Word of the Day: Tech Definitions from WhatIs.com

April 22, 2009  4:46 PM

PUE – Power usage effectiveness

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
A typical data center facility spends almost half of its energy consumption on the systems powering and cooling the computers inside — and not on the computers themselves.

Google, Efficient Data Center Summit

Last October, Google disclosed details about its data center energy usage, saying it was averaging a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.21 across its six company-built data centers. To put that into perspective, a PUE of 1 means every watt goes to computing machines. A PUE of 1.5 means that half the power goes to non-computing functions like cooling or lights.

Six months later, Google says it’s got that number down to 1.19.  So how is the search giant doing it? For a long time, nobody knew.  Google’s infrastructure was top secret. But then in early April, Google held a summit and gave everyone a peek behind closed doors. Surprisingly, what they seem to have done was follow the KISS principle. Relatively speaking, they are keeping things simple.  They have their own proprietary servers and the data centers themselves are just about as lean as you could imagine. Google’s made several tours available on YouTube — and this one (below) of a data center built out of shipping containers is just amazing.  There are over 45,000 servers housed in 45 containers.  Talk about utility computing — this container tour sure looks like a utility plant to me!

At the summit, Google reps shared best practices, saying:

The best practices we’ve presented here are the main reason we’ve been able to achieve our PUE results and can be implemented in most data centers today.

  • Measure PUE (Circuit transformers)
  • Optimize power distribution (High efficiency transformer and UPS)
  • Manage airflow (Close-coupled cooling — Eliminate hot/cold mixing)
  • Adjust thermostat  (Raise cold aisle temp)
  • Use free cooling  (Chiller bypass, water-side economizer)
  • Use free cooling  (Chiller bypass, water-side economizer)

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April 21, 2009  2:25 PM

Overheard – The wit and wisdom of Walter Chrysler

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it.”

Walter Chrysler

Today’s WhatIs.com word of the day is finite capacity scheduling. It’s one of several new definitions we’ve been posting for our newest sister site, SearchManufacturingERP.com.

Right now I’m reading about Walter Chrysler.  He was truly an amazing man whose management skills are just as relevant now as they were during the Great Depression.   Like his IT counterparts Admiral Grace Hopper and Steve Wozniak, Chrysler learned best by doing.  After borrowing a hefty chunk of money to buy his first automobile,  he didn’t drive it around town and show it off.  He parked it in the barn and took it apart. (His wife was not thrilled.)

Chrysler started out in the railroads and then in 1919 became production chief at Buick, where he was known for his ability to cut costs and still produce a better product.  With Chrysler in charge, daily production numbers moved from 40 cars per day to 550 cars per day.  Six years later, he took what he learned at Buick and went on to found the Chrysler Corporation.

The thing that strikes me most about Walter Chrysler — besides his flamboyant, enthusiastic personality — was that at heart, he was an artist. In some ways, he reminds me of Paul Jr. from Orange County Choppers. If you look at the Chrysler building in New York, there are automotive architectural details over the place. The eagle gargoyles are modeled after hood ornaments. The crown of the building is a layer cake made out of hubcaps.

If you’re looking for a good read — one that will surprise and delight you — pick up a used copy of
Chrysler: The Life and Times of an Automotive Genius.  You don’t need to know anything about cars. You don’t even have to like them. You just need to like technology, art, people, a peek into the mind of a management genius — and a good story.

April 17, 2009  1:17 PM

The Pirate Bay — Nobody thinks pirates are funny anymore

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
The key is that as soon as you have downloaded even a small fraction of an album or a TV program, someone else can upload it from you, without waiting until the file is complete.

BBC News, Q&A: Pirate Bay verdict

Today’s WhatIs.com word of the day is Bit Torrent.  It’s the technology behind P2P file sharing sites like The Pirate Bay.

The Pirate Bay is in the news because a Swedish court just sentenced four men who run the site to one year in jail and gave them a $3.6 million dollar fine for helping users commit copyright violations.

Defense lawyers argued that The Pirate Bay just indexes the files and doesn’t host any copyright-protected material so their clients were not guilty.  The judge didn’t buy it.  The site brings in ad revenue while facilitating copyright violations and that’s what did them in.

According to an article on Wired:

The attention brought by the highly-publicized trial has only made The Pirate Bay more popular. The site has swelled to some 22 million users. And thousands of Pirate Bay fans have flocked to sign up for its new $6 anonymization VPN service, which allows torrent feeders and seeders to conduct their business in private without leaving a trace of their internet IP addresses.

