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CACM Reports: Promise and Peril in Peer-to-Peer Systems

October Issue Reports on Scalability of Adobe Photoshop, How Offshoring Affects IT Workers, and the Resurgence of Apple

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK, NY, September 30, 2010 –  Although peer-to-peer technology has gone far beyond music sharing, anonymous data storage, and scientific computing, authors Rodrigo Rodrigues and Peter Druschel of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Software Systems contend that its very strengths constitute its weakness. In the cover story of the October Communications of the ACM (CACM)  they point to P2P’s ability to enable innovative new services used by millions of people, citing its independence from dedicated infrastructure and its centralized control.  These characteristics, however, present technical, commercial and legal challenges, not faced by other types of distributed systems, which must be addressed to allow P2P applications to thrive. With its ability to significantly lower the barrier to innovation, they conclude that P2P could turn out to be most valuable as a proving ground for new ideas and services. 

            Communications, the flagship publication of ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format

             Also in this issue, in an article developed by acmqueue, Adobe Photoshop principal scientist Russell Williams speaks with Clem Cole, architect of Intel’s Cluster Ready program, about how the Photoshop team is addressing the challenge of scalability for eight- and 16-core machines.  Their discussion will be familiar to any software engineer who has attempted to achieve parallelism in an application.

             Offshoring is most common in high-tech firms and IT functions, report Prasanna B. Tambe of New York University and Lorin M. Hitt of the University of Pennsylvania.  Using data that they collected and analyzed from two complementary surveys, the researchers describe how offshoring affects IT workers.  Their study found that IT workers reported offshoring-related displacement at a rate more than double that of workers in other occupations.  The study also confirmed that IT jobs requiring interpersonal interaction or physical presence in fixed locations are less likely to be sent out of the country.

             We are living in a world defined by firms that have successfully married new consumer devices and Internet platforms with a variety of online services and content, says MIT’s Michael A. Cusumano.  He tracks the resurgence of Apple, which in 2010 became the world’s most valuable technology company in terms of stock market value.  He attributes its success to a shift in strategy that takes advantage of the rising importance and value of an industrywide platform company versus a standalone product company, and the use of automated services that deliver the digital content and software applications that make these platforms so valuable to users.

             In a study of neuroscience research, Thomas Serre of Brown University and Tomaso Poggio of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology assert that computer science techniques are at the heart of brain imaging and other branches of neuroscience.  They review the key computational principles underlying the processing of information during visual recognition using a model that implements these principles.  Their research may suggest that neuroscience is on the verge of providing novel, useful paradigms to computer vision and perhaps to other areas of computer science.  They note, however, that computational models are not sufficient on their own, and that a mathematical theory to explain the hierarchical organization of the cortex is necessary. 

Other October Communications articles:  

  • In his President’s letter, ACM President Alain Chesnais recounts his rewarding experiences as an ACM volunteer and frames this commitment as the core of what makes ACM a success. 
  • Technology writer Dennis McCafferty examines the pros and cons of releasing software code during the review process.  This issue gained considerable attention following the incident dubbed Climategate, which involved illegal hacking of researchers’ email accounts. The writer cites efforts at Purdue University to resolve this issue using unique middleware in a hub format.
  • Software engineering does not come close to deserving a place among the traditional engineering disciplines, declares David L. Parnas, President of Middle Road Software.  He recounts a real-world experience that revealed many careless design errors resulting in unnecessary expense and annoyance, and cites the risk of undisciplined development.  He concludes that much of the fault lies with the way computer science students are taught indifference to rules and procedures.
  • Information architect and writer Alex Wright reports that ccomputer scientists continue to find new applications of linear logic across a wide range of disciplines.  Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, for example, are exploring the application of linear logic to distributed security problems.  Other research areas include concurrency theory, quantum computing, game semantics, and implicit computational complexity.
  • Blog@CACM blogger Michael Stonebraker discusses the implications of the CAP theorem on database management system applications that span multiple processing sites.  Acknowledging that the CAP theorem is used as a way to justify giving up consistency and replacing it with “eventual consistency,” he asserts that this analysis is suspect, and that recovery from errors has more dimensions to consider.

For more information on Communications of the ACM, click on      

About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking. 

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