Archive for March, 2010

ACM Infosys Prize 2009 goes to Professor Eric Brewer of UC Berkeley

March 29, 2010

On March 15, 2010 ACM named Professor Eric Brewer of the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at the University of Berkeley as the recipient of the ACM Infosys Foundation award for the year 2009.

Instituted in 2007 (on the eve of 25th year of Infosys) the ACM Infosys Foundation award carries a prize amount of $ 150,000 and represents the first global award instituted by an Indian Corporation. The award recognizes personal contributions of young computer scientists and systems developers (typically 40 years of age) that exemplify the greatest recent contributions in the computing field. This award is next only to Turing award, considered the “Nobel” in computing.

The award went to Professor Daphne Koller of Stanford University in the year 2007 and to Professor Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University in the year 2008.

This year’s award winner is special in more ways than one. On the one hand Professor Brewer has made cutting edge research contributions to the very foundations of computer sciene and built large-scale laboratory environments to demonstrate the impact of his research contributions; at the same time, he is equally at ease with societal contributions through his research center TIER (Technology & Infrastructure for Emerging Regions) that helps tens of thousands of patients in rural India!

Professor Brewer studied BS (Electrical Engineering) at UCB (University of California, Berkeley) and did his MS  & PhD degrees from MIT. He is reportedly one of the youngest professors to be tenured as Full Professor at UCB at the age of 32!

Professor Brewer’s contributions are towards the building of highly scalable and reliable Internet infrastructure. He built a laboratory with a network of workstations (NoW) that could beat the performance of expensive servers. Taking this idea further he went on to co-found Inktomi in 1995, an early search engine that was acquired by Yahoo in 2003. Inktomi was the first to use low-cost PCs to build a cluster and use algorithms and data structures to make the infrastructure “fault tolerant” (function even in case of individual workstation failure), an idea routinely used by major search engines including Google today. That paved the way for highly scalable and reliable Internet that we all take it for granted today.

The other seminal contribution of Professor Brewer is the CAP Theorem that showed the inherent inconsistency of trying to make systems Consistent, Available and Partition tolerant; in the process, Professor Brewer proposed BASE (Basically Available, Soft-state and Eventual consistent) as an alternative. Today’s large-scale Internet systems routinely use the idea of BASE.

Yet another key contribution of Professor Brewer is the “Wireless Hypothesis” that talks of developed economies introducing Wireless Internet (and other) infrastructure to be introduced first, instead of eternally waiting for the traditional infrastructure (road, power, drinking water) to be fully available to all citizens. To “prove” his hypothesis Professor Brewer built WiLDNet (an innovative network protocol that uses low cost widely available Wi-Fi chips to build a long-range network usable in rural areas) that is of great relevance to emerging markets. ACM President Wendy Hall summarized it well in her Press statement that accompanied the award notification “Professor Eric Brewer’s influential work on scalable web services has defined the basic architecture that is used by almost all systems and make him a visionary with a potential to advance society on numerous social and economic levels”.

Naturally many awards followed Professor Brewer over the years.

  • Professor Brewer was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering and elected as an ACM Fellow in 2007.
  • SIGOPS named him Mark Weiser Award winner in 2009
  • Global Economic Forum recognized him as “Global Leader for Tomorrow”
  • Technology Review included him in TR100 (Top 100 Most Influential People for the 21st century)
  • Industry Standard declared him as the “Most Influential Internet Architect”.
  • InfoWorld named him as the “Top Ten Innovators” way back in 2001.

On June 26, 2010 he will be formally awarded the ACM Infosys Foundation award.

Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan had the following to say in the Press statement “We are specially proud to honor Professor Eric Brewer for his contributions to computer science and his demonstration of the use of IT for the benefit of disadvantaged population in many regions, especially in developing countries”.

Professor Eric Brewer is no stranger to India. He heads the research center TIER (Technology & Infrastructure for Emerging regions) at UCB that focuses on technologies for the developing world. More than 25,000 patients in rural Tamil Nadu have benefited from tele-medicine that was provided by Aravind Hospital using WiLDNet technology, pioneered by TIER. He visited IIIT-B in the year 2007 and was in Bangalore last year to attend the marriage of his graduate student!

