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Could Amazon beat Apple and create the largest MVNO in the world?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Jul-2012 08:48

By now you probably read reports around the web about Amazon's efforts in creating its own smartphone. Articles on Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal say it's being tested.

I'm pretty sure it is. I can't go in details now without risking someone's job, but from little bits and pieces collected around I'd say this has been going on for some time now.

If Amazon continues with its Amazon Kindle Fire ecosystem (and why not?) then it will be an Android-based device. But what I haven't seen yet is any comment on how Amazon's work with telcos from around the world could make it the largest Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) around.

Generally speaking, a MVNO works with a mobile operator to get bulk access to network services and resells these with its own branding and prices.

Amazon, through its Kindle 3G strategy, already has relationships established with almost one mobile operator in each single country in the world.

This is how it works: when you buy a Kindle 3G you receive an eBook reader (or tablet as is the case with the Kindle Fire) with mobile data access enabled and ready to use. You can turn the Kindle 3G on, select a book online from the Amazon store using its browser and have it delivered in seconds, without ever coming close to a computer. This also includes subscriptions - newspapers, magazines and blogs.

At no moment you have to sign a contract with a mobile operator. You don't actually even need to know which mobile operator is your Kindle connecting to, or how much they charge for the content download (mobile data charges are already included in the book price). You don't have to insert a SIM card in your Kindle 3G (there isn't even a visible access to it). It's ready to use out of the box. All you know is that Amazon is sending the book to you "over the air", automatically charged to your Amazon account.

Currently this is for electronic content download only, but there isn't anything preventing Amazon from offering voice services in addition to the existing mobile data they already use. It would make even more sense if these were VoIP over the data network.

Rumours have been around for years now that Apple would like to sells a more complete iPhone package - one that they control without interference from mobile operators. This would even be the force behind Apple's insistence in creating a new nanoSIM card standard.

We don't know if this is the model Amazon will bring to its smartphone. But it would make sense. And it looks like Amazon could beat Apple to the market.



Alan Turing

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Jun-2012 18:38

Today would be Alan Turing's 100th birthday.

Turing was one of the leaders at Bletchley Park, working as a codebreaker during the war, working on the cryptanalysis of German's Enigma machine.  Probably the man who helped England the most when all was but lost to the enemy during WWII, ended up persecuted for its sexual orientation, after the war.

His conviction for indecency cost him his security clearance and job for the Government Communications Headquarters. He was forced to undergo chemical castration. And he commited suicide (although some believe it was an accident).

And to think the top German scientists got free passes to America thanks to Operation Paperclip, while England did nothing but to hunt Turing.

Turing gave us the modern computer, thanks to his design of a stored-program computer.

When I was first introduced to computers, back in early 80s (and I was late to this!) our teacher made a point of showing the class the works of both Turing and Von Neumann.

But most of all, I still believe he is responsible for saving Great Britain's hide during the war. Even with an official apology from PM Gordon Brown (10 September 2009) it's still a shame his name has a record of a conviction for indecency against his name.



Microsoft Surface: coming soon, any time now?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Jun-2012 12:14

Microsoft has announced its own tablet, running on Windows 8 supported by both ARM and Intel Core processors. The specs are not bad either, with 16:9 aspect ratio, 32GB to 129GB memory, USB support.

It looks good, the built-in keyboard and kick-stand together will make it a worthy contender no doubt and certainly a good replacement for many laptops.

Except when you read the press release and it says "coming soon" and "[Surface] will be sold in the Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. and available through select online Microsoft Stores."

Microsoft wasted the opportunity to get the world by surprise, with something like "available in the US end of June, in another 20 countries by August and the rest of the world by September".

Apple still knows how to do it.



Scale your database without effort? ScaleArc iDB

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-May-2012 16:51

Last weekend a press release landed in my inbox, and I thought it interesting enough to make me contact the agency and get more information about the product. In summary ScaleArc iDB promised to scale your database without changes in code or database itself:

ScaleArc, the pioneer in a new category of database infrastructure that accelerates application development by simplifying the way database environments are deployed and managed, today announced general availability of iDB v2.0 for Microsoft SQL Server that brings significant new capabilities to SQL Server environments such as instant horizontal scaling, higher availability, faster database performance, increased SQL protection and real-time query analytics. iDB takes a fundamentally different approach at the SQL protocol layer by providing customers with a wide spectrum of capabilities for their database environment in a single solution, without requiring any modifications to existing applications or SQL Server databases.

