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Mitchell Hashimoto takes on a new individual contributor role at HashiCorp

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Today, I have some exciting news that I wanted to share with the broader HashiCorp community: I am transitioning into a new role as a full-time individual contributor and off of the HashiCorp executive team.

I founded HashiCorp in 2012 and served as CEO until 2016, and then became one of our CTOs until today. After nearly 10 years of learning and growing as an executive, I'm ready and excited to step back into a full-time engineering position and look forward to making a meaningful impact with this new role. This change has been years in planning and is now possible thanks to HashiCorp’s maturity and the excellent leadership team we now have in place.

I feel the best way to explain more details about this change is to simply share the email I wrote to our employees, so I’ve included that below. I look forward to continuing to talk with you all as part of our community as I pursue my new role.

Here’s my email to our employees:

Hi everyone,

Beginning today, I'll be transitioning into a new role here at HashiCorp as an individual contributor focused on engineering. This is something I'm very excited about and that the executive team and I have planned for a long time. I'd like to take the opportunity in this email to fill in the background about this change and describe what this means for me and the company going forward.

Ever since founding HashiCorp, I've felt it's important to build a company where I'm not required for day-to-day operations and where other leaders can step in at the right phase. I believe this is necessary for a company to be resilient and long-lasting. This mindset could be seen as early as 2016 when Armon [Dadgar] and I proactively sought out a CEO to succeed us and lead the company forward. In our search we found Dave [McJannet] and he was, and continues to be, the right leader for the next phases of the company. At that time, I stepped into a new role as CTO, one that has been better suited to me for the last few years.

There are also personal elements to this decision. I founded HashiCorp as an engineer passionate about infrastructure tooling. But as a founder, my role at times has had to expand well beyond and away from that. That's the price of being a founder: you do whatever is necessary of you, even if there are parts of the role that don’t particularly motivate you. And over the course of nearly a decade building HashiCorp into a multi-billion dollar company, I've continuously reaffirmed that I'm still an engineer at heart and I'm ready to more officially get back to focusing on that.

HashiCorp is once again at a place where I feel the company and I are ready for me to step into a new role. The HashiCorp leadership team is strong and I trust them completely. The business is healthy and I have complete optimism about the future.

In my new role, I will be an individual contributor either on specific product teams or exploring other ideas within HashiCorp. I will continue to participate with leadership in certain big-picture planning such as major product plans, messaging for HashiConf keynotes, and other strategic decisions. I'll continue to be a full-time HashiCorp employee. However, as I step into this role, I will officially no longer be a member of the executive team and will therefore no longer have access to executive meetings, plans, or decisions.

Coinciding with my role change, I am also stepping down from the HashiCorp board. While we've decided to match the timing, I'd like to stress that this was a decision we made years ago and is not related at all to my changing role. As a startup matures into a later stage, it is expected for the board to have more independent members and it is typical for only one founder to be on a late-stage board alongside the CEO. I fully trust Armon and Dave to represent the employees, myself included.

While I will no longer be on the executive team or board, I will remain a passionate and active HashiCorp employee and engineering leader. I'm very excited to be able to dedicate more of my time towards product and engineering challenges and to spend more of my day-to-day time working directly alongside members in those organizations. My experience, voice, and expertise remain fully available to everyone in the company.

I'm incredibly proud that as an executive, I helped HashiCorp grow from nothing to nearly 1,500 employees with a valuation of over $5 billion. Looking forward, the company has a huge opportunity, and I'm excited to continue working with you all to build and grow the company and make an impact in my new role.

Best,
Mitchell


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Creative Differences: 1940

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November 1940. "Boys in the schoolhouse in Ledyard, Connecticut, working on the school newspaper." Title of their typescript: "A Happy Christmas for Tom." Medium format acetate negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.
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Spoiler: Tom died of consumption
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Dune trailer

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Following a teaser earlier this year and last night's IMAX sneak previews (attendees seem happy with the first 10 minutes), Denis Villeneuve's Dune got its second trailer today.