To get a taste of his contributions many of you, young students and professionals in the CS area should take a look at some of the widely cited papers of Professor Brewer listed below

  1. The nesC Language: a holistic approach to networked embedded systems (PLDI 2003)
  2. Cluster-based scalable network devices (SOSP 1997)
  3. SEDA – an architecture for well-conditioned scalable Internet services (SOSP 2001)
  4. Lessons from giant scale services (IEEE Internet Computing, July 2001)
  5. TinyOS (NSDI 2004) on Sensor networks
  6. Scalable distributed data structures for internet service construction (OSDI 2000)
  7. The case of technology in developing countries (Computer, July 2005)

Reading such seminal works will inspire you to do deep work.  Great researchers do not work towards rewards, but awards do motivate many youngsters like you to pursue rewarding research careers.

My very best wishes to many young students to undertake such award winning work.

(Appeared in Times of India, Education Times March 29, 2010)

Obama Health Plan becomes a reality

March 25, 2010

On March 23, 2010 President Obama signed the Heath Plan proposal into a law

On the face of it what I like most is the increased coverage from 80+ percent to 94 percent by the year 2014!

It will be interesting to watch the Law unfolding itself against stiff opposition from the powerful Insurance lobby in USA

I hope India will learn the right lessons from this development

Kanu Sanyal is no more

March 24, 2010

A key member of the Naxalite movement  (the movement derived its name from the village Naxalbari) and Founder of the political party CPI-ML committed suicide today

Naxalite movement is spreading all over india and can play spoilsport in our economic development; will the movement too die out the way the founder has? That will be a real boon to the country. It is not easy to contain such divisive elements

One prays that Naxalites wither away along with the founder

Maruti rolls out the millionth car in the FY 2009-10

March 23, 2010

Today (March 23, 2010) Maruti created  history yet another time. The millionth car produced in the financial year (Apr 2009 to March 2010) rolled out of its Manesar plant

For a country that produced 30,000 cars per year till 1983 it is remarkable that just one manufacturer makes more than a million cars a year!

Maruti had a chequered history (1971 start by Sanjay Gandhi till its liquidation in 1978), re-birth with professional management (technocrat V Krishnamurthy and bureaucrat RC Bhargava) with maiden production on December 14, 1983 and creating history with Maruti 800 that had its first version during 1983 to 1986 and the second version running from 1986 till today (24 years with 8.65 million cars on the road!)

Today Maruti contributes significantly to its parent Suzuki both in terms of top-line and bottom-line!

Just to put in perspective the major car manufacturers and their annual production is as follows


Toyota (9.2 M)

GM (8.3 M)

Volvo (6.4 M)

Ford (5.4 M)

Honda (3.9 M)

Nissan (3.4 M)

PSA (3.3 M)

Hyundai (2.7 M)

Suzuki (2.6 M)

Fiat (2.5 M)

Tata is at a distant  position with 0.8 M production!

SBI (State Bank of India) continues to grow

March 21, 2010

The Press Release of  March 21, 2010 has the following interesting aspects

  1. In the current fiscal, SBI has opened 1,000 branches and 10,000 ATM. Of the 1,000 branches, 600 were opened in rural and semi-urban areas.
  2. SBI plans to open more than 1,000 branches next yearAt present, the public sector lender has 12,448 branches and over 21,000 ATMs. By the end of March, it aims to scale up the number of ATMs to 25,000.
  3. During 2010-11, SBI plans to hire more than 27,000 people across its various divisions. The bank also plans to recruit 20,000-22,000 people at the clerical posts and 5,500 people at the probationary officer level.

What an amazing growth!

    Premji University is a reality today

    March 18, 2010

    On March 18, 2010 Karnataka Assembly approved the establishment of Azim Premji University with a single-minded focus on improving the supply side of high quality teachers and educational administrators – the corner-stone of the emerging knowledge economy of India.

    It is indeed a welcome development. The University has seen homework for nearly two years!

    It is strange that politicians oppose any move just because they are in the opposition!

    Berkeley Professor Eric Brewer is ACM Infosys Foundation 2009 Award winner

    March 15, 2010

    ACM announced  today (March 15, 2010) ACM Infosys Foundation Award (next only to Turing Award, considered the Nobel Prize in Computing) for the year 2009 and named Professor Eric Brewer as the award winner.

