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Jon 'Maddog' Hall On Project Cauã: a Server In Every Highrise 151

Posted by timothy
from the cafeterias-and-slaughterhouses-too dept.
Qedward writes with an excerpt at TechWorld about a new project from Jon "Maddog" Hall, which is about to launch in Brazil: "The vision of Project Cauã is to promote more efficient computing following the thin client/server model, while creating up to two million privately-funded high-tech jobs in Brazil, and another three to four million in the rest of Latin America. Hall explained that Sao Paolo in Brazil is the second largest city in the Western Hemisphere and has about twelve times the population density of New York City. As a result, there are a lot of people living and working in very tall buildings. Project Cauã will aim to put a server system in the basement of all of these tall buildings and thin clients throughout the building, so that residents and businesses can run all of their data and applications remotely."
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Jon 'Maddog' Hall On Project Cauã: a Server In Every Highrise

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  • Thin clients (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Now I know you're making a jobs program. Replacing this crap will cost even more money.

    • Thin clients should basically never need to be replaced until they HCF, at which point theyre much cheaper than your average desktop.

      • Thin clients should basically never need to be replaced until they HCF, at which point theyre much cheaper than your average desktop.

        Unless the vendor doesn't support some update that you need because of a change on the server side(either a sufficient version bump that the protocol isn't totally interoperable, or something like moving from Citrix to VDI).

        At work, we've had nothing but nightmares with HP's support for their thin clients. One of their WinCE models had a mystery timekeeping issue that kept the clock stubbornly out of sync. After a couple of weeks of hammering they escalated it to engineering, who confirmed the problem and t

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          The problem is that you're using the wrong thin client technology.

          The thin client shouldn't give a damn what you do to generate the desktop, just its just a physical interface to a virtual world. There is absolutely no reason this can not be standardized.

          Thin Keyboards should be using Thin USB, and Thin pointing devices using Thin PointDevice connections. ThinHDMI ...

          Stop buying 'solutions' from vendors and by actual solutions better known as standards.

          Would you buy a PC that required a specialized video

          • I'd be delighted if standards existed in this area; but they don't(to my knowledge, if they do, please let me know).

            Keyboard, video, and mouse? Well, VNC is pretty antiquated; but at least it runs on almost anything. Your other options get thin, fast.

            USB over network? Assorted proprietary implementations exist, no standard. (Even the capabilities of serial over LAN, as ostensibly standardized in IPMI, can be a bit...uncertain... from vendor to vendor and product to product).

            • I'd be delighted if standards existed in this area; but they don't(to my knowledge, if they do, please let me know).

              They are. Use a floppy boot disk, boot to a PXE thin client.

              For example, 2x software has a solution that does this.

      • Pick one, I don't think it matters which one:
        .

        Highest Common Factor (as opposed to lowest common denominator)
        Hispanic College Fund
        Health Care Facilities
        High Cycle Fatigue
        Hybrid Coordination Function
        Hart Communication Foundation
        High Capacity Feeder (copiers and printers)
        Hundred Cubic Feet
        Historic Charleston Foundation (South Carolina)
        Halt and Catch Fire (Hacker's Dictionary)
        Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia
        Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City (Kansas City, MO)
        Hawai'i Community F

        • by jfengel (409917)

          Presumably he meant Halt and Catch Fire, a joke assembly language instruction from the good old days when (a) people wrote in assembly language and (b) catching fire was something done by the CPU rather than the battery (and the idea that such a device could be powered by a battery that didn't require a truck to carry it would have been a joke of its own).

    • by KGIII (973947)

      What is wrong with thin clients? In this case, in this particular situation, it seems like they may be a good idea.

      We used to use thin clients and rent time from a mainframe. Today, with everything being "in the cloud" and SaaS (or similar) we're just moving back in that direction though our "thin clients" have more power. When you use web-hosted email, an online word processor, or even a game online you're functioning just like it was with a thin client.

      It's actually the trend, from what I am able to see,

      • Re:Thin clients (Score:5, Informative)

        by skids (119237) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @03:44PM (#44042533) Homepage

        What is wrong with thin clients?

        You spend the same amount of money on screen and UI hardware, and then shave a sliver of the total system cost off by skimping on CPU and RAM, then spend much more than what you saved on beefed up network infrastructure to accomodate the larger payload. Thats what.

        Thin clients only make sense as a way to salvage older thick clients when you just happen to have next to no money to spend, and already for some reason have an overpowered network and server infrastructure. Or if your user base is so supid that they cannot be trusted not to throw them in the dishwasher.

