Showing posts from April, 2019

Azure Cosmos DB: Microsoft's Cloud-Born Globally Distributed Database

It has been almost 9 months since I started my sabbatical work with the Microsoft Azure Cosmos DB team.  I knew what I signed up for then, and I knew it was overwhelming. It is hard not to get overwhelmed. Cosmos DB provides a global highly-available low-latency all-in-one database/storage/querying/analytics service to heavyweight demanding businesses. Cosmos DB is used ubiquitously within Microsoft systems/services, and is also one of the fastest-growing services used by Azure developers externally. It manages 100s of petabytes of indexed data, and serves 100s of trillions of requests every day from thousands of customers worldwide, and enables customers to build highly-responsive mission-critical applications. But I underestimated how much there is to learn about, and how long it would be to develop a good sense of the big picture. By "developing a good sense of the big picture", I mean learning/internalizing the territory myself, and, when looking at the terrain, bei

Book Notes. Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered, by Austin Kleon

I recently read this book on Kindle. I really liked this short book, and in general, Austin Kleon's work. These are my notes, without context. A new way of operating But it’s not enough to be good. In order to be found, you have to be findable. I think there’s an easy way of putting your work out there and making it discoverable while you’re focused on getting really good at what you do. Almost all of the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their routine. These people aren’t schmoozing at cocktail parties; they’re too busy for that. They’re cranking away in their studios, their laboratories, or their cubicles, but instead of maintaining absolute secrecy and hoarding their work, they’re open about what they’re working on, and they’re consistently posting bits and pieces of their work, their ideas, and what they’re learning online. Instead of wasting their time “networking,” they’re taking advantage of the net

How I pulled the fire alarm in my apartment complex

This is an embarrassing story for me. But I guess I should talk about it for sake of transparency. You have a right to know what kind of person's paper reviews, TLA+ models, distributed systems musings, Paxos commentary, and life/research advice you are reading. Yep, I am the kind of goofy guy that triggers the fire alarm for the entire complex unknowingly but inevitably. The Background This happened on Sunday, August 5, 2018. (Yes, I have been too embarrassed to post this any earlier.) It was only 6 days after we moved into our apartment as part of my sabbatical at Microsoft Cosmos DB. So that morning, we were about to leave home for grocery shopping. With 3 kids leaving the house is a ...process. You get them ready, you convince them about leaving house. And they somehow can detect desperation in you and drag their feet if you like them to leave soon. It seems like my kids derive pleasure on being the last one to leave the house, the last one to put on shoes, or the last on

The aging puzzle

Recently I came across this site. Looks like Sebastian Baltes has been doing interesting work. He studies the human aspects of software engineering. He interviews software engineers to learn about their work habits and processes, for example, how they achieve software development expertise by practicing through some tasks, and how this expertise helps them perform better in other software development tasks. One of the things he investigated is how aging effects performance for software development . He inspects this through self-reporting of the developers, so the data is subjective and not empirical. The developers reported they felt their short term memory became limited and it got harder to write code as they aged. Some of the developers said "when you are young you are more competitive, but as you get old, you don't feel like competing that much." Is this true? What do we have to look forward to as we age? What does the data say? "Young people are just

Timely Algorithms

This is what I (along with some collaborators) have been thinking about lately. This is still raw, but the idea is exciting enough that I wanted to share early and get feedback, recommendations, pointers. Using synchronized time for distributed coordination A fundamental problem in distributed systems is to coordinate the execution of nodes effectively to achieve performance while preserving correctness. Unfortunately, distributed coordination is a notoriously tricky problem. Since the nodes do not have access to a shared state and a common clock, they need to communicate and synchronize state frequently in order to coordinate on the order of events. However, excessive communication hinders the performance/scalability of a distributed system. A key component of distributed coordination is the enforcement of consistent views at all nodes for the ordering of significant events. Distributed algorithms employed logical clocks and vector clocks predominantly for this coordination. Th

Hacking the simulation

According to this piece, two billionaires (Elon Musk and Peter Thiel?) want to help break humanity out of a giant computer simulation. "Many people in Silicon Valley have become obsessed with the simulation  hypothesis, the argument that what we experience as reality is in fact fabricated in a computer; two tech billionaires have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation." In this post, I indulge this view, and in the spirit of April 1st, I go with it. Hacking the simulation by breaking its multitenancy and overloading the VMs What do the aliens computers look like? Do they have racks and datacenters? Or are their computers more at the molecular/analog level, and avoid the inefficiency of overlaying a digital layer over the physical one. Quantum bits seem so bizarre that I think it follows directly from an elemental/basic construct of the aliens' simulation hardware. Anyways... Since these simulations are very deta

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