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Virtualization: A Way To Do Much More With Much Less and With Greater Agility
How virtualization and cloud computing is transforming the business world.
The use of virtualization and cloud computing is growing quickly among companies of all sizes. Currently, 45 percent of servers are virtualized, and surveys show that by 2015, that number will grow to 70 percent or more.
Virtualization and cloud computing go hand-in-hand, and virtualizing servers is just the tip of the iceberg. The trend to virtualize everything from servers to processing power to software offerings actually started years ago in the personal sector. In the recent past, it was common for individuals within major organizations to use virtualized services or cloud computing when at home, but at work they weren’t using those services at all. Why? Because corporate IT didn’t trust the lack of security of the cloud and they weren’t sure it was a hard trend—something that was definitely here to stay. Today, they know better.
In order to fully understand how virtualization and cloud computing will transform the business world, let’s first look at the evolution of these capabilities.
When talking about virtualization, cloud computing is a natural component. Cloud computing, which refers to companies using remote servers that can store data and allow users to access information from anywhere, takes three different evolutionary forms.
The first is a public cloud. This could be something like Google docs, where you store your data, or something like Flickr, where you store your photos. Basically, you’re storing files somewhere else other than your hard drive, and in a place where you can access the items from any device at any time as long as you have an Internet connection.
The second form of cloud computing, which is a private cloud, is growing rapidly. A private cloud exists when a company wants added security with cloud computing, yet they still want their people to have access to their bigger files and bigger databases from any device anywhere. Since it’s private, it’s secure and the public does not have access to it. Companies of all sizes are now establishing private clouds.
The third iteration that is part of the evolution of cloud computing is the private/public cloud—also called a hybrid cloud. In this configuration, you have a private part of your corporate cloud that is secure and only accessible by employees, but you also have a part of the cloud that is public where strategic partners, vendors, and customers can access limited content.
Virtualization can take many forms aside from servers. For example, you can virtualize a desktop, meaning your desktop is stored virtually in the cloud and you can access it from anywhere. You can virtualize your operating system. That means you can be using a Mac yet running the latest Windows operating system on the Mac, or you can have a PC and have three different operating systems running all at the same time. That’s the power of virtualization.
Another element of virtualization is software as a service (SaaS). Decades ago, we started with software that you had to buy, install, maintain, and update. Thanks to SaaS, the software is in the clouds, so you no longer buy it; you simply buy time to use it. It’s a cost-effective way for companies of all sizes to have access to enterprise level software.
Similarly, we’re also already seeing virtualized processing power. Think of this as accessing a supercomputer in the cloud and having that supercomputer’s processing power available on your smart phone or tablet. In February 2011, the TV game show Jeopardy featured IBM’s supercomputer Watson against human contestants. Watson beat the humans at Jeopardy quite well because it knew what it was good at and it focused on those categories. With virtualized processing power, you’re basically getting a Watson on your phone. That means you and your employees can make informed decisions about many things, very quickly.
One of the ways Watson has been used since Jeopardy is looking at MRI scans. When Watson reviews an MRI scan, it can detect anomalies and see things a human doctor can’t see. Watson can also analyze many variables in an effort to help the human doctor make a better diagnosis faster. It’s about allowing professionals rapid access to vast amounts of information and knowledge that can help them work faster and smarter.
Healthcare is just one example. Could people who do sales, R&D, purchasing, delivery, sourcing, shipping, accounting, and a host of other functions benefit from a Siri-like interface from a Watson-like supercomputer in the palm of their hand? Yes. Could this help them work smarter, better, and more effective? Most definitely!
The Game Changer
Part of this evolution of virtualization and cloud computing is that we can now virtualize various components of IT. And we are already seeing IT as a Service (much like how SaaS became popular). This means that much of the IT department will be virtualized as an on-demand service and running in the cloud.
The benefits of IT as a service are immense. Not only will it save money, but it will also increase speed and agility. Since your servers aren’t being used 100 percent all the time, the efficiency varies. With IT as a service, a company will be able to scale in real time as demand dictates by the nanosecond. As sales increase, instantly the system will self-configure. As sales decrease, it does the same. Now you’re only paying for what you’re using. In this case, you’ll be able to benefit from dynamic resource allocation so you’re able to maximize what you have and what you’re paying for at all times.
