ARCHITECHT Daily: Love it or hate it, Facebook is pushing the mobile AI envelope

You have to hand it to Facebook: Even if you never use its products or just dread logging in (by the
ARCHITECHT
ARCHITECHT Daily: Love it or hate it, Facebook is pushing the mobile AI envelope
By ARCHITECHT • Issue #58
You have to hand it to Facebook: Even if you never use its products or just dread logging in (by the way, feel free to Like the ARCHITECHT page), the chances are it’s already improved your smartphone experience. And, based on what the company announced at its F8 conference on Tuesday, it’s just getting started.
I’m speaking specifically about the backend, not-at-all sexy stuff that doesn’t get most tech reporters or investors all fired up, but that does make Facebook and so many other websites and apps run. The kind of stuff that elicits this type of conversation:
Woman at rental car counter at PDX: What are you in town for?
Me: I’m visiting Facebook.
Woman: Oh, cool.
Me: Is it snowing in the mountains? I need to get to Prineville.
Woman: I thought you said you were visiting Facebook. What are you going to Prineville for? There’s nothing there.
Of course, there is something in Prineville. There’s a massive Facebook facility with three data centers. Next door, Apple also has a large data center. Which means lots of our photos, music, likes, interests, etc., are also in Prineville.
You can read the story from my Facebook visit here, but one major takeaway is that the company invests a lot of effort into making sure its site and—more importantly today—its mobile app use as little power as possible while still delivering a plethora of capabilities. That might seem like a lot of wasted effort if you don’t use Facebook, but the truth is that we all probably consume a lot of Facebook tech without knowing it.
That’s because Facebook open sources so much stuff that gets widely picked up by so many developers, data scientists and software engineers. We’re talking everything from big data systems like Cassandra and Hive back in the day, to interactive design frameworks like React. And as of yesterday at its F8 developer conference, React Fiber.
But I think Facebook’s biggest contributions to the overall mobile experience might still be yet to come as artificial intelligence is integrated into more of our devices and apps. Here, too, Facebook has been a major open source contributor, releasing its work on popular deep learning projects (and sometimes creating them) such as PyTorch and Caffe2go—a framework for deploying computer vision models on smartphones.
Yesterday at F8, it announced the first production-ready release of Caffe2, its take on the popular Caffe framework first developed at UC-Berkeley. This latest release of Caffe2 (on top of which Caffe2go is built) also emphasizes mobile deployment, even if training models still requires some GPUs on the backend. Google’s TensorFlow project gets a lot of attention but—make no mistake—Caffe is still quite popular and a stable Caffe2 could help give it another kick in the pants as everyone starts building computer vision into everything. I’m talking about police body cameras to, I guess, augmented reality apps.
(This list of machine learning frameworks and their popularity over time is worth checking out if you’re interested in this stuff.)
So, yeah, maybe Facebook is copying Snap. Maybe its website UX is far less than ideal. Maybe young people don’t use it. But as long as it keeps pushing the envelope in AI and elsewhere, especially via open source, Facebook will still be a very important technology company.

Sponsor: Cloudera
Artificial intelligence
Jürgen Schmidhuber made some bold claims about AI superintelligence recently. This article recaps them, and gives some context about his role in the advancement of deep learning.
This is a level-headed prediction that AI, like all things, will get better, easier and cheaper over time. However, it arguably will not if everyone wants to be a fast-follower and nobody wants to bite the bullet.
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Three things here: (1) Will the world embrace something like this for driverless cars? (2) Will the world embrace it from Baidu? (3) If yes to 1 and 2, what comes of all the startups and lawsuits in this space?
Cloud and infrastructure
Oracle co-CEO recently suggested that his company can best AWS and Google in the cloud with a fraction of the data centers. James Hamilton, who knows a lot about this stuff, disagrees.
DockerCon is happening this week, and Docker took the opportunity to announce two new projects to make it easier to adopt and build container-based applications. Both seem promising, and I assume the Docker community is celebrating them, but they’re also a reminder of the low layer where Docker plays in this space. That can be a double-edged sword.
This is an insightful writeup of Netflix’s Titus technology, which highlights the benefits of automating the deployment and scheduling of container workloads. Note that Apache Mesos is at the core of the whole operation.
Of course, how these large software companies define “cloud” is always up for debate. Cognitive computing grew only 2 percent, which I’d guess isn’t ideal.
Backblaze doesn’t have AWS’s economies of scale—or customer base or revenue—but it does know how to deliver low-cost cloud storage.
The saga continues. But where there’s smoke …
I wouldn’t have predicted Microsoft as a leader in quantum computing, but the company is doing a whole lot of research in the space. The ETA on prototype cryogenic memory systems is still unknown though.
Data Center Knowledge published a couple of good posts about the evolution of the New York Times infrastructure, based on comments from CTO Nick Rockwell. He’s a big fan of Fastly as a CDN provider.
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ARCHITECHT
The most interesting news, analysis, blog posts and research in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and software engineering. Delivered daily to your inbox. Curated by Derrick Harris. Check out the Architecht site at https://architecht.io
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