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Here’s Why Big Tech Bets Big on Apache Cassandra – An Interview With Vinay Chella of Netflix

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Utsav Jaiswal Hacker Noon profile picture

@HackerhodlUtsav Jaiswal

VP of BD and Blockchain Editor @ Hacker Noon

Q1 – Tell us something about your background(s).

I am a distributed database engineer by heart and have been in the database space for over a decade, focusing on building highly reliable distributed systems and databases.

I started my journey with Apache Cassandra back in 2012 with version 0.7 with its thrift-based Hector client and I got to spend quite a reasonable amount of time with Nate McCall. 

I have come to Apache Cassandra and distributed databases ecosystem from relational databases world, so it is a pretty different mindset and experience building a different kind of monolith and microservices at webscale.  

I joined Netflix in 2014 to help build the company’s open-source Apache Cassandra ‘muscle’ and provide expertise in microservices with scalable persistence layers. Today, the company uses Apache Cassandra heavily to satisfy its ever-growing persistence needs.

Q2 – Imagine if you accidentally walked into a FinTech meet and had to explain Apache Cassandra to someone there. How would you do that?

I would say Apache Cassandra is high-frequency trading (HFT) ready in terms of availability, scale, and performance. You never have to think about planned downtimes for upgrades, rollouts, and unplanned outages; you just have to plan your consistency needs appropriately.

Q3 – Apache Cassandra is ‘Highly Available, Eventually Consistent database.’ What do you mean by that in terms regular joes can understand?

Well, to put it simply, your database is there when you need it most and answers the questions with the same accuracy every time. Cassandra has no single point of failure as it automatically replicates to multiple nodes across data centers, making it highly available.

The trade-off is some latencies in read to write performance, which means data is eventually consistent. However, you can tweak it to operate as tunable consistent for specific reads and writes. 

Q4 – Why do you think that ‘Zero Copy’ streaming was not an option in the earlier days?

Yes, Zero Copy streaming for faster scaling operations is a great feature. When I heard about streaming in Apache Cassandra 4.0, the first thing that came to my mind was,

“Why did we not do it in the first place?”

This feature certainly makes C* operations much easier and tractible for large-scale deployments. The ability for nodes to stream data between each other in their clusters via SSTables makes it a comfortable fit for Kubernetes and cloud environments.

Q5 – Who’s got the most intricately designed technology stack in the world, in your opinion?

Every company has a unique challenge to solve, and I find the core systems that solve these tough and unique problems always have an interesting way of approaching them. I can’t speak to the approach by other companies, but at Netflix, we question our architectural assumptions and dependencies constantly.

Most recently, we’ve discussed our approach to distributed tracing infrastructure, and you can read about that here.

Questioning our assumptions ensures that we are always on top of our technology stack’s performance, efficiency, and scalability. One of the recent outcomes of such questioning was to raise the level of abstractions for our developers (and you can read about the Bulldozer self-serve data platform on the Netflix TechBlog).

We have decades of experience operating high-performance and scalable datastores, such as Apache Cassandra.

This knowledge has enabled us to build higher-level abstractions on top of data store compositions, which has resulted in increased developer velocity and optimized data store access patterns.

Q6 – At Hacker Noon, we’re flooded with story submissions that claim to have the ability to build Netflix/VoD clones. Don your most cynical hat and tell us what you think?

Sorry, but I’m not a cynical kind of person; I see it as a positive sign that there is a huge interest in the community to solve this problem. It is encouraging for me to see this kind of response.

There are several famous people who’ve said it in slightly different ways, but without competition, where you have a monopoly, you can become complacent and settle for mediocrity and have little incentive to progress.

Q7 – In closing, what would you like to tell the Hacker Noon readers, some of whom are currently using Apache tools?

The Cassandra community is hosting a global party on Wednesday, April 28 to celebrate the upcoming 4.0 release milestone. It’s a one-day virtual event with three sessions that are one hour each so you can attend in your time zone.

You can register for the event here.

If you use or contribute to Cassandra, you can submit a lightning talk here: https://sessionize.com/cassandra.

We look forward to meeting current and new users around the globe.

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Source: https://hackernoon.com/heres-why-big-tech-bets-big-on-apache-cassandra-an-interview-with-vinay-chella-of-netflix-n2l34lt?source=rss

Bioengineer

NTU study of ancient corals in Indonesia reveals slowest earthquake ever recorded

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A ‘slow-motion’ earthquake lasting 32 years – the slowest ever recorded – eventually led to the catastrophic 1861 Sumatra earthquake, researchers at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have found.

The NTU research team says their study highlights potential missing factors or mismodelling in global earthquake risk assessments today.

‘Slow motion’ earthquakes or ‘slow slip events’ refer to a type of long, drawn-out stress release phenomenon in which the Earth’s tectonic plates slide against one another without causing major ground shaking or destruction. They typically involve movements of between a few cm/year to cm/day.

The NTU team made the surprise discovery while studying historic sea-levels using ancient corals called ‘microatolls’ at Simeulue Island, located off the coast of Sumatra. Growing both sideways and upwards, the disc-shaped coral microatolls are natural recorders of changes in sea level and land elevation, through their visible growth patterns.

