Serverless computing

I’ve been watching and reading on developments around serverless computing. I’ve never used it myself so only have limited understanding. However, given my extensive knowledge of servers, firmware, OS, Middleware and business applications, I’ve had a bunch of questions.

serverlessnyc

Many of my questions are echoed in this excellent write-up by Jeremy Daly on the recent Serverless NYC event.

For traditional enterprise type customers, it’s well worth reviewing the notes of the issues highlighted by Jason Katzer, Director of Software Engineering at Capital One. While some attendees talk about “upwards of a BILLION transactions per month” using serverlesss, that’s impressive, that’s still short of many enterprise requirements, it translates to 34.5-million transactions per day.

Katzer notes that there are always bottlenecks and often services that don’t scale the same way that your serverless apps do. Worth a read, thanks for posting Jeremy.

The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies – Bloomberg

This is a stunning discovery. I don’t have any insight into it except what’s been published here. However, it’s always been a concern. I remember at least one project that acquired a sample of hard disk controllers (HDC) from vendors with a view to rewriting a driver for OS cache optimization and synchronization.

I’d never actually seen inside a hard drive to that point, except in marketing promotional materials. We were using the HDC with different drives and I was surprised how complex they were. We speculated how easy it would have been to ship a larger capacity drive and insert a chip that would use the extra capacity to write shadow copies of a files that were unseen by the OS. We laughed it off as too complex and too expensive to actually do. Apparently not.

Source: The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies – Bloomberg

Open Source redux

While I don’t update here much anymore that’s mostly because I’ve not been active in the general technology scene for the last 2.5 years following my departure from Dell and the resultant non-compete. I’m taking a few easy steps back now, I’ve reactivated my British Computer Society (BCS) Fellow membership and am hoping to participate in their Open Source Specialist Group meeting and AGM on October 25th.

MS-DOS Open Source

msdos-logo-150x150[1]Interestingly, Microsoft have announced they are re-open sourcing the code for MS-DOS 1.25 and 2.0 releases. Although never available outside of Microsoft or IBM in its entirety, there were certainly sections o the code floating around in the mid-1980’s. I was given the code for some drivers in 1984 by an IBM Systems Engineer, which I proceeded to hack and use as a starter for the 3270 driver I used for file transfer.

I’ve got a copy of the code released by Microsoft, and other the next 6-months am going to set about compiling it and working to get to work on a PC as a way to re-introduce myself to working in PC Assembler and the current state of compilers.

The Zowe Open Source Project

This was announced today at SHARE St Louis. A great new effort and opportunity to integrate open source technologies and applications into the IBM z/OS operating system. Zowe, as the article says, is

a framework of software services that offers industry standard REST APIs, API catalog, extensible command line interface and web-based UI framework

They’ve also put together the zowe,org community for architects, developers and designers to share best practices. It’s not clear what the legal relationship is between the open mainframe project and zowe, but zowe is listed as a project, so that’s great news in terms of strategy and direction. As of writing, the open mainframe zowe project web page has the best detail on the project.

Zowe appears to be a collaboration between IBM and a number of companies, including Rocket Software. Rocket has a broad portfolio of software and systems that integrate with IBM Systems, they also have my friend, former colleague and sparing partner at IBM, Jim Porell on staff.

Digital Copiers, Faxes and MFP’s and their hard drives

I’m a subscriber to long time UK Tech journalist and Blogger, Charles Arthur / @charlesarthur Overspill blog where he currates links etc. Recently, he linked to an old report, from 2010, but it’s always worth reminding people of the dangers of photocopiers, fax machines and multi-function printers, especially older ones.

Copiers that are lightly used often have a lifecycle of 10-15 years. If you buy rather than lease, it’s quite possible you still have one that doesn’t include encryption of the internal hard drive. Even with a encrypted drive, there is still potential to hack the device software and retrieve the key, although pretty difficult.

The surprise thing is that many modern Multi-function Printers (MFP) also have local storage. While in modern models it is not an actual hard drive, it is likely to be some form of onboard flash memory ala cell phone memory, either part of the system board or via an embedded SD card. It’s worth remembering that these machines are Fax, copier, printers, and scanners all in one machine.

The US Federal Trade Commision has a web page that covers all the basics, in plain language.

Whatever the device, it is still incumbent on the owner to ensure it is wiped before returning it, selling it, or scrapping it. PASS IT ON!

For those interested in how you can get data from a copier/MFP type device, Marshall University Forensic Science team has a paper, here.

Open Distributed Challenges – Words Matter

I had an interesting exchange with Dez Blanchfield from Australia on twitter recently. At the time, based on his tweets, I assume Dez was an IBM employee. He isn’t and although our paths crossed briefly at the company in 2007, as far as I’m aware we never met.

The subject was open vs open source. Any longtime readers will know that’s part of what drove me to join IBM in 1986, to push back on the closing of doors, and help knock down walls in IBM openness.

At the end of our twitter exchange, the first 3-tweets are included above, I promised to track down one of my earlier papers. As far as I recall, and without going through piles of hard copy paper in storage, this one was formally published by IBM US using a similar name, and pretty much identical content, probably in the Spring 0f ’96.

It is still important to differentiate between de jure and de facto standards. Open Source creates new de facto standards every day, through wide adoption and implementation using that open source. While systems ,ove much more quickly these days, at Internet speed, there is still a robust need to de jure standards. Those that are legally, internationally and commonly recognised, whether or not they were first implemented through open source. Most technology standards these days are as that’s the best way to get them through standards organizations.

The PDF presented here is original, unedited, just converted to PDF from Lotus Word Pro.

Lotus Word Pro, and it’s predecessor, Ami Pro, are great examples of de facto standards, especially inside IBM. Following the rise of Microsoft Word and MS Office, Lotus products on the desktop effectively disappeared. Since even inside IBM, the Lotus source code was never available, not only were the products only a de facto standard, they were never open source. While in the post Lotus desktop software period considerable effort has been put into reverse engineer the file formats , and some free and chargeable convertors almost all of them can recover the text, most do a poor job or formatting.

For that reason, I bought a used IBM Thinkpad T42 with Windows XP; Lotus Smartsuite and still have a licensed copy of Adobe Acrobat to create PDF’s. Words matter, open source, open, and open standards are all great. As always, understand the limitations of each.

There are a load of my newer white papers in the ‘wayback’ machine, if you have any problems finding them, let me know, I’ll jump start the Thinkpad T42.

Annual IBM Shareholder Meeting

ibm-i-death-star[1]

Picture: (C) Nick Litten

 

 

 

 


About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I am a Fellow of the British Computer Society (bsc.org) I'm an information technology optimist.


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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