Opinions, News and Views on Semantic Technology and Research

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In my first post in this three part series I talked about the need for distributed transactional databases that scale-out horizontally across commodity machines, as compared to traditional transactional databases that employ a "scale-up" design.  Simply adding more machines is a quicker, cheaper and more flexible way of increasing database capacity than forklift upgrades to giant steam-belching servers. It also brings the promise of continuous availability and of geo-distributed operation. The second post in this series provided an overview of the three historical approaches to designing distributed transactional database systems, namely: 1. Shared Disk Designs (e.g., ORACLE RAC); 2. Shared Nothing Designs (e.g. the Facebook MySQL implementation); and 3) Synchronous Commit Designs (e.g. GOOGLE F1).  All of them have some advantages over traditional client-server da... (more)

Semantic Web The Next Big Thing?

As I was traveling across Asia and hanging out in waiting rooms, customs lines, etc., my mind turns to the future, since the present is so dull. In our business you always have to keep wondering "What is the next big thing?". The more I think about it, "Semantics" always seems to bubble up to the top. To be clear, Semantics is the study of meaning. But its much more than that. Everything old is new again Note that I did not say Semantics is the next New thing. In fact, The pursuit of "Semantic Technology" is by no means a new pursuit. The earliest research on semantics and computer science/linguistics research dates back to the late 1950s to a Noam Chomsky book entitled Syntactic Structures. An an endeavor, we have been seriously looking at ascribing meaning to objects and concepts since the 1958 arrival of the programming language LISP. So, clearly this is not a new... (more)

Comparing Networks Semantics in CORBA and Java

The recent issuance of an RFP for "Unreliable Multicast" in CORBA got me thinking about the many network semantics available in a combined CORBA/Java environment. There are at least five already, not counting Unreliable Multicast: Java RMI invocations; CORBA synchronous invocations; CORBA asynchronous and messaging-mode invocations; one-way notifications using the CORBA event and notification services; and the Java Messaging Service (JMS). In this column I'll review the basic characteristics of these services side by side. I'm not planning to rate them as "better" or "worse" on any scale - they're more different than better or worse, and you should choose among them based on the requirements of a particular application. The discussion will be confined to invocation semantics. While there are a lot of interesting contrasts between object activation semantics, I'll sa... (more)

Semantics and Context

Although XML defines each data element in a given transaction (the semantics), there's no mechanism to also communicate the business context. This represents the difference between reading XML and understanding the business impact of the transaction. The use of namespaces, numeric values, and time stamps all create some context when looking across transactions or business entities. In this article we'll discuss the difference between semantics and context and the challenges this difference creates relative to performance and scalability. One of the core tenets of XML is its extensibility and flexibility. XML facilitates these tenets because it's self-describing and has a DTD that provides the data structure necessary for reading the content of the associated document. This is the capability that sits at the core of the XML "hype versus hope" debate. In today's inc... (more)

The Myths of "Standard" Data Semantics

Much of the literature heralding the benefits of XML has focused on its application as a medium for application interoperability. With (a) the Internet as a platform, (b) Web services as the functional building block components of an orchestrated application, and (c) XML as a common data format, applications will be able to communicate and collaborate seamlessly and transparently, without human intervention. All that's needed to make a reality is (d) for everyone to agree on and use XML tags the same way so that when an application sees a tag such as it will know what it means. This intuitive understanding makes a lot of sense, which is why so many organizations have sprung into existence to create their own vocabularies (sets of tags) to serve as the "lingua franca for data exchange in ." This intu... (more)

Why the Titans of Business Are Investing Billions in Semantic Technology

Whether you've bought into it yet or not, the Semantic Web (aka Web 3.0) is coming - and mega-companies are leading the way. Not just the Googles, Facebooks and Apples of the world, but also massive organizations with business models as diverse as Wal-Mart, The New York Times, Dow Jones and Ford. All of them, and many more, are heavily invested in semantic web technologies. One reason: When the transition to the Semantic Web is complete, all data everywhere will be linked in the cloud as connected points on a massive global graph. Unlike data in silos, the linked data in graphs allows computers to read it, understand it, infer meaning and produce an answer that's exactly what the searcher is looking for, whether the searcher is a shopper, reporter, marketer, financial analyst, cancer researcher or even the CIA. Semantic search doesn't just yield a far better Web ... (more)

