredictable gratification that leads to adiction. But what about pleasurable addictions? Make a game to make chores pleasurable, like dancing when sweeping the floors. Playmatics  teamed with Createthe Group to create the Game of Taste.
“Taste is a game. You play it everyday. But it’s not about building a game, it’s about doing what games do. It’s the applied use of elements found in gaming for nongaming consumer products, services and applications.”
Shuffle Brain , a husband and wife team will design custom games
We’re passionate about creating games that keep you sharp and socially connected, and inspired by new opportunities to apply game design thinking to business, education and health
Bunchball is most direct as they define themselves as the leaders in the gamification of the customer to replace this legacy marketing:
Traditional models of marketing to your customers are dead. Most customers now ignore targeted marketing campaigns, avoid responding to offers, and provide minimal feedback when asked. Instead, potential customers are now interacting with each other, leveraging consumer-focused social platforms to bypass sanitized corporate messages devoid of meaning or value.
Kiip follows your mobile apps and offers each user rewards, prizes, instant gratifications. This is what FB does now with great fanfare.

 You decide what habits are good. When in doubt, use Steven Covey's quadrants:

The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People

And as educated human beings, we need to double check before making choices. There is a  Google out there, a Bing out there and a Twitter.

This blog shows only the beginning of a trend. After these discoveries, GroupOn and FB look more vulnerable, unless they acquire startups to implement the wisdom on a high scale.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Meet a real Mensch in Business: Ben Lerer

I like this article a lot, so I reproduce it intact from New York Times Business Day . As employee or founder in a startup, here are my take ups:
  • Don’t wait for somebody to do something for you
  • Don't do things 90%, do them as close to 100% as possible
  • In other company,  I felt publicly humiliated. That lead me to leave
  • You shrink a company by improved communications, not headcount reductions
  • How  a mensch hires people: "You sit across the table from someone and talk to them. Does it feel right or doesn’t it feel right? And if it feels right, it is right a vast majority of the time, I’m finding.

Ben Lerer from Thrillist loves his job from Amit Gupta on Vimeo.

His First Rule of Business: Don’t Hope

Q. Tell me about the culture of your company.

A. One thing that we preach at work all day long is “don’t hope.” What that means is don’t wait for somebody to do something for you. Don’t do something 90 percent well and hope that it’ll slide through. Don’t rely on luck. You have to make your own luck. The only thing you can do is try your absolute best to do the right thing. And then if it doesn’t work out, you know there’s nothing else you can do.

The only time when you can have real regret is when you didn’t do everything you could do. I want to never hope, even though I hope just like everybody else. It’s just important to know that you’re giving as close as you can to 100 percent, dedicated effort, and you’re being thoughtful about it.

Q. Where did that expression come from?

A. It probably came up about five years ago when someone was asking me, what’s the best piece of advice you can give an entrepreneur? The first place that I used it was really early on in the business, when there’s no way to point fingers, when you’re just four or five people, and you have to will everything yourself.

Q. When you started the company, were you thinking about the culture you wanted to create?

A. Not in any way aside from being affected by the way I felt very mistreated by a manager I had in a previous job. Part of the problem was that I was young and immature and I sort of walked in on Day 1 out of college and had this attitude of, “Give me the keys.” But I ultimately didn’t like going to work because of the way I was treated, my work suffered, and I didn’t have confidence in what I was doing. And ultimately that led me to decide to leave.

Q. How was this person a bad manager?

A. There were sort of the big and obvious things. I remember being regularly publicly humiliated. I’d send out an Excel spreadsheet that didn’t have first and last names broken out into separate fields, and he sent a “reply all” to the entire company telling me how stupid I am and how bad I am at Excel. There were so many situations where I remember being just made to feel inferior and stupid, no matter how hard I worked. I was a kid out of college and I was not qualified to do some of the work I was being asked to do, but I did my best. And when my best wasn’t good enough, I was told I was very stupid, essentially.

And I just remember saying: “I never want to make anybody feel this way. This is horrible.” And it made me think; I don’t want to be in a situation like this again. I want to create a better situation for myself. So we really try to do that. And I think we succeed more than we fail on a person-by-person basis.

