Computing Now Exclusive Content — July 2010

News Archive

July 2012

Gig.U Project Aims for an Ultrafast US Internet

June 2012

Bringing Location and Navigation Technology Indoors

May 2012

Plans Under Way for Roaming between Cellular and Wi-Fi Networks

Encryption System Flaw Threatens Internet Security

April 2012

For Business Intelligence, the Trend Is Location, Location, Location

Corpus Linguistics Keep Up-to-Date with Language

March 2012

Are Tomorrow's Firewalls Finally Here Today?

February 2012

Spatial Humanities Brings History to Life

December 2011

Could Hackers Take Your Car for a Ride?

November 2011

What to Do about Supercookies?

October 2011

Lights, Camera, Virtual Moviemaking

September 2011

Revolutionizing Wall Street with News Analytics

August 2011

Growing Network-Encryption Use Puts Systems at Risk

New Project Could Promote Semantic Web

July 2011

FBI Employs New Botnet Eradication Tactics

Google and Twitter "Like" Social Indexing

June 2011

Computing Commodities Market in the Cloud

May 2011

Intel Chips Step up to 3D

Apple Programming Error Raises Privacy Concerns

Thunderbolt Promises Lightning Speed

April 2011

Industrial Control Systems Face More Security Challenges

Microsoft Effort Takes Down Massive Botnet

March 2011

IP Addresses Getting Security Upgrade

February 2011

Studios Agree on DRM Infrastructure

January 2011

New Web Protocol Promises to Reduce Browser Latency

To Be or NAT to Be?

December 2010

Intel Gets inside the Helmet

Tuning Body-to-Body Networks with RF Modeling

November 2010

New Wi-Fi Spec Simplifies Connectivity

Expanded Top-Level Domains Could Spur Internet Real Estate Boom

October 2010

New Weapon in War on Botnets

September 2010

Content-Centered Internet Architecture Gets a Boost

Gesturing Going Mainstream

August 2010

Is Context-Aware Computing Ready for the Limelight?

Flexible Routing in the Cloud

Signal Congestion Rejuvenates Interest in Cell Paging-Channel Protocol

July 2010

New Protocol Improves Interaction among Networked Devices and Applications

Security for Domain Name System Takes a Big Step Forward

The ROADM to Smarter Optical Networking

Distributed Cache Goes Mainstream

June 2010

New Application Protects Mobile-Phone Passwords

WiGig Alliance Reveals Ultrafast Wireless Specification

Cognitive Radio Adds Intelligence to Wireless Technology

May 2010

New Product Uses Light Connections in Blade Server

April 2010

Browser Fingerprints Threaten Privacy

New Animation Technique Uses Motion Frequencies to Shake Trees

March 2010

Researchers Take Promising Approach to Chemical Computing

Screen-Capture Programming: What You See is What You Script

Research Project Sends Data Wirelessly at High Speeds via Light

February 2010

Faster Testing for Complex Software Systems

IEEE 802.1Qbg/h to Simplify Data Center Virtual LAN Management

Distributed Data-Analysis Approach Gains Popularity

Twitter Tweak Helps Haiti Relief Effort

January 2010

2010 Rings in Some Y2K-like Problems

Infrastructure Sensors Improve Home Monitoring

Internet Search Takes a Semantic Turn

December 2009

Phase-Change Memory Technology Moves toward Mass Production

IBM Crowdsources Translation Software

Digital Ants Promise New Security Paradigm

November 2009

Program Uses Mobile Technology to Help with Crises

More Cores Keep Power Down

White-Space Networking Goes Live

Mobile Web 2.0 Experiences Growing Pains

October 2009

More Spectrum Sought for Body Sensor Networks

Optics for Universal I/O and Speed

High-Performance Computing Adds Virtualization to the Mix

ICANN Accountability Goes Multinational

RFID Tags Chat Their Way to Energy Efficiency

September 2009

Delay-Tolerant Networks in Your Pocket

Flash Cookies Stir Privacy Concerns

Addressing the Challenge of Cloud-Computing Interoperability

Ephemeralizing the Web

August 2009

Bluetooth Speeds Up

Grids Get Closer

DCN Gets Ready for Production

The Sims Meet Science

Sexy Space Threat Comes to Mobile Phones

July 2009

WiGig Alliance Makes Push for HD Specification

New Dilemnas, Same Principles:
Changing Landscape Requires IT Ethics to Go Mainstream

