What sorts of applications do you envision would be enabled with Micro Datacenters that are impossible with today’s mobile architectures?
Well-known services and applications such as Bing search, Office 365, Azure services etc., will all benefit from these cloud accelerators. In addition, any application that requires heavy use of computation (CPU, GPU, memory) and battery will also benefit. For example vision-based applications, video and sensor analytics, speaker recognition, etc. When wireless bandwidth cost is an issue, offloading computation to mDCs will reduce spectrum usage. By offloading computation, battery life on the end devices will improve as they will do less work, assuming that the energy cost of computation is more than the communications cost.
How drastically do you expect our current mobile tools — smartphones, tablets, early smart watches — will change by 2020?
Wearable computers will be the rage. Applications that benefit from real-time data analytics will be pervasive and vision applications that augment human cognitive abilities will be on the rise. Generally, I believe mDCs will open the door to a new world of disaggregated cloud computing, which will improve the performance of new IoT services and current cloud services.
What role would Microsoft play in supporting such Micro Datacenters? Would the company essentially be getting into the Content Delivery Network provider game, or working with such companies?
In Microsoft Research our goal is to invent technologies that help ensure Microsoft’s future. Microsoft product groups make decisions of what to ship heavily based on their customer needs and their relentless pursuit towards making Azure the best cloud platform in the world. While I cannot comment on what Microsoft product groups will do in the future, CDNs, mDCs and other similar technologies are all within the scope of what Microsoft does.
Where does the most engineering and research effort need to go in order for us to realize this improved mobile computing world?
There is a lot to be done - for example, packaging mDCs to make it easy to deploy them in places where there may not be much IT support; physical security to protect the data that resides on mDC servers and disks; programing framework, to make it easy for software developers to deploy services and applications on a global-scale mDC infra-structure; also management and support for geo-distributed analytics.
There is already a lot of research, which documents the virtues of deploying mDCs close to the user. In recent years executives of several large multi-national IT and telco companies have picked up on it and are describing the benefits of mDCs / cloudlets in their talks. There is even a new ETSI standardization effort on mobile edge computing and new conferences (including the Mobile Edge Computing Conference and The First IEEE Symposium on Edge Computing) dedicated to mobile edge computing. So this is happening.
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