The thick server that we refer to here can be of two types: it can be a single, new desktop computer with enhanced memory and two hard disks with real-time mirroring of data (software RAID), or a collection of clustered desktop machines. Think of these as inexpensive blade servers with a network-attached storage. This second solution circumvents the single point of failure problem inherent in the first option, thus offering greater scalability and reliability.
The thick server would contribute about USD 30-50 (Rs 1,500-2,500) to the solution cost that is, the additional loading on what it would cost to support the 5KPC. In that sense, the solution we have outlined is not a perfect 5KPC the real cost per client is about Rs 6,500-7,500 (USD 130-150).
The final topic that needs to be addressed in the context of the Rs 5,000 PC (5KPC) on the technology side is the software. The 5KPC uses Linux and other open-source software. That is going to be the only way to keep price-points at a rock-bottom level.
Applications run on the server and are displayed on the 5KPC using either a terminal-server application like LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project, which runs an X server on the client) or vnc (virtual network computer). vnc, created by AT7T Labs, is a remote display system which allows you to view a computing ‘desktop’ environment not only on the machine where it is running, but from anywhere on the Internet and from a wide variety of machine architectures.
The idea of doing processing on the server and sending the keystrokes and mouse clicks from the user and getting the updated screen from the server is not a new idea: running applications on the server over low-speed connections is already being done Citrix has a solution which works in the Windows world.
The basic set of applications that need to be supported include an email client (Ximians Evolution), a desktop productivity suite (OpenOffice), a web browser (Mozilla or its lightweight variants like Phoenix), an instant messaging client (GAIM) which provides interoperability with existing IM clients (AOL, ICQ, MSN and Yahoo), and a PDF reader (Adobes Acrobat). All these applications are available for free on Linux.
So, thats how the 5KPC can be constructed: either old and recycled computers or new, low-configuration ones, running open-source applications on a Linux base, along with a network connection to a thick server.
The 5KPC is a bottom-of-the-pyramid strategy to bridge the digital divide. It targets nonconsumption making computing available to those who have not able to afford it so far because of the costs of the solution.
Next week, we will consider how the 5KPC can be the centre of the computing ecosystem for the next set of users. There are various market segments which we will discuss education (schools and colleges), government, small and medium enterprises, bank branches, homes and telecentres. The underlying vision we want to achieve is that a connected computer accessible to every employee and family.
TECH TALK The Rs 5,000 PC Ecosystem+T