        • by KGIII (973947)

          They are easier to maintain from a central location, they are easier to backup, they are easier to use, and there are all sorts of other benefits that you're overlooking. Additionally, in bulk, there are savings to be hand when purchasing the hardware. Not to mention that there are any number of ways to connect a thin client and, as you mentioned, they needn't be specific devices so the roles can be easily filled by older hardware.

          In other words, those aren't good enough reasons to simply naysay the idea in

        • Actually your argument supports thin clients because screen and UI hardware doesn't need to upgrade with newer software so when you go from that old version of some CAD package to the new version, you upgrade the serve r(if at all) and the clients get a newer faster package with *no* work at their end. The other option is to upgrade *every* PC when you need more power to run a new package. Having done PC upgrades most of my life, I see the value in a thin client system.
    • by hodet (620484)
      Good grief, sounds like a great way to waste millions. So I assume you would need to purchase access off the system admin because it says that potential admins would apply for a government loan to purchase the hardware. So to access remotely you would have all of your stuff in your main building? What about redundancy and backups? Will this be the McAdmin's responsibility? I don't know but just provide me a port on your switch with a good uplink and a static IP and let's call it a day.
  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @01:14PM (#44041087) Homepage Journal
    Is the landlord going to run the server farm? This sounds like a support nightmare to me.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by rjlouro (651989)
      According to the article:

      "Each server system will need a systems administrator, who will be the point of contact for any technical issues, and who will be able to change and manage the programs to meet the needs of his or her customers in the building.

      People interested in becoming a systems administrator will be able to do their training online and, once they have been certified, receive a license from the government that will enable them to get a bank loan for equipment and installation."
      • by jandrese (485)
        That really didn't answer the question though. All that says is "you'll need an administrator", without really laying down a framework for figuring out who it should be. It is a certainty that the landlords will be looking for bottom dollar bids on this extra expense that they don't know much about. He'll probably be charged rent for the space the machines take up, as well as power bills and whatnot, making the whole service more expensive than just buying a PC and running it in your apartment/office/etc
        • by KGIII (973947)

          I know that some apartment buildings will often have a resident who gets a larger apartment, cheaper rent (or no rent), maybe a special parking place, and they get these perks because they perform maintenance tasks. Often times they'll be a plumber, HVAC person, carpenter, or similar. Maybe they plan on offering something similar? I could also see (a lot of landlords own more than one building) them hiring an IT person who takes care of all of the buildings for them.

          It seems like a good idea POTENTIALLY. If

    • Is the landlord going to run the server farm?

      Certainly not - the landlord will just rent space to the 'IT guy'.

  • DEAR GOD WHY? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @01:14PM (#44041093)

    Why would you ever want to do this, as opposed to letting the people choose what to run?
    What possible benefit is there to this plan, other than to centralize and monitor user activity?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why would you ever want to do this, as opposed to letting the people choose what to run?
      What possible benefit is there to this plan, other than to centralize and monitor user activity?

      He's called "Maddog" for a reason you know.

    • Why would you ever want to do this, as opposed to letting the people choose what to run?
      What possible benefit is there to this plan, other than to centralize and monitor user activity?

      Your question answers itself.
      Brazil's government has seen all these NSA/CSEC revelations about warrantless monitoring of citizen's communications, and they're jealous. But, since Brazil doesn't have the infrastructure in place to do it, they had to come up with another way. Having the citizenry run their applications on government controlled...errr....privately managed servers is a way around it.

      Tinfoil hattish? Certainly. But then, that's what the paranoids got called a week before the Snowden/NSA anno

    • In practice it would be more like a "cyber café" in each high rise, people would be able to buy about the cheapest PC even second hand possible, and still be able to do something usefull.
      And the "administrador" would probably want to make sure that even people who do not have a PC can be their client.

      So in the specific economical setup of Brazil it does make sense.

      JMH is not suggesting that nobody should own a PC or that everybody should be forced to go through a government proxy...

      What he is suggestin

    • by KGIII (973947)

      Value added service where people can just add that to their rent and not have to worry about it. Additionally, why would you assume that this is limiting in some fashion? It doesn't prevent people from using their own devices. It just provisions a low power, easy to use, form of connectivity. Think of it like an apartment complex including central air conditioning, electricity, or other appliances.

      A computer has become just that, an appliance, and it is being seen and used as such more and more. Much like t

    • Why would you ever want to do this, as opposed to letting the people choose what to run?

      Nice strawman, but the people do have the choice of what to run. The linux-based thin client is just a much less expensive choice for them. The IT guy will help out the Mac and Windows users too, at his regular rate. Since he's just a few floors away, he's the natural choice for service.