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Kubernetes is our generation's Multics

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blog | oilshell.org

Summer Blog Backlog: Distributed Systems

Yesterday's post enumerated #blog-topics related to understanding and using shell. Today's post started out as a "grab bag" of other topics, but is now centered around problems with #distributed-systems.

What's the connection between shell and distributed systems?

Abstractly, a shell script invokes Unix processes, and distributed systems are (almost invariably) collections of processes.

Concretely, when you use cloud platforms like AWS or Heroku, you're using command line tools in the shell to build, test, configure, and deploy applications.

I hope Oil can be the foundation for better systems, but there's still a big gap to bridge. This post is focused on criticism of the status quo, since we have to identify problems in order to solve them.

Kubernetes is Our Generation's Multics

Let's start this post off with a bold claim: Kubernetes is Multics!

That is, it's a serious, respectable, but overly complex system that will eventually replaced by something simpler: the Unix of distributed operating systems.

(It's arguable whether Kubernetes deserves to be called a distributed OS, but let's leave that aside for now.)

This is the same claim, phrased differently:

In the future, we'll use a distributed OS designed with regard to the Perlis-Thompson Principle.

Essentially, this means that it will have fewer concepts and be more compositional.

Ken Thompson vs. Kubernetes

Here's some more color on the claim. Recall that the definition of the Perlis-Thompson Principle is derived from this part of the first paper on Unix shell:

A program is generally exponentially complicated by the number of notions that it invents for itself ... [It] is my belief that you should base systems on a single notion.

I'd say that "Kubernetes is exponentially complicated by notions it invents for itself".

I worked with Google's Borg cluster manager for many years, and Kubernetes is directly inspired by Borg. I may write about those experiences, but let me first invoke the images, tweets, and experience of others.

Images and Feelings

Here's some visual evidence and "feelings" around this problem of excessive complexity in the clodu.

The "Cloud Native" Computing Foundation maintains this diagram of the ecosystem around Kubernetes:

Here are reactions I found, on Twitter:

this is the only diagram i have ever seen that is more complex than the cloud native computing foundation landscape. https://t.co/G6CcTcRCi3

— Nerd Immunity (@monkchips) January 10, 2020

and Hacker News:

Comment by hliyan on

Will Kubernetes Collapse Under the Weight of Its Complexity? (influxdata.com via Hacker News)
205 points, 209 comments - on May 28, 2018

This whole image, to me, represents a big problem with software engineering today: https://twitter.com/dankohn1/status/989956137603747840

The industry is full of engineers who are experts in weirdly named "technologies" (which are really just products and libraries) but have no idea how the actual technologies (e.g. TCP/IP, file systems, memory hierarchy etc.) work. I don't know what to think when I meet engineers who know how to setup an ELB on AWS but don't quite understand what a socket is...

I don't think everyone needs to be an expert in low-level programming. However, I do think that there is a phenomenon where engineers overcomplicate systems because they don't understand operating system fundamentals.


To repeat the claim: A distributed OS that follows the Perlis-Thompson Principle would have fewer concepts. It would be easier to use, and easier to build software on. The diagram would be smaller and more intelligible!

I suggest the meme Ken Thompson vs. Kubernetes to remember this. Ken Thompson would have designed something simpler, with lasting value.

Kubernetes Is Unproductive

The last section had some "feelings" about complexity, not a solid argument about it.

The post below gives a lot more detail. Along with the post in next section, about serverless productivity, it inspired my writing tagged #comments and #software-architecture earlier this year.

My comment on

A better Kubernetes from the ground up (dave.tf via Hacker News)
261 points, 152 comments - 7 months ago

MetalLB taught me that it’s not possible to build robust software that integrates with Kubernetes.

GKE SRE taught me that even the foremost Kubernetes experts cannot safely operate Kubernetes at scale.

This is damning because of the author's direct experience.

My initial reaction is that a Unix-y model of contained processes, a content-addressed file system (a cross between git and BitTorrent), and named ports would be simpler. Auth and security are huge problems, and torpedoed my earlier efforts in this direction.

