Download PDF version of this article PDF

Taking a second look at the news so you don’t have to

Virtualization Reconsidered

As covered in a recent Queue article (“The Virtualization Reality,” December/January 2006), server virtualization is gaining steam on the merits of both cost savings and manageability. The article describes how today’s hardware has become so powerful, and in many cases underutilized, that it often makes economic and logical sense to get more bang for the buck by having one hardware configuration handle the processing for multiple operating systems running on a single hypervisor. Major players in that space include XenSource, VMWare, and Parallels. The latter two made news recently with upgrades to their desktop virtualization products, mainly targeted at users who wish to toggle between OS X and Windows.

It’s important to consider the downsides as well. A recent article on describes some key problems that can arise with server virtualization. Among them are license management, security, and a dearth of management tools that cross the virtual-physical divide. The article also mentions potential bandwidth/throughput problems, as once-underutilized hardware is put to the test. Furthermore, more uptime means less scheduled downtime for upgrades and maintenance. Maybe all that wasted power isn’t so bad after all.


The Power of PS3

Speaking of CPU power, the Sony PlayStation 3 has the fastest processor of any gaming console—or laptop, for that matter. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by hackers and researchers, who have long modified gaming consoles to accommodate desktop operating systems. A Stanford University project enables the well-known [email protected] distributed computing project to leverage the PS3’s spare processing power. PS3s connected to the Internet can now process data when idle and automatically upload completed units of work to the [email protected] database. This marks the first time a non-PC device has been configured to work with the project and opens the door for all sorts of new applications (SETI on your cellphone?).

But while the PS3 is a leader in processing power, it’s also a leader in power consumption. At 380 watts, it uses more electricity than any other home gaming console. Add a power-hungry plasma TV and you’ve got the entertainment-system equivalent of a Hummer SUV. For gamers, this means high energy bills and sneers from eco-activists. It remains to be seen, however, if the PS3’s power issues will cause potential [email protected] partners to shut down their PS3s instead of leaving them on to chug through some protein-folding calculations.


Anti-P2P Software Targets Universities

College students have long been accused of binge drinking, drug use, and unprotected sex. In the Internet age they have another crime to add to their collective rap sheet: illegal file sharing. The combination of free broadband access, copious free time, and little disposable income can make illegal downloading too tempting to pass up, and students have largely gotten away with it.
But the party could soon be over. The recording industry now has an ally in Red Lambda, which makes a software product called cGrid that universities can deploy to catch P2P file sharers and boot them off their networks. The software works by monitoring popular P2P clients and the traffic coming in and out of students’ computers, which are identified by their MAC addresses. It does not analyze the content itself, but rather the usage patterns of students’ computers. The question is can the software differentiate between illegal file sharing and legal file sharing, such as transferring large data files between computers for science projects? This issue alone could create strong resistance from faculty and students. Another potential barrier is the system’s high price tag: $1 million for installation and yearly $250,000 maintenance fees.



Originally published in Queue vol. 5, no. 3
see this item in the ACM Digital Library


© ACM, Inc. All Rights Reserved.