The Stanford Collective Project
MokaFive had its beginnings as a four-year NSF-funded research project at Stanford University called "The Collective: A Virtual Appliance Computing Infrastructure". The Collective project was started by the Stanford SUIF group, headed by Prof. Monica Lam, Prof. Mendel Rosenblum, and Prof. Dan Boneh. The objective was "to develop a new computing system architecture that is secure, reliable, easy to administer, and provides ubiquitous access to users' computing environments."
The Collective project began in 1999 with the exploration of a stateless thin-client architecture, a la Sun Ray, where computation would occur on a centralized server. A thin-client architecture had the advantage of centralized management and allowing a user's data to live in the network, but it had some serious flaws: namely, it was not possible to work while disconnected (e.g. on a disconnected laptop or an unreliable network connection), it required a substantial server infrastructure, and it required a high-bandwidth low-latency network, which was not always possible with distant remote offices.
To address the flaws of the thin-client model, the Collective group developed a new system where a centrally managed virtual machine would run locally on the user's computer. In this way, they were able to get the benefits of the thin-client model (easy management and administration) without many of the downsides (reliance on server infrastructure and fast network connection, no disconnected operation). The Collective architecture was presented in a paper at the HotOS conference in May 2003. This paper first coined the term Virtual Appliance, later picked up by VMware. Later publications in LISA 2003 and NSDI 2005 expanded upon this idea.
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