But these aren't fully formed thoughts; the blog post is more specific.

Serverless Is Unproductive

It's not just Kubernetes that's unproductive. This article describes productivity problems with "serverless" (e.g. AWS Lambda).

My Hacker News Comment on

Back to the '70s with Serverless (evrl.com via Hacker News)
518 points, 298 comments - 6 months ago

and

My lobste.rs Comment on

Back to the '70s with Serverless (evrl.com via lobste.rs)
42 points, 3 comments on 2020-12-19

Summary:

  • Languages, deployment, and overall developer experience have gotten worse as distributed backends have become more powerful. This post had a nice analogy to IBM JCL (job control language), which I think of as a primitive mainframe version of Unix shell.
  • Deploying your code to someone else's cloud just to test it is painful and slow. In contrast, an improved Unix shell should help you describe and run distributed systems locally.
    • I mentioned local testing in Comments on Build Systems and CI Services. When using CI services, the insult on top of injury is that your code is often YAML!
    • I'd like the cloud to have the ease of using PHP, but with any language!

The Cloud is "Fire and Motion"

Here's another feeling, this time from a ~19 year old post by Joel Spolsky. It reminds me of today's cloud.

Think of the history of data access strategies to come out of Microsoft. ODBC, RDO, DAO, ADO, OLEDB, now ADO.NET – All New! Are these technological imperatives? The result of an incompetent design group that needs to reinvent data access every goddamn year? (That’s probably it, actually.) But the end result is just cover fire. The competition has no choice but to spend all their time porting and keeping up, time that they can’t spend writing new features.

Does anyone in 2021 regret not spending more time with OLEDB, much less know what it is?

Likewise, I think Kubernetes will be long forgotten in 2041. It will have been replaced with simpler systems that follow the Perlis-Thompson Principle.

More wisdom from Joel:

Look closely at the software landscape. The companies that do well are the ones who rely least on big companies and don’t have to spend all their cycles catching up and reimplementing and fixing bugs that crop up only on Windows XP.

I would mentally replace "Windows XP" with "Kubernetes" in this quote, and see if it rings true. In other words, our coding efforts should be directed at the problem domain, not on fixing the underlying platform.

More #blog-topics

Classic Blog Posts by Joel Spolsky. Referencing Joel's post Fire and Motion reminds me that his blog and forum were invaluable early in my career. This post will quote more insightful posts by Joel.

Rich Hickey's Influence. After this recent comment about dynamic languages and "the world", Qi Xiao of Elvish reminded me of that Rich Hickey uses the term "situated programs".

I didn't credit Hickey in that comment, but his ideas definitely influenced me. I want to write another post covering his ideas on language design and systems. I would reference this comment on his talk "Maybe Not".

Oil is very much a language for programs situated in "the world".

Conclusion

I expect to refer to this post in the future. The links and comments are intended to add color on the design of the Oil language and the motivation for the project as a whole.

Let me know whether it was interesting or useful!

Tomorrow, I'll review more posts and comments about #distributed-systems. I expected to write a single Blog Backlog post, but it turned into three!

If you haven't read it already, check out yesterday's post on understanding and using shell.

Appendix: Kubernetes vs. HPC Schedulers

7/20 Update: I'm saving this thread for later reference. I ask why use Kubernetes for a deployment that seems more like an HPC problem. People with HPC experience chime in on the issues in that domain.

Scaling Kubernetes to 7,500 Nodes (openai.com via Hacker News)
240 points, 53 comments - 5 months ago


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Event Horizon Telescope captures birth of black hole jet in Centaurus A

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Highest-resolution image of Centaurus A obtained with the Event Horizon Telescope on top of a color composite image of the entire galaxy.

Enlarge / Highest-resolution image of Centaurus A obtained with the Event Horizon Telescope on top of a color composite image of the entire galaxy. (credit: Radboud University/ESO/WFI/MPIfR//APEX/NASA/CXC/CfA/EHT/M. Janssen et al.)

