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Four short links: 26 September 2018

O'Reilly Radar - Wed, 2018/09/26 - 03:50

Walmart's Blockchain, Machine Learning and Text Adventures, Algorithmic Decision-Making, and Networked Brains

  1. Walmart Requires Lettuce, Spinach Suppliers to Join Blockchain (WSJ Blog) -- built on Hyperledger, by way of IBM. I read IBM's brief but still can't figure out the benefits over, say, Walmart running their own APIed database app, but I suspect it has to do with "this way, EVERY blockchain participant has to buy a big app from IBM, instead of just Walmart buying something to run for others to contribute to." (via Dan Hon)
  2. Inform 7 and Machine Learning (Emily Short) -- TextWorld’s authors feel we’re not yet ready to train a machine agent to solve a hand-authored IF game like Zork—and they’ve documented the challenges here much more extensively than my rewording above. What they have done instead is to build a sandbox environment that does a more predictable subset of text adventure behavior. TextWorld is able to automatically generate games containing a lot of the standard puzzles.
  3. Litigating Algorithms: Challenging Government Use of Algorithmic Decision Systems -- session notes from a day-long workshop the EFF ran with the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law.
  4. BrainNet: A Multi-Person Brain-to-Brain Interface for Direct Collaboration Between Brains -- Five groups of three subjects successfully used BrainNet to perform the Tetris task, with an average accuracy of 0.813. Furthermore, by varying the information reliability of the senders by artificially injecting noise into one sender's signal, we found that receivers are able to learn which sender is more reliable based solely on the information transmitted to their brains. Our results raise the possibility of future brain-to-brain interfaces that enable cooperative problem solving by humans using a "social network" of connected brains.

Continue reading Four short links: 26 September 2018.

Categories: Technology

Four short links: 25 September 2018

O'Reilly Radar - Tue, 2018/09/25 - 04:00

Software Engineering, ML Hardware Trends, Time Series, and Eng Team Playbooks

  1. Notes to Myself on Software Engineering -- Code isn’t just meant to be executed. Code is also a means of communication across a team, a way to describe to others the solution to a problem. Readable code is not a nice-to-have; it is a fundamental part of what writing code is about. A solid list of advice/lessons learned.
  2. Machine Learning Shifts More Work To FPGAs, SoCs -- compute power used for AI/ML is doubling every 3.5 months. FPGAs and ASICs are already predicted to be 25% of the market for machine learning accelerators in 2018. Why? FPGAs and ASICs use far less power than GPUs, CPUs, or even the 75 watts per hour Google’s TPU burns under heavy load. [...] They can also deliver a performance boost in specific functions chosen by customers that can be changed along with a change in programming.
  3. Time Series Forecasting -- one of those "three surprising things" articles. The three surprising things: You need to retrain your model every time you want to generate a new prediction; sometimes you have to do away with train/test splits; and the uncertainty of the forecast is just as important as, or even more so, than the forecast itself.
  4. Health Monitor -- Atlassian's measures of whether your team is doing well. Their whole set of playbooks is great reading for engineering managers.

Continue reading Four short links: 25 September 2018.

Categories: Technology

Handling real-time data operations in the enterprise

O'Reilly Radar - Mon, 2018/09/24 - 04:17

Getting DataOps right is crucial to your late-stage big data projects.

At Strata 2017, I premiered a new diagram to help teams understand why teams fail and when:

Early on in projects, management and developers are responsible for the success of a project. As the project matures, the operations team is jointly responsible for the success.

I've taught in situations where the operations team members complain that no one wants to do the operational side of things. They're right. Data science is the sexy thing companies want. The data engineering and operations teams don't get much love. The organizations don’t realize that data science stands on the shoulders of DataOps and data engineering giants.

What we need to do is give these roles a sexy title. Let's call these operational teams that focus on big data: DataOps teams.

What does the Ops say?

Companies need to understand there is a different level of operational requirements when you're exposing a data pipeline. A data pipeline needs love and attention. For big data, this isn't just making sure cluster processes are running. A DataOps team needs to do that and keep an eye on the data.

With big data, we're often dealing with unstructured data or data coming from unreliable sources. This means someone needs to be in charge of validating the data in some fashion. This is where organizations get into the garbage-in-garbage-out downward cycle that leads to failures. If this dirty data proliferates and propagates to other systems, we open Pandora’s box of unintended consequences. The DataOps team needs to watch out for data issues and fix them before they get copied around.

These data quality issues bring a new level of potential problems for real-time systems. Worst case, the data engineering team didn’t handle a particular issue correctly and you have a cascading failure on your hands. The DataOps team will be at the forefront of figuring out if a problem is data or code related.

Shouldn't the data engineering team be responsible for this? Data engineers are software developers at heart. I've taught many and interacted with even more. I wouldn't let 99% of data engineers I’ve met near a production system. There are several reasons why—such as a lack of operational knowledge, a lack of operational mindset, and being a bull in your production china shop. Sometimes, there are compliance issues where there has to be a separation of concerns between the development and production data. The data engineering team isn’t the right team to handle that.

