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SuperBox Mark I

I had an exclusive opportunity to speak with Brian Casales, CEO of Gapple, Inc. about the heavily rumored upcoming "Superbox Mark I" that is supposed to shake our industry to its knees.

"Yes", explained Brian, "We will be announcing the Mark I this week, and it will be phenomenal. I can tell you a bit about it this morning if you promise to keep it under wraps until our official announcement."

I promised. So I lied, big deal..

"We've made a logarithmic leap in CPU technology", Brian gushed. "And not just CPU's: we have super-fast storage. Faster than any current technology, faster than anyone thought was possible. This is simply going to change everything - remember, you are sworn to secrecy."

Yeah, yeah. I promise not to say a word. Right..

"Basically, the Mark I is designed to either be a super-fast workstation or a hypervisor that will allow current X86 operating systems to run as guests. Right now, we do not have the native OS that would allow this to function as a workstation, but we do have the hypervisor."

Oh great: they are releasing a product that isn't a product. Yawn. I told Brian my toast was burning.

"No, you don't get it". Brian sounded frustrated. "We realized that the hypervisor is actually more important right now. We're so fast that we can actually emulate modern X86 chips on the fly - how's having thirty two quad core CPU's packed into a $800.00 box sound to you?"

I said it sounded hot. As in "warm up the room" hot.

Brian laughed. "Well, no, it actually isn't. I don't even understand the physics, but you won't be burning your lap with our notebooks. And your battery life will be measured in weeks, not hours. I'm telling you, this changes everything."

Didn't he say something about thirty two quad core CPU's? That sounds like a lot more than eight hundred bucks..

"No, no, it's all emulation!". Brian was obviously excited. "It's all virtual: the hypervisor is presenting this entirely virtual environment. Because we are so incredibly fast and have so much cheap, fast storage, we can do this. We can do it thirty two times over and still be loafing, in fact."

So you are emulating hardware? What does Intel think of that? I doubt they'd just let Brian model their chips in software..

"We bought 'em". Brian was gushing again. "We've been showing this around to the movers and shakers and believe me, everybody knows their day is done later this week. Intel had no choice, really: sell to us cheap or be run over. If they hadn't sold, we would have released this as a workstation, and they'd be gone in a year or two anyway."

So let me get this straight. There's some incredible breakthrough where you have a cpu and associated storage that's so fast and so cheap that you can emulate Intel CPU's in software?

"Not just the CPU's. A whole motherboard with drives - we're emulating everything. And it's all controlled through our hypervisor. You set up a Virtual Machine, you tell it to act like a 1997 Pentium or a 2007 Xeon, you tell it to present 3 SCSI drives, a floppy, 4 GB of RAM, set the clock speed.. if you wanted to, you could even get down to the board level and specify the behavior of individual 'chips' - that are all emulated, of course. And then you install your OSes - Windows, Linux, whatever. The hypervisor provides whatever sharing between them you want, from basic cut and paste to virtual networks, virtual storage: it's all a great big pretend world, but your VM's don't know it. I'm telling you, it's beyond incredible!"

Yeah, whatever you say, Brian. Sounds pointless to me.

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© Anthony Lawrence

Wed Jan 9 11:33:14 2008: 3427   TonyLawrence

Far fetched?

Maybe, but consider what you could do today. Could you emulate a whole TRS-80 Model I in software? Certainly. An early IBM 8086? Sure. A 1990's 386? Probably so..

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Today’s computers are not even close to a 4-year-old human in their ability to see, talk, move, or use common sense. One reason, of course, is sheer computing power. It has been estimated that the information processing capacity of even the most powerful supercomputer is equal to the nervous system of a snail—a tiny fraction of the power available to the supercomputer inside [our] skull. (Steven Pinker)

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