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration made headlines in 2019 by capturing the very first direct image of a black hole at the center of a galaxy. Now, the EHT is back with another exciting breakthrough: images of the "dark heart" of a radio galaxy known as Centaurus A. The images enable the EHT to pinpoint the location of the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy. The images also capture the birth of a powerful jet emitting from the black hole. The jet's unusual characteristics could help astronomers answer a few nagging questions about how such jets are produced in the first place.

"This allows us for the first time to see and study an extragalactic radio jet on scales smaller than the distance light travels in one day," said co-author Michael Janssen, an astronomer at Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn and Radboud University Nijmegen. "We see up close and personally how a monstrously gigantic jet launched by a supermassive black hole is being born."

Centaurus A (aka NGC 5128) is one of the largest and brightest objects in the night sky, making it especially popular with amateur stargazers, although it's only visible from the Southern Hemisphere and low northern latitudes. Located in the constellation Centaurus, the galaxy was discovered in 1826 by James Dunlop. In 1847, John Herschel noted its peculiar shape—it looks elliptical when viewed from Earth, with a lane of dust superimposed across it.

The Centaurus A galaxy, showcasing the powerful jets emitted from the supermassive black hole at its center.

The Centaurus A galaxy, showcasing the powerful jets emitted from the supermassive black hole at its center. (credit: ESO/WFI; MPIfR/ESO/APEX; A. Weiss et al./NASA/CXC/CfA/R. Kraft et al.)

In 1949, astronomers identified Centaurus A as the first known source of radio waves outside the Milky Way galaxy. That's because the galaxy boasts an active galactic nucleus, which produces powerful jets that emit light in both X-ray and radio wavelengths that span distances far greater than the size of the galaxy itself. Centaurus A has been studied extensively ever since in the radio, optical, X-ray, and gamma-ray regimes.

As Ars' John Timmer reported back in 2019, the EHT isn't a telescope in the traditional sense. Instead, it's a collection of telescopes scattered around the globe. The EHT is created by interferometry, which uses light captured at different locations to build an image with a resolution similar to that of a telescope the size of the most distant locations. Interferometry has been used for facilities like ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array), where telescopes can be spread across 16 km of desert.

In theory, there's no upper limit on the size of the array, but to determine which photons originated simultaneously at the source, you need very precise location and timing information on each of the sites. And you still have to gather sufficient photons to see anything at all. So atomic clocks were installed at many of the locations, and exact GPS measurements were built up over time. For the EHT, the large collecting area of ALMA, combined with choosing a wavelength where supermassive black holes are very bright, ensured sufficient photons. The net result is a telescope that can do the equivalent of reading the year stamped on a coin in Los Angeles from New York City—assuming the coin was glowing at radio wavelengths.

The EHT announced the first direct image ever taken of a black hole at the center of an elliptical galaxy in 2019, located in the constellation of Virgo some 55 million light-years away: Messier 87 (M87). This image would have been impossible a mere generation ago, and it was made possible by technological breakthroughs, innovative new algorithms, and (of course) connecting several of the world's best radio observatories. The image confirmed that the object at the center of M87 is indeed a black hole. Small wonder that Science magazine named the image its Breakthrough of the Year.

What was still lacking was insight into the process behind the powerful twin jets produced by M87. Most matter near the edge of a black hole—attracted by the black hole's strong gravitational pull—falls in, but some particles can escape and get blown out via those massive jets at nearly light speed. But astronomers don't yet agree about how those jets get accelerated to such high speeds. Perhaps the mechanism is an accretion disk that produces a magnetic field, funneling some of that matter into a jet. Or maybe the rotational energy of the black hole as it spins is the culprit. Or the mechanism could be a combination of both.

