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Windows Subsystem for Linux Now Generally Available in Microsoft Store

MMS Founder
MMS Sergio De Simone

Article originally posted on InfoQ. Visit InfoQ

The Windows Subsystem for Linux has reached GA status in the Microsoft Store, adding support for Windows 10 in addition to Windows 11. Among the most notable features in WSL 1.0.0 are opt-in systemd support and the possibility of running Linux GUI applications on Windows 10.

WSL was originally included in Windows OSes as an optional component, known as “in-Windows” WSL, that users could activate to install and run a Linux distribution. WSL in the Store makes this process more straightforward and enables automatic updates and servicing without requiring a full OS update.

Adding support for systemd means WSL can be more similar to popular Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Debian, which use systemd by default. This will also enable running applications that require systemd under WSL, including microk8s and systemctl.

Supporting systemd required changes to the WSL architecture. As systemd requires PID 1, the WSL init process started within the Linux distribution becomes a child process of the systemd. […] Additional modifications had to be made to ensure a clean shutdown (as that shutdown is controlled by systemd now).

Due to these changes, Microsoft preferred making systemd an opt-in feature to avoid changing the behavior of existing installations, but will investigate making it the default option. To enable systemd, you need to edit the wsl.conf file and add the systemd=true option under the [boot] section. Finally, you need to restart your WSL instance.

The possibility of running Linux GUI apps, already available on Windows 11, is now also available on Windows 10. This enables running Linux GUI apps from the Windows Start menu, as well as pinning them to the Windows task bar. Cutting and pasting across Linux and Windows apps is seamlessly supported, too.

With this announcement, Microsoft is not entirely sunsetting “in-Windows” WSL, which will indeed still receive critical bug fixes, but new features will only appear in the Store version.

The Store version of WSL is now the default that is installed by running the command wsl --install on fully patched Windows 10 or 11 systems. Analogously, you can update an existing installation by running wsl --update on fully patched systems.

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Azure SQL Database External REST Endpoints Integration Now in Public Preview

MMS Founder
MMS Steef-Jan Wiggers

Article originally posted on InfoQ. Visit InfoQ

Microsoft recently announced the public preview of Azure SQL Database External REST Endpoint Integration – an ability to call a REST endpoint natively from Azure SQL Database.

The public preview of Azure SQL Database External REST Endpoint Integration is a follow-up from this year’s earlier private preview. With the public preview, the new system stored procedure sp_invoke_external_rest_endpoint is available to everyone. 

The integration massively reduces difficulties in integrating Azure services with Azure SQL Database. With only one line of code, according to the company, the Azure SQL database can integrate with a wealth of services such as Azure Functions, Cognitive Services, Event Hubs, and Azure containers.  

 
Source: https://devblogs.microsoft.com/azure-sql/azure-sql-database-external-rest-endpoints-integration-public-preview/

The full syntax, according to the documentation, is as follows:

EXEC @returnValue = sp_invoke_external_rest_endpoint
  @url
  [ , [ @payload = ] N'json_payload' ]
  [ , [ @headers = ] N'http_headers_as_json_array' ]
  [ , [ @method = ] 'GET' | 'POST' | 'PUT' | 'PATCH' | 'DELETE' ]
  [ , [ @timeout = ] seconds ]
  [ , [ @credential = ] credential ]
  [ , @response OUTPUT ]

The stored procedure accepts arguments like url (HTTPS REST endpoint to be called), payload (Unicode string in a JSON format), headers(as flat JSON), method(HTTP method calling the url GET, POST, PUT, PATCH, DELETE), timeout(time in seconds allowed for the HTTPS call to run), credential(inject authentication info), and response(response received from the called endpoint passed into a variable).

Developers can call a REST endpoint, like an Azure Function, for example:

declare @ret as int, @response as nvarchar(max);

exec @ret = sp_invoke_external_rest_endpoint 
    @method = 'GET',
    @url = 'https://my-function.azurewebsites.net/api/say?message=hello world',
    @response = @response output;
    
select @ret as ReturnCode, @response as Response;

Christopher Webb, a member of the Power BI CAT team at Microsoft, mentions another example on his personal blog:

And guess what, the Power BI REST API is one of the APIs you can call! This means, for example, you can run DAX queries via the Execute Queries endpoint (bearing in mind all the limitations) from TSQL.

 
Source: https://blog.crossjoin.co.uk/2022/11/16/calling-the-power-bi-rest-api-from-tsql-in-azure-sql-database/

Glenn F. Henriksen, a CTO at Justify, tweeted:

Finally, we can move all our app logic into SQL-stored procedures and triggers! This was the final missing piece!

And in addition, Jeff Taylor, a senior data engineer, tweeted:

This looks incredible! This should make obtaining certain datasets faster and simpler and in stored procedures no less! A great addition to an already-known language!

Lastly, a GitHub repository contains more examples, with additional ones coming soon.

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Article: API Security: From Defense-in-Depth (DiD) To Zero Trust

MMS Founder
MMS Ming Wen

Article originally posted on InfoQ. Visit InfoQ

Key Takeaways

  • Only a few companies have an API security policy that includes dedicated API testing and protection
  • Defense-in-Depth is a multi-layered defense that provides different types of protection: boundary defense, observability, and authentication
  • Authentication is the most important and can be achieved through password complexity, periodic modification, and two-factor authentication
  • To improve efficiency in security management, one can change from “finding bad people” to “identifying good people”, by utilizing the allowlisting approach
  • Zero Trust is the next level for API security, though it is not a silver bullet

Stats of API Security

According to Salt Security’s 2022 API Security Survey:

  • 95% of the more than 250 survey respondents said they’ve experienced an API security incident in the past 12 months
  • only 11% of respondents have an API security strategy that includes dedicated API testing and protection and 34% lack any security strategy at all for APIs
  • shift-left tactics are falling short, with more than 50% of respondents saying developers, DevOps, or DevSecOps teams are responsible for API security while 85% acknowledge their existing tools are not very effective in stopping API attacks
  • when asked about their biggest concern about their company’s API program, 40% of respondents highlighted gaps in security as their top worry
  • 94% of API exploits are happening against authenticated APIs, according to Salt customer data
  • stopping attacks tops the list of most valuable attributes of an API security platform
  • 40% of respondents are grappling with APIs that change at least every week, with 9% saying their APIs change daily

From the survey, we could see that nearly all companies have experienced API security incidents. However, only 11% of companies have an API security policy that includes dedicated API testing and protection.

So, what kinds of protection should a company build to defend against these attacks? Security problems are not unique to the Internet age. Over the last thousands of years of human history, various countries have been exploring and practicing multiple defense strategies and fortifications. These experiences and ideas are also applicable to the field of network security.

For example, WAF (Web Application Firewall) is analogous to castle walls, identity authentication is equal to the commanders’ ID card, and honeypots are used to lure attackers away from high-profile targets. Among these war strategies, one of the most effective methods is Defense-in-Depth (DiD).

Defense-in-Depth

Defense-in-Depth is a multi-layered defense strategy that provides different types of protection at each line of defense.

DiD can be roughly divided into three different key areas of defense:

Defending the Borders

Boundary defense is the most basic and common type of defense. Almost all companies invest in boundary defenses, such as WAFs, which use regular expressions and IP denylists to defend against known attack methods and security vulnerabilities.

Most of the so-called attacks are initiated by “script kiddies”, relatively unskilled individuals who do not have strong technical backgrounds or hacker mindsets. They can only attack targets in batches by using pre-written scripts. In this scenario, boundary defense can well resist these indiscriminate attacks.

As the protection of the outermost layer, it has always been one of the necessary defense methods, though, from a technical point of view, WAF does not necessarily require strong technical skills.

In addition to WAFs, some defense tools are explicitly designed for bots. Using bots to carry out “credential stuffing” attacks is a standard method to attempt to steal high-value digital assets. The strategy is to buy login information, such as leaked emails/passwords, and then attempt to log in to other websites in batches. The most efficient defense method to combat credential stuffing is to identify the bot and intercept all requests made by the bot.

The basic strategy behind bot interception is a defense tool deployed between the server and client acting as an intermediary. When the server returns a response page, the tool inserts JavaScript into that response. It requires the client (browser or bot) to execute the JavaScript to calculate the token and put it into the cookie. After the tool receives the token, it will judge whether the other party is malicious based on the token value and take corresponding actions. It can also encrypt specified page contents (such as the URL on the page or the content of the form).

Although, in theory, this kind of encryption is not difficult for a determined cryptography enthusiast (because a perfect key establishment mechanism is not implemented between the client and the server), it is enough to stop hackers with penetration tools.

In an enterprise server-side architecture, the WAF, SSL gateway, traffic gateway, and API gateway are all connected in series, with upstream and downstream relationships. Each can be deployed separately or combined into one component. Take Apache APISIX as an example: it provides some standard features for boundary defense: IP allowlists and denylists, a WAF rules engine, fault injection, and rate limiting. When used in combination, it can block almost all indiscriminate attacks.

Detecting Intruders

In network security, the scariest event is not actually finding a security incident, but never finding one. The latter means that you may have been hacked many times without realizing it.

Being able to observe security risks is critical in combating targeted attacks. After a hacker has breached the outermost layer of defenses, we need observability mechanisms to identify which traffic is likely the malicious attack traffic.

Common means of implementing security observability are honeypots, IDS (Intrusion Detection System), NTA (Network Traffic Analysis), NDR (Network Detection and Response), APT (Advanced Persistent Threat), and threat intelligence. Among them, honeypots are one of the oldest methods. By imitating some high-value targets to set traps for malicious attackers, they can analyze attack behaviors and even help locate attackers.

On the other hand, APT detection and some machine learning methods are not intuitive to evaluate. Fortunately, for most enterprise users, simple log collection and analysis, behavior tracking, and digital evidence are enough for the timely detection of abnormal behaviors.

Machine learning is an advanced but imperfect technology with some problems like false or missed reports. However, most enterprises don’t currently need such solutions. They care more about logs collecting and tracking because they need to collect digital evidence. Digital evidence not only serves as evidence of the crime but also helps companies better understand the weaknesses of their internal systems.