Until now, moving to advanced architectures like multi-master, or achieving instant scale and better performance within SQL server environments, has been costly and extremely difficult to implement. iDB v2.0 for MS SQL supports a wide range of functions including Read/Write splitting, dynamic load balancing and horizontal scaling, query caching for up to 24x faster query responses, wire-speed SQL filtering and real-time instrumentation and analytics to enhance all deployment modes of SQL server, including SQL Server Clustering, SQL mirroring, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Replication and log shipping.

iDB for MS SQL Feature Highlights

. Dynamic Query Load Balancing for High Availability: ScaleArc iDB implements a specialized dynamic load-balancing algorithm that allows the most efficient utilization of available database capacity, even when servers have varying capacity. iDB monitors query responses in real-time and can load balance queries to the server that will provide the fastest response to properly distribute the load. Up to 40% better performance has been observed with iDB's dynamic load balancing relative to TCP-based load balancing.

. Pattern-Based Query Caching for Increased Performance: ScaleArc iDB allows users to cache query responses with one-click. No changes are required at the database server or in the application code; the query is cached at the SQL protocol level, providing up to 24x acceleration without any modifications.

. Multi-master: iDB supports multi-master and master-slave scenarios to ensure high availability and scalability. Specific queries, irrespective of their origin, are routed to the right server with the advance query routing engine that also simplifies sharding.

. Real-time Analytics: Advanced graphical analysis tools provided by ScaleArc iDB bring comprehensive real-time awareness of all queries, helping to quickly pinpoint query patterns that are not performing optimally and allowing more precise management.

. Wire Speed SQL filtering: iDB is able to enforce query-level policies for security or compliance reasons to protect against attacks, theft and other threats. iDB can operate outside of the application where policies have not traditionally been easily enforced.

. SQL Query Surge Queue: Extreme loads can lead to unacceptable response times or even halting of operations until the load reduces, leading to "Database not Available" errors. ScaleArc iDB allows a more graceful response to peak loads. When faced with an extreme load, ScaleArc iDB can initiate a SQL Query Surge Queue and momentarily queue queries in a FIFO queue and process them once server resources become available.

Obviously I was a bit worried with their claims, so asked a couple of questions. Here are the answers:

What happens to cached query results when the result changes? For example a record is updated - will the next query use previous results, or get new results?

The key to iDB lies in our Analytics.  We provide granular real-time data on all SQL queries flowing between application servers and the database servers.  As such, customer now have the intelligence they need to understand the query structure, the frequency it hits the database, the amount of server resources it takes, etc.  We then give the customer the power to cache on a per query basis, but we do not set a Time-To-Live for the customer.  They need to understand how often the query will be updated, and ensure they do not set a Time-To-Live that may serve stale data is an Update comes in from the Application.  We allow customers to set TTL anywhere from 1 second to multiple years.  When a cache rule for a query is activated with a single click of a button, we immediately measure the performance and offload impact of the cache.  And since our cache on iDB is a hash map that caches the TCP output of Read queries, subsequent Read queries served from our cache are served up to 24x faster (or more).

ScaleArc also has API that can be invoked from the application to add, invalidate and bypass the cache for specific SQL statements

How much more memory does it require? Or does it use the SQL DB footprint?

ScaleArc iDB is a Network appliance like deployment and does not have any agents on the Server or the Application.This would mean that iDB has its own physical/virtual machine to perform its operations.  iDB can run load balancing within 4GB of memory, however for caching and logging purposes iDB can address up to 128GB of memory.

iDB is a separate instance from the database.  Most customers run our software on a dedicated x86 server to make it a dedicated appliance.  We also sell appliances, or iDB can be installed on a hypervisor as a Virtual Machine.  iDB does not require a lot of memory to operate, but we can allocate up to 128GB of RAM for caching of READ queries.  Query logs are stored on drives on the appliance.

Very interesting - an appliance for SQL TCP output caching. Ok, I have entered my name in to get a 30 day trial and see how much difference it can actually make.

