Daily Tech Digest - January 21, 2023

Is Your Innovation Project Condemned To Succeed?

The challenge in most organizations is that leaders are looking to make big bets on a few projects. These bets are typically based on asking innovation teams to create a business case before they receive investment. A business case showing good returns will receive investment with the expectation that it will succeed. The team is given no room for failure. ... This problem is exacerbated if your team has received a large investment to work on the project. Most innovation teams lose the discipline to test their ideas if they have large budgets to spend. In most cases they burn through the money while executing on their original idea. By the time they learn that the idea may not work, they have already spent millions of dollars. At this point, admitting failure is career suicide. ... Imagine being the CEO’s pet project, having a large investment and then being publicly celebrated as a lighthouse project before you have made any money for the company. This public celebration of a single innovation project puts a lot of pressure on innovation teams to succeed. 

Which cloud workloads are right for repatriation?

Look at the monthly costs and values of each platform. This is the primary reason we either stay put on the cloud or move back to the enterprise data center. Typically the workload has already been on the cloud for some time, so we have a good understanding of the costs, talent needed, and other less-quantifiable benefits of cloud, such as agility and scalability. You would think that these are relatively easy calculations to make, but it becomes complex quickly. Some benefits are often overlooked and architects make mistakes that cost the business millions. All costs and benefits of being on premises should be considered, including the cost of the humans needed to maintain the platforms (actual hardware and software), data center space (own or rent), depreciation, insurance, power, physical security, compliance, backup and recovery, water, and dozens of other items that may be specific to your enterprise. Also consider the true value of agility and scalability that will likely be lost or reduced if the workloads return to your own data center.

Network automation: What architects need to know

It's great to strive for an automation-first culture and find innovative ways to use technology as a competitive advantage, but I recommend first targeting low-risk, high-reward tasks. Try to create reusable building blocks to operate more efficiently. One example is automating the collection and parsing of operational data from the network, such as routing protocol sessions state, VPN service status, or other relevant metrics to produce actionable or consumable outputs. Gathering this information is a read-only activity, so the risk is low. The reward is high because this task is a time-consuming, repetitive process. Also, you can use this data for various purposes, such as creating reports, running audits, filling in trouble tickets, performing pre-and post-checks during maintenance windows, and so on. You don't need to wait until you get everything right to start. Improve on your automation solution iteratively. Small initial steps can make a big difference in your network. For example, for the data collection example above, you don't need the full list of key performance indicators (KPIs) on day 1; your users will let you know what you're missing over time.

Finding Adequate Metrics for Outer, Inner, and Process Quality in Software Development

Quite an obvious criteria for outer quality is the question of if the users like the product. If your product has customer support, you could simply count the number of complaints or contacts. Additionally, you can categorize these to gain more information. While this is in fact a lot of effort and far from trivial, it is a very direct measure and might yield a lot of valuable information on top. One problem here is selection bias. We are only counting those who are getting in contact, ignoring those who are not annoyed enough to bother (yet). Another similar problem is survivorship bias. We ignore those users who simply quit due to an error and never bother to get in contact. Both biases may lead us to over-focus on issues of a complaining minority, while we should rather further improve things users actually like about the product. Besides these issues, the complaint rate can also be gamed: simply make it really hard to contact customer support by hiding contact information or increase waiting time in the queue.

Platform Engineering Won’t Kill the DevOps Star

“The movement to ‘shift left’ has forced developers to have an end-to-end understanding of an ever-increasing amount of complex tools and workflows. Oftentimes, these tools are infrastructure-centric, meaning that developers have to be concerned with the platform and tooling their workloads run on,” Humanitec’s Luca Galante writes in his platform engineering trends in 2023, which demands more infrastructure abstraction. Indeed, platform engineering could be another name for cloud engineering, since so much of developers’ success relies on someone obscuring the complexity out of the cloud — and so many challenges are found in that often seven layers thick stack. Therefore you could say platform engineering takes the spirit of agile and DevOps and extends it within the context of a cloud native world. She pointed to platform engineering’s origins in Team Topologies, where “the platform is designed to enable the other teams. The key thing about it is kind of this self-service model where app teams get what they want from the platform to deliver business value,” Kennedy said.