Berners-Lee Gets New Institute

Enterprise Cloud Computing Track at Cloud Expo No sooner did W3C hire itself a new CEO to run day-to-day operations than Tim Berners-Lee, who is still supposed to be director of W3C, turns up running a new research center that the British government is putting around $45 million (£30 million) into called the Institute for Web Science. It's supposed to develop, maybe even commercialize, Berners-Lee's quixotic next-generation notions of a Semantic Web and put the UK on the cutting edge of emerging Internet technologies, according to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who also wants every home in the UK to have super-fast broadband by 2020. The institute will be jointly based at the Universities of Oxford and Southampton, the latter a hot bed of Semantic Web research where Berners-Lee has had a part-time post since 2004. ... (more)

Semantic Technologies in the Data Center

Leading Web search portals are using semantic search engines to deliver answers instead of results. That same technology is now emerging in the enterprise. It can help developers tame log data by uncovering information about application performance problems and answering the question ‘what went wrong?'. We've all been there: you're looking for something on the Web, and the search engine returns a lengthy list of blue links. All of the Web pages are shown in one place, but it takes time and effort to find the right one. The same is true for many application log tools, which may centralize information but fail to identify the actual problem. Enterprise applications can "live" in many places and their logs might be scattered and unstandardized. First generation log analysis tools made some of the log data searchable, but the onus was on the developer to know what to ... (more)

SDN and Security: Network versus Applications

That attackers are moving "up the stack", toward the application layer, should be no surprise. Increasingly, network layer attacks are a distraction; a means to engage security professionals attention while the real target - an application - is attacked. Even when this is not the case, the tendency to attack at the application layers is increasing because honestly it's cheaper in terms of resources to take out an application using application layer attacks than it is to do so at the network layers. Sure, an attacker might not be able to completely eradicate a company's presence from the Internet, but it can take out critical applications that make it appear as if they've disappeared, which has pretty much the intended effect - costly downtime due to loss of revenue, brand damages, and probably a few blown aneurisms due to stress. Don't take my word for it, though. ... (more)

The Semantic Enterprise: Are Semantics the Future of Mashups?

Is it just me or does it seem like semantics are trying to compete with mashups for the ‘it’ technology crown of 2008? Tim Berners-Lee reiterated his vision of the Semantic Web. In case you haven’t heard him do this pitch before, here’s the jist of it straight from the interview: ‘In the semantic web, it's like every piece of data is given a longitude and latitude on a map, and anyone can 'mash' them together and use them for different things.’ And perhaps not coincidentally, there was a note in TechCrunch around the same time about Yahoo’s foray into semantics: ‘Yahoo talked about their plans to allow third parties to alter and enhance search results with structured data that may be useful to users’. These comments really stood out in my mashup-centric mind. This all sounds very similar to the everyday definition of a mashup! Semantics and mashups have the same go... (more)

Crystal Semantics Patented Technology Helps Online Advertisers Maximize Potential

NEW YORK, June 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Crystal Semantics, the leader of contextual online marketing solutions and developer of the world's first patented Sense Engine Technology, revealed that despite the increase in online advertising revenues, many companies are not getting their value's worth. Online ads are inadequate due to keyword based systems or adware technologies that fail to provide relevant ad content resulting in poor click-through rates. Despite $3.85 billion in ad revenues associated with search results in 2004*, Crystal Semantics reasons that companies are missing out on vast amounts of additional revenue because too much of it is poorly targeted. A recent survey by Crystal Semantics about user experiences of internet searching uncovered that 46 per cent of respondents had encountered advertising that was 'bizarrely unrelated to their search.' For example, ... (more)