UPDATE: Someone on Facebook said this was advertising. IT IS NOT. I was not asked to post about it, and did not receive any payment to post about it. If you are so inclined please read my FULL DISCLOSURE post.



Riverbed Performance Summit in Sydney

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-May-2012 12:35

I just got an email from Riverbed announcing their Riverbed Performance Summit in Sydney. This half day event is happening 5th June (Tuesday) from 12:30pm to 5:30pm. Click here for the agenda (pdf).

Learn how the Riverbed performance platform can help you up your IT game

With the growth of virtualization, consolidation, and cloud computing have come new challenges. IT is increasingly consolidated and virtualized while workers and consumers are distributed. How best to harness these approaches and deliver the efficiency and control your organization requires, while ensuring that end users get the performance they need?

Attend the Riverbed Performance Summit to find out how Riverbed empowers enterprises like yours with the tools to analyze, accelerate, and control your IT. Stay on top of the latest technology and solutions from Riverbed and join us for a deep dive into our vision for delivering performance for the globally connected enterprise.

Sign up to connect with Riverbed technology experts and your peers to learn how you can get more out of your Riverbed investment.

At this exclusive event you'll hear firsthand from our experts on how to maximize your Riverbed investment with the latest release of cutting-edge performance platform products and solutions:

  • Granite, our revolutionary new product for consolidating edge servers in the data center
  • Getting the most out of the latest release of RiOS (7.0), including optimization for video, UDP, IPv6, and VDI
  • Steelhead Cloud Accelerator, a new powerful solution for boosting the performance of SaaS applications
  • The latest product updates, technical overviews, demos, and more

Register now and discover how to make the Riverbed performance platform work for you. Find out how you can finally consolidate your entire infrastructure, including edge applications, servers and storage to the data center, all without compromising performance.

A shame I won't be attending this event since it falls on the same week I will be in Las Vegas for the HP Discover 2012.



Are you attending the HP Discover 2012 in Las Vegas? I have a discount code for you...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-May-2012 09:00

I am attending HP Discover 2012 Las Vegas (4th - 7th June). This is the second time I am invited to this event, with other bloggers from around the world - this time Ben Kepes will be another Kiwi blogger joining me to hear from HP's management (he blogs about cloud, infrastructure and more at diversity.net.nz).

In my other blog at DiscoveringHP.com I have posted "11 Reasons to Attend HP Discover 2012 in Las Vegas".

Have a look at the HP Discover 2012 program for this year's conference and if you (or your company) are planning to attend, use the discount code "BLOG" for US$300 off during registration.

Disclosure: I am attending the conference as a guest, and HP is sponsoring my trip.



Great Geekzone event, wish we could do more of these with other tech companies

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 4-May-2012 10:03

Last week of April I got a phone call from Snapper. They were getting ready to deliver a New Zealand first technology in partnership with 2degrees, a NFC-based mobile payment solution with practical use: Snapper on your smartphone, branded 2degrees Touch2Pay, and wanted to reach the Geekzone community to show this new way of paying for things.

Wellingtonians in general have embraced Snapper with impressive numbers (although Snapper is not limited to Wellington only). Over 370,000 Snapper cards have been issued, generating more than 100 million transactions across over 1000 buses, 3000 taxis, and over 500 retailers in New Zealand.

In just under a week we contacted Geekzone users in Wellington inviting them to a mystery Q&A event. We had a great response and the 80 seats available were filled very fast. On the day we had 90% presence and people enjoyed drinks and nibbles while listening to Snapper explaining why they decided to do it and what steps were taken to design the Android app, LG told the audience the dirty tech bits behind the NFC technology and 2degrees showed how all this integrated into the mobile network (including SIM authentication/authorisation).

We also had a couple of LG Android smartphones ready to go with some preloaded credit to giveaway.

In the few days leading to the event we started a discussion where I asked people what they thought would be announced. That discussion ended up having 200 replies with 15,000 views . While some correctly guessed a NFC-based mobile payment solution, others provided great feedback with their wishful thinking on new products/services. I was told by 2degrees, LG and Snapper they were following the discussion closely. We now closed that discussion and opened a new one to discuss the Touch2Pay service.

