Friday, May 30, 2014

The winners of 2014 Cloud IaaS Gartner Magic Quadrant are best for HPC

HPC stands for High Performance Computing and includes High Performance Throughput computing. The intent to separate the two terms are really politics in academia. If we look at those from entrepreneurial point of view, they are the same

What is the connection with Gartner Magic Quadrant? Just read to the end.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS

The much expected and world famous Gartner report Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service for 2014   is out today.

Over the last few years, Lydia Leong and her team have won a status of a rock star group. She is to cloud computing what Roger Ebert is to movies.

The report makes an important distinction between Cloud IaaS and Cloud-Enabled System infrastructure (CESI)
We draw a distinction between cloud infrastructure as a service, and cloud infrastructure as a technology platform; we call the latter cloud-enabled system infrastructure (CESI). In cloud IaaS, the capabilities of a CESI are directly exposed to the customer through self-service. However, other services, including noncloud services, may be delivered on top of a CESI; these cloud-enabled services may include forms of managed hosting, data center outsourcing and other IT outsourcing services. In this Magic Quadrant, we evaluate only cloud IaaS offerings; we do not evaluate cloud-enabled services. (See "Technology Overview for Cloud-Enabled System Infrastructure," "Technology Overview for Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting" and "Don't Be Fooled by Offerings Falsely Masquerading as Cloud Infrastructure as a Service" for more on this distinction.)
Here is the 2014 Magic Quadrant 2014

Magic Quadrant Cloud IaaS May 28, 2014
 From the blog entry Amazon Web Services: We hate you and We love you. see below the succession of magic quadrants  for 2010, 2012 and 2013.
In December 2010, Savvis, AT&T, Rackspace, Verizon and Terremark were in the winning quadrant 2. Verizon bought Terremark later, but the combined company dropped down. Amazon was not present at all  in the winning quadrant.
But from 2012 onward, Amazon AWS shot up and they blew the dust away from all competitors.

It is sad to see Joyent, one of the best promises we had - completely loose its status as the darling company of Cloud IaaS, after both founders left, particularly the charismatic Jason Hoffman

The biggest surprise is Microsoft. Now Seattle is the world capital of Cloud IaaS, as Amazon is also there.
Fig. 1 Gartner Magic Quadrant Cloud December 2010
Note AWS in the middle of the pack, with a below overlarge ability to execute.

Fig. 2 Gartner Magic Quadrant Cloud October 2012
Note AWS takes off. The 2010 judgement that AWS
has no ability to execute probably motivated Jeff Bezos

Fig. 3 Gartner Magic Quadrant Cloud  August 2013.
AWS further distances from the pack who seemingly move backwards.
Perhaps all others were unable to update their visions?

What does it mean for High Performance Computing?

It means commercial Cloud IaaS offering can no longer be ignored as way to run most complex HPC applications on demand.

There is no coincidence that the winners in the 2014 Gartner Cloud IaaS magic quadrant are also the best infrastructures ready for HPC applications. Cycle Computing extraordinary and meteoric success is based on building HTC and HPC applications on demand on  IaaS provided by Amazon Web Service. 

Microsoft acquisition of GreenButton  shows how serious Microsoft Azure cloud IaaS is about performance computing applications

This create new, unlimited opportunities for entrepreneurs in HPC / HTC, like Jason Stowe from Cycle and Scott Houston from Green button.

Following my article on and Timur Bazhirov its founder who set up a shop in San Francisco, I receive  email from many others who would like to follow.

In Europe, Atos Buys Bull To Commercialize HPC, Build Out Cloud  HPCwire has an article on How Outdated Infrastructure Will Cripple HPC  that for the first time stated that the emperor has no clothes:
It’s time for the HPC community to start regarding system administration as a critical aspect of an HPC cluster. We can build better administrative frameworks by drawing on the strategies and tools developed for enterprise IT. Working together as a community, we can dramatically reduce the amount of time that is wasted on outdated, inefficient cluster management practices.
But the most recent and one of the most efficient enterprise tools is application on demand via a clouds.