IT as a service is a game changer. Because you now have components of the IT department existing in the cloud, you’re freeing your in-house IT staff to shift from a maintenance mode to an innovation mode. As such, your IT department can focus on achieving business goals, creating innovative solutions, and driving sales rather than upgrading individual user’s computers and firefighting everyday problems. It allows the IT department to really look at the industry trends unfolding so your company can give customers the products and services they’d ask for, if they only knew what was possible.
It’s Time to V-Enable the Organization
In terms of implementing virtualization and cloud computing options, organizations are moving quickly. Virtualization received a big push in 2009 and 2010 because of the recession, which prompted many companies to cut their IT budget. Companies realized that one way to save money was through virtualization. For example, virtual desktops alone lower costs by 15 percent.
Now, the factors that are increasing an organization’s interest in virtualization are speed and agility. Virtualization enables you to do things faster, thus making your company more agile. Instead of delivering a new service in two months, companies are able to do it in days and in some cases hours.
As virtualization and cloud computing become more prevalent, companies are going to need to form new strategic relationships because existing relationships may not have the core competencies needed to drive the fundamental changes that will be needed. At this point it would be good to ask yourself if you have the relationships you need to move forward given this shift? Do your current strategic relationships understand the shifts taking place and are they embracing the things you know will happen?
Realize, too, that the wrong question to ask is, “What should we buy?” Rather, you have to look at the bigger picture of what you’re trying to accomplish in this transformational time. How can you use virtualization and cloud computing as game changers for your company based on where it’s evolving? The key is to understand the new capabilities, because in order to know what to buy or what to do, you first have to know what is possible.
Over the past few years, companies started to stick their toes in the waters of virtualization and cloud computing. It didn’t take long for organizations to quickly realize this isn’t a fad that’s going to fade but rather a hard trend that will grow. Virtualization and the cloud are powerful hard trends that provide transformational opportunities and will continue to rapidly evolve. If you haven’t already started, the time to embrace them is now.
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Humanity knows surprisingly little about the ocean depths. An often-repeated bit of evidence for this is the fact that humanity has done a better job mapping the surface of Mars than the bottom of the sea. The creatures we find lurking in the watery abyss often surprise even the most dedicated researchers with their unique features and bizarre behavior.
A recent expedition off the coast of Java discovered a new isopod species remarkable for its size and resemblance to Darth Vader.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.
According to LiveScience, the Bathynomus genus is sometimes referred to as "Darth Vader of the Seas" because the crustaceans are shaped like the character's menacing helmet. Deemed Bathynomus raksasa ("raksasa" meaning "giant" in Indonesian), this cockroach-like creature can grow to over 30 cm (12 inches). It is one of several known species of giant ocean-going isopod. Like the other members of its order, it has compound eyes, seven body segments, two pairs of antennae, and four sets of jaws.
The incredible size of this species is likely a result of deep-sea gigantism. This is the tendency for creatures that inhabit deeper parts of the ocean to be much larger than closely related species that live in shallower waters. B. raksasa appears to make its home between 950 and 1,260 meters (3,117 and 4,134 ft) below sea level.
Perhaps fittingly for a creature so creepy looking, that is the lower sections of what is commonly called The Twilight Zone, named for the lack of light available at such depths.
It isn't the only giant isopod, far from it. Other species of ocean-going isopod can get up to 50 cm long (20 inches) and also look like they came out of a nightmare. These are the unusual ones, though. Most of the time, isopods stay at much more reasonable sizes.
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During an expedition, there are some animals which you find unexpectedly, while there are others that you hope to find. One of the animal that we hoped to find was a deep sea cockroach affectionately known as Darth Vader Isopod. The staff on our expedition team could not contain their excitement when they finally saw one, holding it triumphantly in the air! #SJADES2018
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What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?
The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.
Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:
"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region."
The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its head. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and Great Old Ones.
If computers can beat us at chess, maybe they could beat us at math, too.
- Most everyone fears that they will be replaced by robots or AI someday.
- A field like mathematics, which is governed solely by rules that computers thrive on, seems to be ripe for a robot revolution.