Q. What insights have you had about culture as the company has grown?

A. Within the last year, there was sort of another turning point — there’s always that moment when you go from knowing everyone to not knowing everyone. As a C.E.O., that’s a big one — when people start getting hired and I didn’t write the offer letter for them. Or people start getting hired when you literally have never met them and they walk through the office and I’ll say to someone, “Who is that guy?” That happens now, since new people are joining us every week.

But right now I’m actually in the middle of a process, sort of a personal exercise, to actually shrink the company. Not in terms of head count. But it’s about communication. I’m working really hard to make this something where it doesn’t feel like this unwieldy beast. I know this might sound like a contradiction, but I want to be able to micromanage without micromanaging. I want to come in and really understand the goals of a team, how all the teams are communicating, where are we duplicating our efforts, who are the weak links.

And what are we doing — devoting resources to, and keeping alive, from a product perspective, a tech perspective, a culture perspective — that we shouldn’t be doing anymore? And where can we cut the fat? I don’t think of this as a situation where every year, as a matter of policy, you carve off the bottom 10 percent. But it may manifest itself that way, not necessarily in staffing, but just by focusing on what we want to do as a company. So I’m really trying to shrink it down for myself and getting it to something that’s manageable, where I feel like I have a real handle on everything that’s happening.

Q. Let’s talk about hiring. How do the conversations go when you’re interviewing job candidates? What questions do you ask?

A. When we were just starting out, I was incredibly gut-driven when I was interviewing people. And that was because, as a start-up, we weren’t really able to hire people with good résumés. There was never anyone with good experience we could attract at that point, so you hired the person you felt better about. And I think we made a shift as we grew to start looking much more for specific skills. We need a seller with three years of experience, et cetera. But now I don’t think that was the right way to do things, and we’re making a good shift back to gut-driven hiring.

You sit across the table from someone and usually you know in about 10 or 15 minutes if this person is going to work out. Now you never know the work ethic until they actually start working for you. But I’m making very gut-driven decisions right now. It’s actually the way that I invest at Lerer Ventures, the fund I run with my father, as well. The point is, you’re investing in a person. Yes, they might have a product, and yes, they might have a business. But is it going to evolve and pivot? And do I want to be business partners with this person? That’s the hurdle you need to get over.

And the hiring at Thrillist is very much the same. You sit across the table from someone and talk to them. Does it feel right or doesn’t it feel right? And if it feels right, it is right a vast majority of the time, I’m finding.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Designing Sales like a Mensch

What is a Mensch?

Mensch (מענטש) a Yiddish word that means "a person of integrity." A mensch is someone who is responsible, has a sense of right and wrong and is the sort of person other people look up to. In English the word has come to mean "a good guy." Menschlichkeit (מענטשלעכקייט) is a related Yiddish word used to describe the collective qualities that make someone a mensch.


Sales is a subject every entrepreneur thinks s/he knows, by the mere fact that s/he has a company up and running. People believe they know what love is, but when they meditate a few minutes, they realize they can feel it when it happens.  At that time, it often contradicts whatever rational definition one may  have had before.

I am reading The 7 Deadly Sales Sins Committed By Startups. by Steli Efti . I list them here for easy reference:
  1. Not Understanding Your Customer
  2. Not Selling: 
  3. Not Showing Up
  4. Not Following Up
  5. No Process in Place
  6. Not the Right Price
  7. Not Asking for the Sale 
But all these Deadly Sales Sins can be reduced to  three 
  • (#1) Not Understanding Your Customer
  • (#5) No Process in Place
  • (#6) Not the Right Price

Not Understanding Your Customer

A technology startup is the result of a creative process. It is natural and I believe in it. Apple believed in Steve Jobs personal ideas,apparently ignoring whatever customers want. 