From Kiev, Ukraine, Vladislav Falfushinsky send me a paper Cloud Computing Platform within Grid Infrastructure authored by him and two colleagues from V.M. Glushkov Institute of Cybernetics

My  advise to Vladislav is to escape the political turmoil and non-sense in Ukraine come here in Silicon  Valley and see how their paper can evolve into a tangible business model.

My HPC /HTC friends can tell me hundreds of reasons why high performance startups  will fail. I listen to them all. What makes me happy is to see researchers from Kiev anxious to do something. 

Then I ask myself: "Why not in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Indiana, Mississippi, and so on where there are fantastic centers of expertise in HTC/HPC and they are not located in Burkina Faso?"

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A new HPC startup:

One of the recurring questions in High Performance Computing is why very little effort goes into users experience. People assume that scientists surely know how to use SuperComputers and clusters and grid computing. Actually, the great majority of scientists are SuperComputing hands-on illiterate

The article Comments to the history of grid describes how scientists are frustrated by the lack of ease of use of their application requiring High Throughput Distributed Computing and /or  High Performance Computing,

A big surprise occurred when Microsoft acquired and will integrate GreenButton - smart, yet small HPC company from New Zealand - into Azure to render movies, democratizing the industry.

Now I discovered Timur Bazhirov, the founder of a new company in San Francisco,

Timur, is a scientist himself, he has PH.D. in Physics from UC. Berkeley, with a decade long experience in computational materials science and molecular modeling using supercomputing facilities.

He noticed the HPC user interface is outdated and that the entry barriers to HPC are high. Secure shell command line is commonly the only available tool and the existing graphical user interfaces are slow and non-intuitive.

Timur states the obvious for anyone working in HPC: the high entry barriers limit the number of HPC users

He created a web based platform with on-demand access to HPC applications. He designed (beta stage) an intuitive user interface collaboration tools, learning aids, data aggregation.

Note: This blog and its' author, Miha Ahronovitz have no association whatsoever with and does not endorse that company in any way.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

From New Yorker: The apocalyptic vision of entrepreneurship

The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons, and poetry. It is one of best in the world for what it does. It is not a publication about  startup and entrepreneurship.

On May 19, James Surowieki, a seasoned magazine staffer in charge of the financial page  wrote a piece titled EPIC FAILS OF THE STARTUP WORLD where startup entrepreneurs are presented as naive dreamers, a sort of sacrificial lambs of our society in order to have technological advance. The way I word it, the author implies the great majority are doomed to fail, like metaphorical "suicide bombers" who aspire to go to heaven.

The  article  is superbly written, generates controversy and helps the magazine which employs him reach more readers. Nothing sells more than scandal. However the author relies on personal conversations, outdated research,  third parties opinions and misunderstood big data analysis

James says
  • We  live in the age of the startup. It’s never been easier to build a product and start a company. [and] it’s never been easier for startups to raise money 
[MA Note: This is not so true. Getting VC financing it is still a major hurdle]
  • Starting a company may be easier, but making it a success isn’t. Competition is fierce, profits are scarce, and venture capitalists aren’t generous when it comes to later stages of funding.
  • The life of a new company is often brutish and short. as The Economist recently put it, there’s a mass extinction going on, too.
 The author then wonders "So why are so many people gambling on ventures that are likely to end badly?". He makes an insightful observation, before trying to answer.
A traditional answer is that entrepreneurs are just more comfortable taking risks than the rest of us....studies of entrepreneurs find that, in general, they’re as risk-averse as everyone else. Only when it comes to starting a business are they daring. And that’s because the fundamental characteristic of entrepreneurs isn’t risk-seeking; it’s self-confidence. They need the ego to get through it.”
He quotes studies to support this statement from 1997 and 1988, which simple arithmetic shows us are up to 26 years old.

In other words, to "reasonable" people, the entrepreneurs are lunatics with preposterous claims. There is nothing wrong with it.