      What possible benefit is there to this plan, other than to centralize and monitor user activity?

      To reduce costs, bring computing to t

    • A thin client system doesn't take away a lot of choices, it just centralizes them. There's no restriction on having a dozen OS clients on that server.
  • Would be useful in the US. Just don't forget the hardline feed into a secret room controlled by the NSA with "trust us" on the locked door.

    • I was just about to ask if the server would be run by the Agência Brasileira de Inteligência*, but your post is near enough.

      *The brazilian version of NSA, that following its NSA trainning, nobody ever remember that exists.

  • The concept in principle seems interesting, but are there modern examples of successful deployments of this kind? I've been at several places that have tried to roll out thin clients on everyone's desk, but those deployments have all eventually been axed in favor of just regular PCs or laptops on everyone's desk.

    Part of the problem is that cheap computers are already pretty cheap, so moving to thin clients doesn't save you much, and adds more dependencies.

    • A local pet store has such a setup for their grooming dept.
      It's a big-box chain, and the service counter has a thin client on it, with the server being, if I've been told correctly, a couple of thousand miles away.
      Makes sense, as you don't want a dog groomer to have to worry about backing up data and keeping the machine updated with security patches, or have to hire a local IT employee for every store.

      Other than situations like this, though, I've never found this setup anywhere else.

    • I worked one place where they tried deploying thin clients. They were universally despised. Even people who needed nothing more than email and a spreadsheet, wanted to go back to their old computer. (In most cases the old computer was past EOL.) I even tried telling people that were getting a new all-in-one computer, and not telling them about the "thin client" they still found reasons to hate them.
      By the time I left that job most people were back on PCs. You had to really piss off the boss to end up with
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        That place must have had horribly inept IT for them to botch a thin client deployment.

        • Outsourced to Accenture.
          Enough said I think.
          • Right after the .com bust I was hard up for work. There was nothing.

            I still turned down Accenture even though they were coming to me. Talking to them made my skin crawl.

            They wanted to end run a former employer, I was well out of non-compete and had written some of the code. I also knew where all the skeletons were and just how a few ranking hacks operated.

            Reputation does matter. They are a resume stain. There was no amount I could have extorted from them, that would have made it, worth it.

            Also I wa

      • by pakar (813627)

        Terminals can be good, but it all depends on how it's all deployed and what things that are used...

        There are several versions... (my own alias'es for the different versions, don't yell :] )
        1. Thin-client.. All it does it display an image sent from a server..
        2. Thick-Client... Everything is run on the client but all code is stored on the shared server. CPU hungry app's can be run on the server.
        3. Fat-Client.. Everything runs on the client and everything is stored on the shared server. The system-image is cac

    • by ArhcAngel (247594)

      The concept in principle seems interesting, but are there modern examples of successful deployments of this kind?

      OnLive? [onlive.com]

      Some would say it isn't successful but their issues were arguably more to do with Steve Perlman [theverge.com] than the product itself.

    • by KGIII (973947)

      The VA hospital uses thin clients, they're all over the place actually.

      Another thing to keep in mind is that a full blown desktop can be used (and often is) as a thin client. It just weighs heavier and takes up more space but the functionality is the same. Saas? Thin client. Web hosted email? Thin client. Sure, you may access them from full service computers but the functionality is the same.

      I don't recall the thread but it was within the past few months where I had a decent conversation about this. This is

  • This minicomputer fad is coming to a rightful end.
    • by Nutria (679911)

      Huh?

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      haha. I run a microframe with multiple VMs myself. I'm never going to trust "The Cloud" to not lose my data, nor to have sufficient resources when I need them.

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      This sounds more like an attempt to return to the minicomputer era.

      Perhaps you meant to say that the microcomputer fad is coming to an end? Of course, I doubt it's accurate to describe it as a fad...

    • by ArhcAngel (247594)
      yes [onlive.com] it can [gametrailers.com]
      • by JustNiz (692889)

        Sorry but gaming in the cloud is a sucky idea. In order to stream it the graphics have been very compressed so the picture quality is noticeably worse, also there is way too much extra latency compared to playing the same game running locally.

        • by ArhcAngel (247594)
          So you were being facetious? You really didn't care that it was, indeed, possible.

          I don't disagree with you but it is possible and if it this or nothing then I'd take this.
        • by pakar (813627)

          Gaming in the cloud does not have to suck.. Strategy-games don't really require that low latency... It's mainly the FPS games...