For example, when a hacker attacks a system and steals data, a behavior tracking solution would track a number of things including: when the hacker attacked, which servers were accessed, which data has been exfiltrated, and how the hacker behaved within the environment. These access logs can be found and gathered as digital evidence.

At the observability level, Apache APISIX can do more things than tracing, logging, and metrics. It can use plugins to simulate high-value targets to confuse the attackers, utilize the traffic mirroring functionality to send partial requests to the blocking and non-blocking security detection tools for analysis, and make quick security decisions to stop the attack.

Preventing Lateral Movement

When the attacker breaks through the outer defense line and enters the intranet, it is time for authentication and access control to play a role. This defense method is similar to showing your ID cards to purchase alcohol and your passport at the airport checkpoint. Without the corresponding identity and authority, it is impossible to enter the corresponding system.

This line of defense reflects a company’s basic security skills and technical strength. Many companies’ internal systems do not have well-established authentication and authorization architecture, and implementing those solutions requires long-term and continuous investment.

For example, numerous systems have been used for years in financial institutions, such as banks, securities, and insurance companies. The significant number of employees and legacy systems requires a high cost in both time and money to unify the identity authentication by implementing SSO (Single Sign-On).

This line of defense essentially puts obstacles everywhere for the attackers, making it impossible for them to move laterally within the network.

It is worth mentioning that there are not many companies that do well in seemingly simple password management. Password complexity, mandatory periodic modification, and mandatory two-factor authentication (SMS or dynamic password) for critical systems are easier said than done. Only companies who understand network security well can implement them well. There are a number of reasons why this is true but the key reasons include:

  • Many companies pay insufficient attention to password management because they believe that they are only effective within the internal network, which is relatively safe.
  • It will burden the IT department if companies conduct regular secret changes because there are many employees whose secrets are different, which is hard to manage.
  • Unless the policy is required at the company level, implementing consistent and effective secret management is challenging.

This third line of defense is the most important one. Boundary protection and security threat observation, to a large extent, exist to help the third line of defense. If an application system itself is not safe, no matter how strong the first two lines of defense are, there will be attacks that slip through the net.

This line of defense is where an API Gateway comes in strong as it provides a number of key authentication features:

  • Various authentication methods, such as JWT and key auth
  • Integrating with multiple authentication systems such as OKTA and Auth 2.0
  • TLS and mTLS encryption of traffic
  • Automatic rotation of keys

In summary, these three defense layers require inter-department cooperation to block security attacks effectively. These three defense layers are typically controlled by different departments: WAF by the Security Operations team, observability by the R&D teams, and authentication by the IT department. Each area will use different tools, such as WAFs, OpenTelementry, and Keycloak, to implement their respective solution. This split of responsibility across many teams is why effective blocking requires inter-department cooperation.

So, is there a more efficient way, the so-called “silver bullet,” to solve all security problems?

From “Denylisting” to “Allowlisting”

The network security community has been thinking about this issue for a long time. The strategy for most security defense and detection methods is to look for a small number of security threats within a massive quantity of data, similar to finding a needle in a haystack. There will inevitably be both false positives and false negatives.

What if we change our thinking and turn “finding bad people” into “identifying good people”? Will it help us shine a new light on the problems?

Over ten years ago, some antivirus software companies began to make such an attempt. Their logic was to add the commonly used software to an allowlist, identifying the executable programs one by one, and then the rest would be viruses. In this case, any new virus could not escape the detection of antivirus software. This plan was quite ideal. Nevertheless, it took four or five years for the software companies to implement it, and it was not entirely allowlisting but hierarchical management.

The allowlisting approach is equally applicable in API security. For example, a company provides a payment API interface, which requires a token to access. If there is no token or the token cannot properly be accessed, then it must be a malicious request and needs to be rejected directly.

Ideally, all APIs should have similar authentication and access controls, and only authenticated access is allowed. Although this cannot defend against internal threats, social engineering, and 0-day attacks, it will significantly increase the threshold of attacks, making the cost high and indiscriminate attacks impossible.

For attackers, when the ROI (Return on Investment) becomes unreasonable, they will immediately turn around and look for other easy-to-break targets.

Based on the ideas of defense in depth and allowlisting, a “zero trust” security framework has gradually evolved, hoping to solve network security problems once and for all.

Is Zero Trust the Silver Bullet for API Security?

What is Zero Trust? Put simply: there is no trusted client in the system, so you will need to verify your identity everywhere.

Whether it is an external request or internal access, a bastion or a springboard, a mobile phone or a PC, an ordinary employee or a CEO, none can be trusted. Access to systems and APIs is allowed only after authentication.

It seems that there are no loopholes except that it is troublesome to verify the identity everywhere. So is zero trust the silver bullet for cybersecurity?

Simply put: no, zero trust is not a silver bullet.

Zero trust is a comprehensive security framework and strategy. It requires adding strict and unified identity authentication systems to all terminals, BYODs (Bring Your Own Devices), servers, APIs, microservices, data storage, and internal services. Think of zero trust as a safety air cushion. We can understand the zero trust model by using the Wooden Bucket Theory, which states that a wooden bucket can only hold as much water as its shortest plank. Translating this to security, our defenses are only as good as our weakest spot. This implies that the hacker will always attack the weakest part. If the bucket leaks, it doesn’t matter how much water it could hold. However, we also can’t say, “90% coverage of a zero trust model is not substantially better than 0% coverage” because the measures can increase the cost of hackers’ attacks. If we can realize 90% coverage of a zero trust model, then almost 80%-90% of vicious attacks could be intercepted.

The implementation of zero trust is complicated. Imagine adding identification equipment in all transportation hubs, such as airports and high-speed railways. It is incredibly costly in terms of time and money.

In a large enterprise, there will be hundreds of systems, tens of thousands of APIs and microservices, and hundreds of thousands of clients. It takes great effort and cost to build a complete zero-trust system. Therefore, zero trust is mainly implemented in government, military, and large enterprises. For most enterprises, it is wiser to learn from the idea of zero trust and build a security defense system with a higher ROI.

There are two core components of Zero Trust:

  • Identity and Access Management
  • API Gateway with integrated security

The focus on these two components can make the implementation of zero trust more realistic.

Note here that zero trust is not flawless. Zero-trust solutions cannot fully defend against zero-day or social engineering attacks, although they can greatly reduce the blast radius of those attacks.

Conclusion

However, security is a never-ending game of cat and mouse because attackers are always hoping to find means to acquire high-value digital assets or to achieve their destructive outcomes. Defense alone cannot avoid the attacker’s guns and arrows.

Consequently, it is also necessary to improve the security awareness of developers and reduce exposure to vulnerable surfaces as much as possible.

Developers stand in the middle of code and application. On the left is the “code”, while on the right is the “application”. Hence we need to pay more attention to the left side as the code is the root of all the problems. We should adopt the “shift left” method, which means a DevOps team needs to guarantee application security at the earliest stages in the development lifecycle. The vulnerable exposure can be significantly reduced if the developers improve their security awareness.

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Presentation: Six Impossible Things

MMS Founder
MMS Kevlin Henney

Article originally posted on InfoQ. Visit InfoQ

Transcript

Henney: My name is Kevlin Henney. I’m here to talk to you about six impossible things. That idea of six impossible things comes from one of the Alice books, “Alice in Wonderland,” is the first book. “Through the Looking-Glass” is the second book by Lewis Carroll. The White Queen is asking Alice to believe in something that Alice is like, “I can’t believe that. It’s impossible.” The Queen just dismisses that, says, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. I want to emphasize this idea of impossibility, because we are often taught that nothing is impossible, just takes more time, more effort. Anything is possible. At the same time, we also sometimes brand something as impossible, when actually it’s just ridiculously hard and not feasible. That’s not the same thing. Somebody says, that’s impossible, it would take 1000 years. Then they’ve just told you the circumstances for its possibility. There is a distinction here. I’m actually interested in the things that are challenges that we can’t meet directly, we may work around them. We may use our ingenuity. We may pull back and innovate in other ways. There are certain limits, limits defined by mathematics and physics that every now and then hit in software development.

Representations Can Be Infinite

I’m going to count these down, let’s start at six. Representations can be infinite. This is impossible. You’ll say, how? Surely I can represent infinity, in my floating-point numbers, I can do that, plus or minus infinity. Yes, you’re representing, it’s a stand-in for infinity. It’s not actually infinity. There are no infinities in the physical universe. Infinity is a mathematical concept, not a physical one. There’s a distinction here. We are using a placeholder to say, this thing is infinity. It’s like infinity, it doesn’t behave like infinity. It is not itself infinity, it is much more bounded. There are also other concepts that lie beyond finiteness. For example, not a number, is not a finite numeric concept. This is perhaps one of the most familiar to people in their day to day use of applications in the web, we get thrown back with NaN, it’s not a number. Sometimes it’s as frustrating as not being able to complete a flight booking. Other times it can be a little more dramatic. This happened in 2020. Driverless race car drives into a wall. What had happened is during the initialization lap, something had happened which caused the steering control signal to go to NaN. Subsequently, the steering locked to the maximum value to the right. This was a bit of a state management issue. It was interesting when I tweeted this originally, somebody had pointed out to me, are you saying that these applications that they use JavaScript? I was like, no, that’s not at all the same. NaN is used outside the realm of JavaScript. It comes from IEEE-754, and IEEE-854 standards. This is the 1980s. We see NaN errors all over the place. JavaScript, thanks to its long standing idea that there is only one numeric type, and it’s a very atypical numeric type, floating-point type, is its only way of expressing numbers historically. It’s a limitation to do with that, and that therefore, is very public facing.

When it comes down to floating-point representations, there was a piece in “97 Things Every Programmer Should Know,” the piece by Chuck Allison, called floating-point numbers aren’t real. He makes this observation. This is important because real numbers have infinite precision, and are therefore continuous and nonlossy. In fact, real numbers are uncountably infinite. Between zero and one there are an infinite number of numbers, and we are not able to represent them all. What we are ever going to do is approximation. Floating-point numbers are about approximation. They have limited precision so they are finite, and they resemble badly behaved integers. These are badly behaved integers. They don’t behave as you would expect. It’s a little more than that, because it is not simply that they are badly behaved integers. Integers are not always that well behaved either.