Crazy is a compliment is the new book -  written by Linda Rotterberg, the charismatic co-founder and CEO of Endeavor - about those delusional, gaga, stubborn,  meshuggah (crazy in Yiddish) which outside world - not California - sees in entrepreneurs. . She had to translate the word entrepreneur in Spanish, because in many countries, Argentina included, there was no need for such a word, in its contemporary usage.

But there is one statement that sends shivers across the entrepreneurial community. Surowieki states:
A later study of more than eight thousand German ventures came to an even grimmer conclusion: founders who had previously failed were more likely to fail than novices.
The blogger Peter O'Kelly titled his entry "James Surowiecki: The Startup Mass Extinction : The New Yorker 

The New Yorker gave no hint on where this German study can be read. Peter and I did some research and we discovered it.

It is a  Big Data analytic paper, that has 45 pages some looking like this:
Page 17 of the German Paper

If we read the conclusion it says something different than the 3rd parties quotes:

"Our panel data study of 8,400 solo entrepreneurs uses a wide range of entrepreneurial, financial and venture level characteristics. Using survival duration models, our results showed that venture survival outcomes are unrelated to prior successful entrepreneurial experience and that failed entrepreneurs are more likely to fail again. These findings point to implications for scholars, entrepreneurs and policy makers and highlight the need for further research."
What I extract, is this:

  1. It does not matter if the entrepreneur (1) had before a successful venture or (2) has failed in the past in her venture or (3) never had a venture before. Past can not predict the future performance as an entrepreneur
  2. This lack of correlation needs further research

What is clear is that one cannot predict the future of a venture based on the past of the entrepreneur. However one can not predict the future based on past events, full stop. Benoit Mandelbrot the creator of multi-fractals  said "On even the calmest sea, a gale may be just over the horizon."

This is one of the dangers of Big Data. See Why Big Data is not for everyone .According to the UCSD professor of neuroscience Bradley Voytek - world class expert in big data:
  1. It is foolish to believe that my data have a better understanding of the world than  I do
  2. It is arrogant to believe that the person who best knows what to do with my data is me. 
  3. The more advanced the statistical method used, the fewer critics are available to be properly skeptical 
  4. The more advanced the statistical method used, the more likely the data analysts will be to use math as a shield 
  5. Any sufficiently advanced statistics, can trick people into believing the results reflect truth
The so called German paper has actual names as authors: Gottschalk, Sandra; Greene, Francis J.; Höwer, Daniel; Müller, Bettina (2014)
Dr. Bettina Muller, ZEW
Dr. Sandra Gottschalk ZEW
 They call themselves "entrepreneurship scholars", whatever that may be. No doubt they are solid professionals.They discovered that in Germany ventures that had outside capital (angel, VC) did much better than the opportunity entrepreneur (read desesperados), who try to make a business with their own money. Germany is a very different place than US, because this is obvious in California.

Here is quote from the German Startup Association:
In last decades, Germany has forgotten how to be a startup country. The majority of the wealthiest Germans inherited their wealth, unlike in the US where there is a comparable predominance of “self-made” entrepreneurs. SAP is the only company in the DAX Index whose founders are still alive. 25% of teachers in Germany have a poor image of business, symbolic of society’s perception of it. Almost self-evidently, the terms entrepreneur and manager are used almost interchangeably. 
This is reflected in this picture:

Figure 2: The % of population of the new  entrepreneurs. US is 7.5% vs Germany 2.5%
Also US VC is 0.17% of GDP versus 0.02% for Germany
In many ways, the conclusions of the German papers reflect the challenges that Germany has in creating a similar entrepreneurial climate as US. Germany is one of the most developed countries in the world, but they need not only to show more tolerance for meshuggah, They need to admire and trust them as the main source of newer technological advancement, -  a change in the German mainstream mindset. This started happening in Silicon Allee

Imagine saying that an author who was rejected many times, will never write book which sells. (what about J.K. Rowling?) Or an actor who did not get the part should give up and become a waiter for the rest of her life? Or just watch this video at the bottom of our home page.

