Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Clouds, Smart Phones, and Virtual Machines

Having recently participated in forums on both Mobile and on Cloud Computing, both well run, intellectually stimulating, and attended by hundreds, you might infer that I have been discussing which technology will be more significant. The forums, in Cambridge MA, were held only eight days and 12 minutes walking distance apart, yet appeared to attract disparate audiences. Outside of myself, the only person I saw attending both forums was Mike Werner, Platform Strategy Advisor- Cloud Computing, Microsoft.

Ask me to declare a winner, I say virtual machine concepts. The combination of Smart Phones and Clouds, connected through a revived belief in virtual machines, will be the new paradigm. It needs a new name, maybe McCloud (the Mobile Computing Cloud).

Meanwhile, some parties are battling over ownership of the old paradigms. From CIO.com:

VMware CEO Paul Maritz took another jab at IBM, sometimes called a pioneer of virtualization because of its use of the technology in its mainframes.

"Even IBM, which likes to claim to be the inventor of virtualization, didn't fully realize and anticipate what could have been done with this technology," Maritz said. "It's not about individual machines but about how groups of servers relate to each other."

First and foremost, Virtual Machine operating systems were invented at IBM’s Cambridge Scientific Center by a team led by Bob Creasy. I would give much of the credit for extending the virtual machine outside the bounds of its host to my friend Edson Hendricks, who developed the RSCS networking subsystem, which he described in a seminal paper in the IBM Systems Journal. Ed’s subsystem became the basis for VNET, IBM’s internal network which in the 1970s became one of the largest computer networks in the world.

This is not to disparage the fine work done by VMware and others extending the virtual machine concept, but putting the virtual devices on the network opened up many of these possibilities. You can do more today with a multi-gigabit packet switching network than you could with a 2400 bit dial-up line.

I referred to Ed’s paper recently while I was preparing an SBIR proposal for a virtual machine security subsystem; his approach holds up very well, thirty years later.

The scramble for credit reminds me of my old friend, Eddie Bernays, who organized a festival commemorating the 50th anniversary of Edison’s invention of the light bulb. Attendees included President Hoover, Henry Ford, Orville Wright, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Madame Curie.

I fondly anticipate that most of you will participate in the 50th anniversary of Cloud Computing, honoring me as the inventor of the concept. What’s that you say: I didn’t invent Cloud Computing? Well, Edison didn’t invent the light bulb either; you can look it up in your Wikipedia. Then again, Thomas Edison and I both knew Eddie Bernays, the Father of Modern Public Relations; Long life to all.

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