|Long time no see! I’ve been great, thanks. I hope you’ve been well. We took a bit of a break, but here’s the start to Volume 3 of The TechReckoning Dispatch. I have half-written newsletters stashed in drawers all over the house, but a lot of them were variations on the same rant that Things Are Going Wrong On The Internet (and the Internet of Things), but it seemed impolite to send that out over the holidays.
We just finished up the Titans of Mavericks big wave surf contest here. The pic above is a few days after, but check out the break just around the point.
Amara’s Law, or Why You Should Be Ignoring VR, AR, AI, IoT, Drones, and Self-Driving Cars in 2016.
The tech press, especially the consumer tech press, is fundamentally a fairy tale factory. After all, it’s hard to make a magazine business writing about x86 servers and databases and Java — the actual stable, safe technologies that make most things go.
Amara’s Law is: We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run. This is one of those things that’s so true that it’s obvious once it’s said. Virtualization was going to change the world from VMware’s founding in 1998, but it didn’t cross the chasm for years, and even then we traded inflexible hardware for crazy virtual server sprawl. However, virtualization wasn’t even begat cloud and we’re still seeing the implications of that on a global scale. Similarly, AWS did not change the world in 1996, and Docker did not change the world in 2015, but you couldn’t tell from reading the trade press.
Every week I get the Life and Tech newsletter of Robert Scoble (who spoke at The Reckoning last Fall if you’re interested). Robert’s a genius at Jumping Enthusiastically Into The Next Thing. He was early into blogging (most famously being The Microsoft Blogger) and early into podcasting and online video and Facebook. (He was also early into Google+, but to his credit it was working great for him, just not for anybody else.) Right now he’s big into virtual reality and augmented reality, and he gets lots of great interviews with founders in that area, if you’re into that sort of thing. Each week he talks about another headset that is going to blow us all away, and why Mark Zuckerberg did not overpay for Oculus.
I’m here to tell you not to bother this year. Yes, get all excited if you play games or maybe if you deal with factory simulations, but in 2016 VR is not going markedly to change anybody’s life. I’m kind of a curmudgeon on this one, since I was staring into a 3D display on an Evans & Sutherland workstation in 1988. (Little known fact: in 1981, UCSF had one of the few 3D workstations on the West Coast, so they shot this footage there. 3D looked about the same on the next-gen E&S in ’88.)
With that experience, I’m going to go out on a limb and say VR isn’t going to change your life in 2016. Your goggles are going to go in a drawer. Your drone is going to break in a parking lot. Your car will stay in its lane but please oh please don’t start texting. Your connected lightbulb manufacturer is going to stop releasing firmware updates and that bulb going to blink purple after it has been pwned by script kiddies from suburban Tucson.
Ten years out, I dunno; all bets are off. But this year, maybe if you work in manufacturing or logistics, I think there’s some cool AR stuff worth playing with. And this year, maybe if you work in enforcing a totalitarian surveillance state, there’s some amazing face recognition software out there, but don’t call it AI. What I am pretty sure of for 2016, however, is that the consumer-grade Next Stuff, the stuff you read about in most magazines and that get billion-dollar startup valuations in Silicon Valley, will all still be broken and crappy, and what you read will be fairy tales and hero worship. There are thousands of VR-heads like Scoble who disagree with me, but I’ll be right for at least a few more years.
In which I correct some recent podcasts about Ravello Systems
In my small town there are two young women, I believe members of the Future Farmers of America club at the local high school, who walk their sheep down the sidewalk on leashes. It’s darling, although the sheep make sheep noises and sheep smells when they’re not out for a walk, so I can’t imagine the neighbors are big fans. In my small town there is also this big guy who walks a tiny dog and shouts out random things to no one in particular. This is because that big guy is me and I’m listening to podcasts. This week I was shouting because both Speaking in Tech and In Tech We Trust totally whiffed their commentary on Ravello Systems. Ravello is a client, but they didn’t pay me for this, and in fact probably want me to shut up while their deal with Oracle closes. However, i just want to add some clarity on what they do.