The more opinions we listen to, less chances we have to make mistakes. Maybe the entrepreneurs today are descendants from  the gold diggers from Sacramento river, whose unrealistic hopes helped create Sacramento and  San Francisco and ultimately Silicon Valley.

Satirical drawing of a gold digger, 1840
The entire world tries to emulate Silicon Valley.. Twitter IPO alone made 1,600 people millionaire. Is there any single startup in Germany which made 1,600 people millionaires in one day?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Can Miami become a Silicon-Valley-like high tech hub? Updated

In 1986, Richard Florida and Martin Kenney wrote a brilliant visionary research paper which was published two years later in 1988: Venture Capital, High Technology and Regional Development .

Quoting from the summary:
The existence of well developed venture capital networks in technology-based regions significantly accelerates the pace of technological innovation and economic development in those regions.
Great ideas take usually 20 to 25 years to become mainstream The  penicillin, the first true antibiotic, was discovered by Alexander Fleming, Professor of Bacteriology at St. Mary's Hospital in 1928,  but  it started being used as a pharmaceutical product  in the early 1950's

I love Miami.area.  I lived in Venezuela and Miami was a natural extension  of Caracas. The 500,000 Cuban immigration, mostly middle class that arrives immediately after the Cuban revolution in 1959 - transformed the area from a lethargic city of old age homes to booming metropolis. 1 in 4 people speak a mother tongue in addition to English.

There is an intense effort to make Miami a High-Tech hub. I follow on tweeter Nancy Dahlberg who writes the high tech section in  Miami Herald .The latest event is the eMerge conference offers more ‘proof’ Miami has future in technology .

This even included  eMerge Americas Techweek, Miami’s first homegrown mega-tech expo, The soul behind this idea is Manny (Manuel) Medina the founder and CEO of Terremark data center and cloud infrastructure provider - sold to Verizon  in 2011 for $1.4 billion, out of which he received reportedly $83 millions as a 7% shares owner. Manny story is more remarkable as he was born in Cuba and immigrated (or run away) with his parents as a 13 year old boy.

Mr. Medina is realistic and knows Miami can not become a Silicon Valley over night.
Does Miami have tech? “I think Miami has the beginnings of tech,” said Medina. “We’ve planted the seed.
There are  big hopes of this conference. According to South Florida by the numbers: TechWeek edition
 Miami Dade will have an additional $2.4 billion in taxes, 17,000 new high paid jobs will be created over the next 10 years,  Also that Bill Gates bought a $8.7 millions home in Florida so his daughter  can practice horse jumping. :-)

Endeavor Global is a fantastic non-profit co-created by Linda Rottenberg  - whose book to be published in October 2014. It is titled Crazy is a compliment . The organization  is a hands-on implementation of the vision of Richard Florida. Endeavor Miami covers Florida and is located in the same building as Cisneros group,  one of the most efficient and high standards private family business in the world. This means a lot for Southern Florida future as a tech hub.

As Mr. Medina said, the foundations are there.But what about the numbers? The latest PwC report of April 2014  Venture capital dollars invested in Q1 2014 reaches highest quarterly total since Q2 2001, according to the MoneyTree report
 Venture capitalists invested $9.5 billion in 951 deals in the first quarter of 2014... Dollars invested in the Software industry experienced another significant increase in Q1 2014, capturing $4.0 billion and further distancing it by more than three times from the second largest industry, Biotechnology.
So while the US total VC investment in Q1 only is $9.5 billions , the total 2013 VC  investments in Florida were $414 millions, which if we divide by 4, we have on average $105 millions per quarter. This is  1.1% , meaning 98.9% of the VC investments are outside Florida.

Venture capital funding survey, first quarter 2014  is published for Bay Area California by San Jose Mercury News. The report has 25 pages and has about 300 companies listed. Two out of 300 companies, Cloudera and Hortonworks got $260 millions, which is about the total VC investment in Southern Florida for 2013.