Synthetic DNS Stirs Controversy:
Why Breaking Is a Good Thing

New Approach Fights Microchip Piracy

Technique Makes Strong Encryption Easier to Use

New Adobe Flash Streams Internet Directly to TVs

June 2009

Aging Satellites Spark GPS Concerns

The Changing World of Outsourcing

North American CS Enrollment Rises for First Time in Seven Years

Materials Breakthrough Could Eliminate Bootups

April 2009

Trusted Computing Shapes Self-Encrypting Drives

March 2009

Google, Publishers to Try New Advertising Methods

Siftables Offer New Interaction Model for Serious Games

Hulu Boxed In by Media Conglomerates

February 2009

Chips on Verge of Reaching 32 nm Nodes

Hathaway to Lead Cybersecurity Review

A Match Made in Heaven: Gaming Enters the Cloud

January 2009

Government Support Could Spell Big Year for Open Source

25 Reasons For Better Programming

Web Guide Turns Playstation 3 Consoles into Supercomputing Cluster

Flagbearers for Technology: Contemporary Techniques Showcase US Artifact and European Treasures

December 2008

.Tel TLD Debuts As New Way to Network

Science Exchange

November 2008

The Future is Reconfigurable

Distributed Cache Goes Mainstream

by George Lawton

Distributed-cache technology took a major step forward in June with the release of Microsoft AppFabric. The technology promises to help scale data-intensive applications, and it's part of a trend that other database vendors, including Oracle and IBM, are pursuing. "The big guys are discovering this technology, which is a short-term business opportunity," said Massimo Pezzini, a Gartner Research analyst. "But more importantly, it's an enabling technology for a variety of cloud applications."

The significance is not so much the novelty of a new feature but rather the advent of distributed caching in all major application server products. It means cloud application developers can expect to have the tools available on any platform to distribute application memory up or down as required.

Over the past couple of years, distributed-caching systems have become more important as alternatives or supplements to traditional databases.They combine the benefits of distributed systems and DRAM storage, making it easier to scale an application by more efficiently using the local memory of each new server added to a system. These benefits help reduce bottlenecks associated with writing or reading data in many applications. "You reduce access latency because the data is in memory," explained Matt Davey, a director at Lab49, an IT consultancy, "and you reduce contention because access works across machines."

Interest in the field has also increased over the past couple of years with the popularity of open source implementations, such as Memcached, which are widely used on websites such as Facebook to improve scaling and performance.

Long History

Distributed-caching research extends back to the mid 1980s and David Gelernter's work at Yale University on tuple-space computing models, said Pezzini. The technology started to make more sense about a decade ago with the Internet's rise. It was commercialized by pioneers such as ScaleOut Software, GigaSpaces, GemStone (acquired by VMware), and Tangosol (acquired by Oracle). In the meantime, several open source variants were developed to help improve website performance. In addition to Memcached, these included Ehcache, JBoss Cache, and Terracotta Server Array.

The large database vendors began incorporating the technology into their portfolios. Oracle bought Tangosol. IBM developed WebSphere Extreme Computing (WXC), and Microsoft launched project Velocity, which became AppFabric. Other vendors have also started developing or buying distributed-caching technology — for example, VMware bought Gemstone in May.

David Brinker, ScaleOut Software's chief operating officer, said that three phenomena are driving distributed-caching technology: advances in networking and DRAM hardware, an uptick in data analysis applications, and the growth in cloud computing. One of its most promising applications is providing a mechanism for scaling applications up or down on demand in a way that efficiently uses the local storage on each server. Proponents believe this will make it easier to create applications that can automatically take advantage of cloud services.

Keeping Life Simple

One challenge is that distributed caching uses a programming model that differs from that of traditional databases. Vendors have hidden some of this complexity behind widely used programming APIs. "The developer doesn't need to know anything about the grid," Brinker said. "It's just as if you were writing to the memory on a single machine."

Developers do need to develop a good understanding of how to partition the data. This involves a detailed understanding of how it's accessed, noted Shalom. For example, if an application's data is partitioned by company but accessed mostly on the basis of employee, the queries are going to be less efficient.

There are also some nuances in how to get the data into the cache most efficiently, noted Davey. For example, it might make more sense to queue up stock market data and enter it into the cache in one larger file than to insert each new stock update individually.

Brinker identified three major generations of distributed-caching technology. The first is efficient at caching read-only data but lacks features for replicating data. The second generation has been optimized to improve the database performance with features such as high availability and better management tools. We're just now starting to see the third generation of solutions, which provide a distributed data fabric that moves applications to the data, rather than the other way around.

In 2010, the market for distributed-caching technology is about US$80-100 million worldwide, noted Pezzini, but vendors are more interested in it as an enabler for other products. "The innovation will continue not because it's a huge market," he said, "but because of the strategic element it brings to the cloud."

George Lawton is a freelance journalist based in Guerneville, CA. He can be reached via his website at