One of the things that we learn is that most languages present us with integers that are unlike true integers. True integers are unbounded, they are countably infinite. A 32-bit integer is not countably infinite, it is countably finite. We see it thrust into our faces every now and then. Here’s one from a few years ago, Visual Studio telling me that my license will expire in about 2 billion days. That number, if you come from outside software development that looks just like an arbitrarily large number. If you’re a software developer, you look at that and you go, yes, that’s 2^31 minus 1. That is the maximum value of a signed 32-bit int. That’s a little bit suspicious. We can also see there’s something else going on here as well. Somehow, something got set to int max value. Also, notice your license has gone stale and must be updated. Surely that’s not right. My license is good for a few 100,000 years. I’m good here. Clearly, the number that is being used for comparison is different. This is likely to be something that manifests in the presentation layer rather than in the core. It does confront us with the boundedness and the limitations. As it were in errors, we tend to find we confront the finiteness of our machines.

We might be tempted to try and prove things. There are limits to proofs, and there are limits to the practicality of proofs. There’s also something else when we talk about the limits of proof. This was inadvertently highlighted in a piece by Jon Bentley, 1983. During the ’80s, Jon Bentley had a column in Communications of the ACM, Programming Pearls. These were collected in a number of books, Programming Pearls, more Programming Pearls. Then there was a second edition of Programming Pearls in the ’90s. This one, what you find in the first edition, writing correct programs is interesting, because he presents a binary search algorithm. He presents a binary search algorithm and proves that it is correct. Here’s the pseudocode that he presents for it. Of note there is a three-way partitions. In that case, there’s a three-way partition in terms of the comparison, then he annotates this more completely. All of those things in curly brackets that say MustBe, basically MustBe is an assertion because it’s an invariant, a thing that must be true at that point. He uses this to demonstrate the correctness of this algorithm. One of the major benefits of program verification is that it gives programmers a language in which they can express that understanding. We should always be on the lookout for opportunities to improve our vocabulary, our ways of expressing and understanding certain problems, more different points of view can be very helpful.

He also observes, this is not the be all and end all. These techniques are only a small part of writing correct programs. Keeping the code simple is usually the way to correct this. He also highlights another aspect where our emphasis is drawn, where our attention is drawn. Several professional programmers familiar with these techniques have related to me an experience that is too common in my own program, when they construct a program, the hard parts work first time, while the bugs are in the easy parts. You’ve probably had this experience. You know it. You’re so focused on the bit that you know is hard, you put so much attention. You manage the detail, and you get it right. You completely overlook something else that’s been invalidated or something else that should have been changed in conjunction with a more complex thing. This demonstrates to us that we have a blind spot, but that blind spot is in fact deeper than what he’s described.

Here’s code from the Java libraries. This is in the binary search method that is found in the collections utility classes developed by Josh Bloch. Josh Bloch was a student of Jon Bentley, and Josh is using the three-way partition in there. Josh Bloch is using the approach that Bentley proved was correct. This works just fine until you use a very large array. This is the point, very large arrays did not really exist in the 1980s and the 1990s. This is why this bug was only found and reported in 2006. There was a problem here. In any binary search, no matter how you’re doing it, you’re going to end up with trying to establish the midpoint. Binary search is about searching between midpoints and halving the distance appropriately. The intuitive way that works with integers is that you take the low point you’ve been searching, and the high point, and you find the midpoint, you add the two together and you divide by two. It’s the arithmetic mean. That’s fine. There’s only one problem. This is Java. Java doesn’t have integers, it has ints. Ints are truncated, they are not countably infinite. They are countably countable. They are countably finite.

If you have a large value that is low, and a high value that is low, when you add the two together, they won’t make a very large number, they’ll make a very negative number. That’s the point. You simply didn’t have arrays that were going to be this size. You did not have arrays that were going to have 2 gigs worth of entries, until you did. What we end up with is this assumption. This assumption was that ints behave like integers, and they don’t. The one thing we know is that ints are not integers, they actually follow a different form of arithmetic. Majority of the operations most of the time behave like integers, but they’re not integers. We fooled ourselves. It’s so easy to follow that habit. The fix is relatively simple, what you do is you find the distance between the low and the high. You halve that, and then you add that to the low point. We can see in the original proof that the assumption is here. He is assuming that he is using integers, but he’s not. He’s using integer division on integers, except that that’s not what’s actually going on.

We find other confrontations with the boundedness of numbers, and again, back to infinity. This is the USS Yorktown. It’s a U.S. Navy cruiser, that’s since been decommissioned. In 1998, it basically was dead in the water for about 48 hours. Source of the problem? They made a change from a Unix to Windows installation. This was originally published under the issue of problems with Windows. Actually, it was not a problem with Windows specifically. The source of the problem on the Yorktown was the data contained a zero where it shouldn’t have done. When the software attempted to divide by zero, which is a big no, remember, there are no infinities. A buffer overrun occurred, yes, big time, crashing the entire network and causing the ship to lose control of its propulsion system. Divide by zero is something that is not going to crash Windows. Most likely what this is, given that this was networking software, this is probably the driver and it runs in kernel mode. That is what caused the problem. This was a custom driver and Windows do not have sufficient defenses, with the driver for dealing with this. As Shakespeare observed, this is the monstrosity in love, that the will is infinite and the execution is confined, the desire is boundless and the act a slave to limit. There are no infinite representations.

Every Question Has an Answer

Coming to number five, not every question has an answer. It turns out, we can ask more questions than we can get answers to. To demonstrate this, many years ago, back before Facebook was busy destroying democracy. I submitted a bug report to Facebook and I was told that my feedback would be used to improve Facebook. That did not apparently happen. Thanks for taking the time to make a report. How much time? That took me back quite away, 31st of December 1969. That seems familiar, that’s really close to another number. What we need to understand is that if you’re a real full stack developer, not a JavaScript developer who does frontend and talks to a database. If you’re a full stack developer, you know how to program in C. The full stack is really deep. Everything is ultimately built on C at that level. The time function in C, what does it measure? What is it responding? On most platforms that use time, or have time, the implementation is based on POSIX. The POSIX standard says the time function shall return the value of the time in seconds since epoch. When is epoch? This is really easy to find. It’s actually quite a popular class of errors. You can actually find that out. What is time when it is zero? It’s the 1st of January 1970. A stroke of good luck leads you into that. It’s fairly unlikely that Intel were distributing drivers on the 1st of January 1970, for Windows operating systems. This is a classic zero initialization fault. That is what I thought would go wrong, a zero initialization fault. Then, a time zone shift. I’m based in the UK, Facebook is American, therefore, that’s West and I was negative time-wise from where I am, so therefore I assumed a negative time adjustment. That would give you zero initialization, and then back into 31st of December.

Actually, there is another explanation that in more recent years I’ve come to consider as more plausible. Going back to the C Standard, the value of minus one is returned from time if the calendar time is not available. That might seem initially, how can time not be available? Surely, time is always available. That’s the shortfall here. No, it isn’t. Time is a service, it can fail just like anything else. When you involve time in your application, it’s not some global variable, it’s asynchronously updated that you can call from a static method anywhere. APIs that do that are slightly misleading, you’re actually coupling to an external dependency. Like anything that involves that, like accessing anything across the network, that’s subject to failure. It’s not common that you’ll get that failure. That’s not what we’re discussing here. We’re not discussing frequency, we’re discussing possibility. It is quite possible that minus one is returned. If minus one is returned, then that will be interpreted as one second before midnight, which will give you 1969.

Another area of interest, when we talk about this stuff is algorithms. Algorithms for people who’ve done computer science degrees, they’ve done algorithms to death. What is it? Because the word is widely misused these days in association, and widely misused and over-generalized as something intrinsically nefarious relates to machine learning. It’s nothing more complex, and it’s quite innocent. It’s a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem solving operations, especially by a computer. To make things a little more exciting, if you are sick to death of computer science and sorting algorithms, let’s have fun with esoteric algorithms. I’ve been writing about esoteric algorithms on my blog post on and off for a while. Sleep sort, drop sort, and this one’s permutation sort. Permutation sort, the complexity of this thing is grossly inefficient. It has factorial time complexity. It’s shocking. We can consider it as a systematic but unoptimized search through the permutations of the input values until it finds the one arrangement that is sorted. For 10 elements that’s potentially 3 million comparisons that it’s going to perform. This is hugely inefficient. It’s also great fun. It’s also a useful provocation. It’s not something you’d ever put into production code, except perhaps if you ask them, what are your performance requirements? We have no performance requirements. Use permutation sort. If you use permutation sort, that person will discover they do indeed have performance requirements, it’s just they didn’t know what they were. They didn’t know the boundary. Demonstrate where the boundary is.

Let’s do this in Groovy. I need to work out whether or not something is sorted. I’ve got a simple predicate function here. That figures out that’s correct. Now, here’s permutation sort. Permutation sort, I can just use the permutation generator. I use the permutation generator that will systematically return me an iterator, permutation generator is iterable. All I do is I just keep on going. If it’s sorted, then I return the permutation. Otherwise, keep on going. There’s a thought here that surely there can be nothing worse than permutation sort in terms of performance. Yes, don’t be so sure. I recently wrapped up on writing about bogosort. Bogosort is interesting, because bogosort is not systematic. Bogosort takes a slightly different approach. It just randomly shuffles, not systematically, it randomly shuffles and checks whether they’re all sorted. We might naively write it like this while it’s not sorted, then shuffle the values. That does give a free pass of the values that are already sorted. We’re going to do a shuffle first. Here’s where we definitely get terrible performance. Because this is interesting, we would just randomly shuffle it. Is it good? No. It’s like throwing a deck of cards up into the air, and does it land, is it sorted? No. Ok, throw it again. That gives you a sense of the possibility that this is not the most efficient way to do things.