- AI may not replace mathematicians but will instead help us ask better questions.
The following is an excerpt adapted from the book Shape. It is reprinted with permission of the author.
Will machines replace us? Since the origin of artificial intelligence (AI), people have worried that computers eventually (or even imminently!) will surpass the human cognitive capacity in every respect.
Artificial intelligence pioneer Oliver Selfridge, in a television interview from the early 1960s, said, "I am convinced that machines can and will think in our lifetime" — though with the proviso, "I don't think my daughter will ever marry a computer." (Apparently, there is no technical advance so abstract that people can't feel sexual anxiety about it.)
Let's make the relevant question more personal: will machines replace me? I'm a mathematician; my profession is often seen from the outside as a very complicated but ultimately purely mechanical game played with fixed rules, like checkers, chess, or Go. These are activities in which machines have already demonstrated superhuman ability.
Some people imagine a world where computers give us all the answers. I dream bigger. I want them to ask good questions.
But for me, math is different: it is a creative pursuit that calls on our intuition as much as our ability to compute. (To be fair, chess players probably feel the same way.) Henri Poincaré, the mathematician who re-envisioned the whole subject of geometry at the beginning of the 20th century, insisted it would be hopeless
"to attempt to replace the mathematician's free initiative by a mechanical process of any kind. In order to obtain a result having any real value, it is not enough to grind out calculations, or to have a machine for putting things in order: it is not order only, but unexpected order, that has a value. A machine can take hold of the bare fact, but the soul of the fact will always escape it."
But machines can make deep changes in mathematical practice without shouldering humans aside. Peter Scholze, winner of a 2018 Fields Medal (sometimes called the "Nobel Prize of math") is deeply involved in an ambitious program at the frontiers of algebra and geometry called "condensed mathematics" — and no, there is no chance that I'm going to try to explain what that is in this space.
Meet AI, your new research assistant
What I am going to tell you is the result of what Scholze called the "Liquid Tensor Experiment." A community called Lean, started by Leonardo de Moura of Microsoft Research and now open-source and worldwide, has the ambitious goal of developing a computer language with the expressive capacity to capture the entirety of contemporary mathematics. A proposed proof of a new theorem, formalized by translation into this language, could be checked for correctness automatically, rather than staking its reputation on fallible human referees.
Scholze asked last December whether the ideas of condensed mathematics could be formalized in this way. He also wanted to know whether it could express the ideas of a particularly knotty proof that was crucial to the project — a proof that he was pretty sure was right.
When I first heard about Lean, I thought it would probably work well for some easy problems and theorems. I underestimated it. So did Scholze. In a May 2021 blog post, he writes, "[T]he Experiment has verified the entire part of the argument that I was unsure about. I find it absolutely insane that interactive proof assistants are now at the level that within a very reasonable time span they can formally verify difficult original research."
And the contribution of the machine wasn't just to certify that Scholze was right to think his proof was sound; he reports that the work of putting the proof in a form that a machine could read improved his own human understanding of the argument!
The Liquid Tensor Experiment points to a future where machines, rather than replacing human mathematicians, become our indispensable partners. Whether or not they can take hold of the soul of the fact, they can extend our grasp as we reach for the soul.
Slicing up a knotty problem
That can take the form of "proof assistance," as it did for Scholze, or it can go deeper. In 2018, Lisa Piccirillo, then a PhD student at the University of Texas, solved a long-standing geometry problem about a shape called the Conway knot. She proved the knot was "non-slice" — this is a fact about what the knot looks like from the perspective of four-dimensional beings. (Did you get that? Probably not, but it doesn't matter.) The point is this was a famously difficult problem.
A few years before Piccirillo's breakthrough, a topologist named Mark Hughes at Brigham Young had tried to get a neural network to make good guesses about which knots were slice. He gave it a long list of knots where the answer was known, just as an image-processing neural net would be given a long list of pictures of cats and pictures of non-cats.
Hughes's neural net learned to assign a number to every knot; if the knot were slice, the number was supposed to be 0, while if the knot were non-slice, the net was supposed to return a whole number bigger than 0. In fact, the neural net predicted a value very close to 1 — that is, it predicted the knot was non-slice — for every one of the knots Hughes tested, except for one. That was the Conway knot.