Ravello Systems makes a hypervisor, HVX, that is designed to nest inside other hypervisors. They include part of the team that made KVM. They run a service that include HVX and some SDN on top of AWS and Google Cloud. They have a beautiful drag-and-drop blueprint editor that is the network editor VMware vCloud Director should have had. They can run VM workloads and virtual storage appliances straight from their VMware configurationswith very little overhead, and they can also run ESXi inside HVX (inside AWS/GCP). This makes them great for labs, training, and sales demos. They have a VPN bridge so you can do hybrid cloud. Because they encompass compute + network + storage, you can mirror your entire data center and run operational and security simulations. One could see why Oracle, who wants to grow their own public cloud but is starting from way behind, would be interested in a cross-cloud compatibility layer.
Also, Ravello has publicly stated that they’re continuing their program giving free service to all vExperts, and they’re still paying me. Nobody knows the future but hold off on the Oracle jokes until they rip down and trample into the mud everything they just bought.
Worth A Click
SSD reliability in the real world: Google’s experience by Robin Harris at ZDNet covering a FAST ’16 paper by Schroeder, Lagisetty, and Merchant. (FAST is a great USENIX conference – check out my interviews with the chairs from last year here if you’re into storage: part 1, part 2)
SSD age, not usage, affects reliability. … MLC Drives are as reliable as the more costly SLC “enterprise” drives. … [O]ver-provisioning for fear of flash wear out is not needed. … [B]acking up SSDs is even more important than it is with disks. The SSD is less likely to fail during its normal life, but more likely to lose data.
See also the latest Backblaze figures on Hard Drive Reliability Review for 2015. Spoiler: HGST takes the prize if you gotta go spinning rust.
Pundits quoting VCs about the future are like cows asking ranchers what’s for dinner, but here’s a fairly reasoned look at the future from a16z partner Chris Dixon, What’s Next in Computing? on Medium. You might think he contradicts what I said above, but I’m just saying ignore most written tech media crap this year — but if your horizon is 5 or 10 years out, start planning now.
I tend to think we are on the cusp of not one but multiple new eras. The “peace dividend of the smartphone war” created a Cambrian explosion of new devices, and developments in software, especially AI, will make those devices smart and useful. Many of the futuristic technologies discussed above exist today, and will be broadly accessible in the near future.
Observers have noted that many of these new devices are in their “awkward adolescence.” That is because they are in their gestation phase. Like PCs in the 70s, the internet in the 80s, and smartphones in the early 2000s, we are seeing pieces of a future that isn’t quite here. But the future is coming: markets go up and down, and excitement ebbs and flows, but computing technology marches steadily forward.
You can keep up with all my links at the TechReckoning pinboard.
Keeping up with John
I’ll be at the RSA Conference this week in San Francisco. If you’re there, reach out and say hi.
Help wanted! The TechReckoning Studio crew is expanding! We’re looking for another part-time community manager to work with clients. I’m also looking for a part-time content curator. Working remotely is fine. Drop me a line.
The Geek Whisperers is back and we’re talking about failure and resiliency, including our own experience getting stuck trying to bring a more NPR-like style to the podcast. Check out Failure & Failing in Public – Episode 104. Our previous episode also got great reactions from folks looking at themselves and the kinds of roles they excel at: Pioneer, Settler, Town Planner Continuum with Brian Gracely – Episode 103.
I am winding down a contract with CloudPhysics. If you are a blogger who is interested in the recent upgrades to their service that optimizes data center health, including a new dashboard, root cause analysis features, and vCenter integration, I’m happy to set up a briefing. They’re also working more with Managed Service Providers, which I think is kind of genius, so if you’re in that kind of a business, definitely check them out.
Just Hit Reply
Tell me how wrong I am on VR and IoT. Just hit reply on this note and send an email to email@example.com. Next week we’ll talk about the FBI-Apple michegas if you want to pre-comment. Cheers!