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Archive for the ‘real-time’ tag

My OSCON 2009 Talk on Open Source in Government

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The good people at O’Reilly have posted my Open Source in Government talk at OSCON 2009 on blip.tv. It’s also on YouTube. I’ll admit to cringing a bit when I started watching, but I’m pretty happy with how it all went. Here are the slides.

In the panel afterward, someone asked my why open source developers should be helping companies make money on open source software, or helping the military-industrial complex or the prison system. I completely sympathize. There’s no reason whatever that someone should help the military or the prison system if they don’t want to. Those were just the examples that I used. There are many opportunities to work with the government elsewhere, especially at the local level. A good way to start is by finding something that’s annoying or broken in your local schools or library, and use open source software to fix it. Open Source for America should be making it easier for people to find these opportunities. But more on that later.

Written by gunnar

July 26th, 2009 at 11:51 am

The Navy’s Standardization Problem

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Using open source software, the US Navy was able to standardize the shipboard systems on its new destroyers, reducing the complexity of the ship’s systems and their reliance on proprietary real-time software. Wall Street now uses this same technology to execute orders predictably, without relying on vendor-specific hardware and software.

Every ship in the Navy is a floating data center. Computers run the ship, handle navigation, and track inventory. There are mail servers, databases, and everything else you would expect in a corporate data center. Unlike a corporation, though, the Navy also has weapons systems and radars. These systems are unique, since they must perform in a very predictable way: when you pull a trigger, you can’t wait for the computer to send an email. It has to happen right away. This determinism in a computer system is called “real-time” performance.

The Navy has already saved millions by moving to industry-standard computers and commercially available software. This real-time requirement flew in the face of this: the software is very expensive, and often very proprietary. Frequently, real-time systems require specialized hardware and specialized software, which was also expensive. These new systems also meant special training for the operators. So this meant two sets of infrastructure: one to regular applications, one to run the real-time applications. This was expensive and inefficient, especially since a Navy ship is so constrained by the lack of space. It would be much easier to have the regular computers handling the real-time work.

Written by gunnar

July 21st, 2009 at 2:13 pm