Apple needs to invent 'The Brick': screenless high-performance CPU, Graphics and Storage

Two new things appeared in my world recently:
Wilcox wonders what will happen to "Power Users" if Apple move on Desktops, as they've moved on from the rack-mount X-serve line. Customers needing servers now have the choice of a Mac Mini Server or a "Mac Pro" (tower).

Can Apple afford to cut-adrift and ignore the needs of good folk who rely on their product for their business/livelihood, some of whom may have used Macs for 20+ years?? Would seem a Bad Idea to alienate such core and influential users.

Clearly Apple look to the future, and like the floppy drive they expunged long ago in favour of Optical drives (now also obsolete), Desktops as we know them are disappearing from mainstream appeal and usefulness.

I think there are two markets that Apple needs to consider:
  • One they haven't won yet: Corporate Desktops, and
  • One that's been part of their core business for decades: High-end Graphics/Media
Thunderbolt on laptops means big, even dual, monitors are simple for Corporate Desktops, addressing a large part of the demand/needs. While Apple retain the Mac Mini line, they have a viable PC Desktop replacement for those organisations that like the "modular PC" model, especially those that don't want laptops walking out the door.

The simplicity and elegance of Just One Plug of the iMac makes it unbeatable in certain niche applications, such as public use PC's in Libraries or battery workstations in call centres.

Can Apple produce a "power" laptop with the processing, graphics and storage size/performance that meets the needs of High-end Media folk?
A: No, never. Because the fastest, most-powerful CPU's, GPU's, most RAM and largest/fastest storage only ever come with high-power and big footprint: you need a big box with a big power supply: The definition of a Desktop or Workstation.

One solution would be to licence OS/X to "tier 1" PC vendors like Dell or HP  for use on certified systems. But that's not going to happen, Apple is a hardware/manufacturing company - they will never go there.

Hence "the Brick" that is mainly accessed via "Remote Desktop".
My suggestions are a modular design, not dissimilar to the NGEN's expandable 'slices':
  • CPU's and RAM in a housing with capacity to gang together for scale-up.
  • GPU's in a PCI-slot chassis, with Thunderbolt available for physical displays.
  • Local storage via e-SATA, SAS or Thunderbolt.
  • remote bulk storage over the network
  • External power-supply, or part of a base-unit (CPU, RAM, PCI-slot, network, Thunderbolt).
The point of "the Brick" is ComputePower-on-Demand and Universal-Workspace-View, not unlike SUN's 1993 "Starfire video" prototype.
It can live in a (locked) cupboard, or many can be hosted on a server cluster as one of many Virtual Machines. For even a modest operation, high-power servers running VMware makes operational and economic sense. VM's mean another licensing deal. Perhaps VMware, part of EMC, might have the clout to do a deal like this with Apple. Or not.

Jim Gray authored a paper in 2004, "TerraServer Bricks" as an alternative architecture. The concept is not new/original and more than the usual low-power appliances.

An aside on "Jump Desktop", it uses well established (and secure) remote desktop protocols (RDP, VNC). But for Unix/Linux users interested in security and control, this is important:
Jump also supports SSH tunneling for RDP and VNC connections which also adds a layer of encryption but this must be configured manually.

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