Virtualisation in Chips

WSJ has a story on work being doen by Intel towards embedding virtualisation in chips.

Paul Otellini, Intel’s president and chief operating officer, disclosed that the the company is working on a technology — code-named Vanderpool — that helps a personal computer run different kinds of operating software at the same time. That technique, sometimes called virtualization, has long been used on mainframe computers, and can help isolate a system’s hardware from problems caused by viruses or software glitches.

Start-ups such as VMware Inc., a closely held company in Palo Alto, Calif., sell virtualization software now. But using special-purpose chip circuitry to help isolate the software can significantly improve performance, Mr. Otellini said. During a keynote speech, the company demonstrated a PC that continued to play videos while an Intel executive rebooted a separate operating system to download some game software.

This is very interesting – we want to make a server appliance which can run Windows and Linux simultaneously.

Making Computing Affordable

Two interesting stories point to a future of affordable computing. Scott McNealy says “customers are paying up to 10 times what they should to buy and run computers, but a correction will come soon”, and Intel is thinking of ways “to come out with less-expensive versions of its processors and chipsets to better suit the customer base in India, Eastern Europe and other developing regions.”

This is the theme (Emergic) I have talked often in my writings here – we need to bring down cost of hardware, software and support by a factor of 10 to take computing to the next billion users in the emerging markets.

Sun’s approach is elaborated by the News.com story:

Sun believes it has the answer to the problem: Customers should buy collections of hardware and software already assembled and suited to the task at hand, and they should run multiple tasks on those systems to ensure computing capacity isn’t going unused.

The Java Enterprise System will cost companies $100 per employee per year to use, Sun said. That fee includes professional services to help customers switch to the Sun software, as well as training and 60 hours a week of support. The company argues that charging customers that way is simpler than pricing software packages out for different customers depending on how many e-mail boxes, servers, server processors, terabytes of storage space they use.

The Java Desktop System costs $100 per desktop per year or–for customers using the Java Enterprise System–$50 per employee per year, Sun said.

Intel’s ultimate goal is to sell PCs for as little as USD 199, according to its president, Paul Otellini. Writes News.com: “The main question facing the company now is how to take the cost out of building a desktop.”

I think Intel is not getting it right here – it already has the solution. Take its 486 chips or the Pentium I chip, and make a USD 50 thin client. Think thin clients, not cheap thick desktops.

TECH TALK: Next Billion: Innovations Needed (Part 3)

4. Visual Biz-ic

For SMEs to start using computers for their business, they need to rethink their business processes. What is needed is a redesign of the way they do their business keeping in mind the fact that every person in the organisation can now have access to a computer. SMEs need the equivalent of a Visual Biz-ic, a library of business processes which they can assemble together, much like the way children put together creations out of Lego blocks and programmers craft their software via a development platform like Microsofts Visual Basic.

Visual Biz-ic is the mechanism SMEs can become intelligent, real-time, event-driven enterprises. It is also the environment which software developers use to quickly put together business objects relevant for specific industry verticals. Web services and business process standards offer the base to create loosely coupled representations of key business processes, which can then be assembled on demand by the managers in the enterprises.

This is how SMEs will reap the benefits in productivity which the larger enterprises have enjoyed over the past few years through IT and the Internet. The use of a single open-source database like PostgreSQL or MySQL, an application server like Jboss, a Java-based development environment like J2EE can complement, a user interface centred around a digital dashboard, integration with cellphones to provide real-time alerts of exceptions to provide the core around which a business process design platform like Visual Biz-ic can be constructed. Visual Biz-ic will thus fire up the independent, smaller software developers by giving them a complete foundation for using their knowledge of industry verticals to create specialised, reusable software that mirrors business processes.

5. Software Distribution Network

The big missing link in the value chain of software is the distribution network. It simply does not exist in most of the emerging markets. A mix of piracy and non-consumption has meant that there is little money to be made selling software. Buyers either find that they can get software at near-zero prices by simply copying it or that it is too expensive for them to consider using it. Concomitant with the need for affordable software solutions is the need for getting it from developers to the users.

There is a need to create the equivalent of the hardware industrys distribution network for software. In fact, the inspiration needs to come from other industries like FMCG, entertainment and automobiles. There are three elements of the distribution network: a hub, which aggregates and commissions software development, the spokes, which are the local offices in cities and towns, and the server on the enterprise network as the final distribution point.

There is a need to educate users on how software can make a difference to what they do both for personal productivity and for enterprise efficiency. It is the availability of affordable and packaged software that will convince users to make the investments in computers, creating a positive feedback cycle by getting more software developers as the domestic sales of computers rise. Hardware may have become commoditised and that is good for users. But software is the fuel which will propel usage and make technology a utility. If petrol pumps and roads were not ubiquitous, neither would be cars. Software too needs its distribution networks to connect the manufacturers to consumers.

Tomorrow: Innovations Needed (continued)

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