Friday, February 29, 2008

Has Cringely been drinking the Kool-aid?

As with many of his articles Robert X Cringely started off with the breathless tones that got me thinking, "how could I have missed this?", but his post goes on for too long with too many unsubstantiated claims to maintain that emotion. As I've maintained over many pints, this is a fascinating time to be in IT. All we need is funding to check these claims, because nothing rankles like unsubstantiated claims.

For example, NPTL sounds really cool. Graeme may have some insights, but this statement seems like fuzzy thinking to me:
"My e-mail application runs on a four-core Opteron server," says a techie friend of mine, "but I've seen it have over 4,000 simultaneous connections - 4,000 separate threads (where I'm using "thread" to describe a lightweight process) competing for those four CPU's. And looking at the stats, my CPUs are running under five percent almost all the time. This stuff really has come a long way."
Is that good? Why do we need 4,000 threads if they aren't actually keeping the CPUs busy? I get the impression that most of these "lightweight processes" are waiting for something. NTPL may be a good thing, but I don't understand how this illustrates the benefits.

In his conclusion he says "If an Azul box were installed on that network, my little app would instantly and mysteriously run up to 50 times faster." Really? I can't follow his argument here at all.

I must have missed the point of his article. If anyone can clarify I'd love to find out more.

1 comment:

Graeme Burnett said...


4000 threads does seem rather a lot for an email server I must admit, perhaps they're forgetting to close the socket :-)

With regards Bob's article - it has a certain style which would lead me to doubt any element it contains as empirical or factual. I see the issue here as a claim that the Azul platform is the saviour of performance issues that it may or may not turn out to be.

Perhaps what would be useful is running the SCIMARK 2.0 benchmark from the NIST using both memory models (large/small) and both languages (Java and C++) in order to assess factually the Azul platform capability. I did this a long while back Java vs C++ Performance Comparision using the Scimark 2.0 Benchmark.

The result of this analysis stopped Java being kicked out of the bank I was working for at the time by the Delphi posse. It proved that it was down to poor programming rather than a language issue.