Thursday Jun 16, 2005

DISPLAY grid or display GRID?

Most grid uses these days are "compute" grids. As we start to look at some other interesting concepts of "grid" usage one that has been mentioned has been the "display grid". However, as I think about this it seems that the term really spans a continuum of possibilities.

Is it a DISPLAY grid ... or a display GRID?

DISPLAY grid to me implies that the primary usage/focus is around the concept of "display". Whether that is a web browser based environment to a single/few selected apps to a fully blown desktop environment. The focus is on the interactive usage. The grid portion than gets brought into the concept in two ways. First, the architecture used to deliver the display functionality could/may be based upon common grid architectures. Second is that there is a desire to use unused cpu cycles to do "tradional" grid computing tasks. This scenario would be typified by things like ... delivery of web based kiosks or "simple" web based vertical solutions.

display GRID than is the total opposite of the first scenario. The primary usage/focus is around the grid computing aspects and that secondary to the grid computing might be the display of the results of the grid computing tasks. This scenario would be typified by things like ... animation rendering, molecular modeling, dna sequencing etc... You might want to be able to display from the grid simply because the volume of the date is such that moving it would be tedious, or, it's a very iterative/interactive process that the user is involved in.

That's my thoughts... what do you think?

Monday Jun 13, 2005

Home Bandwidth Comsumption - Part 2

I finally started my "bandwidth monitoring" test from home. While I'm accumulating the statistics I thought people might be interested on how I'm gathering the stats.

Look back at my earlier blog about "Home networking gone wild" and you'll see a diagram of my home network. The goal of this test is to measure my inbound & outbound internet traffic and not the traffic that's local to the home network. The biggest "challenge" is that virtually all of todays "hubs" are really "switches". And the issue with switches is that you cannot view the traffic on all the ports from a single port.

So the solution is to track down an old ethernet hub. That is a real hub that does shared traffic across all the port. Fortunately a compatriot in my office had one stashed away and was willing to lend it to me for a little while.

With that accomplished I could now "instrument" my internet connection as follows.

With the Solaris 10 laptop plugged into the ethernet hub I can than run the open source tool called "ethereal" to snarf all the traffic between the internet and my home router.

I'm only a few days into gathering statistics when will report back what I find out.

Friday Jun 10, 2005

Display Grid ... Coming to a home near you?

Maybe you've heard Scott McNealy mention the idea of a "Display Grid" in relationship to both the current Sun Grid projects and Sun Ray / Tarantella.

For the past year now I've been running a project where we've placed a Sun Ray server infrastructure externally to Sun's corp network. With it we've been doing demos and setting up executive level contacts to experience first hand how Sun Rays work in a wide area network setting (WAN), using of course the worlds largest WAN... the internet. From some of this work we've been garnering ideas and use cases that may be used to develop some initial "Display Grid" ideas.

How well does this model work?

Here's a blog written by one of our test users you might find interesting.

I've had test users running Sun Rays from across the Atlantic with very good performance. The fact that Sun Rays run blazingly fast across a WAN has huge potentials in my opinion to change how companies deploy desktop computing. Even if you don't need to do it across the internet, think about the benefits within your own company network of being able to easily deploy and support desktops from a more centralized compute facility. (It's back to the future, mainframe computing, done with a much nicer, multimedia, more flexible display device).

Monday May 23, 2005

Home Bandwidth Consumption

In a previous blog I wrote about my home network. That started me thinking about how much bandwidth am I using, what protocols, what systems etc.. In particular I'm interested in the bandwidth used by my Sun Rays in a wide area deployment scenario. To that end, I'm going to setup this week a monitoring capability and measure my bandwidth usage. I'll gather stats for a least a week than do some analysis and report back here on my findings.

Wednesday May 18, 2005

Make a Sun Ray Wireless (Or any other wired device)

Some of my friends and colleagues claim that I'm a gadget guy. I think a lot of other people are much more gadget aquire'ers but I do my fair share of getting neat devices to make my life better, or come up with a way to use something else in a fresh manner.

One of the things that I've needed to do in the last year for some demos and proof of concepts is show a wireless Sun Ray. I also often see posted on our internal email aliases questions by other people on how to do the same thing. So, for what it's worth, here's what I've been using and recommending to people.

Check out the D-Link DWL-G730AP

This is a sweet little device that actually has 3 different modes of operation. It's about the size of a credit card, but thicker, it can be powered by wall power or better yet via USB. The 3 modes are Access Point mode, Access Point/Router mode, and Wireless Bridge mode.

