BEST OF THE WEB: How Twitter is building Google’s secret weapon

Google doesn’t talk a lot.

We don’t often get to hear about what’s happening in the centre of the company’s operations, especially when it comes to more technical topics. But in this new piece at Wired, the publication delves into a topic many Google users have no idea about – the secret weapon that keeps its data centres operating so effectively.

The piece focuses on a piece of software called Borg, named after the aggressive artificial intelligence in the Star Trek franchise. The software works on making Google’s huge amount of data centres run more effectively.

The Borg is so efficient, it saves Google the cost of running a data centre. And it’s also a secret.

The Borg moniker is only appropriate. Google’s system provides a central brain for controlling tasks across the company’s data centers. Rather than building a separate cluster of servers for each software system — one for Google Search, one for Gmail, one for Google Maps, etc. — Google can erect a cluster that does several different types of work at the same time.

All this work is divided into tiny tasks, and Borg sends these tasks wherever it can find free computing resources, such as processing power or computer memory or storage space.

Sounds complicated, and it is. But as it turns out, Twitter is working on something quite similar. But it goes even further. The way this type of technology works, by sending out tasks to clusters of servers, is growing more popular all the time.

Another type of similar technology, called Mesos, is being used at AirBNB, and Twitter. The companies have improved on the technology and Google is taking note with its new version of the software, called Omega, which is incorporating ideas used by these other companies.

Google and Twitter treat the data center like one big computer, and eventually, that’s where the world will end up.

This is the way computer science always progresses. We start with an interface that’s complicated and we move to one that’s not. It happens on desktops and laptops and servers. And now, it’s happening with data centers too.

This story is a little complicated, but if you want an inside look into how Google and Twitter manage their IT needs, then this is a must-read.

Why hasn’t the internet made real estate brokers irrelevant?

The internet has killed off a number of industries, or is in the process of turning some industries upside down.

One of those is the real estate business. Just as it is in Australia, in the United States only a handful of sites control the online real estate market, and according to this new piece at BusinessWeek, 90% of consumers start real estate transactions on the internet.

So why hasn’t the real estate agent disappeared?

The piece delves into the major websites including Redfin, Zillow and Trulia, and asks why they haven’t fully taken over the industry. But the sites discovered something interesting – they still need agents. They’re not necessarily trying to break the old model at all.

Last October, at a Seattle technology conference, an audience member asked Spencer Rascoff, Zillow’s CEO, if sales commissions were ever going to decline. “There are other startups that are trying to break down those agent commissions, and I think most of them will fail,” he said.

Rascoff said later in an interview that “consumers don’t really care about commissions. They say they care, and they talk a big game in the off-season. But when push comes to shove and it comes time to sell their home, the transaction is so infrequent and so highly emotional and expensive—and consumers are so prone to error—that they turn to a professional.”

Of all the industries being hit by the internet, it seems real estate brokers are still going strong.

The evolution of Facebook’s News Feed

Last week, Facebook announced a number of changes to its News Feed. It’s a big announcement, as the company rarely touches that part of its network – it’s a haven for advertising.

But over at Mashable, the publication has put together a timeline of how the News Feed has evolved, from its debut way back in September of 2006.

There have been plenty of additions, although it’s still fairly much the same product. Head on over and check it out yourself.


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