The Future is an Appliance

At the moment one of my side projects is understanding how Sun Ray works, and how maintainable its infrastructure is. As part of this I’m building a small lab with a trial version of Window 2003 Terminal Server and Solaris 10. Initially I installed Windows TS on a spare dual Xeon, then I changed by mind and decided to install both Windows and Solaris in VMWare machines.
This gives more flexibility, especially as Solaris 10 is a rather new experience with a learning curve greater than I expected. Multiple snapshots are very useful and save a lot of reinstall time. I went though all three main versions of VMWare, Player, Server and Workstation, before deciding that Workstation was definitely worth the money in this of situation. I put Ubuntu and VMWare Server on the dual Xeon for a larger test, but Server is not as useful for the development of machines.

During the week while doing some research on VMWare, I discovered something that had really only been a side consideration in the past. The growing development of virtualisation appliances. This revolution that seems to have been pushed along nicely but VMWare’s release of Player and Server as free products. I’ve used UML and Xen for a long while to both reduce the cost of hardware and admin time, but free access to VMWare’s more generic technology combined with the new high performance Dual Core desktop platforms is creating a whole new field of development. A network effect, like that of the fax machine or OSS, is creating a lot of opportunities for interesting stuff.

A case in point are the winners from VMware’s recent Appliances Challenge: HowNetWorks, Trellis NAS Bridge and Sieve Firewall. Other examples are the appliances at rPath: Sugarcrm, Foresight Linux, and a VoIP platform. And similar examples in the wide like Asterisk in an Hour with a Trixbox VoIP appliance.
The demand is there.

Discovering new areas of technology development like usually this gets me thinking, and my thoughts at the moment are that we are seeinga leading edge of the next revolution in user computing.

So for example, rather than carrying a phone, people will simply have a piece of software. There is no need for a laptop when even the local traffic lights will rent you some time on a virtual CPU or VPU. Within twenty years even your pocket pen will have the equivalent of a Duo Core 2 and so surrounded an ocean of computing, the notion of a PC becomes meaningless. Generic structured software virtual appliances will provide utility and carried by the end user, accessible via a PAN and mediated via other
appliances, they will interact with the world. The hardware platform itself like a pen will become disposable.

Data is the new platform carried by the Virtual Processing Unit.

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