Archive for March, 2009

Linux and the Semantic Web

Saturday, March 28th, 2009 | galway, hardware, linux, semantic web | No Comments

I’ve recently (well, back in January, but it took me a while to blog about it) started working with the DERI Data Intensive Infrastructure group (DI2). The Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) is a Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET)  established in 2003 with funding from Science Foundation Ireland. Its mission is to Make the Semantic Web Real – in essence, DERI is working on both the theoretical under-pinnings of the Semantic Web as well as developing tools and technologies which will allow end-users to utilise the Semantic Web.

The group I’m working with,  DI2,  has a number of interesting projects including Sindice which aims to be a search engine for the Semantic Web and a forthcoming project called Webstar which aims to crawl and store most of the current web as structured data. Webstar will allow web researchers to perform large scale data experiments on this store of data, allowing researchers to focus on their goals rather than spending huge resources crawling the web and maintaining large data storage infrastructures.

Sindice and Webstar both run on commodity hardware running Linux. We’re using technologies such as Apache Hadoop and Apache HBase to store these huge datasets distributed across a large number of systems. We are initially working with a cluster of about 40 computers but expect to grow to a larger number over time.

My role in DI2 is primarily the care of this Linux infrastructure – some of the problems that we need to deal with include how to quickly install (and re-install) a cluster of 40 Linux systems, how to efficiently monitor and manage these 40 systems and how to optimise the systems for performance. We’ll use a lot of the same technologies that are used in Beowulf style clusters but we’re looking more at distributed storage rather than parallel processing so there are differences. I’ll talk a little about our approach to mass-installing the cluster in my next post.

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No power? No problem!

Friday, March 13th, 2009 | business, hardware, linux | No Comments

Came across this nice story of someone living off of the grid in Scotland while still running a pretty well serviced network. I’d love to see what an equivalent Windows Server based environment would cost in terms of power.

The author makes a good point that what some people chose to view as a disadvantage of open source based systems – that you can choose many different components for an open source system and that you can configure them in a myriad of ways – is, for at least some environments, very much an advantage. I tend to agree. While I like to create homogenous, documented environments for my customers – I do tailor each of those environments to my customers’ requirements – rather than trying to change their processes and workflows to suit the software (an all too common problem which occurs when deploying entirely proprietary systems).

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