April 16, 2009  2:03 PM

Top level domain names – too confusing for the average Joe

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Mainstream Internet users will probably see the new custom domains as too complicated, like 9-digit ZIP codes.

Paul Boutin, Latest plan for domain names is as doomed as .coop and .mobi

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is top-level domain (TLD).  It’s in the news because Paul Levins, ICANN’s vice president of corporate affairs has been the subject of a blogswarm. Not Paul himself, mind you, but something he’s been talking about — unlimited generic top-level domains.   They’re sort of like vanity licence plates for your website.

Here’s an example — instead of TechTarget’s website being TechTarget.com, the company might pay extra money and ask ICANN’s permission to change their top-level domain to something they want to be known for.  TechTarget.ROI for example.

There’s a lot of buzz about whether generic domains will bring us back to 1997 and create a gold rush where speculators register generic domains in hopes of selling them.

Shawn McCarthy points out that ICANN says it will cost $185,000 to set up a new top-level domain name and associated registry.  McCarthy says “That alone should weed out a lot of riff raff .”

April 15, 2009  5:06 PM

Surprise marketing – turning a transaction into a relationship

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
When I picked up my car on leaving Vancouver’s Listel Hotel last week, I found a gift-wrapped package on the dashboard with a card on it wishing me a safe journey. Wrapped in purple crepe paper were two meal-sized chocolate-chip cookies. A fun treat on the run? Of course, but so much more. That simple gesture went a long way to assuaging my annoyance at paying $24 a night for parking.

Rick Spence, Surprise marketing tactics endear

Today’s WhatIs.com word of the day is transactional marketing.  Most marketing is voodoo to me, but I sort of ‘get’ transactional marketing. It’s like Davies Hardware Store when I was a kid.  My mom and I would go in on a Saturday morning and the sales rep (who drove a school bus during the week) would come up and greet us and help us find what we needed. We paid and left.  Our whole relationship with Davies Hardware was right there at the point of transaction.

I like that. I miss that simplicity.

A few months back I ordered a sweatshirt at Lands End with a Guiding Eyes logo.  A few weeks after that I started getting emails about pet products and several catalogs in the mail clearly aimed at dog lovers.  I wasn’t just a customer, I was a target.

Clearly, I’m not just valuable to Lands End because I bought something, I’m valuable because my name and demographics and areas of interest can be sold.

Marketers wrap up all this nonsense under a nice-sounding label.  They call it ‘relationship marketing.’  Relationship marketing is supposed be all about customer retention.  The idea is that by gathering as much data as they can about you,  the company can serve you better.

Unfortunately there’s no real relationship in relationship marketing.  Lands End was not being helpful to anyone but themselves by passing my data on.

But there IS a marketing technique they could have used right there at the point of transaction that might have helped them to build a relationship with me and capture my customer loyalty.

It’s called surprise and delight marketing.

According to Joseph Ferrara,  the keys to a successful surprise and delight marketing effort are

  • a genuine “no strings attached” giveaway
  • value that exceeds expectation
  • creativity
  • giving at a time of immediate need
  • providing an emotional positive experience (a wow response)
  • making it personal

I’d also add “Given at the point of transaction.”

What if, instead of just sending me more dog catalogs, Lands End had targeted my order as “dog related” and included a dog biscuit with my Guiding Eyes logo’d sweatshirt?

Wouldn’t that have been cool? Not only would I have been surprised and delighted — I would have been way more forgiving that they passed my name on.

April 13, 2009  2:30 PM

BoM – a bad one is a recipe for disaster

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Industry needs an agreed-upon set of BoM characteristics or fields.

The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative white paper The Perfect BoM

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is bill of material (BoM).  It’s basically a recipe for a product.  A small company with a simple product — like a bookcase — might use an Excel spreadsheet to create their BoM.  A larger company with a more complex product — like an automobile, for instance — needs a special BoM software application.

The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative is trying to promote the idea that BoMs should be standardized.  Note the word “International.”  It’s new.

To be “perfect,” the BoM should include everything that goes into the product, from raw
materials such as wire, tape and solder paste, to the box that will be used to ship the product.

It should make parent-child relationships clear, differentiating between components and materials that are part of a sub-assembly versus the overall assembly.

For example, information about programmed parts is typically structured differently from BoM to BoM, and is often open to interpretation. The Perfect BoM should include blank parts as well as the software required to program the blanks, indicating the relationship between components and ensuring that all necessary parts and data are provided.

April 8, 2009  5:37 PM

Gap analysis – a security tool you need to use at least once a year

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
It’s important to note that the gap analysis is not a one time activity. Each organization should execute a gap analysis of its cybersecurity approximately once per year and draw upon the results to adjust cybersecurity activities to meet new regulatory or compliance requirements or simply growth of the organization and its supporting information technology infrastructure.