We might still have some objections and concerns. Why don’t you, Kevlin, technically you are systematically generating it because you’re using pseudo random numbers rather than real random numbers. That’s a fair objection, but is not one sustained for very long. We can have access to true random numbers through the entropy of your hardware. The way this works on Java platform, you SecureRandom, and that uses a pseudo random number generator that is seeded off. There’s one time where we use a number that is truly random. We’re not doing this, people often use time, but time is not random. There are days it feels like that. Time is not random, but you’re guaranteed that SecureRandom will give you something that is seeded in something that is as truly random as can be got from the hardware.

We have a potential objection. Is this now an algorithm? Is it still an algorithm? Why would I question that? Because an algorithm is a specific procedure. I’ve been very nonspecific, randomness is not specific. We’ve actually said there is a completely nonspecific part here. There is actually a deeper and more subtle objection. Procedure which always terminates is called an algorithm. It’s not guaranteed to terminate. This could actually genuinely never ever terminate, which is interesting. There is no guarantee that the sorted sequence, it will appear. Of course, the probability is so close to zero, that it probably isn’t even actually representable in a floating-point number. Every time I’ve ever implemented bogosort, it has always terminated. Then, how would I wait for the end of the universe or beyond? Here’s a question, how do we test all this?

This is the origin of a very popular quote on Structured Programming, 50 years ago, this was published. Dijkstra has a popular quote, “Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs but never to show their absence.” It does demonstrate that we have this challenge, how do I demonstrate that this will always be correct, or rather, will always terminate? Here’s a very simple example based test case. Every time I’ve ever run it, it certainly passes. I’ve taken a sequence of values, I tell you what the expected ones are, I bogosort it and I test the values I get are the expected ones. How do I guarantee? I want to be able to guarantee that this terminates, how can I do that? I can’t do it in the algorithm, maybe I can have the test enforce that, and basically say, fail the test if it runs forever. Do we do it like this? That’s not going to work either, because it turns out, it’s not just a case that there is no end of time. It’s not just the case that we don’t have that constant available to us in JUnit. It doesn’t actually mean anything. If we reach the end of time, then fail the test because the algorithm didn’t terminate. Realize that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. We just choose pragmatism, 1000 milliseconds. Yes, and that runs typically within a second. That’s fine.

What we’ve done there is we’ve been pragmatic. We’ve also demonstrated, another reason there are no infinities. It’s not just that physics doesn’t tolerate them. It’s that our patience won’t. It also teaches us how to solve things like the halting problem that is related to termination. We can fix that very easily by putting timeouts in it. Indeed, that is how we address these problems. Where we are not guaranteed to ever receive an answer, what we do is we exchange the non-determinism of not knowing whether we receive an answer for the non-determinism of we receive an answer or we get told it timed out. In other words, we offer certainty and time, but we trade it for certainty and result. That’s why timeouts exist.

Every Truth Can Be Established Where It Applies

Related is another impossibility. Every truth can be established where it applies. It’s related to Godel’s incompleteness theorems. Adrian Colyer did a really nice summary of this in a piece on fairness in machine learning. He highlights that, in common with a number of other things, the beginning of the 20th century there was this optimism that physics and mathematics will be completely known. Particularly in the light of the proof from Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead in Principia Mathematica. They have the goal of providing a solid foundation for mathematics. Twenty years later, Kurt Godel shattered the dream, showing for any consistent axiomatic system there will always be theorems that cannot be proven within that system. In other words, to prove those theorems, you have to step outside that. In other words, there are statements that are true that cannot be proven to be true within that context.

Summarized differently, Godel Escher Bach and perhaps a little more formally, “All consistent axiomatic formulations of number theory include undecidable propositions.” Many people might say, that’s great, Kevlin, fine, undecidable propositions, fine, axiomatic formulations and number theory, fine, but I’m dealing with code here. It turns out, code is equivalent to such a formulation. Everything that applies here applies to our code. There are undecidable propositions in code dependent on the context. Let me demonstrate that. Let’s try and determine how long a piece of string is. To be precise, let’s measure the length of a string in C. A standard function for this in C is strlen, back in the days before we had vowels and sufficiently long identifiers. What we’ve got is size_t, that is an unsigned integer type that is used for sizes. Char *, this is a pointer to the beginning of the sequence of characters. A string in C is delimited by a null. When we reach that null, we are done. We have measured the whole length of the string. We go ahead, we measure it. We set it up. We start with our result, it’s zero. While the nth position from s does not equal null character, increment the count, return the count, we are done. This implementation is actually very similar to the one that you’ll find in Kernighan and Ritchie’s C Programming Language, and retain most of the naming conventions from there.

What truths can we establish? What must be necessary for this to work? Here’s one, that pointer cannot be null. See, I can assert that. Here’s another one. For this to work in a way that is defined, there must exist an n such that there is a null, and that every point between the beginning and that position n, are valid, and are well defined in the context of C. As long as you’re not wandering across garbage memory and techy stuff that is undefined and inaccessible. You will notice that this is in gray, and also uses a bunch of symbols that are not native to C. That is because you cannot actually write this in C. It is not actually something you can assert on. It is not possible within the context of strlen, to prove that it can behave correctly. That’s a simple way of looking at it.

We can actually see this in practice, we can change the context. I can demonstrate by changing the context, stepping outside strlen, into a test case here. Here, I’m going to present it with a valid string, “Be excellent to each other.” I’m going to print out how long it is. I’m going to print the string and how long it is. Here we go. Be excellent to each other, 26 characters. I can demonstrate the correctness of that just by inspection and stepping outside, and by execution. Here, we’re not going to provide enough space. I’m only going to provide five characters in space. In other words, not enough space for the null. Actually, C will allow you to write it in this form. We’re not going to get null. When I run it, actually, there’s a reasonable chance it will show five because memory may be null, but the fact that it did work is not a guarantee that it should work. Equally well, you could be cast into the void, heading towards the galaxy M87. Similarly, there’s the idea that actually maybe the pointer itself is uninitialized. That’s just garbage, and there you are inside a black hole in M87. The point there is not defined. There is no way to demonstrate the correctness of this inside the context of strlen. I can do it by inspection, with static analysis outside that.

Why is this relevant? Because a lot of people work in managed languages, and they’re thinking, I don’t need to worry about that undefined behavior. There are cases you can demonstrate that kind of Godel problem in other cases, but actually just always remember that in any large system, there is always going to be an element that is touching the void in this respect. In this piece by Thomas Ronzon in “97 Things Every Java Programmer Should Know,” that Trisha Gee and I edited a couple years back. Thomas looks through and says, how can I crash my JVM? How can I crash my managed environment? In most cases, it’s by stepping outside those, stepping outside context. As he says, write some native code, all the syntax of C, all safety of C. This is bigger than just that. As Adrian observes, one premise of many models of fairness in machine learning is that you can measure, almost prove fairness in a machine learning model from within the system, from the properties, the model itself, or perhaps the data it’s trained on. However, we know we can’t. To show a machine learning model is fair, you have to step outside. You need information from outside the system. This is also important for many of the metrics that we fool ourselves with.

This is a wonderful demonstration of this. What you’re looking at is 99 secondhand phones that are running Google Maps. In 2020, in the first wave of lockdowns, Simon Weckert in Berlin, wandered around Berlin, and created virtual traffic jams. Notice, I’m using the word virtual traffic jam, just as is reported there on his website, virtual traffic jam, because that’s not a traffic jam, is it? Google Maps can’t tell you whether it’s a traffic jam. It’s not possible for Google Maps to do that. What it’s possible for it to do is to try and establish and correlate between traffic jams and the presence of phones. Therefore, to determine, there’s a lot of phones moving very slowly. They’re all in navigation mode. There’s a lot of phones moving slowly. Yes, therefore, that correlates with a traffic jam. Notice, I’m using the word correlation, it’s not causal. What they’re doing is they’re doing it there. A lot of the time it’s going to show you where the traffic jams are. Some of the time, it’s not.

This is a reminder that many people are measuring engagement. I know what engagement is, my dictionary knows what engagement is. It’s the state of being engaged. It’s emotional involvement or commitment. Is that what people are measuring? You’ve got whole marketing departments trying to nudge up an engagement value. They’re not measuring engagement, they need to stop using that word. We don’t know whether or not people are engaged. In fact, the correlations are actually far weaker. This is engagement. We don’t know how long people are spending actually looking at a screen. You can tell when somebody’s moved off to another screen, but you don’t know what they were doing before that unless you’re doing eyeball tracking. That’s a security issue. The point there is, I had this exactly yesterday. I was on a web page that I was on for a few seconds and I was going to go to another web page, but the doorbell went, I received a delivery. For 2 minutes, I was not on my screen. There is an engagement statistic somewhere that tells people that I was on that page for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. No, I wasn’t. I was on that page for 30 seconds. The minute I got back down, I moved on to another page.

People are measuring clicks and shares, and that’s what they need to understand. They’re not measuring engagement. Engagement should always appear in quotes. We must be careful not to confuse data with the abstractions we use to analyze them. We do not always know the answers to the questions in the context in which they are answered. We do not know that that is a traffic jam. We do not know that that is engagement. We do not know whether or not this is actually a valid call to a particular method in a particular context. We cannot necessarily prove this machine learning system is fair by using all of the assumptions that we put in to that machine learning system. We need to step outside that to demonstrate that, see the bigger picture.

The Future Is Knowable Before It Happens

When we look to the bigger picture, let’s also look to the future. Here is something that’s impossible, the future is knowable before it happens. That seems obvious. We trip over that. Often, we do so because we don’t appreciate the degree to which software development is actually an exercise in applied philosophy. It’s about epistemology. It is about the nature of knowledge, as Grace Hopper observed, “To me programming is more than an important practical art. It is also a gigantic undertaking in the foundations of knowledge.” In essence, a code base is a codification of knowledge. It’s codification of the knowledge that we have about the problem domain and the solution domain bound together and expressed in a way that is formally executable. It’s a formal specification of this knowledge. Therefore, knowledge is the heart of everything that we do. That means we have to have good models of what we know and what we don’t know. Likewise, what correlates versus what is causal? What we know versus what we don’t know. There are things that we know, we know, there are things that we know that we don’t know.