The Concept of Knowledge Graph, Present Uses and Potential Future Applications

A knowledge graph is a database that uses a graph structure to represent and store knowledge. It is a way to express and organize data that is easy for computers to understand and reason about and which can be used to perform tasks such as answering questions or making recommendations. The graph structure consists of nodes, which represent entities or concepts, and edges, which represent relationships between the nodes. For example, a node representing the concept "Apple" might have advantages over nodes representing the concepts "Fruit," "Cupertino, California," and "Tim Cook," which represent relationships such as "is a type of," "is located in," and "has a CEO of," respectively. In a knowledge graph, the relationships between nodes are often explicitly defined and stored, which allows computers to reason about the data and make inferences based on it. This is in contrast to traditional databases, which store data in tables and do not have direct relationships between the data points.

4 tips to broaden and diversify your tech talent pool

Apprenticeships are extremely valuable for both employers and candidates. For employers, apprenticeships are a cost-effective way to groom talent, providing real-world training and a skilled employee at the end of the program. Apprenticeship programs also reduce the ever-present risk of hiring a full-time entry-level employee, who may prove to not be up to the required standard or decide for themselves that the organization or industry is not a fit. For workers, an apprenticeship is essentially a crash course providing the opportunity to earn while they learn. With the average college graduate taking on $30,000 in debt (and many taking on much more), a degree has increasingly become out of financial reach for many Americans. Apprenticeships are an excellent way for people to gain tangible work experience and applicable skills while also providing a trial run to determine whether a career in cybersecurity is right for them. For me, apprenticeship programs are a true win-win. During National Apprenticeship Week this year, we joined the Department of Labor’s event at the White House to celebrate the culmination of the 120-day Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Sprint. 

Debugging Threads and Asynchronous Code

Let’s discuss deadlocks. Here we have two threads each is waiting on a monitor held by the other thread. This is a trivial deadlock but debugging is trivial even for more complex cases. Notice the bottom two threads have a MONITOR status. This means they’re waiting on a lock and can’t continue until it’s released. Typically, you’d see this in Java as a thread is waiting on a synchronized block. You can expand these threads and see what’s going on and which monitor is held by each thread. If you’re able to reproduce a deadlock or a race in the debugger, they are both simple to fix. Stack traces are amazing in synchronous code, but what do we do when we have asynchronous callbacks? Here we have a standard async example from JetBrains that uses a list of tasks and just sends them to the executor to perform on a separate thread. Each task sleeps and prints a random number. Nothing to write home about. As far as demos go this is pretty trivial. Here’s where things get interesting. As you can see, there’s a line that separates the async stack from the current stack on the top. 

3 requirements for developing an effective cloud governance strategy

Governance is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and each organization may prefer a different approach to governance depending on its objectives. Digital transformation is no longer a novel concept. But continuous innovation is required to improve and remain competitive, making automation critical for operational efficiency. According to IDC's Worldwide Artificial Intelligence and Automation 2023 Predictions, AI-driven features are expected to be embedded across business technology categories by 2026, with 60% of organizations actively utilizing such features to drive better outcomes. Automation is critical for increasing efficiency in cloud management operations, such as billing and cost transparency, right-sizing computer resources, and monitoring cost anomalies. The use of automated tools can improve security, lower administrative overhead, decrease rework, and lower operational costs. Definable metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) can be used to assess outcomes with the right cost transparency tool. ... Automation can also aid in resolving personnel issues, which can cause migration projects to stall.

Styles of machine learning: Intro to neural networks

What makes the neural network powerful is its capacity to learn based on input. This happens by using a training data set with known results, comparing the predictions against it, then using that comparison to adjust the weights and biases in the neurons. ... A common approach is gradient descent, wherein each weight in the network is isolated via partial derivation. For example, according to a given weight, the equation is expanded via the chain rule and fine-tunings are made to each weight to move overall network loss lower. Each neuron and its weights are considered as a portion of the equation, stepping from the last neuron(s) backwards. You can think of gradient descent this way: the error function is the graph of the network's output, which we are trying to adjust so its overall shape (slope) lands as well as possible according to the data points. In doing gradient backpropagation, you stand at each neuron’s function and modify it slightly to move the whole graph a bit closer to the ideal solution. The idea here is that you consider the entire neural network and its loss function as a multivariate equation depending on the weights and biases.

Quote for the day:

"The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow." -- Seth Godin

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