          • by pakar (813627)

            Oh, forgot... There are also some quite nice things that can be done.. Like time-staping the input of the user and having the server do corrections to correct for the lag.. Can result in some graphics-glitches, but if you have a latency of 30ms that should be minimal for the user..

            Also, you could stream some of the graphics as pure OpenGL commands for better graphics for the most visible items..

            H.265 could be a very nice addition to reduce the bandwidth needed for good video.. 4Mbit should be more than enou

            • by JustNiz (692889)

              assuming you already have a reasonable PC, none of your suggestions result in an experience that is as good as running locally.

              If it ain't broke, why 'fix' it? especially by replacing the thing that already works with something that gives a overall worse result.

              • by pakar (813627)

                I was commenting on what the actual article was about... And saying that some games could be run this way on thin/thick clients...

  • independent contractor and loan for equipment sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

    Will the the independent contractor have to take responsibility for any thing that happens and for any data lost even when they are not at fault?

    Fedex has tried this stuff with there drivers and at times if they drop off a package and get it stolen / lost due to no fault of there own they may have to be out of packet for makeing up the cost of the stolen / lost package.

  • wage is only a small part of this other things missing are the need for 24/7 techs (maybe not in all buildings but the work load may be pushing it for 1 man) some some buildings may need 2-4+ people on each shift.

    Cost of hardware , buildings network upgrades, buildings needing cables to be rerun, ect.

    Power back , ups, ect.

    Let's say a building has a lot of dsl and or cable lines now for some thing like this to work may need to have fiber put in or a big mess of multi IP routers hooded to banks of DSL / cabl

    • Let's say a building has a lot of dsl and or cable lines now for some thing like this to work may need to have fiber put in or a big mess of multi IP routers hooded to banks of DSL / cable lines.

      The incumbent telco is supporting this project with fiber pulls. The 'IT guy' is part ISP salesman on commission.

    • by pakar (813627)

      Making a 3 server redundant cluster should be easy... Just depends on how the solution will look.. Dumb-clients can be tricky... Thick-clients just need some remote cluster-fs they run everything from and a file-share for user-contents.

      With thin-clients: (dumb-clients)
      Simple UPS - 1k Euro
      6x Servers 2k each (3 extra for failures)
      2x storage 2k each.
      VMWare or similar solution with that has HA so each user actually have their session running on 2 machines in case of failures... (no idea of cost)

      With thick-clien

  • by AdamThor (995520) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @01:35PM (#44041291)

    Subscribe Subscribe Subscribe! Everything a subscription! Everything an ongoing revenue stream! Lock people in, charge them forever, everything, everywhere, everywhen! Keep them paying! Continue to innovate? That's just not a practical ongoing business model.

    • Subscribe Subscribe Subscribe! Everything a subscription! Everything an ongoing revenue stream! Lock people in, charge them forever, everything, everywhere, everywhen! Keep them paying! Continue to innovate? That's just not a practical ongoing business model.

      Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day.

      Teach him to fish, then let him discover that the only lake around is your private property. But you'll rent him a boat and fishing rights on a daily basis.

    • by pakar (813627)

      Paying for a simple service like this can be good in places where people cannot afford to buy a PC, or don't want to shell out with lots (for them) of money.

      The benefits of this is that even poor families can get access to a whole new world of possibilities and learning new things.... Education for the population is *always* good. Take a look at the OLPC project and what it's all about...

      The wealth of a country does usually match the curve of the it's population education-level.. So as the population gains

  • Each building will need a dedicated system administrator, so while this theoretically benefits Brazilian society, the main purpose is to provide employment for these new system administrators. Based on what I know about Brazil, I wouldn't bet very much on this working out as planned.
  • About a decade ago, there was a fad for "smart office buildings". The concept was that companies would get their computing resources (or at least their networking resources) from the building landlord, It didn't work out well. Property managers are terrible at network operation. The landlord mindset of doing minimal work on maintenance and the data center operations mindset of 24/7 availability were too far apart.

    • Don't take anything from landlords except square footage.

      They can't even provide cleaning services with staff that won't rob you blind. Landlords have no incentive to sweat the little stuff. They know you aren't going to move over a stolen laptop/week.

      Don't let them bundle _anything_ into the lease. Let them maintain the toilets and other common areas, nothing else. They shouldn't even get a key to the suite.

      • by KGIII (973947)

        It has been my experience that, if you can, build... It is far less hassle to deal with the loan from the bank and contract out your own maintenance and cleaning services than it is to deal with some management company who are more interested in the bottom line than they are in providing quality services. And you're spot on about the theft...