Then it starts getting a little more exciting. There are things we don’t know we don’t know, these are often assumptions. Those are the things that are hidden until you have them contradicted, “I had assumed that.” At that moment you discovered you had an assumption. You had the assumption all along, but if anybody had asked you before, what are your assumptions? That thing, whatever it was that was contradicted in future was not known to you. You did not know you had the assumption. Then, you cannot find out, you have no process for knowing. These things are unknowable until they happen. Unknowable unknowns are the challenge here. The halting problem, for example. I cannot know whether or not something is going to terminate until it doesn’t terminate, but I do have a process for that. I can’t tell that future. We have this observation that prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. It’s probable that Niels Bohr actually said this, but there are other contenders. I find that interesting and fascinating, because this is in the past, this quote was made. We don’t know who said that. If we don’t know this about the past, how on earth are we going to be able to know about the future?

We try and tackle the future in various ways. Here’s a roadmap. In fact, this is a template for a roadmap. You can go online, you can go to Google and find out PowerPoint templates for roadmaps. There’s many of them, and lots of them use road images. Invariably, they suffer one problem. I don’t have a problem with the roadmap. I have a problem with the fact that people don’t use it correctly. Let me show you a real roadmap. This is Bristol. This is where I live. There’s more than one road. That’s important, because that’s the point of a roadmap. If I only have one road, I don’t really need a roadmap. People are misusing the metaphor. The metaphor is much more exciting when you show the different branches and possibilities. Because if you don’t show those, it means apparently you know how to predict the future. I’m guessing that this particular PowerPoint template dates back to 2018. Of particular interest here is 2020. Somebody here had a roadmap that included 2020. How many of you people out there had roadmaps for 2020 back in 2018? How many of them say global pandemic changes everything about the nature of our work, and how we work, and how our clients interact with us, and how global markets work, and even the business of going to the shops? I’m pretty sure that nobody had that down. That was not knowable until it happened.

It doesn’t take a pandemic to highlight this. People are making this mistake all the time. I hear often when people are talking about the requirements. They’re talking about prioritizing by business value. That sounds great. Sounds very positive. We are trying to focus on the business. Does anyone have a problem? You can’t do it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do, I’m saying you can’t do it. That’s a very different statement. You can’t do it because it’s impossible. You don’t know what the business value of something is, unless you travel into the future, and then travel back. It’s the traveling back that is hard. We’re traveling into the future all of the time. It’s the traveling back that’s the hard part. That’s why you can’t prioritize by business value. You are always using an estimate. It is prioritizing by estimated business value. You might say, “Kevlin, you’re just picking on words. It’s just semantics.” You’re right. It is just semantics. Semantics is meaning. If you don’t say what you mean, how are people supposed to know? If you’re in the business of confusing estimates with actuals, we need to have a serious conversation. Because you cannot prioritize by business value, you can prioritize by estimated business value. That’s a little more interesting. Ask me to change the way you work, as the great Grace Hopper said, “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it that way.’ I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.” Grace Hopper is the reason I have a clock on my wall that does this. It’s good for messing with people’s minds, but it breaks an assumption.

A Distributed System is Knowable

Another impossibility that people often don’t realize they’re making, but they often do it when they’re talking about data consistency, and indeed many things about distributed systems. When people assume, we want the data that we have here in Europe to be the same as the data that we have in Hong Kong and in Singapore, within a few milliseconds. Not realizing that the speed of light means that that’s actually not going to be possible. We have limits to what is knowable within a distributed system. Leslie Lamport captured the essence of what it is to have a distributed system many years ago. A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn’t even know existed can render your own computer unusable. It reminds us of the physicality and limitations of various systems.

It goes further than just a little bit of humor. Eric Brewer formulated this, originally was a principle, it eventually got proven. It’s better known these days as the CAP theorem. It basically identifies three things, three qualities, three behaviors that we are interested in: consistency, availability, and partition tolerance. Consistency, it’s about the data. Consistency is the idea that every time you request a value for a piece of data, you will receive the most recent value, or you will receive an error. We all receive the same answer or we receive, “I’m sorry, that wasn’t available right now.” Availability is every request for such data will receive an answer, but you’re not guaranteed it’s the latest answer. Partition tolerance. Partition is a fancy way of saying, I started with one network, now I’ve got two. In other words, basically, message loss, for whatever cause. The point there is, you can have two out of three of these, but never all three. That was proven 20 years ago. You can have things be consistent. I’m going to give you the right answer, or I’m going to give you an error status in the event of any failures. I can always give you an answer. I can give you the last cached version in the event of failure. There’s also the interesting case that actually I can demonstrate, you can have the right answer, and everybody else has the right answer for once, but there is no tolerance for failure. That’s actually the limiting case of, it is viable when you’re running in a single process.

The CAP theorem is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle for Distribution. All of these things are captured at a level by Douglas Adams, “We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.” Indeed, we have these, but we need to understand where these are. Because there are a number of cases where we find that we are being given inconsistent things. There’s no reason for it. You often get this. You have a message that says you have four messages in your inbox, or you have four things in your scheduled post queue, or you have whatever it is, you have four of them. Then you look at the screen, it shows five. Clearly, one of these numbers is wrong, and it’s clearly the four. There are clearly five. All you have to do is take the length of that. How do we end up with such a mess? Because that’s nothing to do with distribution or eventual consistency. That’s to do with the fact that we’ve got frontends. In a frontend, you are on a system that can be consistent. This is maybe a side effect of people using micro frontends or whatever, but this has nothing to do with the limitations of a distributed system. It’s just the limitations of poorly designed client-side code. This bit is solvable.

Technical Debt Is Quantifiable as Financial Debt

The last point that I want to focus on is technical debt, that it’s actually quantifiable as financial debt. People often do this. It’s not possible. It’s not just that it’s not right, it’s also not right. In other words, its intent is actually also not possible. We understand that systems can become more complex through compromises through the nature of time. Meir Lehman captures elegantly enough in 1980, “As an evolving program is continually changed, its complexity, reflecting deteriorating structure, increases unless work is done to maintain or reduce it.” There are lots of different ways of talking about our systems and the quality, the abstract natures, we use different metaphors. The metaphor here that Martin Fowler helped popularize, came originally from Ward Cunningham, “Technical debt is a wonderful metaphor developed by Ward Cunningham to help us think about this problem.” Ward came up with it in 1992. He didn’t actually call it technical debt, he just said, we can imagine this is basically like debt. There’s a parallel here, “Like financial debt, the technical debt incurs interest payments, which come in the form of the extra effort that we have to do in future development, because of the quick and dirty design choice.” It doesn’t have to be quick and dirty, it can be quite appropriate, but it’s limited by the extent of our knowledge.

We need to remind ourselves, it’s a wonderful metaphor. It’s a metaphor. I find people taking it a little bit too literally. I found myself cautioning against the category of treating the technical debt metaphor, literally and numerically: converting code quality into a currency value on a dashboard. That’s a disastrous thing to do. It’s like the bad stats we talked about earlier. First of all, you cannot know what that value is financially. The best, you’re only ever going to end up with an estimate of the debt. There are reasons even this is not the right way of looking at it, because it is based on a fallacy and a misunderstanding. If you can find the conversion rate, well done for you. I have had people tell me, no, we do that. If you’ve got a currency value, and there are tools that will give you a currency value, there are people, you can pay them money, and they will tell you what your future is. Don’t be taken in by this. It’s nonsense. It is bad science, answered based on a deep misunderstanding. When people have said, no, we have an estimate, and they’ve used the word estimate, well done then. We have an estimate, and it’s not in currency values, it’s in hours, hours of work, in order to repay that debt. They’ve made a slight category error there. They’re assuming technical debt is the cost of repaying the debt. The problem is, technical debt is not the cost of repaying the debt. Technical debt is the cost of owning the debt. That was all of the wording that Martin, Ward, and many other people added. It’s been lost in the excitement of, maybe we can use a number for this. Be careful.

The message of the technical debt metaphor is not simply a measure of the specific work needed to repay the debt. It is the additional time and effort added to all the past, present, and future work that comes from having the debt in the first place. The burden of debt is not momentary, it’s not now. It is across all of these spans of time. How much did it cost you in the past? Then, again, in the future, how much will it cost you in the future? That value may be large or it may indeed turn out to be a zero, something you can write off. Which brings us to the end of six impossible things. These are not the only impossible things, there are other impossible things that I have hinted at. I have not fully explored the halting problem. I have not fully explored the question of the speed of light limiting certain behaviors in distributed systems, and so on. It should give you a taster of this idea that sometimes we need to step outside a little bit and look at things from a different angle that may spur on innovation. It may allow us to be creative, but it may also give us creative questions.

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Article: How SaaS Platforms Can Provide Career Opportunities to “Quiet Quitters”

MMS Founder
MMS Grant Barra

Article originally posted on InfoQ. Visit InfoQ

Key Takeaways

  • A recent survey shows a significant number of workers would rather be fired than return to the office. 
  • Entrepreneurs set on working from home can start their own businesses if they find the right SaaS platform for the industry they want to work in.
  • The best business-targeted SaaS platform will utilize artificial intelligence and automation to improve efficiency and customer satisfaction.
  • Developers wanting to tap this trend may want to design their business-targeted platforms with these characteristics: white-label, proprietary, sales- and retention-focused, and win/win.
  • Here are some inspirations to get SaaS developers started on developing successful platforms that tap this work-from-home trend for entrepreneurs.

Innovation springs from many avenues, including unexpected events like the COVID-10 pandemic, changes in industries, markets, or demographics, and problem-solving. The reaction to the pandemic drove some significant changes to the way we do business. As a result, this unexpected event presented many opportunities to start new businesses—and design the tech that drives those businesses.