For the Conway knot, Hughes's neural net returned a number very close to 1/2, its way of saying that it was deeply unsure whether to answer 0 or 1. This is fascinating! The neural net correctly identified the knot that posed a really hard and mathematically rich problem (in this case, reproducing an intuition that topologists already had).
Some people imagine a world where computers give us all the answers. I dream bigger. I want them to ask good questions.
Dr. Jordan Ellenberg is a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin and a number theorist whose popular articles about mathematics have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Slate. His most recent book is Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else.
Laughing gas may be far more effective for some than antidepressants.
- Standard antidepressant medications don't work for many people who need them.
- With ketamine showing potential as an antidepressant, researchers investigate another anesthetic: nitrous oxide, commonly called "laughing gas."
- Researchers observe that just a light mixture of nitrous oxide for an hour alleviates depression symptoms for two weeks.
The usual antidepressants don't work for everyone. That's what makes a new study of the antidepressant properties of nitrous oxide so intriguing. It looks like just a single low dose of what your dentist may call "laughing gas" can help alleviate symptoms of depression for weeks afterward.
The study, from researchers at University of Chicago and Washington University-St. Louis, is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Resistance to anti-depression medications
Nitrous oxide: two atoms of nitrogen, one of oxygenCredit: Big Think
According to the senior author of the study, Charles Conway, "A significant percentage — we think around 15 percent — of people who suffer from depression don't respond to standard antidepressant treatment."
"These 'treatment-resistant depression' patients," Conway says, "often suffer for years, even decades, with life-debilitating depression. We don't really know why standard treatments don't work for them, though we suspect that they may have different brain network disruptions than non-resistant depressed patients. Identifying novel treatments, such as nitrous oxide, that target alternative pathways is critical to treating these individuals."
"There is a huge unmet need," says lead author Peter Nagele. "There are millions of depressed patients who don't have good treatment options, especially those who are dealing with suicidality."
If ketamine can help, can nitrous oxide?
Credit: sudok1 / Adobe Stock
The researchers wondered if some of the anti-depression properties seen in ketamine might also apply to nitrous oxide. Nagele explains, "Like nitrous oxide, ketamine is an anesthetic, and there has been promising work using ketamine at a sub-anesthetic dose for treating depression."
The researchers conducted a one-hour session — they describe it as a "proof-of-principle" trial — in which 20 individuals with depression were administered an air mixture with 50 percent nitrous oxide. Twenty-four hours later, the researchers found a significant reduction in the participants' symptoms of depression versus a control group.
However, the individuals also suffered the unpleasant side effects that laughing gas often causes in dental patients: headache, nausea, and vomiting.
Smaller dose, longer effect
Credit: sudok1 / Adobe Stock
"We wondered if our past concentration of 50 percent had been too high," recalls Nagele. "Maybe by lowering the dose, we could find the 'Goldilocks spot' that would maximize clinical benefit and minimize negative side effects."
In a new trial, 20 people with depression were given a lighter nitrous oxide mix, just 25 percent, and the individuals tested reported a 75 percent reduction in side effects compared to the a control group given an air/oxygen placebo. This time, the researchers also tracked the effect of nitrous oxide on symptoms of depression for a far longer period, two weeks instead of just 24 hours.
"The reduction in side effects was unexpected and quite drastic," reports Nagele, "but even more excitingly, the effects after a single administration lasted for a whole two weeks. This has never been shown before. It's a very cool finding."
Nagele also notes that, despite its popular renown as laughing gas, even a light 25 percent mix of nitrous actually causes people to nod off. "They're not getting high or euphoric; they get sedated."
Delivering help to people with depression
Nagele cautions, "These have just been pilot studies. But we need acceptance by the larger medical community for this to become a treatment that's actually available to patients in the real world. Most psychiatrists are not familiar with nitrous oxide or how to administer it, so we'll have to show the community how to deliver this treatment safely and effectively. I think there will be a lot of interest in getting this into clinical practice."
After all, Nagele adds, "If we develop effective, rapid treatments that can really help someone navigate their suicidal thinking and come out on the other side — that's a very gratifying line of research."