Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Messaging and Databases: A Story of Heartbreak and Betrayl 

Last week there was some discussion about the value of relational databases and this week it looks like it's messaging's turn for re-examination. It's an interesting proposal and, hey, it's good to revisit sacred cows every once in a while if only to keep them on their toes.


If the goal of the data fabric is, after all, is distribution of data and horizontal scaling then it's messaging, not persistence, that was developed with these priorities in mind in the first place. And when one considers the various design patterns for infinite scalability what quickly emerges is a message-oriented view of persistence where individual entities generate and receive messages and most types of locking (e.g. distributed transactions and locks across many entities) are just thrown out the window.

It's clear that the overwhelming need to distribute data across dozens of servers is increasingly blurring the line between persistence and messaging.

SEE ALSO: Jags Ramnarayan

Now, with a data fabric, all applications are sharing a single data model and express interest on the data model through simple, intuitive queries. The underlying fabric is constantly detecting what and how data and relationships are changing and simply sends notifications of the changes to the consuming application.

Note the following advantages with a data fabric:

  1. Application processes are connected to each other in a p2p fashion with direct connections between each. This allows the fabric to avoid unnecessary network hops, dramatically reducing latency and CPU costs associated with message transfer.
  2. As the data is typically held in multiple locations and often replicated to the process space of the consuming application, the publisher doesn't have to send obese messages - applications merely change the data fabric and underneath the hood the right "delta" event gets propagated to the consuming applications.
  3. The receiving application when notified can take immediate business decisions as the contextual information they need is cached right there.
Topics: Messaging | Database | Architecture

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Study of protein folds offers insight into metabolic evolution 

Gustavo Caetano-Anollés
Researchers at the University of Illinois have constructed the first global family tree of metabolic protein architecture.


Of 776 metabolic protein folds surveyed, 16 were found to be omnipresent, and nine of those occurred in the earliest branches of the newly constructed tree.

"These nine ancient folds represent architectures of fundamental importance undisputedly encoded in a genetic core that can be traced back to the universal ancestor of the three superkingdoms of life," the authors wrote.

The analysis also found that the most ancient metabolic protein folds are important to RNA metabolism, specifically the interconversion of the purine and pyrimidine nucleotides that compose the core of the RNA molecule.

This discovery supports the hypothesis of an RNA world in which RNA molecules were among the earliest catalysts of life. This idea is based in part on the observation that RNA still retains many of its catalytic capabilities, including the ability to make proteins. Gradually, according to this theory, proteins began taking over some of the original functions of RNA.

"The most ancient (protein) molecules were involved in the interconversion of nucleotides. But they were not synthesizing them," Caetano-Anollés said. "We see that all the enzymes that were involved in purine synthesis, for example, were very recent. Since these first proteins benefited the formation of building blocks for the primitive RNA world, it makes a lot of sense that we've found this origin encased in nucleotide metabolism."

Topics: Evolution


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Constraints and the real lesson of REST 

Bill de hOra
REST isn't even the real lesson; the real lesson is applying principled software design and architectural styles to problem spaces; it's about getting off fads and hype cycles that infect the industry. It's all in the constraints.

Topics: REST | Design | Architecture

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The biological foundation for what we experience as free will 

Plos one via eurek alert
Animals and especially insects are usually seen as complex robots which only respond to external stimuli," says senior author Björn Brembs from the Free University Berlin. They are assumed to be input-output devices. "When scientists observe animals responding differently even to the same external stimuli, they attribute this variability to random errors in a complex brain." Using a combination of automated behavior recording and sophisticated mathematical analyses, the international team of researchers showed for the first time that such variability cannot be due to simple random events but is generated spontaneously and non-randomly by the brain. These results caught computer scientist and lead author Alexander Maye from the University of Hamburg by surprise: "I would have never guessed that simple flies who otherwise keep bouncing off the same window have the capacity for nonrandom spontaneity if given the chance.


The fly's behavior is controlled by brain circuits which operate as a nonlinear system with unstable dynamics far from equilibrium.


Only after the team analyzed the fly behavior with methods developed by co-authors George Sugihara and Chih-hao Hsieh from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego did they realize the origin of the fly's peculiar spontaneity. "We found that there must be an evolved function in the fly brain which leads to spontaneous variations in fly behavior" Sugihara said. "The results of our analysis indicate a mechanism which might be common to many other animals and could form the biological foundation for what we experience as free will".

Topics: Meaning | FreeWill

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Why some social network services work 

Jyri Zengestrom
The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They're not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object.

. . .

The social networking services that really work are the ones that are built around objects. And, in my experience, their developers intuitively 'get' the object-centered sociality way of thinking about social life. Flickr, for example, has turned photos into objects of sociality. On del.icio.us the objects are the URLs. EVDB, Upcoming.org, and evnt focus on events as objects.

Topics: Web2.0 | Representation | Collaboration

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