Saturday, December 12, 2009

Structure and unStructure

At the end of the first day of IGT2009 conference, a meeting called CloudCamp was organized.
The meeting was organized by Reuven Cohen who is the founder and CTO of Enomaly.
CloudCamp is actually an unconference on Cloud issues. Reuven told us that it was first came into being when a group of people tried to answer the question of "What is Cloud Computing?".
The idea of an unconference is not new. There are many unconferences around the world on various subjects. Unconference is an informal meeting which lacks a rigid predefined agenda and schedule. Only the topic is defined and the discussion can go wherever the audience wants to take it.
I didn't stay for the whole meeting, But I stayed enough to enjoy the idea of an unconference, even though it was the first unconference I participated.
The meeting began with 3 lightning talks from the three funding companies. A lightning talk is a five minutes talk which is not supposed to be the company pitch, but often it is.
Then there was an unpanel. The idea was to choose five people from the crowed who will be the panelists. The remaining crowed is asking the questions and the unpanelists should answer them to the best of their ability. To my surprise this was a very interesting panel discussion. The idea of giving a small amount of structure to the crowed was very helpful. When you compare it to a regular talk you realize that the structure of a panel really helps the discussion even if the panelists are just members of the crowed.
I think the whole idea of CloudCamp and unconference can be compared to the idea of Cloud Computing itself. In the CloudCamp the droplets are people, while in Cloud Computing the droplets are computing nodes. The idea is putting enough structure to make it interesting, but not too much structure. This idea of going on the boundary of Structure is shared between CloudCamp and Cloud Computing. The surprisingly good things that come out of unStructure elements are also shared between CloudCamp and Cloud Computing.
This tension between Structure and unStructure is a recurring theme in other ideas which became popular in recent years. Such ideas include the agile development methodology, Free Software bazaar, the Dynamic Infrastructure pushed by IBM and NOSQL.
As an architect, this is one of the most interesting tensions, if an architect solves this tension he can do wonders to the system. Since this tension involves a lot of non-linear phenomena, it is very hard for the human mind to understand all implications of this tension. We need to develop better conceptual tools in order to analyze and control the tension between Structure and unStructure. These tools will enable us to architect robust and long lasting systems of many kinds.

Khen Ofek

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The joy of collaboration

I went to the IGT2009 conference. This was an international Cloud Computing conference. The conference went very well. It lasted for two full days with a lot of interesting speakers and a lot of things to think about.
I am planning a series of posts which will tell you about the things that were going on there and try to analyze them.

The first thing I would like to talk about is Yossi Vardi's keynote which was titled "The joy of collaboration".
I think it was very insightful talk. He actually didn't talk about Cloud Computing. He said he is talking about a deep reason we are all in the conference, and I think he was right in not only one plane, but in three different planes.

The first plane was explicit in his talk. The killer-apps of SaaS are collaboration applications such as Email, Social Networking and IM. We are social animals, and we get joy from collaborations. This was the main theme of the talk. Vardi showed some very nice videos showing collaborations in action. The nicest video I remember showed the patterns formed by a flock of starlings, see for example this video. At the end of his talk he tried to show us and talk about the beauty of collaboration. I think he somewhat missed the point with the videos at the end since they showed only few individuals collaborating, and the whole idea of the Cloud revolves around massive scale.

The second plane is the structure of Cloud Computing. Here we are talking about computing nodes that are collaborating. To an architect like myself this collaboration has its own inner beauty. The formations and patterns in the Computing Cloud can also be regarded as elegant and joyful like the formations of the starlings.

The third plane is the conference itself. Here again, we are talking about people's collaboration and it were two joyful days indeed.

Khen Ofek
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