Cunliffe: 'great potential' in thin clients

Processing as commodity makes broadband even more necessary

IT Minister David Cunliffe met with Sun CIO Bill Vass during Vass’s visit here earlier this month, and found his vision of utility computing “most interesting”. Vass painted a picture of a grid of powerful servers providing processing power to groups of users equipped with “ultrathin” desktop client machines.

“Utility computing holds great potential for reducing the cost of processing power and increasing the efficiency of its use,” Cunliffe says. Efficiency improvement would come from the fact that processing power is drawn from the grid when needed, and no individual or workgroup would need to acquire a processor capable of handling their maximum workload peak as at present.

This, he says, will help push ahead an objective of the digital strategy, to make access to computing power and online information more widely available at a more reasonable cost.

Cunliffe sees utility computing as speeding the transition of digital processing to the status of a commodity. “This could be the next stage of Moore’s law,” he says.

“The other aspect of utility computing is that it will require effective networking, and that has to be good for the telcos. What flows from that is a further increase in the importance of business broadband communications.”

He does not see the perception of this development as requiring any action from government. “It should not be a matter of government policy to push utility computing, because it is not a question of market failure.

“Where there may be implications for government is as a user, and this will fall under the responsibilities of the e-government unit [now known as the ICT branch] in the State Services Commission.

The ICT branch is clearly aware of the value of shared processing and a need for high-bandwidth connectivity, Cunliffe says, and is reflected in the shape of the all-of-government shared services network.

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