I had a look at the lists available of VC organizations in Florida. I did a selective search  for VC investors who specialize in seed an early stage. This is what I found

From 4 companies, only one (Ballast Point Venture Partners)  invested some $ 25 ? millions in early-stage from a 200 million fund. ATV has a $ 250 millions fund, but so far they did not invest in early stage. The other two VCs have no active funds listed..

I learned - by asking  the right people who know -  that the Florida q1 2014number of VC investments is very small and has only a couple of entries,

 In my humble opinion  there is a need for  setting goals on the number of investments in start ups in Florida each quarter,then  work with the other organizations (1)  to create the ecosystem of investors and (2) attract candidate firms. Also liaise with Silicon Valley firms, as many venture listed  have a wide range of investors., some of them undisclosed.

 In addition to training and attracting the entrepreneurs, there is a need to educate investors on how Venture Capitalists work.. What I mean, here is good 101 course at Stanford University,  Structuring  Venture Capital Investment  by Trevor Loy. It will not make one a VC, but we can learn to speak a common language and create fluidity between entrepreneurs and investors.

Figure 2: Can Florida achieve 8.6 times more More Venture Capital Investment
This is from 0.42 billion to 3.4 billion per year?
Looking forward to hear from everyone

Miha Ahronovitz 

PS: . A Tweet from Richard Florida.

Friday, May 09, 2014

What looks like a doom, is a boom

Ronald Gruia, from Frost and Sullivan, pointed out via a tweet  the May 6, 2014  article from Venture Beat  How startups are dying faster than they’re being created, in 2 charts

The second figure is a histogram
The data comes from the prestigious Brookings Institute Quoting from the article
A disturbing new report from the Brookings Institute finds that startup growth, a primary engine of America’s economic power, is slowing down.
“Recent evidence points to a U.S. economy that has steadily become less dynamic over time,” the authors concluded. In fact, the number of new businesses has steadily been cut in half since 1978.
In an email to VentureBeat, a spokesperson for Brookings said the research “does apply across all sectors, including tech.”
This is big trap of Big Data.Letting machines crunching numbers and not doing a proper fact finding to put the number outcomes in right perspective.

In another entry on this blog:  From Big Data to Big Decisions , I say:
    I quoted the opinion of Larry Fink,  the CEO and Chairman of the largest asset management firm in the word, Blackrock (three and half trillions dollars under their administration)
  • The markets in America reflect a lot of fear. We are bombarded with information that we can not make sense out of it. We can't decide whether this  Big Data information  is good or is bad.
  • As a result every CEO, government decision maker handling money only invests short term.  Some CEO's buy back shares to invest the cash in government bonds at 2% interest rate. Companies sit on lots of cash, too afraid to spend it. 
  • Banks have tons of money, they sit in the vaults without making loans. The banks want to make loans, but say someone who qualified for a loan in 2007, does no longer qualify. The companies who qualify, they do not need any loans as they have tons of cash already.
The main inhibitor, it is worth repeating, is not Big Data itself. It is the fear of it. The top decision makers in our society, the CEOs and the Government economists, are unsure how this big data can be used.
In light of Mr. Fink observations, -  (which means when Blackrock sneezes, we must all take out our kleenex-es, ready to use), - once the fear of of Big Data is overcome, we must expect an EXPLOSION of start ups and investments. This provided we do not make another bubu by imposing sanctions to Russia and / or other destabilizing politically motivated move.

This is the true meaning of Brookings Institute graphs, in my humble opinion.

Big data is the same data we always knew. It is now very big. There is no such thing as small data. The biggest danger is to be enraptured by the fancy-mancy machine learning to forget the facts

Here is a quote from another blog entry Why Big Data is not for everyone
Bradley Voytech shows his calculations on how many people were born in British Empire  between September 4, 1752 and September 13, 1752. He extracted world's data births for that period, extrapolated and then applied a % proportional to the British Empire share of the then known world population
However it was impossible for any citizen of the British Empire to be born between September 4, 1752 and September 13, 1752. 
Year 1752 (MDCCLII) was a leap year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar, and a leap year starting on Wednesday of the 11-day slower Julian calendar. In the British Empire, it was the only year with 355 days, as September 3 through September 13 were skipped.
 Sometimes the great algorithms we have can fail, if we have no knowledge of the real world
Define speed as "How quickly we can go from data to decisions?", said one young founder of a big data company. But this speed is only partially dependent upon technology.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Breakthrough in HPC. Microsoft acquires GreenButton