In the interview with David Ungar there is the following dialogue:
M.A.  What about the actual needs of real customers forming large market segments?
D.U    Did the iPad happen because of hardware developments or because of a real need? How would you answer this question?
M.A.  To me, Steve Jobs was inferring real needs from desires that customers could not utter by themselves. 
D.U.   My question to you was getting at an interesting linguistic assumption. When you say “real needs”, underneath  those words there is an assumption that the need is an objective thing in reality that you can measure with an instrument. You are abstracting away important aspects of context.
David Ungar referred to the teachings of  Count Alfred Korzybski,
He looked at the way people used language, and looked at the modern science of his day. He realized that common language usage was grounded in pre-science. Why not use language differently in order to think differently and discover new things? Human knowledge of the world is limited both by the imperfection of the human nervous system and by the structure of language.
Bottom line, beyond this philosophy, we need a new  way to discover who will buy the precious great product we just created. We need  a different context of who will buy and why. We need a different methodology than coding. We need a different language to convince our suitable future customers.

The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) methodology is described in  Tristan Kromer's Customer Development and User Experience . The most essential part is you walk out of the office and talk with about 50 potential customers identified via mental experiments. and finalize the Archetype of who your customers are

This alone will take of off these four bullets from the list.
  1. Not Understanding Your Customer
  2. Not Selling: 
  3. Not Showing Up
  4. Not Following Up

No Process in Place

Did you consider to sell by commission-only for of a small software startup?  With low sales volumes and prices unable to budget and justify a sales operation remote from headquarters?

 It seems many smaller startups, who invest zero, zilch in building a sales operation, expect some magic Uber-Salesperson who will make all the revenues in exchange for a  commission only.  They need an elegant solution to get good sales people. They may have an elegant software, but you don't have an elegant business model.

How can a remote office be maintained with annual subscriptions of say $200 per user or $16,000 for 100 users, by paying a 20% commission? To break even, the commission-only  needs between 3,000 to 5,000 user licenses sold, with no training, no expenses paid. 

I met a technology company with a lone architect making the software and has absolute power,  They describe proudly as their so called "sales force" some commission only, recession unemployed former salesmen, struggling to sell disparate complex products from many companies. They are all disposable, as some of those companies make only one or two sales per year.

Many times there is no need of a physical presence of a - say - West Coast  office for an East Coast company - when products are delivered via downloads. Just have someone telemarketing after hours EST from East Coast. Before one sells the 1st dollar, a commission-only sales person needs to drive a car, use a phone, have Internet connection, pay a rent, eat, feed his children, visit a doctor, see a movie and eat in a restaurant once a month to celebrate life. etc 

Who likes a progressive, 21st century company to have such a business model, by offering meager employment for someone to live in negative cash flow for months, in fear of not selling. 

This is the way business was done last century. By creating jobs that exploit desperate people,  jobs that belittle, one never becomes a leader. These are the commission only, no health insurance, no benefits, no expenses. This is NOT the spirit of Silicon Valley, to create desperadoes second class employees, exploited. in the name of sales and profitability. 

If the company does not have money to fund a sales operation,  considera second round of financing. If the revenues are not enough, create new derivative products and services . The aim is to have prosperous employees and sales, and create a magnet for talent. Optimize your work for happiness, not only profit

Not the Right Price

The Seven Deadly Sales Sins quote needs some clarification, IMO.
When you have a viral product that gets massive traction online, you can have a low price. When you need sales people to sell your product or enterprise customers, you need to consider if your product is priced appropriately to sustain your business. Ultimately, startups need to charge their customers what their product is worth and sell them on its value, not its price tag.
What do we mean value? The value for whom? It is the value for the customer, which I define  as follows
 The value of your product is the amount of money a specific customers looses for NOT buying your product
 This is why instead of a narcissistic raving about your baby's features, if we know what the customers do, we can calculate the value of our product for each customer. If we don't know our customers well, it's impossible to know it,  UC Berkeley Haas School  (professor Rashi Glazer)  defines it as:
EVC is the Economic Value to the Customer. This is maximum amount a customer is willing to pay , assuming s/he is fully informed about the benefits of the product. 
Finally no sales plan is complete, unless in parallel we create desire and habit for the people. I will write about this in the near future.

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