Showing posts from November, 2020

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Brad Stone 2013)

This book tells the story of Amazon's first 20 years from 1994 to 2014. It is a long book, but I found it very engaging. In comparison, I had not that much enjoyed  the GooglePlex book from Steven Levy (an author I adore).  A caveat though... In 2014, MacKenzie Scott (then Bezos), a writer herself,  had given the book a 1-star Amazon review  due to inaccuracies, crossing the line of nonfiction to fiction in terms of character development, and failing to provide a balanced narrative. Well, as usual, here are some of my highlights from the book.  D. E. Shaw Bezos was in his midtwenties at the time, five foot eight inches tall, already balding and with the pasty, rumpled appearance of a committed workaholic. He had spent five years on Wall Street and impressed seemingly everyone he encountered with his keen intellect and boundless determination. Upon graduating from Princeton in 1986, Bezos worked for a pair of Columbia professors at a company called Fitel that was developing a priva

How innovation works and why it flourishes in freedom (2020, by Matt Ridley)

This was a very enjoyable read from Matt Ridley. This book takes over from where the Rational Optimist book left , and talks about the how and mechanics of innovation. He has some controversial opinions in some areas (like fracking, vaping, GMOs) where you sense a somewhat single-sided treatment of the subjects, but these do not take away from the overall theme and arguments in the book.  I guess I didn't learn anything I didn't already know about the process of innovation. However, I think the book helped increase my respect for the importance of innovation compared to just invention. I recommend the book. The book is worth a read just for the nice anecdotes about the history of innovation in different fields alone. However, the book could have been shorter and better organized (tidier). Also, the book could have made its case for why innovation flourishes in freedom tighter.  Some of my highlights from the book In Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Zaphod B

High availability in cheap distributed key value storage

This paper is authored by Thomas  Kim, Daniel Lin Kit, Gregory Ganger, Michael  Kaminsky, and David Andersen. It appeared in SOCC 2020. The paper talks about using NVMM for building a distributed key value store. NVMMs are a new technology. They are slowly rolling into the datacenters, but there are still questions about their performance and how many writes it could handle before a write wear. NVMMs have very low latency comparable to DRAM, yet they are 10 times cheaper. Awesome, right? Unfortunately they don't have the same high bandwidth as DRAM or SSDs. Also, they are still not anywhere as cheap as SSDs, and it may not be affordable to want to build all NVMM key-value stores.  Before reading this paper, it is important to understand that this is all about money, money, money. The cost of NVMM and SSDs influences the design decisions, and lead to this non-straightforward heterogeneous design. If cost was not an issue, we could even have DRAMs for all replicas in K-V store, eas

Consolidating concurrency control and consensus for commits under conflicts

This paper is by Shuai Mu, Lamont Nelson, Wyatt Lloyd, and Jinyang Li and it appeared in OSDI 2016. This paper presents Janus, another two-in-one shampoo & conditioner solution. Why deal with providing a solution for replication and another solution layered on top for transaction ordering when you can do both together in less time with a unified solution?  TAPIR had investigated this question first, and Janus does a followup. Instead of using the general transaction model considered in TAPIR, Janus uses one shot transactions, where each transaction contains multiple pieces and each piece has one read/write operation on a single key.  This reduced power transaction model allows Janus to implement an abort-free transaction ordering capability. A novel insight in Janus is that it notices it is possible to consolidate replication ordering and transaction ordering using the same setup. To order the transactions and replication alike, Janus takes a dependency graph tracking approach, l

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