I actually use and take this with me when I travel because you just don't know when you might need to turn a conference room in to a wireless network!

For the Sun Ray, I simply configure it as a wireless bridge, connect it's ethernet to the ethernet on the Sun Ray, tap into the USB on the Sun Ray for power and voila! you're running wireless!

Tuesday May 17, 2005

Home networking gone wild

As my first real post I'd like to introduce you to my home network. See, I've been working from home mostly now for the past year (Sun has great technology for flexible work locations) and I finally got around to looking at what I've got and was quite surprised at how much my home network has grown over the last year.

Here's a drawing of the network.

Home Network

As you can see the left side is pretty normal. The 3 Windows XP laptops and the Windos XP desktop systems are used by my family,3 college age kids all have the laptops and my wife uses the desktop PC. It's interesting to note though that the desktop PC is really quite old, it's a 400Mhz PIII that's used for wordprocesssing, email and web. And works quite nicely at that. Haven't had to "upgrade" it at all.

The right side is my "home office" network.

The Netra T1 is running Solaris 10 and I use it for a lot of things, but mostly as one of my Solaris learning/experimentation/prototyping systems for projects that I'm working on.

The Apple Xserve is one of the two "stable" systems in my network. By stable I mean I don't "experiment" with it. I've put a graphics card in it and use it as a desktop system. I split my time between this system and my Solaris 10 laptop (Toshiba M2). I must admit that until Solaris 10 my primary tool was my Apple Powerbook. However the Xserve has supplanted the Powerbook and when I need a mobile system I take my Solaris 10 laptop.

As I've already mentioned, the next in line is the Toshiba M2 laptop running Solaris 10. It's setup to also dual boot WIndows XP but I find I haven't had to do that for quite some time now :-) . This is my other "stable" system. I don't do a lot of "experimenting" with it because I depend on it daily for use. Most often I have it "VPN'ed" into Sun's internal network so I can access files/information there.

Next is the Sun Ray 170. This is Sun's newest Sun Ray. It's a beautiful design with a 17" LCD monitor built in. Being that it's an ultra thin client it needs to connect to a server someplace to drive it. I boot it from a number of different servers depending on my needs, however, most often it's connected to a set of servers that I work with that is part of Sun's Sun Grid project. (More about this in a future blog :-) ) At this point let me just say that even though the servers that I'm connecting to are hundreds of miles away performance is as good as if it were in my basement! If you haven't seen what the Sun Ray can do in a "low-bandwidth" situation you really should. It's very impressive!

The Sun Ray 1G is connected to a Cisco 831 VPN/Router. The Cisco builts a VPN tunnel into Sun's internal network and the 1G runs from a server within the corportate network. This is part of our Sun Ray@Home inititive. What's really cool about this is that I can be working on this Sun Ray at home, pull out the smartcard, go into any Sun office, insert my smartcard the viola! everything that was being displayed at home has now followed me to my Sun office!

For phone access for a long time I've just been using my cell phone. However, my office is in my basement and coverage isn't the best there. I've managed to get by with that though. Just recently though I've added my latest piece of network stuff. A Vonage VoIP solution. So now I do all my phoning via the Vonage service.

Finally, there's the old Powerbook. I still use it, but mostly when I'm in other places in the house and need access. Otherwise it sits around waiting to be used.

To make it easier to use all of this equipment I have the 2 Sun Rays, the Toshiba and the Xserve all using a single keyboard/mouse via a USB KVM switch. However, I have 3 monitors setup so I can see all the time what's on them all. Well, one monitor has to be switched since I only have 3 monitors for 4 systems.

Of course, this is only the equipment that is always in the network. I often need to build up testing/prototyping environements and for that I have other gear ( a Sun V20z Opteron server, various X86 & SPARC laptops, and other Sun Rays) for whatever project that I'm currently working on. And of course I'm working on various servers on the Sun Grid projects.

Finally, here's a photo of "command central" as I like to call it. If you look closly at the picture over my desk you'll be able to see Duke hanging out with me also :-) .

office photo

Monday May 16, 2005


Well, I've been wrestling with this whole blogging thing for a while and have finally decided to give it a whirl. Just a quick blurb about me. I've been with Sun almost 15 years, almost all that time working in what we call the "field". Working with customers etc... out in a sales office as some form of Systems Engineer/Technologist. I'm located in out Southfield, MI office however lately I've been working from my home office more and more (a few blogs about technology enablement etc... to come). These days I'm part of our Sun Grid team with a particular interest in desktop/user experiences. Which will of course lead me to writing about Sun Rays also.



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