Philharmonic Computing

 
 
By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-06-18 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Improved microprocessors make other technologies more valuable. Mass storage, for example, is worth more if less expensive, faster processors can execute more demanding compression algorithms

Improved microprocessors make other technologies more valuable. Mass storage, for example, is worth more if less expensive, faster processors can execute more demanding compression algorithms. Memory is worth more if high-bandwidth processors can sharpen and color-correct a video stream, to mention just one application, as easily as they used to optimize a single image frame.

But the real explosion of processor demand doesnt come from high-end applications for chips that cost hundreds of dollars. It comes from the hordes of simple applications, formerly less expensive to do with hard-wired logic, migrating to software on newly affordable low-end general-purpose chips.

If only all those general-purpose processors could find jobs to do in their spare time. Suns Project Jxta, a hot topic at this years JavaOne conference, proposes a framework for spontaneous collaboration among processing nodes—and a peer-to-peer framework like Jxta doesnt merely partition existing large tasks. It also enables exploitation of previously invisible opportunities: for example, as suggested during Bill Joys JavaOne demo, to have all the cars near a given gas station negotiate as a group for a discounted price.

Cooperation among Jxta nodes depends, to some degree, on agreement as to independent facts. Those facts change from moment to moment, facing system designers with a familiar dilemma: Continually retrieving the same information is wasteful, but assuming that information does not change is dangerous.

Solving this "cache coherency" problem for P2P participants that come and go and that communicate by low-speed shared or wireless connections is the leap that will unite electronic soloists into a symphony of dynamic and powerful solutions.

 
 
 
 
Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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