Using data from the microatolls and combining them with simulations of the motion of the Earth’s tectonic plates, the NTU team found that from 1829 until the Sumatra earthquake in 1861, south-eastern Simeulue Island was sinking faster than expected into the sea.

This slow slip event was a gradual process that relieved stress on the shallow part of where two tectonic plates met, said the NTU team. However, this stress was transferred to a neighbouring deeper segment, culminating in the massive 8.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in 1861 which led to enormous damage and loss of life.

The discovery marks the longest slow slip event ever recorded and will change global perspectives on the timespan and mechanisms of the phenomenon, says the NTU team. Scientists previously believed that slow slip events take place only over hours or months, but the NTU research shows that they could, in fact, go on for decades without triggering the disastrous shaking and tsunamis seen in historical records.

Lead author of the study, Rishav Mallick, a PhD student at the NTU Asian School of Environment, said, “It is interesting just how much we were able to discover from just a handful of ideally located coral sites. Thanks to the long timespans of the ancient corals, we were able to probe and find answers to secrets of the past. The method that we adopted in this paper will also be useful for future studies of other subduction zones – places that are prone to earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. Our study can therefore contribute to better risk assessments in future.”

Co-author Assistant Professor Aron Meltzner from the Earth Observatory of Singapore at NTU said, “When we first found these corals more than a decade ago, we knew from their growth patterns that something strange must have been going on while they grew. Now we finally have a viable explanation.”

The findings, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Geoscience in May, led the authors to suggest that current earthquake risk assessments may be overlooking ongoing slow slip events in the observations, and hence not properly considering the potential for slow slip events to trigger future earthquakes and tsunamis.

Possible ‘slow motion’ earthquake ongoing at Enggano Island

Located far from land below kilometres of water, the shallower part of the subduction zone is typically ‘quieter’ and does not produce as many earthquakes. Its distant location also makes it difficult for land-based scientific instruments to detect activities and for scientists to understand what is going on.

Many scientists have therefore tended to interpret the ‘quietness’ of the shallow part of the subduction zone to mean that the tectonic plates lying underneath to be sliding along steadily and harmlessly.

Though this might be correct in some cases, the NTU study found that this sliding is not as steady as assumed and can occur in slow slip events.

Elaborating on their findings, Rishav said, “Because such slow slip events are so slow, we might have been missing them as current instrumental records are generally only up to ten years long.”

He added, “If similar behaviour is observed leading up to earthquakes elsewhere, this process might eventually be recognised as an earthquake precursor.”

Tapping on their methodology in the research, the NTU team also highlighted a potential ongoing drawn-out slow slip event at Enggano Island, Indonesia, located at about 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Sumatra.

Asst Prof Meltzner said, “If our findings are correct, this would mean that the communities living nearby this Indonesian island are potentially facing higher risk of tsunami and earthquake than what was previously thought. This suggests that models of risk and mitigation strategies need updating.”

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Source: https://bioengineer.org/ntu-study-of-ancient-corals-in-indonesia-reveals-slowest-earthquake-ever-recorded/

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NEWATLAS

World’s smallest single-chip system can be injected into the body

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The continuing miniaturization of electronics is opening up some exciting possibilities when it comes to what we might place in our bodies to monitor and improve our health. Engineers at Columbia University have demonstrated an extreme version of this technology, developing the smallest single-chip system ever created, which can be implanted with a hypodermic needle to measure temperature inside the body, and possibly much more.

From ladybug-sized implants that track oxygen levels in deep body tissues to tiny “neural dust” sensors that monitor nerve signals in real time, scientists are making big steps when it comes to the functionality of tiny electronic devices. The implant developed by the Columbia Engineers breaks new ground as the world’s smallest single-chip system, which is a completely functional electronic circuit with a total volume of less than 0.1 mm3.

That makes it as small as a dust mite, and far smaller than the world’s smallest computer, a cube-shaped device measuring 0.3 mm (0.01 in) along each side. Only visible under a microscope, the tiny chip required some outside-the-box thinking to make, particularly when it comes to the way it communicates and is powered.

Where small electronics might feature radio frequency (RF) modules to transmit and receive electromagnetic radio signals, these wavelengths are too large to be used with a device this small. Ultrasound wavelengths, on the other hand, are far smaller at a given frequency, as the speed of sound is far less than the speed of light that the electromagnetic waves travel at. So, the team incorporated a piezoelectric transducer that acts as an “antenna” for wireless powering and communication via ultrasound.

This combines with an onboard low-power temperature sensor to turn the chip into a probe for real-time temperature sensing, enabling it to monitor body temperature and also fluctuations in temperature driven by the therapeutic application of ultrasound. The implant’s capabilities were demonstrated in live mice where it was used for ultrasound neurostimulation, and up to seven were implanted into the mice at a time via intramuscular injection with a syringe.