Here my two tweets on this subject

I interacted with Scott as Sun Grid Engine product manager in Sun Micro. He and his team added features and modified the code  "como Pedro por su casa"  meaning  as if they owned the place, making significant contribution to Grid Engine. We were supposed to support them - and we did - but we ended learning more from him than any other user I dealt with.
Scott Houston fortune cookie
Scott Houston does not come out of the blue. It was his extraordinary engineering talent to make movies like the Lord of the Rings possible. He was the soul of  NZSC (New Zealand Supercomputer Center) while CTO at Weta Digital.  When asked whether he is a "power hungry executive", he replied:  "A power processing hungry."

Weta's founders are a bunch of New Zealand filmmakers including Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor and Jamie Selkirk. It later split into two specialized halves - Weta Digital (digital effects) and Weta Workshop (physical effects).

Here is a description of the work culminating in the Avatar movie production
The lead visual effects company was Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand, at one point employing 900 people to work on the film. Because of the huge amount of data which needed to be stored, cataloged and available for everybody involved, even on the other side of the world, a new cloud computing and Digital Asset Management (DAM) system named Gaia was created by Microsoft especially for Avatar, which allowed the crews to keep track of and coordinate all stages in the digital processing.
To render Avatar, Weta used a 10,000 sq ft (930 m2) server farm making use of 4,000 Hewlett-Packard servers with 35,000 processor cores running Ubuntu Linux and the Grid Engine cluster manager.
[Note; They used the open source version of Grid Grid Engine]
The render farm occupies the 193rd to 197th spots in the TOP500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers. A new texturing and paint software system, called Mari, was developed by The Foundry in cooperation with Weta. Creating the Na'vi characters and the virtual world of Pandora required over a petabyte of digital storage,and each minute of the final footage for Avatar occupies 17.28 gigabytes of storage. To help finish preparing the special effects sequences on time, a number of other companies were brought on board, including Industrial Light & Magic, which worked alongside Weta Digital to create the battle sequences. ILM was responsible for the visual effects for many of the film's specialized vehicles and devised a new way to make CGI explosions.
When we read the above text, as many other similar HPC implementations, the first thought to my mind is COMPLEXITY. The second word that comes to my mind is COST. This not something an indie producer and amateur movie-maker can afford.

Avatar grossed - stay put - nearly three billion dollars worldwide so far.

What GreenButton did, was to remove this COMPLEXITY and COST. As we read in Microsoft blog:
GreenButton is a leading provider of integrated on-demand solutions that allow customers to manage compute-intensive workloads in the cloud. These solutions are known in the industry for their ease of use. Using GreenButton’s solutions, applications can be cloud-enabled quickly without recoding existing software – and without a PhD in computer science.
 With this acquisition, we are looking forward to democratizing the use Big Compute through the power of the cloud, so that organizations from all walks of life can use their data to transform their business and the world. 
Among the innovations of Green Button, here is a smashing one:
"If you need the results faster, slide it up the scale, and you get more computing cores to do the job," added Houston. With Cloud Fabric, IT organizations can make the economics of cloud computing work for their internal timetables. "If you don't need the job until tomorrow or a couple of days from now, slide it down," explained Houston.
 Microsoft acquisition of GreenButton proves that
  • HPC future is in the cloud
  • The success of HPC is making it easy to use, not adding more features only PhDs can use
  • The adoption of HPC for-all  by the legendary Microsoft is an historical benchmark
  • It validates the award winning  Uber Cloud Project from the UberCloud HPC Experiment
  • Clouds and Big Data are intertwined and inseparable
  • It brings New Zealand respect and admiration. Kudos to Scott Houston and team!
  • It validates the choice made by Microsoft in naming Satya Nadella as its CEO

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