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Preview: ACM Queue - Distributed Computing

ACM Queue - Distributed Computing


Life Beyond Distributed Transactions

Mon, 12 Dec 2016 13:41:04 GMT

This article explores and names some of the practical approaches used in the implementation of large-scale mission-critical applications in a world that rejects distributed transactions. Topics include the management of fine-grained pieces of application data that may be repartitioned over time as the application grows. Design patterns support sending messages between these repartitionable pieces of data.

Standing on Distributed Shoulders of Giants

Tue, 07 Jun 2016 13:19:56 GMT

If you squint hard enough, many of the challenges of distributed computing appear similar to the work done by the great physicists. Dang, those fellows were smart! Here, we examine some of the most important physics breakthroughs and draw some whimsical parallels to phenomena in the world of computing... just for fun.

Debugging Distributed Systems

Wed, 18 May 2016 15:12:06 GMT

Distributed systems pose unique challenges for software developers. Reasoning about concurrent activities of system nodes and even understanding the system's communication topology can be difficult. A standard approach to gaining insight into system activity is to analyze system logs. Unfortunately, this can be a tedious and complex process. This article looks at several key features and debugging challenges that differentiate distributed systems from other kinds of software. The article presents several promising tools and ongoing research to help resolve these challenges.

Should You Upload or Ship Big Data to the Cloud?

Tue, 03 May 2016 15:35:47 GMT

It is accepted wisdom that when the data you wish to move into the cloud is at terabyte scale and beyond, you are better off shipping it to the cloud provider, rather than uploading it. This article takes an analytical look at how shipping and uploading strategies compare, the various factors on which they depend, and under what circumstances you are better off shipping rather than uploading data, and vice versa. Such an analytical determination is important to make, given the increasing availability of gigabit-speed Internet connections, along with the explosive growth in data-transfer speeds supported by newer editions of drive interfaces such as SAS and PCI Express. As this article reveals, the aforementioned "accepted wisdom" does not always hold true, and there are well-reasoned, practical recommendations for uploading versus shipping data to the cloud.

Time is an Illusion.

Tue, 12 Jan 2016 17:07:22 GMT

One of the more surprising things about digital systems - and, in particular, modern computers - is how poorly they keep time. When most programs ran on a single system this was not a significant issue for the majority of software developers, but once software moved into the distributed-systems realm this inaccuracy became a significant challenge. Few programmers have read the most important paper in this area, Leslie Lamport's "Time, Clocks, and the Ordering of Events in a Distributed System" (1978), and only a few more have come to appreciate the problems they face once they move into the world of distributed systems.

Evolution and Practice: Low-latency Distributed Applications in Finance

Mon, 04 May 2015 09:39:51 GMT

Virtually all systems have some requirements for latency, defined here as the time required for a system to respond to input. Latency requirements appear in problem domains as diverse as aircraft flight controls, voice communications, multiplayer gaming, online advertising, and scientific experiments. Distributed systems present special latency considerations. In recent years the automation of financial trading has driven requirements for distributed systems with challenging latency requirements and global geographic distribution. Automated trading provides a window into the engineering challenges of ever-shrinking latency requirements, which may be useful to software engineers in other fields.

From the EDVAC to WEBVACs

Thu, 09 Apr 2015 14:39:53 GMT

By now everyone has heard of cloud computing and realized that it is changing how both traditional enterprise IT and emerging startups are building solutions for the future. Is this trend toward the cloud just a shift in the complicated economics of the hardware and software industry, or is it a fundamentally different way of thinking about computing? Having worked in the industry, I can confidently say it is both.

Reliable Cron across the Planet

Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:27:02 GMT

This article describes Google's implementation of a distributed Cron service, serving the vast majority of internal teams that need periodic scheduling of compute jobs. During its existence, we have learned many lessons on how to design and implement what might seem like a basic service. Here, we discuss the problems that distributed Crons face and outline some potential solutions.

There is No Now

Tue, 10 Mar 2015 16:56:01 GMT

"Now." The time elapsed between when I wrote that word and when you read it was at least a couple of weeks. That kind of delay is one that we take for granted and don't even think about in written media. "Now." If we were in the same room and instead I spoke aloud, you might have a greater sense of immediacy. You might intuitively feel as if you were hearing the word at exactly the same time that I spoke it. That intuition would be wrong. If, instead of trusting your intuition, you thought about the physics of sound, you would know that time must have elapsed between my speaking and your hearing. The motion of the air, carrying my word, would take time to get from my mouth to your ear.

Unikernels: Rise of the Virtual Library Operating System

Sun, 12 Jan 2014 16:08:46 GMT

Cloud computing has been pioneering the business of renting computing resources in large data centers to multiple (and possibly competing) tenants. The basic enabling technology for the cloud is operating-system virtualization such as Xen1 or VMWare, which allows customers to multiplex VMs (virtual machines) on a shared cluster of physical machines. Each VM presents as a self-contained computer, booting a standard operating-system kernel and running unmodified applications just as if it were executing on a physical machine.