Web-services, SOA, BPM & Cloud Computing – X


Chromium

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Web-services, SOA, BPM & Cloud Computing – X

No series on cloud computing would be complete without alluding to Google’s audacious attempt at building an OS around the cloud computing paradigm.

Yes, I’m referring to the Google Chrome OS, a spin-off to the Google Chrome browser. The open source versions for the Chrome OS are the Chromium OS and the Chromium Browser respectively.

The Google Chrome OS

The Google Chrome OS is targeted specifically to netbooks, not the primary device of use, but a secondary, portable, lightweight device. The OS is small enough to be loaded on a USB drive and booted from the very same device. Applications on local storage are few and far between and most useful, user applications are based in the cloud. The user interface is minimalist much like the Chrome Browser. Boot time is very quick with Google software engineer Martin Bligh demonstrating a bootup time of four seconds.

Logging In To Chrome

Login is via a Google or Gmail account, though there exists a default login for those unsure about internet connectivity. In the future, OpenID will be supported allowing non-Google users to also access and use the Chrome OS. Login will be Single Sign On (SSO).

There is also a facility of auto-login available to the user, which will be implemented using OAuth token storage on the local storage. Of course, this will mean that periodically login will have to be authenticated but that is a hazard to be encountered with any stored authentication mechanism. The tokens are revocable. What this means is that once you have opted for auto login, you have to provide your authentication credentials namely user id and password , and you i.e your machine will received an OAuth token which will be used in further logins w/o you having to provide your user id and password until the token expires or is revoked.

The OS is built on top of a Linux Kernel and is optimized for certain, specific hardware which are netbook specific. Google intends to bundle the OS with netbooks thus locking the OS to specific devices i.e the Google Chrome OS specifically. (Remember, the Chromium OS is open source and is available for developers to tinker with.)

All useful, productive applications run in the cloud.

 

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The Chrome’s Software Architecture

The software architecture  consists of 3 layers:

The Chromium-based browser and the window manager –—> The UI layer. The Chromium based browser is not very different from the Google Chrome browser, as of now. No major departures from the browser UI are expected. The Chromium browser will grow with the Google Chrome browser. The UI mimics the Chrome browser and is minimalist.

System-level software and user-land services: the kernel, drivers, connection manager, and so on —> the system software

Firmware —> customized firmware that is optimized to run on specific hardware. This is firmware written by Google and/or may be written by device driver providers.

With regards to security, all user data is protected by an encryption mechanism. Thus different users logged on to the same device are unable to read another user’s files and data.

The Google blog unveiling the Google Chrome OS to the world has this to say:

“Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.”

Chrome & Printing

Printing in the Chrome OS is controversial because your print jobs will not go directly to a designated printer but through the cloud where your registered printer will be identified and your print job sent to it. Google intends to implement some sort of proxy so that your print jobs don’t go all the way to the other end of the world but are caught early and redirected to your preferred printer, preferably in the same room as you. So netbooks with Google Chrome OS can bid print drivers goodbye! Google is even considering building cloud aware printers! Shades of Microsoft, anyone? Will we get to see some related Google ads when monitoring our print jobs in the print queue online? Funny, eh?

Chrome as Open Source

The Google Chrome OS is also available as open source software called Chromium OS. This can be downloaded and loaded onto a Linux machine and you can try out the various features. A New York Times article has this to say about Chromium OS:

“… people are downloading home-brewed versions of the operating system derived from the esoteric source code, which Google releases under the name Chromium. Google is developing the Chrome system as an open-source project and periodically releases the Chromium code online, to let other Web developers contribute to the project.

Several resourceful users have taken those undistilled vats of source code and done something Google says it never expected: they’ve compiled it into working versions of the operating system, tailoring it for use on dozens of computer brands and making it available to regular folks who want to preview one possible vision of their high-tech future.”

Google hopes to build on the network effects of the Open Source model of software development specifically w.r.t Google Chrome OS.

Quote of the day:
I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. – Pablo Picasso

What makes Google Chrome OS different?

It is not a conventional desktop OS. It is merely a bridge to using your applications on the web. It’s the modern version of Sun’s vision of network computing. “The network is the computer”.And this time around it might just work! The point of note is that a lot of PC manufacturers  (namely Dell) feel that netbooks are a fad and are investing more in manufacturing high end laptops and desktops. Can Google’s Chrome OS change this mindset? To the layman, the Chrome OS will appear to be just a portal to the web! Is that where computing for the masses is going? What a rhetorical question!

Disruptive Moves

The Google Chrome OS is another example of a disruptive move on Google’s part to challenge Microsoft’s hegemony in the OS market. And Microsoft are loathe to take on Google on their own terms. It just risks cannibalizing it’s own market share, the classic dilemma faced by incumbents when challenged by a swift, nimble competitor. Is it worth Microsoft’s while? Actually, Microsoft does or will be offering a web version of their Microsoft Office software; I haven’t tried it since I am a convert to Open Office and have been using this free software version for ages. But good luck with that , you MS fans!

PS: Google says that Android and Chrome OS are quite different products. But in the same breath, that they may converge! Food for thought!

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