Friday, April 25, 2008

Free Computers with Every Electricity Contract

Johnathan Swartz, CEO of Sun, was just speaking at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. He reiterated the fact that electric power costs more than computer hardware. Electricity is second only to staffing in many business costs.

A power company could offer a free data center to a company that would sign a multi-year contract to buy power. Note also that Chris Anderson's next big idea is offering free products (his last big idea was The Long Tail).

Self-destructing Email and Instant Messages.

A small company at Web 2.0 offers a product that allows people to send email and instant messages that disappear over time. Initially this seemed like a very tricky feat. But after getting into the details, I learned that their system just sends an email or IM which contains a link to the content on their web server. When you read the message it is really loading from the server. At the specified time-out they just delete the message from the server and the link that exists in your email or IM client can no longer access the content of the message. This simple idea could be very useful and could be implemented by any web-based email service (e.g. Yahoo, Gmail). Though it is a good idea it is not a likely business success because it is too easily copied by any company.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Four Approaches to Simulation as an IT Service

Previously I have described an idea to deliver simulations as an IT service in the same way that people are able to use the Web, email, and other online services. Further investigation and discussions with companies pursuing similar projects suggest that there are four methods of achieving this. Each has their own advantages and drawbacks.

  • Basic HTML. If a simulation can be delivered as basic HTML, then the infrastructure and desktop software is already in place to deliver this. Currently, Google Maps is an example of how far this can be taken with user interactivity.
  • Plug-in. We could develop a browser plug-in so that the main interface to simulation tools and content is still through the browser, but it would allow us to create more advanced content. The most popular plug-in of this type is Flash. Garage Games has developed a plug-in that uses DirectX and the power of the graphics card on the machine. This service is currently in Beta test at
  • Simulation Framework or Driver. A framework driver is a program that is approved to reside on a standard Army desktop and contains generalized rendering, AI, a GUI, and other tools that can be installed to support specific simulation content modules. The specific content (flight ops, team tactics, etc.) would be downloaded by the driver according to the needs of the soldier that was using a specific machine. The content modules would not be installed as unique programs but would be libraries to an already installed and approved driver.
  • Full Simulation. Finally, each computer user would have to download and install a full application that is specific to their needs. This is the most problematic in terms of server support, bandwidth, and user permissions.

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