        I don't see this as being a great thing for businesses, and I don't see businesses making a lot of use of it, but I could see it being great for residential. I could se

  • Every few years someone discovers the client/mainframe model.

  • Jon gave a talk at LISA a couple of years ago about this same project:

    https://www.usenix.org/conference/lisa11/project-cau%C3%A3 [usenix.org]

  • Every 10 years or so everyone wants to go all Thin Client.

    Last one was Web 2.0, before that was the Java Thin Client machines, before that mainframes with green screen terminals.

    "All this has happened before, and all this will happen again."

  • Unless they are in a city with no chance of flooding, either natural or from infrastructure failure, a basement is dumb place to put that equipment.

    Last I heard, Brazil was mostly wet and the infrastructure reliability left something to be desired.

    The folly of thin servers has already been mentioned by others.

  • In a lab setting, thin clients can be a good alternative. There usually isn't a lot of room on the benches, and there are chemicals and what not all over... It is easier to deploy and manage a thin client in a situation like that, especially where space is a premium.

    My bad experiences with thin clients are that sometimes an app that everyone is running on the server end crashes somehow, and there is no way to correct the situation except to restart the server the app runs on. Sometimes that could be d
    • by pakar (813627)

      My bad experiences with thin clients are that sometimes an app that everyone is running on the server end crashes somehow, and there is no way to correct the situation except to restart the server the app runs on. Sometimes that could be done gracefully, other times, more frequently, everyone would need to exit their remote sessions, wait until further instructions, then log in again. If there are lots of folks logged in, and they all have to exit because one app on the back end crashed that can cause serious consternation.

      That is why running a thick-client can be a very good alternative... The app runs on the actual client but without the need of local administration and storage..

  • It's amazing how often Sao Paulo (or, better: São Paulo) is misspelled as Sao Paolo. I think it is a bug in the linguistic engine of the people. The same that causes Python to be written as Phyton [itspython.com]. Ignorance alone can't explain it all because educated people also make this error.
  • by Medievalist (16032) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @03:36PM (#44042441)

    Seriously, wtf? Maddog knows better than that.

    In any really tall building, servers belong in the middle floor - which is probably already a service floor, if it's an intelligently designed high-rise building.

    Cable runs decrease in density, thickness, and length when you put the servers in the center of the served area. It's also the safest single place in regards to disasters such as floods, hurricanes, civic unrest, and lightning strikes.

    It's cheaper and more reliable to put servers in the middle of the middle floor.

  • by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @04:41PM (#44043105) Homepage Journal

    The only thing that the building has in common is geography. If you're going to take those responsibilities outside of your own device, why not just stick them in a remote data center and be done with it? Why should the building manager want to do anything other than route the bits between you and that center?

    If the distance is too great and creates latencies, the solution isn't some server for the building, but some local CDN installation. Perhaps it would be in the building itself, or just in the neighborhood. It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing to have my Google Drive or Netflix Instant cache or some AWS instance. But let the professionals manage that, which is a whole massive headache of its own.

    The only hardware a building manager should need is the part that is geographic, the hard wire that leads to the rest of the Internet.

  • Think I am going to have my info exclusively on your server? Really? Think I am going to let you be the intermediary to every keystroke I make? Really? Think I want to share a cpu, graphics , RAM and storage with everyone else in a multi-family building?

    Here's the real computing problems I have - my CPU is not fast enough, my programs are I/O bound and I don't have enough RAM to never have to go to disk.

    All this is a shitty solution in search of a problem so this guy can get rich.

    Sun tried this (sunray!) 1

  • by decora (1710862) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @06:30PM (#44044209) Journal

    thin clients are the pet projects of totalitarian, control obsessed douchebags the world over. the thin client always fails, in the end, because it represents the 'abesntee landlord' school of it management.

    let people own their own shit. let people fuck with their own shit however they want. let people have their own little outpost in cyberspace. dont try to fucking control everything.

    • And everyone should service their own car and own their own property ... And yet apartments and condos hold a vast majority of the world's population because efficiency is more important than personal control.
  • Isn't this an idea that would have been incredible 15 years ago, but now is past its prime? A cheap computer can be purchased for the same price as a thin client. In fact, most thin client machines are more powerful than computers were 5 years ago. So what's the point?

  • Sao Paulo: 18,690/sq mi
    NYC: 27,550/sq mi

    Keep in mind that the denominator is "land" in the city, not total area -- this brings NYC down from almost 500 sq miles to just more than 300 sq miles.

    Source: wikipedia

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