Earlier this year, we reported on another groundbreaking result from the EHT collaboration: a new image of M87, this time showing how it looks in polarized light. The ability to measure that polarization for the first time—a signature of magnetic fields at the black hole's edge—yielded fresh insight into how black holes gobble up matter and emit powerful jets from their cores. The observations suggested that the magnetic fields at the black hole's edge are strong enough to push back on the hot gas and help it resist gravity's pull. So only the gas that slips through the magnetic field can spiral inward to the event horizon. Theoretical models that don't incorporate this feature of a strongly magnetized gas don't match the EHT's observations and thus can be ruled out.

The new images of Centaurus A place even more constraints around the various competing theories, further narrowing the possibilities. According to this latest EHT data, the radio emissions form massive lobes emanating outward from Centaurus A. But only the outer edges of the jets emit radiation, perhaps due to the jets colliding with galactic gas, thus heating the edge. "Now we are able to rule out theoretical jet models that are unable to reproduce this edge-brightening," said co-author Matthias Kadler of the University of Würzburg in Germany. "It's a striking feature that will help us better understand jets produced by black holes."

The new Centaurus A observations are also of interest because the black hole at its center is medium-sized: 55 million times the mass of our Sun. That falls smack in the middle between M87 (6.5 billion solar masses) and the mass of the black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy (about 4 million solar masses). The jets emitted by Centaurus A's black hole look pretty much the same as the EHT's images of M87, just on a smaller scale. In other words, the Centaurus A black hole doesn't seem to behave differently from its bigger or smaller siblings, adding further credence to physicists' notion that these exotic objects can be defined just by their mass, charge, and spin.

"These data are from the same observing campaign that delivered the famous image of the black hole in M87," said co-author Heino Falcke of Radboud University. "The new results show that the EHT provides a treasure trove of data on the rich variety of black holes, and there is still more to come." One day, the collaboration hopes to use space-based telescopes to capture a direct image of the black hole at the center of Centaurus A, just like they did for M87.

DOI: Nature Astronomy, 2021. 10.1038/s41550-021-01417-w  (About DOIs).

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DraftKings shares plans for launch of NFT collectibles marketplace

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DraftKings is charging into the NFT game, announcing a marketplace aimed at curating sports and entertainment-themed digital collectibles for its audience of enthusiasts. The platform is “debuting later this summer,” and showcases another potentially lucrative expansion for the fantasy sports betting company.

DraftKings is entering a market that is both crowded and sparse — with plenty of NFT marketplace options for today’s niche group of collectors, though offerings are still light when considering the billions that have flowed through the space in the first several months of the year. This week, investors gave NFT marketplace OpenSea a $1.5 billion valuation. Dapper Labs, which makes NBA Top Shot, recently raised at a reported $7.5 billion valuation.

Dapper’s existing sway in the space will leave DraftKings pursuing opportunities outside exclusive league partnerships. NBA Top Shot allows players to buy “Moments” from NBA history, clips of actual game and player footage to which it has access via league and players’ association partnerships. In addition to the NBA, Dapper has already partnered with other leagues.

DraftKings’ foothold in the space will come from an exclusive partnership with Autograph, a newly launched NFT startup co-founded by quarterback Tom Brady. The company has inked exclusive NFT deals with some top athletes, including Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Derek Jeter, Naomi Osaka and Tony Hawk, hoping to build out its platform as the hub for sports personality collectibles.

Aside from the partnerships, DraftKings is hoping to get a leg up in the space by further simplifying the user onboarding process, allowing users to buy NFTs without loading a wallet with cryptocurrency, instead purchasing with USD. When the platform launches, users will be able to purchase NFTs from DraftKings and resell or trade them through the platform.

For DraftKings, which has raised some $720 million in funding since launch in 2012, the NFT expansion could offer an opportunity of funneling their existing audience into the new vertical. Few existing tech startups have made noteworthy expansions into the NFT world despite plenty of hype and investor interest. DraftKings co-founder Matt Kalish tells TechCrunch that the startup’s devoted community is its biggest asset to winning in the rising space.

“DraftKings has millions of people in our community who show up to out-platform every day and every week,” Kalish says. “We think our biggest advantage is the strength and size of our community… [We] will bring a lot of eyeballs to the table.”

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