I wish other tech companies in New Zealand reached out to our community like Snapper, 2degrees and LG did. It was fun and we had high attendance of interested people... You know how to contact me!



Windows Phone, Skydrive heaven Part II

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Apr-2012 08:44

Apparently the problem with Skydrive content not being accessible from Windows Phone devices yesterday is now solved. It looks like for a window of six to eight hours (or even a bit more) Microsoft had some bad redirects that caused attempts to access documents stored on Skydrive to fail.

This only happened when accessing Skydrive from the dedicated Windows Phone app, but it worked fine from the Windows Phone Office Hub.

I have looked at both Skydrive and Google Drive aps and found that they worked practically the same when it comes to managing the files and transfers. However Skydrive gives me 25GB instead of Google Drive's 5GB and the Windows app gives me remote access to all drives of my desktop - very handy if I'm out and about and need anything that's not on Skydrive (music, videos, etc). Also because Google Drive's T&Cs are a "cloudy" business, with words that say customers grant use rights to all content uploaded so Google can use all that for their "product development".

Reading through some Geekzone discussions I've noticed people still don't know about some other cloud solutions and services, so here is a comprehensive comparison of a cloud-based storage and synchronization solutions for the consumer market.



Windows Phone, Skydrive heaven

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2012 11:57

Updated Skydrive app released to Windows Phone Marketplace, new Skydrive app released for Windows and Mac OS X. Life should be good - I mean, get all your documents on the cloud (not an easy transition folks, you will need to move your My Documents drive to a new folder to have things flying to the sky automagically) and you could potentially access them from everywhere with a browser or even from your shiny Windows Phone running that updated Skydrive app.

Sorry to break it people, but it doesn't work like this. It seems you can only download images and sounds from Skydrive to your Windows Phone device. All those .docx, .xlxs, .pptx and .txt files you have? Forget about it. They won't download.

*sigh* Why is so hard for software companies to make Things That Just Work (TM)?

UPDATE: after six hours it's working now. Since I know of more people having this same problem, could it be that Microsoft's cloud service was overloaded? Or simply my 5GB uploads had to go through some process to be readable? Who knows. I'm sure moving to the cloud should be more assuring than this though.



Define the metrics to measure the effectiveness of your Web Performance Optimization project

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Apr-2012 13:22

As in any other project, when working on your Web Performance Optimization (WPO) metrics are important. In WPO projects metrics could be something like time to load a web page, number of page views within a time frame, number of repeat visitors, number of orders place in a period, or even revenue per order. Once we have established the metrics that will define success, then we can work to define a baseline for later comparison, as well as define benchmarks for validation, etc.

At the end of the day, what you want is a faster loading web site that will help your company achieve an objective.

For example, when I started working to make Geekzone a faster web site, our metrics included reduce web page load time, increase number of repeat visitors, increased time spent on site and increased number of page views - we don't sell a "product", we sell advertising after all so those were the important metrics for us.

Using tools like WebPageTest allowed us to measure the time a web page takes to load in different parts of the world. Even though 40% - 45% of our traffic is New Zealand-based, we still have a large number of visitors coming from overseas (including the United States, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and India).

A couple of years ago our average web page load time was around 10 seconds for a visitor coming from the US. By following through with changes in our database, backend scripts, hosting provider, CDN we managed to reduce the web page load time to around 6.5 seconds on average when measured from Dulles, VA.

With automatic web optimization software (in our case Riverbed Stingray Aptimizer) we managed to reduce the time even further to 4.5 s as you can see in the image below, captured from a WebPageTest run earlier today:



If you are in New Zealand our web page load times are even lower, on average 1.5 seconds for a complete page to be ready to be used.

In another post I will talk about each of the items we touched when improving performance on Geekzone - make sure to subscribe to my RSS feed. Of course if you run a web site and think a Web Performance Optimization project could help you improve metrics, please contact me and we can work on this.



freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I work for Intergen and I'm also the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums.

Subscribe now to my blog RSS feed or the Geekzone RSS feed.

If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me freitasm@geekzone.co.nz. Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.

Here's is my full disclosure post.

If you'd like to help me keep Geekzone going, please use this Geekzone Amazon affiliate link when placing any orders on Amazon.

A couple of blog posts you should read:

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