Different computers for different processes
Big data, Blockchains and Artificial intelligence. These are buzzwords that probably sound familiar by now. They are most famous for the industry revolutionizing impact of their applications. Think cryptocurrencies in the financial world and self-driving cars in the automotive industry.
Behind the scenes however, they are also transforming the industry that is making all this possible. Since some of these “hypes” are both very computationally intensive and profitable at the same time they are creating a boom in specialized computing. Just a couple of years ago, standard processors from Intel (CPU) were the go-to choice for almost any form of computation.
This is changing fast, every form of computing is now getting its own specialized computer. Bitcoin mining is no longer profitable on normal CPUs but done on specialized computers called ASICs. High-end video cards (using GPUs) are becoming a rarity for gamers since NVIDIA is now mainly making money with “supercomputers in a box” -- also for AI. A Little over a week ago NVIDIA launched a new powerhouse that makes the training of machine translation datasets up to 10x faster than last years model! This is exactly the type of application and progress that is vital for Owlin’s business.
In the past you had to be able to buy the newest and best machine, now you just have to be able to afford an x amount of hours on that machine. So this week you might require some of Google's TPUs, next week your next project is on GPUs and meanwhile you are “printing money” using ASICs. Even more forward-looking and more exciting are Neuromorphic and Quantum computing. In other words, computing is going to get even more fascinating than ever and we will remain on top of the latest developments.
At our HQ, we also use different ‘super’ computers for different processes. Besides our processes in the cloud, we also have our specialized hardware for training new algorithms and models. For example, our machine translation datasets run on their own very fast custom water-cooled computer, similar to the NVIDIA machine.
Only two years ago, Owlin was running almost all of its processes on its own hardware, on dedicated servers based in a secured location outside Amsterdam. As the number of servers grew (near a hundred in total) and our client base was getting more global, this became more difficult to maintain. To make our operations more scalable and maintainable, we moved most of our processes to the cloud – now running from 3 locations around the globe.
A global client base deserves global thinking
A part of our commercial team was recently in New York to meet up with some of our U.S. based clients. In New York, they noticed that our applications load some seconds slower in the U.S. than within the EU. This of course had to be changed – and we did exactly that.
Our developers have expanded our frontend clusters with instances in the North America and Singapore. This means that the dataset powering your Dashboard or API access will be cached (pre-loaded) locally in all three regions, causing you to have faster access to the platform irrespective of your location. As a result, typically latencies when accessing Owlin in these regions are improved by multiple seconds. With the recent signing of our first South American client, further roll out of front end clusters around the globe is to be expected soon.
From Russia with love
The technology industry is working hard to achieve and maintain gender balance. Here at Owlin we have a great bunch of people, of which approximately 40% are women. Alina was one of the first women to join Owlin full-time. Not really knowing what to expect, she instantly liked the mix of “start-up coolness” with smart and professional people she could rely on.
"I think what I do is really cool."
It took her a long way to come here, literally speaking. Born in at that time still the USSR, with a detour to the Czech Republic, and some time in Germany, she finally landed in Amsterdam.
"When Owlin asked me if I would be interested in a project management position, I said yes immediately."
She wasn’t bothered by the fact that for some time, she was the only woman at the office. In fact, she always enjoyed working with her colleagues at Owlin because “they’re very direct and give feedback,” instantly adding that she can also can get away with many things around here.
As for the changes Owlin-women brought along, she said that Owlin became more relaxed and that as a team they became more open to out of the box ideas.
“The women here are always rooting for each other as well.”
There’s no doubt they’ll be rooting for her once she achieves her dream of working at an Owlin office in Singapore one day. Her future in the company will definitely be “very fun, interesting, and unpredictable.”
Companies we admire
This time in ‘Companies we Admire’ we would like to feature Unity Technologies. Not only are they doing great business-wise, they are also doing great when it comes to the treatment of their staff. What it boils down to is their dedication Servant Leadership and employee responsibility & accountability. Management enables their employees to do what they’re best at, and employees are directly responsible & accountable for their work. This ensures there are no barriers for further growth.
You might have heard of Unity Technologies, as they are one of the biggest video game development companies with a valuation of more than 2.6 billion in May 2017. Starting with three people back in 2004, they now have over 1.500 employees in 24 countries. This global spread brings along the expected managerial challenges as well. Their approach to tackle this is to bring out the best in their employees and for everyone at Unity to “stay happy.” To stay happy, they don’t just provide some of the standard perks you might expect, but they really try to add value to the lives of their employees. They organize annual developer hackweeks in exotic locations among many other events, offer leadership training for all, and provide great food and Friday drinks. At Unity they are also very open to employees deciding what to work on in order to develop skills and further develop the products. All of this makes sure employees stay happy – after all, a smiling employee is a motivated one.
At Owlin we have a similar philosophy. Everyone is encouraged to develop their talents. Through facilitating self-steering talented individuals who feel responsible and engaged, rather than task-based workers directed by single top-down management, we aim to bring out the best in everyone at Owlin.
August 10: Owlin will be hosting the Holland Fintech Meetup, more details to be announced soon: here