When the pandemic began, it seemed the whole world was shut down almost instantly, shuttering businesses of every kind and putting people out of work. All those closures left people around the globe with ample time on their hands. The closures also led to growing creativity around how to make a living when going into the office, store, or any other place of business became an impossibility.

Many are willing to risk getting fired by refusing to return

As people’s fears over COVID-19 infection started to decline, many companies called on their employees to return to the office or other place of business. However, a significant percentage of workers just aren’t having it.

A recent survey conducted by RELI Exchange found that 26% of those who worked remotely during the pandemic are refusing to comply with their employer’s mandate to return to the office at least part time. These employees often fit the popular category of “quiet quitter,” which means they are refusing to do anything more than the bare minimum required of them.

Interestingly, the RELI Exchange survey also found that the percentage of workers who plan to start a business if they get fired is just as high as the percentage of those who simply plan to find another job—at 40% for each. Only 11% plan to ask for their job back, while just 8% plan to take an extended break.

It may seem strange that so many people are willing to risk getting fired, especially amid aggressively increasing interest rates and the threat of a recession. However, a recent Gallup poll uncovered just how widespread this quiet-quitting trend is.

It found that at least half of the workforce in the U.S. is now made up of quiet quitters, and as it turns out, the threat of so-called “quiet firing” is very real. Quiet firing involves making work uncomfortable—or even toxic for these quiet quitters, until they fold and either find another job or, as the RELI Exchange survey found, start their own business.

SaaS platforms make it easy for remote workers to start a business

These sizable percentages of people potentially getting fired or quitting and then starting their own business mean there is ample opportunity for entrepreneurs and software-as-a-service (SaaS) developers alike.

One thing that sprang from the pandemic-era lockdowns has been the spark that caused people with an entrepreneurial mindset to look for ways to move old-school business models online. The innovations that resulted from this spark have made the possibility of starting a business accessible to a wider audience.

However, those innovations require developers with the know-how and prescience to determine which types of businesses can move online without losing the key elements involved in doing business in that space. SaaS developers who understand how a wide variety of businesses work can find some incredible opportunities designing the platforms that enable remote workers to have their own business.

To be successful, these developers will have to draw from the best that today’s technology has to offer: artificial intelligence and automation.

Using AI and automation to run a business

One of the biggest challenges with starting a small business is being able to compete with the massive companies that have dominated the market share in that space for years. However, SaaS developers who know how to tap artificial intelligence and automation to drive success in any area of business will enable entrepreneurs to compete with the biggest players in their industry.

For example, artificial intelligence and automation can make businesses operate more efficiently and improve customer satisfaction. Both of these areas often rank highly when customers are searching for a company to do business with.

As a result, entrepreneurs can be nimble and compete with international corporations that have more overhead. For example, RELI Exchange is an insurtech platform that allows entrepreneurs to start their own independent insurance agency. 

It utilizes SaaS technology to automate things like gathering customer information and making recommendations. This reduces the time required to serve a customer significantly, thereby creating a scalable business with very little overhead. Through automation, agents can be more productive and spend more time focusing on growing their business than on the busywork.

What to consider when creating business-targeted SaaS platforms

SaaS developers can look to a wide variety of industries for inspiration on which areas can be the most profitable — both for them as the developer and for the business owners who pay for the rights to use their platforms. The key is to look for industries with traditional or antiquated business models that haven’t seen serious innovation or been updated since technology started to grow and revolutionize multiple industries.

Real innovation requires SaaS developers to truly think outside the box and look at what technology makes possible. An easy way to go about selecting industries to revolutionize is to consider which ones primarily operate offline.

Virtually any of these traditionally offline industries are ripe for the picking by SaaS developers with the foresight to imagine what’s possible and the skill to develop a platform that every business owner in the space will want to have.

Of course, the most successful business platforms will share some key characteristics. They will be:

  • White-label
  • Proprietary
  • Sales-focused
  • Win/ win/ win

Why white-label platforms are so attractive to entrepreneurs

The first characteristic on this list is something the average SaaS developer might not think about because they are focused on the coding and other skills necessary to get the job done. However, from a small business owner’s perspective, utilizing a white-label SaaS platform to start and run their business is quite attractive.

A white-label platform enables them to establish their own brand and use their own name to sell or offer whatever services they specialize in. For business owners, branding is everything because customers often opt for the brand names they know and trust. A white-label SaaS platform gives them a firm foundation upon which to build their business.

Think of a SaaS platform as a turnkey business platform, but by making it white-label, the entrepreneur does business under their own name. Entrepreneurs buy into a platform for multiple reasons, one of which is having a proven model, systems, processes, and coaching, which increases their chances of success.

Laying a firm foundation is critical to success, as any business owner would tell you. However, the added bonus of a white-label platform enables the entrepreneur to truly make the business their own. They’re creating their own brand, but they aren’t starting from scratch.

A white-label SaaS platform upon which business owners can establish their company offers the best of both worlds: the firm foundation of a proven platform with an already-successful business model paired with the opportunity to build their own brand.

Why proprietary platforms are essential

Next, SaaS developers need to build a moat around the business because they’re making money on licensing it out. By making their platform proprietary, developers show business owners why theirs is the best option on the market. In fact, developers who get into platform design with a focus on building ready-made business models for entrepreneurs can corner the market and have a first-mover advantage.

They may find that no one else has thought up ways to revolutionize a particular industry yet. Of course, if their platform is successful, other people will attempt to replicate it. As a result, these developers will need to continue innovating on their proprietary platform to stay ahead of the competition.

Focus on sales and retention

Developers should also consider what it takes to capture the most sales in whatever industry they are targeting with the platform they’re developing. Business owners won’t go for any tech-driven model that doesn’t enable them to maximize their sales.

In some cases, it might be a good idea to collaborate with one or more business owners in the space, especially for developers who don’t have extensive knowledge about the industry they’re targeting. Seasoned professionals already know what it takes to get sales and can offer insight that could enable developers to create an online or tech-driven version of those sales methods.

An area related to sales is retention. Building a mentorship program into the model will go a long way toward retaining customers because they get real-time training to help them improve their skills and learn how to use the platform more effectively.

Make it win/ win for everyone

Finally, SaaS platforms must offer solutions that allow everyone to win. Those that don’t will not be successful. There are three groups that all must win through the use of that platform: the business owner, their customer and the developer that created it.

Business owners must reap multiple benefits from using the platform, including increases in sales, efficiency, and productivity and a decrease in expenses. It’s no secret that large corporations turn to automation and technology to accomplish these tasks. Thus, a SaaS platform that packages everything into one product for small business owners enables them to take on their much larger competition more effectively.

For customers, moving the business online can be quite beneficial. For example, the insurance industry was dramatically changed with the advent of online platforms that enabled customers to review multiple quotes all in one place.

Moving other types of businesses online can have similar effects, depending on what types of customer-centric innovations are best suited to each industry. Essentially, developers must figure out what kinds of tech-driven improvements customers want most in that particular industry.

The value of a technical mindset

Of course, SaaS developers bring their own value to the table when it comes to designing platforms for entrepreneurs wanting to start their own tech-driven business. For example, problem-solving is a primary technical skill needed by any developer wishing to design a SaaS platform for entrepreneurs. Successful developers will have to solve the problems associated with creating a platform that fits the needs of entrepreneurs in a particular industry.

Security is also a critical issue. Many entrepreneurs are handling sensitive data like payment information and even, in some cases, Social Security Numbers. Successful SaaS developers will have to build security into their platforms in an unobtrusive way that still allows for the characteristics listed above to be included.

Other considerations developers will have to think about when designing their platforms include compliance for the industry they are targeting, data management, digital marketing, and more. A technical mindset brings value to each of these areas.

Potential pitfalls when developing SaaS platforms for entrepreneurs

Of course, there are always potential pitfalls when working on any kind of technology. Every platform must be completely secure with no loopholes or backdoors. A survey conducted by Archive360 and Pulse found that 58% of global technology leaders say that many SaaS platforms don’t meet all their security requirements. 

Since these business-targeted SaaS platforms are designed for use by a large number of entrepreneurs, developers must aim for the security requirements that fit the standard of whatever industry they’re targeting.

Additionally, developers must remember that the entrepreneurs who buy into their platforms will depend on them if things go wrong. When a serious problem occurs, multiple entrepreneurs may contact them all at once, creating problems for developers who don’t have a communications infrastructure in place to deal with such incidents.

Other potential pitfalls include problems with software integration from other vendors, redundant or ineffective tools or apps, and the so-called “noisy neighbor” effect, which is caused by multiple entrepreneurs using the same SaaS platform.

Tap the “-tech” trend to create solutions for entrepreneurs

With all these other factors in mind, SaaS developers may be looking for a bit of inspiration on what kinds of businesses can benefit the most from revolutionization. They need only look to the trend that has added “-tech” to multiple industries.

Perhaps one of the most well-known is fintech. There have been multiple innovations in the world of finance that have changed the industry forever. Decentralized finance (DeFI) is one of the newer innovations, and there have been many others within that DeFi umbrella. Fintech has been a particularly hot area for investment, so many fintech companies have received sizable valuations, even during the startup phase.

Education was also ripe for revolutionization, resulting in numerous edtech firms that have changed the industry forever. Students no longer need to go to a physical classroom to learn, although even those who do have multiple innovations within the classroom. The point is that more people than ever before have been able to learn in ways that have improved their educational outcomes.

Some other industries that innovation has changed forever include insurance (insurtech), real estate (proptech), law (legaltech), healthcare (healthtech), and food or dining (foodtech).

SaaS startup stories for inspiration

At this point, some developers may have some ideas for which industry you can disrupt with your next SaaS platform. However, some might need a little more to get the creative juices flowing. In fact, some developers may already be sitting on something that would make a great SaaS platform for entrepreneurs—even though they built it for something else. 

For example, Slack’s founders only built the platform as a tool for themselves while working at a gaming company called Tiny Speck. They didn’t realize its commercial use until later. Some developers can find some stellar SaaS ideas based on what their customers need, which is what Mail Chimp’s founders did. 

