Yup, we made up almost the entire article (other than the bit on SchoolTalk - can anyone give us more information on that?) last week on SentientNET. Nothing in our April Fools Day issue is impossible and a lot of it would probably be a good idea. However, SentientNET, unlike the subjects of the other articles, does exist in a slightly different form. The Open Software Foundation's (OSF) Distributed Computing Environment (DCE) provides exactly that sort of virtual CPU power over LANs and WANs. (The abbreviations are coming hot and heavy now, with OSF's DCE on LANs and WANs.)
At CeBIT in Hannover, Germany, OSF showed an off-the-shelf application, Market Minder, running under OSF's Motif interface on machines from each of five manufacturers - IBM, DEC, HP, Groupe Bull, and Siemens-Nixdorf. The program filtered data from the New York Stock Exchange, working with the consolidated processing power of all the machines.
This sort of thing is extremely helpful, because it allows most types of computers to work on problems that would otherwise be too processor-intensive. It means that less-capable computers will stick around longer because they will still have some use, though with the maintenance costs on some of these mainframes, it may still be worth recycling them. Lots of hardware and software manufacturers have licensed DCE, although I didn't see Apple's name in the list (anyone know about this?). They'd be stupid not to at this point.
The hardware included an IBM mainframe running MVS, an IBM R/6000 running AIX, a IBM PS/2 running OS/2, and a VAX under VMS. The network used was Ethernet. I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if a Macintosh running A/UX and Motif could also work with DCE. As far as the software goes, DCE is a layer of network software that lives between the OS and the application, distributing processor requests appropriately. DCE is smart about what it distributes where, so it wouldn't assign a section of a program that relied heavily on numeric calculation to a machine without a math coprocessor if it could avoid doing so. DCE is designed so users should never notice a difference different, short of tasks taking less time.
OSF -- 617/621-8700
Open Software Foundation propaganda -- email@example.com
InfoWorld -- 18-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #11, pg. 8