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Big Data and the Networking industry. Interview with Oskar Mencer

by Roberto V. Zicari on July 23, 2015

“Cybersecurity is growing in importance with Obama, Xi and Cameron having announced major efforts to gain better control over the Internet. Dataflow computing enables computation as a bump-in-the-wire without disturbing the flow of packets. Building gateways out of DFEs will significantly support the Cybersecurity agenda for years to come.”–Oskar Mencer

I have interviewed Oskar Mencer, CEO and Founder at Maxeler Technologies. Main topic of the interview is Big Data and the Networking industry, and what Maxeler Technologies is contributing in this market.


Q1. What are data flow computers and Dataflow Engines (DFEs)? What are they typically useful for?

Oskar Mencer: Dataflow computers are highly efficient systems for computational problems with large amounts of structured and unstructured data and significant mission critical computation. DFEs are units within dataflow computers which currently hold up to 96GB of memory and provide in the order of 10K parallel operations. To put that into perspective, for some tasks, a DFE has the equivalent compute capability of a farm of several normal computers, but at the fraction of the price and energy consumption.

Q2. What is data flow analytics? and why is it important?

Oskar Mencer: Dataflow analytics is a software stack on top of Dataflow computers, providing powerful compute constructs on large datasets. Dataflow analytics is a potential answer to the challenges of Big Data and the Internet of Things.

Q3. What is a programmable data plane and how can one create secure storage with it?

Oskar Mencer: Software Defined Networking is all about the programmable control plane. Maxeler’s programmable data plane is the next step in the transformation of the Networking industry.

Q4. What are the main challenges for financial institutions who need to analyze and process massive quantities of information instantly from various sources in order to make better trading decisions?

Oskar Mencer: Today’s financial institutions have a major challenge from new legislation and requirements imposed by governments. Technology can solve some of the issues, but not all of them. On the trading side, whoever manages to process more data and derive more predictive capability from it, has a better position in the marketplace. Trading is becoming more complex and more regulated, and Maxeler’s Technology, in particular as it applies to exchanges, is starting to make a significant difference in the field, helping to push the state-of-the-art while simultaneously making finance safer.

Q5. Juniper Networks announced QFX5100-AA, a new application acceleration switch, and QFX-PFA, a new packet flow accelerator module. How do they plan to use Maxeler Technologies’ dataflow computing?

Oskar Mencer: The Application Acceleration module is based on Maxeler DFEs and programmble with Maxeler dataflow programming tools and infrastructure. The variety of networking applications this enables is tremendous, as is evident from our App gallery, which includes Apps for the Juniper switch .

Q6. What are the advantages of using a Spark/Hadoop appliance using a Juniper switch with programmable data plane?

Oskar Mencer: With a Juniper switch with a programmable dataplane, one could cache answers, compute in the network, optimize and merge maps, and generally make Spark/Hadoop deployment more scalable and more efficient.

Q7. Do you see a convergence of computer, networking and storage via Dataflow Engines (DFEs)?

Oskar Mencer: Indeed, DFEs provide efficiency at the core of networking, storage as well as compute. Dataflow computing has the potential to unify computation, the movement of data and the storage of data into a single system to solve the largest Big data analytics challenges that lie ahead.

Q8. Maxeler has been mentioned in a list of major HPC applications that had an impact on Quality of Life and Prosperity. Could you please explain what is special about this HPC application?

Oskar Mencer: Maxeler solutions provide competitive advantage and help in situations with mission critical challanges. In 2011 just after the hight of the credit crisis, Maxeler won the American Finance Technology Award with JP Morgan for applying dataflow computing to credit derivatives risk computations. Dataflow computing is a good solution for challenges where computing matters.

Q9. Big Data for the Common Good. What is your take on this?

Oskar Mencer: Big Data is a means to an end. Common good arises from bringing more predictability and stability into our lives. For example, many marriages have been saved by the availability of Satnav technology in cars, clearly a Big Data challenge. Medicine is an obvious Big Data challenge. Curing a patient is as much a Big Data challenge as fighting crime, and government in general. I see Maxeler’s dataflow computing technology as a key opportunity to address the Big Data challenges of today and tomorrow.

Qx Anything else you wish to add?

Oskar Mencer: Cybersecurity is growing in importance with Obama, Xi and Cameron having announced major efforts to gain better control over the Internet. Dataflow computing enables computation as a bump-in-the-wire without disturbing the flow of packets. Building gateways out of DFEs will significantly support the Cybersecurity agenda for years to come.

Oskar Mencer is CEO and Founder at Maxeler Technologies.
Prior to founding Maxeler, Oskar was Member of Technical Staff at the Computing Sciences Center at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, leading the effort in “Stream Computing”. He joined Bell Labs after receiving a PhD from Stanford University. Besides driving Maximum Performance Computing (MPC) at Maxeler, Oskar was Consulting Professor in Geophysics at Stanford University and he is also affiliated with the Computing Department at Imperial College London, having received two Best Paper Awards, an Imperial College Research Excellence Award in 2007 and a Special Award from Com.sult in 2012 for “revolutionising the world of computers”.



Programming MPC Systems. White Paper — Maxeler Technologies,

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