You might not even need to have a totally new idea. All you need is a platform that greatly improves what’s already available. Plaid’s founders were successful because they felt they could improve upon the other fintech platforms that connected users’ bank accounts to fintech companies. Like Slack’s founders, they only built Plaid because they needed it for something else.

In the case of RELI Exchange, the insurtech platform was built to remove the major barriers for starting an independent agency. Agency partners are provided everything they need to create a future-proof, tech driven, individually branded, independent insurance agency of their own.

Tap into the innovation

Developers need only look at current events for additional ideas. While the response to the pandemic created many problems, it also caused widespread innovation across nearly every industry. Entrepreneurs have more options for starting a business than ever before.

Quiet quitters who vehemently oppose returning to the office suddenly have the ability to start their own businesses online — without the need to establish an office or pay overhead expenses like hiring office staff. In fact, online businesses enable these quiet quitters to start their side hustle part time and then switch to full time when the business is healthy and capable of supporting them without additional income.

Finally, SaaS developers can tap into this trend by creating platforms of their own that are designed to revolutionize an industry in life-changing ways. The success of platforms like the well-known fintech Plaid and the insurtech RELI Exchange demonstrates just how lucrative this opportunity can be for developers. 

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MongoDB (MDB) Set to Announce Quarterly Earnings on Tuesday – ETF Daily News

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Posted on mongodb google news. Visit mongodb google news

MongoDB (NASDAQ:MDBGet Rating) will be issuing its quarterly earnings data after the market closes on Tuesday, December 6th. Analysts expect the company to announce earnings of ($0.17) per share for the quarter. Parties interested in registering for the company’s conference call can do so using this link.

MongoDB (NASDAQ:MDBGet Rating) last posted its quarterly earnings data on Wednesday, August 31st. The company reported ($1.69) earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, missing the consensus estimate of ($1.52) by ($0.17). The firm had revenue of $303.66 million during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $282.31 million. MongoDB had a negative net margin of 33.43% and a negative return on equity of 52.05%. MongoDB’s quarterly revenue was up 52.8% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same quarter in the prior year, the firm posted ($1.15) EPS. On average, analysts expect MongoDB to post $-5 EPS for the current fiscal year and $-5 EPS for the next fiscal year.

MongoDB Price Performance

MDB stock opened at $143.50 on Tuesday. The company has a current ratio of 4.02, a quick ratio of 4.02 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.70. The company has a market capitalization of $9.86 billion, a PE ratio of -26.77 and a beta of 1.07. MongoDB has a 12-month low of $135.15 and a 12-month high of $570.58. The business’s fifty day moving average price is $178.01 and its 200 day moving average price is $249.39.

Insider Activity at MongoDB

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In related news, CEO Dev Ittycheria sold 16,991 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, September 9th. The stock was sold at an average price of $250.66, for a total value of $4,258,964.06. Following the completion of the sale, the chief executive officer now directly owns 199,753 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $50,070,086.98. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which can be accessed through the SEC website. In other MongoDB news, insider Thomas Bull sold 502 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, October 3rd. The stock was sold at an average price of $198.84, for a total transaction of $99,817.68. Following the completion of the sale, the insider now directly owns 16,602 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $3,301,141.68. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which can be accessed through this hyperlink. Also, CEO Dev Ittycheria sold 16,991 shares of the stock in a transaction that occurred on Friday, September 9th. The stock was sold at an average price of $250.66, for a total value of $4,258,964.06. Following the sale, the chief executive officer now directly owns 199,753 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $50,070,086.98. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders sold a total of 87,002 shares of company stock valued at $18,805,503 in the last three months. 5.70% of the stock is currently owned by company insiders.

Hedge Funds Weigh In On MongoDB

A number of large investors have recently modified their holdings of the business. Toroso Investments LLC raised its stake in shares of MongoDB by 7.2% during the 3rd quarter. Toroso Investments LLC now owns 1,481 shares of the company’s stock worth $295,000 after buying an additional 100 shares in the last quarter. B. Riley Wealth Advisors Inc. purchased a new position in MongoDB in the 3rd quarter valued at approximately $246,000. Neuberger Berman Group LLC increased its stake in MongoDB by 56.0% in the 3rd quarter. Neuberger Berman Group LLC now owns 212,644 shares of the company’s stock valued at $42,122,000 after purchasing an additional 76,354 shares in the last quarter. State Street Corp increased its stake in MongoDB by 1.8% in the 3rd quarter. State Street Corp now owns 1,349,260 shares of the company’s stock valued at $267,909,000 after purchasing an additional 23,846 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio increased its stake in MongoDB by 4.5% in the 3rd quarter. Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio now owns 33,280 shares of the company’s stock valued at $6,608,000 after purchasing an additional 1,431 shares in the last quarter. 89.85% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

Wall Street Analyst Weigh In

MDB has been the topic of several research analyst reports. Mizuho cut their price objective on MongoDB from $300.00 to $190.00 and set a “neutral” rating on the stock in a report on Tuesday, November 15th. KeyCorp initiated coverage on MongoDB in a report on Monday, November 21st. They set an “overweight” rating and a $215.00 price target on the stock. Canaccord Genuity Group upped their price target on MongoDB from $300.00 to $360.00 and gave the stock a “buy” rating in a report on Thursday, September 1st. The Goldman Sachs Group cut their price target on MongoDB to $430.00 in a report on Tuesday, September 6th. Finally, Canaccord Genuity Group upped their price target on MongoDB from $300.00 to $360.00 and gave the stock a “buy” rating in a report on Thursday, September 1st. Three analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and eighteen have given a buy rating to the company. According to data from MarketBeat.com, MongoDB currently has a consensus rating of “Moderate Buy” and an average target price of $345.90.

About MongoDB

(Get Rating)

MongoDB, Inc provides general purpose database platform worldwide. The company offers MongoDB Enterprise Advanced, a commercial database server for enterprise customers to run in the cloud, on-premise, or in a hybrid environment; MongoDB Atlas, a hosted multi-cloud database-as-a-service solution; and Community Server, a free-to-download version of its database, which includes the functionality that developers need to get started with MongoDB.

See Also

Earnings History for MongoDB (NASDAQ:MDB)

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MongoDB (MDB) Set to Announce Quarterly Earnings on Tuesday – The AM Reporter

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Posted on mongodb google news. Visit mongodb google news

MongoDB (NASDAQ:MDBGet Rating) is scheduled to be announcing its earnings results after the market closes on Tuesday, December 6th. Analysts expect the company to announce earnings of ($0.17) per share for the quarter. Parties that wish to listen to the company’s conference call can do so using this link.

MongoDB (NASDAQ:MDBGet Rating) last posted its earnings results on Wednesday, August 31st. The company reported ($1.69) EPS for the quarter, missing analysts’ consensus estimates of ($1.52) by ($0.17). The firm had revenue of $303.66 million for the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $282.31 million. MongoDB had a negative net margin of 33.43% and a negative return on equity of 52.05%. The firm’s revenue was up 52.8% compared to the same quarter last year. During the same quarter in the prior year, the company posted ($1.15) earnings per share. On average, analysts expect MongoDB to post $-5 EPS for the current fiscal year and $-5 EPS for the next fiscal year.

MongoDB Stock Down 2.9 %

NASDAQ MDB opened at $143.50 on Tuesday. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.70, a quick ratio of 4.02 and a current ratio of 4.02. The company has a market capitalization of $9.86 billion, a P/E ratio of -26.77 and a beta of 1.07. MongoDB has a one year low of $135.15 and a one year high of $570.58. The stock has a 50 day moving average price of $178.01 and a 200-day moving average price of $249.39.

Insider Transactions at MongoDB

In related news, Director Dwight A. Merriman sold 14,095 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Monday, October 3rd. The stock was sold at an average price of $199.13, for a total transaction of $2,806,737.35. Following the sale, the director now owns 1,322,954 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $263,439,830.02. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. In related news, insider Thomas Bull sold 502 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Monday, October 3rd. The stock was sold at an average price of $198.84, for a total transaction of $99,817.68. Following the sale, the insider now owns 16,602 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $3,301,141.68. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. Also, Director Dwight A. Merriman sold 14,095 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Monday, October 3rd. The shares were sold at an average price of $199.13, for a total value of $2,806,737.35. Following the sale, the director now directly owns 1,322,954 shares in the company, valued at approximately $263,439,830.02. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. In the last 90 days, insiders have sold 87,002 shares of company stock valued at $18,805,503. 5.70% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

Institutional Investors Weigh In On MongoDB

Institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the stock. Shay Capital LLC acquired a new stake in MongoDB in the first quarter worth about $200,000. Meiji Yasuda Asset Management Co Ltd. boosted its holdings in MongoDB by 32.0% in the second quarter. Meiji Yasuda Asset Management Co Ltd. now owns 834 shares of the company’s stock worth $216,000 after acquiring an additional 202 shares in the last quarter. Cetera Advisor Networks LLC boosted its holdings in MongoDB by 7.4% in the second quarter. Cetera Advisor Networks LLC now owns 860 shares of the company’s stock worth $223,000 after acquiring an additional 59 shares in the last quarter. Penserra Capital Management LLC boosted its holdings in MongoDB by 23.3% in the first quarter. Penserra Capital Management LLC now owns 546 shares of the company’s stock worth $241,000 after acquiring an additional 103 shares in the last quarter. Finally, B. Riley Wealth Advisors Inc. purchased a new position in shares of MongoDB in the third quarter worth about $246,000. Institutional investors own 89.85% of the company’s stock.

Wall Street Analyst Weigh In

MDB has been the subject of a number of research reports. Piper Sandler lowered their target price on MongoDB from $350.00 to $270.00 and set an “overweight” rating for the company in a research report on Thursday, October 20th. Mizuho decreased their price target on MongoDB from $300.00 to $190.00 and set a “neutral” rating on the stock in a report on Tuesday, November 15th. KeyCorp assumed coverage on MongoDB in a report on Monday, November 21st. They set an “overweight” rating and a $215.00 price target on the stock. Needham & Company LLC decreased their price target on MongoDB from $350.00 to $330.00 and set a “buy” rating on the stock in a report on Thursday, September 1st. Finally, Credit Suisse Group decreased their price target on MongoDB from $500.00 to $400.00 and set an “outperform” rating on the stock in a report on Thursday, September 1st. Three research analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and eighteen have issued a buy rating to the company. Based on data from MarketBeat, the company has an average rating of “Moderate Buy” and a consensus price target of $345.90.