The scientists imagine these types of chips being implanted into the human body, and then wirelessly communicating information on what they measure via ultrasound. In its current form this is limited to body temperature, but other possibilities include blood pressure, glucose levels and respiratory function.

“We wanted to see how far we could push the limits on how small a functioning chip we could make,” says the study’s leader Ken Shepard. “This is a new idea of ‘chip as system’ – this is a chip that alone, with nothing else, is a complete functioning electronic system. This should be revolutionary for developing wireless, miniaturized implantable medical devices that can sense different things, be used in clinical applications, and eventually approved for human use.”

The research was published in the journal Science Advances.

Source: Columbia University via EurekAlert

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Source: https://newatlas.com/electronics/worlds-smallest-single-chip-system-injectable/

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NEWATLAS

Gut microbiome makeup used to predict long-term risk of death

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A robust proof-of-concept study has found it may be possible to predict a person’s risk of dying more than a decade in advance by analyzing their gut bacteria composition. The research points to a novel microbial signature that was associated with an increased risk of mortality across a 15-year follow-up period.

The new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, analyzed data from a large ongoing population-health survey in Finland called FINRISK. Fecal samples were analyzed from 7,211 adults, of an average age of 50. The samples were gathered in 2002 and the cohort’s health records were then tracked for the next 15 years.

“Finnish population studies are unique in their extent and scope even on a global scale,” explains Leo Lahti, corresponding author from the University of Turku. “With new data science methods, we are now able to study more closely the specific connections between microbiota and, for example, aging and incidence of common diseases.”

The research used a machine learning algorithm to detect microbial species in fecal samples that correlated with death over the long follow-up period. A strong link was identified between microbes in the Enterobacteriaceae family and increased mortality risk from gastrointestinal and respiratory causes.

Higher volumes of Enterobacteriaceae have been linked with colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease, however, it is still unclear whether the relationship is causal. One study has found inflammation can promote the overgrowth of Enterobacteriaceae, so at this point it is not known whether this particular microbial signature simply offers an early sign of disease or whether it actively contributes to the development of disease.

“Many bacterial strains that are known to be harmful were among the enterobacteria predicting mortality, and our lifestyle choices can have an impact on their amount in the gut,” says Teemu Niiranen, another author on the new research. “By studying the composition of the gut microbiota, we could improve mortality prediction, even while taking into account other relevant risk factors, such as smoking and obesity. The data used in this research make it possible for the first time to study the long-term health impact of the human gut microbiota on a population level.”

The researchers are cautious to note they are nowhere near developing a microbiome test that can predict death. They state, “extensive research is still warranted” before the microbiome can be used to predict, prevent or treat any kind of human disease.

Nevertheless, this study is the first to link microbiome composition with long-term mortality outcomes and the findings offer researchers more clues to help direct future investigations into the relationship between our general health and the trillions of microbes living inside of us.

The new study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: University of Turku

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Source: https://newatlas.com/health-wellbeing/gut-bacteria-predict-future-mortality-risk/

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Rheinmetall rolls out new-gen HX3 tactical truck line

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Rheinmetall has rolled out its latest generation of HX heavy military truck, the HX3. Boasting a thorough redesign of previous HX vehicles, it offers greater crew protection, better visibility and “future proofing” that will allow it to use crew-optional autonomous systems.

Designed as military-off-the-shelf (MOTS) products, Rheinmetall’s HX military trucks have been fairly successful since they were introduced in 2007, with about 15,000 deployed worldwide, thanks in part to the company’s emphasis on military-only applications and use of a robust chassis and EURO 6 engine.

With HX3, the goal is not only to improve on the current HX2 design, but to produce one that won’t be pushed into obsolescence by new technology. To this end, the HX3 adds an active rear axle suspension as an option for better off-road performance, an all-new electric and electronics systems, Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems, and new interfaces that will allow the vehicle to accept emerging autonomous control devices, enabling the truck to be crew-optional or carry out truck platooning and other applications.

THe HX3 with mounted artillery
THe HX3 with mounted artillery

Rheinmetall

The HX3 will be available in 4×4, 6×6, 8×8 and 10×10 configurations that can handle not only general goods, but also specialized loads, such as truck-mounted artillery, radar, and the Automated Load Handling System (ALHS), which allows a single soldier in the cabin to load and unload the vehicle. For ease of maintenance, the HX3 shares a large number of common components with other models.

Up front, the HX has a new optional armored modular cabin that is tailored to the desired level of protection. Despite this hardening, the crew will have a large windscreen and side windows for a very wide field of vision, supplemented by an optional BirdView camera system for urban driving situations. In addition, the cabin has improved ergonomics that, along with the new driver assist systems, is designed to reduce fatigue and improve safety during long, tiring drives.

For defense, the HX3 has a digital stealth mode that can deactivate various data transceiving functions to reduce the truck’s digital signature. For harder defenses, the cabin roof is reinforced to hold a station for heavy weaponry, like the short-range ADS Active Defence System, which can identify and counter incoming ballistic threats.

Source: Rheinmetall

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Source: https://newatlas.com/military/rheinmetall-hx3-tactical-army-truck-line/

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