    Professor Brewer is best known as the Founder of Inktomi search engine (acquired by Yahoo); his academic contributions include the CAP Theorem concept, and “Wireless Hypothesis”

    What I like most about his work is that he is able to

    • work on cutting edge computer science that too of fundamental nature (CAP Theorem – Consistency, Availability and Partition tolerance incompatibility, like Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem) ,
    • build solid real-world engineering experimental infrastructure (like Network of Workstations (NoW), and,
    • contribute enormously through his societal initiatives (Wireless Hypothesis and his TIER Network that has helped thousands of patients to benefit through Tele-medicine from experts in Aravind Eye Hospital in India)

    He visited IIIT-B in the year 2008 on an invitation from Professor Balaji Parthasarathy

    Infosys has done India proud through the endowment of this Award that identifies outstanding young (around 40 years of age) computer scientists;

    Professor Daphne Koller of Stanford for the year 2007,

    Professor Jon Kleinberg of Cornell for the year 2008,  and,

    Professor Eric Brewer of UC Berkeley for the year 2009

    This was part of the contribution of Infosys towards a larger cause in the Silver Jubilee Year (25th year of Infosys. that was founded in 1982)

    This is what Kris said as part of the Press Release

    “S. Gopalakrishnan (Kris), CEO and Managing Director, Infosys Technologies said, “We are especially proud to honor Eric Brewer for contributions to computer science research and his demonstration of the use of IT for the benefit of disadvantaged populations in many regions, especially in developing nations.”

    IIMA Professor on IIM pay packages

    March 12, 2010

    For a while the Indian media have been projecting a “much more than rosy” picture of the “fat” salary that IIM graduates reportedly get

    Figures of “Crores of Rupees” routinely get mentioned.

    This has led to “heart burns” for students and the general public who actually get salaries that are far below.

    The mushrooming B Schools in the country use such news item to “lure” potential candidates

    Unfortunately, so far most Institutes were not “bold enough” to tell the world that what gets reported is NOT truth, though the item portrays the Institutes in a formidably positive way.

    In this backdrop I am so happy that Professor Saral Mukherjee, Placement Head, IIM-A decided to write a very balanced article “Truth about astronomical IIM salary packages” in Economic Times on March 12, 2010.

    The learned professor’s words “”It is a signal to the world that IIM-A students are mature enough to disassociate themselves from a very flattering portrayal if the portrayal is not true” should make IIM-A proud

    I wish EVERY member of B School Management, faculty and students read this article

    Apple iPad is reported to have sold nearly 90,000 units on Day 1

    March 12, 2010

    Apple opened bookings for Apple iPad – Wi-Fi versions for $ 499 to 699 (16 GB to 64 GB) and Wi-Fi + 3 G version for $ 629 to 829 (16 GB to 64 GB) on March 12, 2010

    On Day 1 it is reported (Apple is yet to confirm) that 90,000 units  bookings (worth more than $ 50 million worth) happened on Day 1

    If true, Apple iPad will be the third “roaring success” for Apple (iPod in 2001, iPhone in 2007 and now iPad in 2010)

    Forbes list of Billionaires

    March 11, 2010

    Forbes list of Billionaires was out on March 10, 2010

    What is interesting this time?

    Bill Gates moves to No 2 making way for Carlos Slim of Mexico (Telecom tycoon)

    Larry Ellison of Oracle (6th), Google founders Sergey Brin & Larry Page (24th), Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (43rd). Apple founder Steve Jobs (136th) and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (212th) are the IT guys who make it to the list

    Two Indians make it to the “Top 10” – Mukesh Ambani (4th) and Lakshmi Mittal (5th)

    Asia, South America and Eastern Europe are slowly entering this list dominated by USA and Western Europe!

    USA (22), Swede (3), Germany (3), France (2), Spain (1), Canada (1), Italy (1), Hong Kong (2) and Saudi (1) represent the “old rich“; India (6), Russia (4), Brazil (2), Malaysia (1) and Mexico (1) represent the “Neo Rich” among the “Top 50

    In the “Top 5″ India has 2!

    Mukesh Ambani (4th), Lakshmi Mittal (5th), Premji (28th), Anil Ambani (36th), Ruias (40th) and Jindal (44th) are the Indians in “Top 50”

    Interesting times indeed!