Desktops as Always-On Servers

Dana Blankenhorn has an interesting point on the future of desktops, which differs somewhat from what others are saying:

[The desktop] will become a server. In the office it will be a personal server, a docking station you can lock your laptop in for software updates, maintenance, and big file transfers. In the home, it will become a network server, the hub for both your wireless network and its 802.11 applications.

There are good reasons for this. Laptops aren’t expandable, and many Always-On applications will demand a lot more power than laptops can deliver. Desktops are cheaper to build than laptops, power-for-power, and if the computer doesn’t have a reason to go anywhere why not? And you’re not going to want your Always-On server going anywhere.

In the World of Always-On medical applications, inventory applications, GPS applications and home maintenance applications are always running. Clocks are going, tests are being done, data collected and analyzed. Most of this work will go on in the background. Results will be transmitted both within the house, over the wired Internet, and (sometimes) to wherever you are, via cellular links.

A related post by Dana elaborates on the idea of the home communications server:

This would be a Linux box that includes an 802.11 access point, a VPN gateway, with security and Voice Over IP, and lots of expandability.

You buy it for those last two things. Anyone who runs a home network without security is just waiting to have their ID stolen. Anyone who wants Voice over IP is going to want to go cordless. It’s a huge mass-market opportunity, especially if you can get it into the home for, say, $500. Connect it to your existing PC.

But that’s just a foot-in-the-door, because you also put slots in this thing. What kinds of slots? Could be board slots, could be PCMCIA slots, could be USB 2.0 plugs, could be Memory Card slots. Could be all these and more.

Why? Because the key point is that this box is Always-On ready.

What am I talking about? With the server providing a modular, scalable platform, you can quickly add home security — just run the program from the server, add cameras, sensors, a link to the cop house (or a third-party like ADT). Simple, cheap, highly effective. Tell that burglar to smile and say cheese.

We’re talking home inventory programs, medical monitoring for the aged (or the middle aged), programs that give you a database of what’s fresh in your refrigerator and available on the pantry shelves. We’re talking about office applications, personal schedulers you can hold in your hand (or access with voice commands, tiny speakers and microphones set-up in the corners of the room connected to the server).

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.