That leaves us with the absolute need for a team that understands big data operations and data quality. They know how to operate the big data frameworks. They’re able to figure out the difference between a code issue and a data quality issue.

Real-time: The turbo button of big data

Now let's press the turbo button and expand this to include batch and real-time systems.

Outages and data quality issues are painful for batch systems. With batch systems, you generally aren't losing data. You're falling behind in processing or acquiring data. You'll eventually catch up and get back to your steady state of data coming in and being processed on time.

Then there's real time. An outage for real-time systems brings a new level of pain. You're dealing with the specter of permanently losing data. In fact, this pain during down time is how I figure out if a company really, really needs real-time systems. If I tell them they’ll need a whole new level of service level agreement (SLA) for real time and they disagree, that probably means they don’t need real time. Having operational downtime for your real-time cluster should be so absolutely painful that you will have done everything in your power to prevent an outage. An outage of your real-time systems for six hours should be a five-alarm fire.

All of this SLA onus falls squarely on the DataOps team. They won’t just be responsible for fixing things when they go wrong; they’ll be an active part of the design of the system. DataOps and data engineering will be choosing technologies that design with the expectation of failure. The DataOps team will be making sure that data moves, preferably automatically, to disaster recovery or active active clusters. This is how you avoid six-hour downtimes.

Busting out real-time technologies and SLA levels comes at the expense of conceptual and operational complexity. When I mentor a team on their real-time big data journey, I make sure management understands that the architects and developers aren’t the only ones who need new skills. The operations teams will need new skills and to learn the operations of new technologies.

There isn’t an “I” in DataOps, either

In my experience, the leap in complexity from small data to real-time big data is 15x. Once again, this underscores the need for DataOps. It will be difficult for a single person to keep up with all of the changes in both small data and big data technologies. The DataOps team will need to specialize in big data technologies and keep up with the latest issues associated with them.

As I mentored more teams on their transition to real-time systems, I saw common problems across organizations. It was because the transition to real-time data pipelines brought cross-functional changes.

With a REST API, for example, the operations team can keep their finger on the button. They have fine-grained control over who accesses the REST endpoint, how, and why. This becomes more difficult with a real-time data pipeline. The DataOps team will need to be monitoring the real-time data pipeline usage. First and foremost, they’ll need to make sure all data is encrypted and that access requires a login.

A final important facet of DataOps is dealing with data format changes. With real-time systems, there will be changes to the data format. This will be a time when the data engineering and DataOps teams need to work together. The data engineering team will deal with the development and schema sides of the problem. The DataOps team will need to deal with production issues arising from these changes and triage processing that fails due to a format change.

If you still aren’t convinced, let me give it one last shot

Getting DataOps right is crucial to your late-stage big data projects. This is the team that keeps your frameworks running and your data quality high. DataOps adds to the virtuous upward cycle of good data. As you begin a real-time or batch journey, make sure your operations team is ready for the challenges that lay ahead.

This post is part of a collaboration between O'Reilly and Mesosphere. See our statement of editorial independence.

Continue reading Handling real-time data operations in the enterprise.

Categories: Technology

Four short links: 24 September 2018

O'Reilly Radar - Mon, 2018/09/24 - 04:15

Continuous Delivery, Turing Complete Powerpoint, ARPA-E, and Observability

  1. Drone -- a continuous delivery platform built on Docker, written in Go. A continuous delivery system built on container technology. Drone uses a simple YAML configuration file, a superset of docker-compose, to define and execute pipelines inside Docker containers.
  2. On the Turing Completeness of Powerpoint (YouTube) -- Video highlighting my research on PowerPoint Turing Machines for CMU's SIGBOVIK 2017. (via Andy Baio)
  3. ARPA-E: Successful, and Struggling -- In Cory Doctorow's words, ARPA-E is a skunkworks project that gives out grants for advanced sustainable energy research that's beyond the initial phases but still too nascent to be commercialized. They've focused on long-term energy storage (a key piece of the picture with renewables) and the portfolio of inventions that have emerged from their funding is mind-bogglingly cool. Reminds me of Doing Innovation in the Capitalist Economy, by Bill Janeway, who argues that the state funds early research until VCs have commercialization opportunities (this explains why VCs are heavy in biotech and internet...they've been foci of state-funded research for decades). Such a good book, by the way.
  4. Structured Logs vs. Events (Twitter) -- Charity Majors drops some great clue bombs about observability. The most effective way to structure your instrumentation, so you get the maximum bang for your buck, is to emit a single arbitrarily wide event per request per service hop. We're talking wide. We usually see 200-500 dimensions in a mature app. But just one write. [...] All of it. In one fat structured blob. Not sprinkled around your code in functions like satanic fairy dust. You will crush your logging system that way, and you'd need to do exhaustive post-processing to recreate the shared context by joining on request-id (if you're lucky).

Continue reading Four short links: 24 September 2018.

Categories: Technology

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