The Opera Unite vision video explains their take on the small cloud. Rather than our current two-tier system, with clients and servers occupying distinct roles, we can move to system that lets every computer fully participate in the web.
Clearly, Opera understands Small Cloud Theory.
Unite uses an architecture similar to the one we described in our series on Ending the Paper Shuffle last year. (See locating documents, versioning documents, and tracking documents for our thoughts on how to address common information handling problems in the enterprise.)
Opera claims this approach “reinvents the web” but I think it simply delivers on the Internet’s original promise. The original HTTP drafts looked ahead to a more peer-centric approach to networking. You’ll rarely find the words “client” or “server” in W3C’s final recommendations; they prefer the terms “browser” and “host” — and implies that these roles are not exclusive.
Peer-to-peer technology is hardly new,although it’s been slow to shed its association with questionable file sharing practices. On the subject of P2P, Clay Shirky wrote in 2000:
The fusion of desktop and server… is turning the internet inside out.
The current network is built on a “content in the center” architecture.
However, the ability for a desktop machine to take on the work of a server increases annually.
…Add to these forces an increasing number of PCs in networked offices… and you have the outlines of a new “content at the edges” architecture … This is the future, and Microsoft knows it.
I’m not sure if Microsoft really “knew it” — although their efforts with acquiring Groove, and more recently LiveMesh might indicate that it’s possible that they did — but I do know this: The computer I’m writing this post on is about 22 times more powerful that the average web server in 1996. In addition, it has 285 times more available memory. And it’s not even a particularly fancy or fast computer — a mid-range Dell business laptop.
So although Shirky’s “Fusion” of the desktop and server isn’t quite here, 8 years later, Opera’s Unite might help bring it a step closer.