From the book Cyberwar, Cyberterror, Cybercrime by Julie Mehan

Today’s Word of the Day is gap analysis.  I think Dr. Mehan is the only expert I’ve read who says “do a gap analysis once a year.”  I love it.

April 8, 2009  3:02 PM

PUMA – a rickshaw without the Rick

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

General Motors and Segway unveiled the PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility) at a press event before the 2009 New York International Auto Show. Very cool!

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April 7, 2009  5:25 PM

Overheard – How the birds and the bees can teach us about management

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“What I find in software projects is something called the invisible line. At start of the project, we’re all working for collective success.  But then a line is crossed somewhere in the project and I’m no longer working for collective success. I’m working for the avoidance of individual blame.”

Ken Thompson in an interview with Robert Scoble

Today’s whatis.com Word of the Day is bioteam.   Software engineer Ken Thompson came up with the concept after looking at how biological teams in nature communicate to achieve goals.

There’s no blamestorming in a beehive — no politics in a pelican flock.

When you see Canada geese migrating north, you’re looking at a little P2P network. The geese take turns leading the V formation because distributed leadership gets them further than following just one alpha goose. Each honking node on the network has the power to be a client and a server.

The flock itself is a living organism, just like the individual geese that make it up.  The members stay in constant communication, doing whatever needs to be done to keep the flock healthy.  There are no job descriptions in a flock. Each goose says says to the flock,  “You need someone to honk? I can honk.”  or “What, now you need me to lead? Sure I’ll lead.” or  “I think somebody needs to stay behind with old grandfather goose — I’ll do it.”

It sounds very efficient. Why can we humans be that efficient?

As Ken points out in his quote above, we usually start out software projects with good intentions.  Do we end up in survival mode just because total success is so very rare? Is every project like the beginning of tenth grade, where we start out the school year with fresh notebooks and daydreams of straight As, only to end up at mid-terms satisfied with a C?

I wonder. If the flock hardly ever made it back to Canada, would they still continue to operate in a P2P mode?

I’m not sure — but Ken became convinced that there really are lessons to be learned from this distributed leadership model in Mother nature’s repetoire — and I think he’s on to something.  To learn more about bioteams and self-directed virtual teams, I recommend you visit Ken’s blog, The Bumble Bee.

Yesterday I wrote to him to ask if it was fair to say that Wikipedia was created by a bioteam.  Here’s his answer:

“I would say a definite YES given the definition of a bioteam as:

1. The group is not co-located and may only occasionally meet physically – in fact sometimes all the members of such a group never meet physically.

2. No single channel (e.g. email or web) suits the communications of the entire group – this may be a by-product of the first point but can also be a function of personal group member preference.

3. The group has fluid and/or complex structures such as groups within groups, groups within communities, overlapping group memberships or different types/levels of group membership.

4. There is no obvious single point of command – there is no single leader with the authority to command the entire team and leadership must be implemented collectively. If somebody says “working with these guys is like herding cats” its often a clue.

5. The group has to be formed via an incubation process over an extended period. Its growth looks very similar to that of an ant colony or beehive which are both exceptionally vulnerable until a critical mass is reached but almost indestructible after this point. This is in total contrast to the traditional (command and control) team which usually starts at its strongest but weakens quickly over time.”

I raise guide dogs, so when I’m challenged by how to work more effectively with my distributed, growing and ever-changing team here at TechTarget, I naturally think about about pack management and the role of the alpha dog — but I have to admit, Ken has extrapolated some useful management guidelines for self-directed teams, even if he does compare working with a bioteam to “herding cats.” : -)

April 6, 2009  5:37 PM

Overheard – Single stream 802.11n for the iPhone?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
802.11n was developed as a range and speed booster, employing multiple antennas and two or more radios to work over greater distances (sending a stronger signal, having better receiver sensitivity) and at greater speeds (improved encoding, multiple spatial paths, double-wide channels).  That’s fine for laptops, desktops, and routers, but it’s hard to cram that much radio technology into a battery-powered mobile device without making the time between charges unusably brief.

Glenn Fleishman, Does the iPhone Need 802.11n?

That’s where single-stream 802.11n comes in. With single-stream 802.11n, only a single radio and single antenna are used…

…802.11n’s single stream encoding is 65 Mbps, where 30 to 50 Mbps of throughput is possible. So you lose wide channels, antenna diversity, and multiple streams, but could gain 50 percent or more in net throughput.

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