January 6, 2010

Updating our disclosures

From time to time a blogger should make disclosures about sources of income and other potential influences.  Fortunately, I’ve covered most of them in the past.

One new development is that for the first time since 2001, I’ve taken stock in a private company. It’s Petascan, a seed/stealth-stage outfit with some very innovative ideas about how to use Flash memory in support of analytic data processing.  I’d like to do more of this, with conflicts evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  For example, I bet I could bring a lot of value to vertically-oriented analytics start-ups, who would at worst compete with only a small fraction each of the business of the more horizontally-oriented companies I generally write about.

April 7, 2007

Check Point Systems UTM-1 and Crossbeam Systems – resolving the confusion

When Check Point Systems first briefed me on their new midrange UTM-1 appliance, they neglected to mention that their hardware designs were first worked out by Crossbeam Systems. Actually, it turns out that they even buy the hardware through Crossbeam. It took a comment here from Crossbeam’s Chris Hoff for me to realize the true story. Today, I connected with Paul Kaspian of Check Point to straighten things out. Here’s the scoop. Read more

January 5, 2007

Flash drives as hard-drive replacements

SanDisk is pushing a 32-gig flash disk that costs multiple hundreds of dollars more than a large hard drive. (Here’s The Register’s take on it.) One figure they cite is a 100-fold+ improvement in access speed. The speed difference between disk and silicon, of course, is something I’ve focused on in my research into memory-centric data management, and also in some of the work on data warehouse appliances as well. They are proposing this as the entire fixed memory for laptops. And in a much cheaper vein, Nicholas Negroponte is proposing a diskless architecture for the 100-dollar laptop.

But to me, the really interesting future here is PCs with removable persistent solid-state storage. I wrote about the subject a year ago, and I just want to take this opportunity to remind people that’s it’s a desirable and not-implausible way for personal computing and consumer electronics to evolve. If the storage part of the system can be separated out, what you’re left with is mainly the human-facing I/O and the processing power to drive that. So from where I sit, portable external storage could drive an explosion in interesting and useful electronic device form factors.

January 3, 2007

Virtual appliances, virtual SaaS?

I chatted with VMware today about virtualization, virtual appliances, and so on. But first we covered some basics:

As for how this all plays with appliances and SaaS – that’s largely a future, but potentially a very interesting one. Here’s what I mean. Read more

July 28, 2006

Would a Google PC succeed?

Richard Brandt asked me to look over his post on the oft-rumored possibility of a Google PC. I actually opined on this back in January, when the rumors were rife in connection with a supposed Wal-Mart sales/marketing agreement. I concluded that that would make a lot of sense for internet connectivity and student/homework uses (I didn’t consider work-at-home or gaming uses because that didn’t seem a good fit with Wal-Mart). The reasoning I came up with back then looks good in retrospect, with only minor tweaks (e.g., my new reason for not worrying about IE-only websites is the IE emulation capability in Firefox).

Richard, however, goes further, thinking that Google could succeed in PCs used mainly to run word processing, spreadsheets, etc.. His arguments include:

Read more

July 21, 2006

Virtualization seems somewhat overhyped

Virtualization is in many ways pure goodness, just as proponents say. But even so, I think it’s being overhyped. As software, hardware, and processor vendors all get larger, economies of scale are allowing very tight development coupling so as to optimize performance, power usage, etc. For example, I’m running into Intel engineers at almost every large company I follow. If you buy software — and who builds their own if they don’t have to? — you’re now likely to get something that’s been carefully optimized for very specific operating environments. And then there are appliances, which are still trending up, not down. (See also what Stuart Frost of DATallegro has to say on that point.) Or check out this ostensibly pro-virtualization article that really is in agreement with me. Read more

July 20, 2006

Diskless PCs — a transition path

I’ve been beating the drum for flash-drive-based diskless PCs for a while (see earlier posts in this section). Computerworld now reports that In-Stat says these PCs could take over half the laptop market by 2013.

Of course, that kind of market research study is not to be taken seriously, at least in its detailed dates and numbers. But of interest is the #1 benefit to flash drives cited in a survey they did, because it’s one I hadn’t focused on before — lower power consumption.

What I’ve been talking about is a grand change in personal computing, with removable flash drives replacing hard drives, and being carried from device to device. Laptops with fixed flash drives may be a key step on the path toward that future.

July 15, 2006

Appliances are not dead yet

Nick Carr and Jonathon Schwartz are predicting the death (or at least decline) of special-purpose computing appliances. Their reasons, so far as I can tell, are pretty much threefold:

  1. Vendors have economies of scale making general-purpose computers.
  2. Users have economies of scale running homogenous, general-purpose computers.
  3. Virtualization will work.

But when one thinks a little bit about what’s really driving the use of appliances, those arguments fall apart.

Read more

June 22, 2006

Intel on the comeback trail

My gut feeling is that Intel is coming back from its multiyear product inferiority vs. AMD. This ZDnet article lays out the case in much more detail than I could, but I have two observations to add:

1. There’s no reason Intel shouldn’t be able to leapfrog AMD. Permanent loss of market leads tends to be due to factors such as platform shifts or incurable code bloat; none of those seem to be present in the case of microprocessors.

2. For a while, I’ve been dealing with software and appliance vendors that like Intel because they’re paid to like Intel, via various kinds of marketing arrangements. But over the last few months, the liking has begun to sound a lot more sincere.

Disclosure: Intel is a co-sponsor of two of my white papers. Wiseasses might suggest that my point #2 above is therefore actually somewhat recursive in its reasoning.

April 20, 2006

Flash drives and security — a modest proposal

I’ve argued that Flash-based “diskless” PCs would offer major improvements in security. On the other hand, evidence from US military installations in the Middle East suggests than Flash drives are actually a major security hole.

Can these views be reconciled? I think so. The answer, simply, is that Flash drives need embedded RFID chips (or some substitute technology) so that their movements can be detected and controlled.

“But wait!”, you cry. “Doesn’t that mean anybody who legitimately carries a secure Flash drive around can have her movements nefariously tracked?” Well yes, it does, but that genie is out of the bottle anyway. We just have to deal with it on another level.

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