How Network Computing will change the way we work
Independence of desktop from physical location
Login to your account, your own desktop, on
any NC in any airport, hotel,
conference center, seminar room, or classroom that is on the Internet,
anywhere in the world. No more lugging laptops
around, or having them stolen. (Okay, this won't work when you go butterfly
collecting in the Amazon rainforest. Nothing's perfect.)
You don't need to plan ahead, deciding which
files to download onto your laptop, prior to going on a trip, or going
home for the evening. Simply login from wherever you happen to be and start
Smartcards can simplify remote
access to your server.
Electronic lectures, seminars, presentations
Go to a classroom and login to your account. You are ready to show your
figures using your favorite program, or demonstrate to students how to
use a program, or run graphics-intensive demos, such as 3D-molecular modeling
applications. Don't bother carrying a laptop to the
classroom. Just use the terminal provided.
If you're giving a seminar in Germany, don't bring
slides, which won't fit into European projectors anyway. Simply
log into your account at the podium, and give your seminar, again using
your favorite software.
Write-once, Run anywhere software
JAVA, the new programming language from Sun Microsystems, was specifically
to run on any computer platform. This is how it works: JAVA programs
are run within a shell called the Java virtual machine. Since the Java
virtual machine has been ported to virtually all computer platforms (eg.
Unix, Intel, OpenVMS, IBM mainframes, Macintosh, etc.) all Java programs
should run on all platforms. All you need is the Java virtual machine.
Everything will be a networked device
Software written in JAVA is therefore platform independent. Software
developers need only write and maintain one JAVA
version of the software, rather than many versions for many platforms.
The Java Molecular
Biology Workbench is an example of a suite of JAVA programs. In this
case, the programs are run as applets, which are downloaded from the remote
server at runtime. Java programs can also be downloaded and run as standalone
appilcations on one's local server, workstation or PC.
Soon, any device with a Java chip can become a networked standalone
device, that can be operated from any server. Sun's Jini
Technology enables low-overhead, rapid links to the networked
world using only a phone-style connector, and perhaps even cellular technology
for wireless networking.
Clean integration of computing platform, network, lab notebook
and lab equipment
Competion displaces monopoly; more choices
JAVAwill begin to eliminate
the need to choose a computer platform because of one or two key programs
that run only on that platform.
Even desktops will differ for different types of users. Independent companies
can market desktops tailored for running a laboratory, an office, a department,
or for the individual lab worker. Many of the same programs (eg. word processing)
might be called from any desktop. Many desktops could be run from the same
server. Each type of profession might need a different type of desk top.
There doesn't have to be a single winner. That is, NCs can be so general
as to run many different types of desktops, or software form any JAVA-complient
vender. In principle, JAVA itself
could potentially be replaced by more worthy successors that run on the
Return to Introduction to Network Computing