The demonstration project challenge

The challenge is simple: suggest a project to demonstrate the business advantages of whatever desktop technology you favor.

The big difference between a Sun Ray and a thin client is that the software on the Sun Ray does not interact with the application - meaning that someone with unrestricted physical access to the device can destroy its functionality, but not affect application integrity.

In reality this is most valuable with respect to the military concept of audit assurance and operating security: protection against unauthorized use, deliberate sabotage, and information manipulation by enemy agents. Since civilian companies rarely care about these kinds of threats the most valuable advantages offered them by Sun Ray are the same ones delivered by older smart displays like NCD's 1980s X-terminal line: performance; reliability; cool, silent, low power operation; location and application independence; and, complete freedom from desktop viruses or other PC style "security" threats.

With that distinction between thin clients and Sun Ray in mind I'd like to challenge readers to propose a business or application demonstrating the clear superiority of the desktop architecture of your choice - Windows, Linux, MacOS X, thin clients, or Sun Rays.

The things your project has to be or achieve include:

  1. comparability: the basis for comparisons is the best the other guys can do and, by default, everything will get compared to Windows client-server: the latest Microsoft software deployed to maximum advantage on the latest Intel hardware.

  2. scaleablity: from a twenty-five user pre-funding demonstration to international visibility.

  3. clarity: clear demonstration of the value of use - no values based ambiguities like "I can find more and cheaper people to run it..." or "it's more secure so I don't care if it's slower.."

  4. generality: results must have decision consequences across a broad spectrum of business uses.

I don't have a million bucks to give away, but lets pretend that we know someone who promises to provide up to a million for research and prototyping for the right proposal and will, if that goes well, introduce you to a venture capital firm capable of providing a couple of senior advisors and the next hundred million.

Some notes:

One: scalability combines with comparability to highlight an important clarity issue here. The demonstration project has to be unambiguous about performance and value - and where ambiguity exists, that ambiguity has to be resolvable through demonstration at and above the minimum twenty-five concurrent user scale.

For example, a user on a quad core Xeon workstation running Windows can do a keyword search among 5,000 locally stored emails in significantly less time than his counterpart using a Sun Ray on a T5220 - however twenty-five Sun Ray users on that same machine will all get their results well before twenty-five Windows users sharing a single Exchange server.

Two: clarity includes visibility. For example, there's no question Sun Ray shines in security environments - but good ones are largely invisible to others. Whatever application or business you suggest, the architecture you propose has to have unique positive value obvious to third parties -and you need to specify just how the benefits and visibility are achieved.

In addition there's an important do-ability issue associated with clarity. Suggest a software development effort aimed at meeting the daily needs of major law enforcement agencies via smart computing and you probably have a winner on cost, technology, user satisfaction, reliability, and visibility in the IT and general business communities - but you founder on commercial do-ability because it took these guys 75 years to switch from revolvers to automatics and they won't adapt to IT change any faster.

Note that a credible project is, I think, possible for each technology. For example, if I were to propose a demonstration business for Sun Ray my project would focus on information support within a national or international restaurant franchise catering to frequent travelers.

Good luck .. and if you want your entry to be treated as confidential, put a summary comment that doesn't give away the store (like mine, above) here and send your entry to me directly - (winface, murph,