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Matters of Scale
The Power of Peer
NextGens Technologies
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Matters of Scale
July 20–21, 2010
London, England

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The Art of Scalability: Scalable Web Architecture, Processes, and Organizations for the Modern Enterprise by Martin Abbott and Michael Fisher

Long Fuse, Big Bang: Achieving Long-Term Success Through Daily Victories by Eric Haseltine

field trip
July 22, 2010

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overview agenda

Topics include:
• Quality at scale
• Failure and recovery
• Designed and evolved scalability
• Limits to scale
• Reliability and resilience
• Complex systems
• "Good enough" solutions
• Breaking points and bottlenecks
• Cloudscale

conference overview
We attempt to conquer issues of scale in surprising ways. Nonetheless, scale breaks down in all systems. The problem of getting to scale is compounded by the need to simultaneously achieve scale in multiple interconnected systems. At this conference, we’ll look at the broad context of scale and seek out suitable design methods and measures concerned with scalability and complexity. We’ll address the trade-off between designed and evolved systems, and their interplay, limitations, and failure and recovery mechanisms.

What are the components, necessary parameters, and conditions of scale? Can we cope with, measure, model, or even envision large, complex systems? How do we know we have achieved scalability?

Today, we build systems and networks on a scale that rival those of Mother Nature without the wisdom she’s honed over 3.5 billion years. We sometimes forget that issues of scale also occur in nano worlds. Saying that a system scales usually means we haven’t found its break points or pushed it hard enough. Continued growth and sustainability, combined with reliability and resilience, are at the very core of scale.

In large, deeply intermingled and intertwined systems, we can rarely predict the cascade effects of systemwide or even single-node failure. If the threat of failure is always present, can we develop escape plans, and how do we recover? In system design, we can choose between over-engineering, proportional engineering, or a solution that is “good enough.” Can we simulate enough about the behavior of a system to give us the insights we need? Should we look to biology for inspiration? Should we just let systems evolve?

Spanning the movement of people and goods through electronic networks, social networks, and physical systems will add hidden complexity. For very large networked and nonlinear systems, we will need to apply artificial intelligence and artificial life to help us understand the criticalities and implications of potential solutions. What will happen when we include AI and AL, where things negotiate and decide independently, and how will this scale? Our linear brains must be able to deal with the complex, interconnected world we are building today and understand that scale matters.

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Partial list of speakers

Dr. Carrie Grimes Bostock, Senior Staff Engineer, Search Infrastructure, Google
Dr. Dave Cliff, Director, UK Large-Scale Complex IT Systems Initiative
Mr. Brian Collins, Chief Science Advisor, Department for Transport
Mr. Cory Doctorow, Science Fiction Author and Co-Editor, Boing Boing
Dr. Raissa D'Souza, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science, University of California , Davis
Dr. Urs Duerig, Research Scienist, IBM Zurich
Dr. Michael Gunton, Executive Producer, BBC Natural History Unit
Mr. Eric Kuhne, Founding Principal, CivicArts
Dr. David Payne, Director, Optoelectronics Research Centre, University of Southampton
Dr. Jonathan Payne, Assistant Professor, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University
Mr. Gerry Pennell, Chief Information Officer, London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games
Dr. Peter Van Roy, Professor of Computing Science and Engineering, Université Catholique de Louvain
Dr. Wolfgang von Ruden, Head, CERN openlab

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