About MongoDB

(Get Rating)

MongoDB, Inc provides general purpose database platform worldwide. The company offers MongoDB Enterprise Advanced, a commercial database server for enterprise customers to run in the cloud, on-premise, or in a hybrid environment; MongoDB Atlas, a hosted multi-cloud database-as-a-service solution; and Community Server, a free-to-download version of its database, which includes the functionality that developers need to get started with MongoDB.

See Also

Earnings History for MongoDB (NASDAQ:MDB)



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MongoDB’s Dev Ittycheria on how the cloud is expanding developers’ influence

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Posted on mongodb google news. Visit mongodb google news

The cloud is evolving with more horsepower, higher-level services and industry-specific capabilities. It’s an evolution that’s been termed the “supercloud” and it’s one that the database firm MongoDB Inc. has eagerly taken advantage of to boost its standing with its hardcore developer following.

Speaking to theCUBE industry analyst and host John Furrier during an exclusive interview on theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s video studio, ahead of AWS re:Invent, MongoDB Chief Executive Dev Ittycheria said developers are choosing to build on MongoDB because it’s the fastest way for them to innovate.

“We have a bunch of companies building machine learning applications on top of MongoDB, such as Rent the Runway, Bosch and Mount Sinai Health System,” Ittycheria said. “The reason they’re doing that is they get the benefits of being able to build and work with data faster than any other platform, and it’s highly scalable and performant in a way that no other platform offers. They can run their workloads both locally in one availability zone or they could be anywhere in the world, over 100 different regions across multiple clouds.”

Developer speed is a proxy for innovation

The supercloud is transforming the role of developers. With its the ease of use, the self-service functionality and other developer-friendly tools, they’re becoming more productive and more integral to the digital transformation of businesses today.

Ittycheria said this is happening because developer productivity is really just a proxy for innovation. The faster developers can move, the faster they can push out new code, he said. And it’s code that powers digital transformation. “The faster they can iterate and build new solutions, or add more capabilities on existing applications, the faster you can innovate to seize new opportunities or respond to new threats in your business,” he said.

As a result, developers are no longer just some “side hustle” whom C-suite executives think about once in a while. Rather, they’re becoming core to the business.

“Developers have amassed an enormous amount of power and influence,” Ittycheria said. “Their engineering teams are front and center in terms of how they think about building capabilities and building their business. “Every company is becoming a software company, because it all starts with software. Software enables, defines or creates almost every company’s value proposition.”

MongoDB as supercloud

Although Ittycheria said AWS has clearly been customer-obsessed and innovative in providing what some have described as a distinct tool for each job, he think most customers now want a simpler approach. “What we have found from talking to our customers is that in some ways, the onus is on the customer to figure out which building block to use to be able to stitch together the applications and solutions they want to build,” he said. “What we have done is taken an opinionated point of view and said, ‘We will enable you to do that using one data platform.’”

AWS today offers about a dozen different types of databases, Ittycheria noted. “Based on our conversations with customers, we don’t think that having a tool for every job makes sense because over time, the tax and cost of learning, managing and supporting those different tools doesn’t make a lot of sense or just becomes cost-prohibitive,” he said.

Instead, he thinks “one data platform, one elegant user experience, one way to address the broadest set of use cases is a better way. But clearly customers have a choice. They can use AWS’ primitives, and the second layer of services as you described, or they can use us. Fortunately, we’ve seen a lot of customers come to us with our approach.”

Speed vs. cost

Ittycheria also thinks the world of cloud computing is moving from a focus on speed to a focus on cost optimization. “People still value speed, but they want to do it at some sort of predictable cost model,” he explained. “That’s where we think having one platform, by definition, enables vendor consolidation in way for people to cut costs so that they can still move fast, but they don’t have to incur the tax of using a whole bunch of different point tools. So we’re well positioned.

Here’s the complete interview:

Photo: MongoDB

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Akka 22.10 Introduces Projections over gRPC

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MMS Johan Janssen

Article originally posted on InfoQ. Visit InfoQ

Lightbend has released Akka 22.10, the first release using the recently implemented Business License (BSL) 1.1 license model. New features include support for Java 17, Scala 3.1 and the new Projections over gRPC module.

The Akka distribution contains the modules Akka (core) 2.7.0, Akka HTTP 10.4.0, Akka gROC 2.2.0, Akka Management 1.2.0, Alpakka Kafka 4.0.0, Alpakka 5.0.0, Akka Persistence R2DBC 1.0.0, Akka Persistence JDBC 5.2.0, Akka Persistence Cassandra 1.1.0 and Akka Projections 1.3.0 combined in one umbrella release. This release uses Ubuntu style versioning while previous versions, such as Akka 2.6.20, used semantic versioning. The current version,22.10, was released in October 2022. All modules from this release are binary compatible with the previous, Apache 2 licensed, release.

Akka now includes the new Projections over gRPC module, which allows publish-subscribe communication by using gRPC instead of a message queue or broker. gRPC uses an event journal on the producer side and Akka Projections event processing together with offset tracking on the consumer side. At least once, or exactly once, delivery is supported depending on the type of Projection handler.

Java 17 is now officially supported together with Java 8 and 11. Scala 3.1 is now supported for Akka core together with Scala 2.12 and 2.13. The Akka Persistence R2DBC plugin now supports PostgreSQL and the open source cloud native Yugabyte database.

Dependencies, especially the ones with security vulnerabilities, have been updated to newer versions. Also, Lightbend, the company behind Akka, is now SOC 2 compliant and work is in progress on becoming certified by an external auditor. For the SOC 2 certification, an auditor assesses whether the vendor complies with the five trust principles: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy.

Work continues on Akka Edge, for which Projections over gRPC is seen as the first step. Kalix, Lightbend’s Platform as a Service, which enables developers to build distributed systems without worrying about the underlying architecture, already uses Projections over gRPC for its service to service communication. Replicated Event Sourcing for reliable multi cluster and multi region event sourcing is planned for the next Akka release.

More details may be found in the release notes.

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Gen Z needs real-time data applications everywhere – Daily Pioneer

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Organisations need a way to empower their developers, so they need a layer of application programming interfaces of APIs

It’s been well-established that Gen Z, those between the ages of 18 and 24, are “digital natives”. Their lives are driven by tech and they have a low tolerance for user experiences that don’t live up to their expectations of performance and speed.

But real-time isn’t just being demanded by a demographic slice of India’s population. It’s a necessity across the board. Winning organisations take data, process it, and use it to deliver an instantaneous experience to the customer – whether that customer is an internal logistics manager, warehouse worker, or a 20-something posting on social media.

Think about an organisation where, at each moment, a recommendation engine is talking to every part of the business—sharing immediate data on live sales and inventory, the purchasing pipeline, and the context that impacts the business.

Organisations that rely on processing data in batches and depend on analysts to review dashboards cannot deliver data-driven actions when it matters most—and they will be left behind. Let’s take a look at what real-time data can do and how to activate it in every app, for all kinds of customers.

Consumers love apps that meet them at the speed of life. Take Starbucks as an example. The Seattle-based coffee company’s app, with 31 million users, is the second most popular point-of-sale app, behind Apple Pay.

When a customer orders a drink via the Starbucks app, they expect it to be ready within minutes. They also expect real-time updates throughout the ordering process. And when a customer comes into a store, they get real-time recommendations, based on ordering preferences, past purchases, and even the season. Behind the scenes, Starbucks needs to ensure it has all the right ingredients, someone there to make the drink, an estimate of when the order will be ready for pickup, and the technology to communicate when the order is ready.

BlackBuck has developed a digital freight and fleet management platform that simplifies the process of booking freight loads, providing shippers of all sizes instantaneous access to the right truck, at the right time, for the right price.

Starbucks, Blackbuck, and so many other enterprises can’t deliver these experiences—or reap the rewards they offer—without the right technology.

The term “real-time” has been around for years. “Reactive apps” were promoted as the next big thing in the early 2000s. But the technology wasn’t there yet.

Today we have the right technology stack to enable every app to meet every customer with a real-time action. It’s not magic anymore. So, how can organizations go about building the right foundation to do this?

First of all, it’s critical to have a database that’s optimized for customer context and instant access to data. It’s how you take advantage of your real-time data “at rest.” NoSQL databases are optimized for modern data applications that require large data volume, low latency, and flexible data models (“NoSQL” stands for “not only SQL,” which means these databases can store and retrieve data using a variety of languages).

Invented by Facebook in 2007, Apache Cassandra is an obvious choice, with its high throughput and ability to support apps that are globally distributed and always on.

Secondly, customer behaviours and actions need to become visible and available to all applications across an organization. This is where streaming technology comes in. A best-of-breed streaming system should not only pass events along from one service to another, but store them in a way that keeps their value for future usage. The system also needs to scale to manage tons of data and millions of messages per second.

Apache Pulsar is an advanced, open-source streaming and messaging technology that’s ideal for handling real-time data. It was built for the high throughput and scalability that many data-driven applications require.

And, finally, organisations need a way to empower their developers to make the most of real-time data. They need a layer of APIs (application programming interfaces) that lets them build apps with freedom of choice and without operational distractions. Stargate, for example, is an open source data API layer that sits between applications and the database, and offers a variety of endpoints for developers to build with.

We’ve thought a lot about these components at DataStax as we’ve built the real-time open data stack that just works. When enterprises can activate data in real-time, applications keep improving, more value is delivered, faster, and amazing experiences are delivered to customers—whether they are workers getting up-to-the-minute inventory information, or Gen Zers posting a new dance video on Josh.

(The author is Chairman & CEO, DataStax)

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