New Apple patent for network booting could lead to cloud-based Mac OS X

Posted:
in macOS edited January 2014
Apple has recently been granted a patent for administering and maintaining a network-booted operating system, possibly laying further groundwork for a cloud-based version of Mac OS X.



Apple was awarded the patent, titled "Method and apparatus for administering the operating system of a net-booted environment," on Tuesday. However, Macs have been capable of booting from a network since the inclusion of the NetBoot feature in the original version of Mac OS X Server.



The patent application describes an environment where "a network computer (NC) system including an NC server and multiple NC clients is managed by an NC client causing the remainder of the NC clients that are subsequently booted to receive operating system software that is configured differently than that currently in effect by replacing one or more system volumes on the NC server containing the operating system software with one or more different system volumes."



The invention simplifies administrator management of multiple network clients by allowing the administrator to customize or update system volumes from any network computer. The software updates and customizations would then be available for any network client to boot from.



Cameron Stuart Burse and Keith Stattenfield are listed as the inventors. The patent was filed for in July 2006 and is a continuation of a patent application from October 1999.







Despite being over 10 years old, the patent has relevant applications today as users have come to perform more tasks over a network, namely the Internet. Apple's patents for a "net-booted environment" could lay both the technological and the legal framework for a version of Mac OS X that moves into the cloud.



Apple rival Google has been pursuing the cloud-based Chrome OS for several years, though the OS has been the subject of numerous delays. Chrome OS, which is based off of Google's Chrome browser, was originally slated to ship by the middle of 2010, but has now been delayed until the first half of 2011.



The search giant has made the Cr-48 notebook, test hardware running Chrome OS, available to some users. Critics of Chrome OS have called it "needless" and "dangerous."



Paul Buchheit, a former Google employee who created Gmail during his time there, predicted in December that "Chrome OS will be killed next year (or "merged" with Android."



Microsoft is also pursuing its own cloud-based operating system, Windows Azure, which will allow applications to run from Microsoft's datacenters.



In October, Microsoft's Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, who had led the push for cloud computing and internet services, resigned from his role. Steve Ballmer, CEO of the Redmond, Wash., software giant, stated that Ozzie would not need to be replaced.



In 2009, an embarrassing data loss on the Microsoft servers for the Sidekick raised doubts about Microsoft's reliability in cloud computing efforts.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 49
    Haven't OS X had net boot since like 1998?
  • Reply 2 of 49
    You think the Chrome OS is scary? BOOTING purely off the cloud can be scarier. What would happen if you have no internet connection, you can't even boot your device. What if you made Apple angry, they could discontinue your booting licence. How would Apps work, also off the cloud (I assume this is predominately aimed at iOS, not OS X)? If so, then what if they decide to pull an App for some reason, with no local copy you could be out some money (Kindle Books anyone?).



    Having a Chrome OS netbook thing myself, I can say that the device isn't anything to call home about. Its instant on, instant off, and its great to get online quickly. I DO worry about the "cloud", be it from Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc. I do NOT trust any outside company with all my information, so I don't put it all out there, and I suggest you do not either. (How do you know ANY of the above companies will truly delete your data stored on their servers)



    So, I am currently making my own "Cloud Server" at my house, so that I have FULL control over my own data, my own pictures (minus ones other people take), my own apps, who can log in, and who I can share information with. (Once its done, I'll leap off of the other "clouds")



    We all know that Google is tracking our online moves with the Chrome OS Netbook, its part of the deal. Because of this, it isn't exactly "free". But say we buy an iOS device that boots purely off the cloud, who knows what Apple is tracking (who knows what they are tracking now?), but if we try to go "off the cloud", then we will have no access at all to our device and all its data... and that is what scares me.

    (At least with the CR-48, when I'm on my home network and the internet goes down, I can still boot and access my internal services.)



    Am I Pro Google? Not particularly, they have their definite faults that I could go into.



    Also, can't we already boot our OS X from a Network? And all those Linux distro's out there, can already boot off the network easily! So, since this net-booting idea is already in place by quite a few places including the open source community, what does that say? Maybe I read it all wrong.
  • Reply 3 of 49
    Would Apple really do something this boring? It's boring to me, a complete geek, so what about Apple's target audience, normal consumers?
  • Reply 4 of 49
    NC Server? Is that like a North Carolina server?
  • Reply 5 of 49
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by thevil View Post


    Haven't OS X had net boot since like 1998?



    This is more interesting.



    Having a Master Server cluster blasting various configurations to deployed sites in an automated fashion is just scenario that comes to my mind.
  • Reply 6 of 49
    rainrain Posts: 538member
    Innovating so fast that the present goes unsupported.



    I don't think Apple can keep up this pace and quality / attention to detail that they used to. We are already seeing hints of this.



    I kinda get the feeling that they are reaching some sort of growth terminal velocity and risk spiraling out of control.



    If MobileMe is any indication of Apple's innovation into cloud computing...
  • Reply 7 of 49
    recrec Posts: 217member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by camroidv27 View Post


    You think the Chrome OS is scary? BOOTING purely off the cloud can be scarier. What would happen if you have no internet connection, you can't even boot your device. What if you made Apple angry, they could discontinue your booting licence. How would Apps work, also off the cloud (I assume this is predominately aimed at iOS, not OS X)? If so, then what if they decide to pull an App for some reason, with no local copy you could be out some money (Kindle Books anyone?).



    Having a Chrome OS netbook thing myself, I can say that the device isn't anything to call home about. Its instant on, instant off, and its great to get online quickly. I DO worry about the "cloud", be it from Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc. I do NOT trust any outside company with all my information, so I don't put it all out there, and I suggest you do not either. (How do you know ANY of the above companies will truly delete your data stored on their servers)



    I think to understand this you need to be a bit more forward thinking. Saying "what if you have no network connection?" someday will be like saying "what if the power goes out?". You don't refuse to buy a fridge because the power goes out less than once a year, or refuse to buy light bulbs because the power grid has occasional brown outs. Likewise you won't make this assumption anymore once the network is always present, always on and everywhere (minus the short and rare outages similar to today's power grid). Today the power might go out in your house, you don't refuse to buy a desktop computer because of this small chance?



    In such a world (which may very well be less than 10 years away) the network will be faster at running apps and your OS than local computing. It may have the advantages of being always on, instant on and zero configuration. No installs. Completely free data roaming (all displays are really just windows to your data with all the aforementioned advantages).



    Server storage will always be more reliable than local storage, in this scenario your data can never be lost. It's like losing your money at an FDIC insured bank, impossible without some kind of massive global failure (in which case, hard currency would do you no good anyway). Your data, photos and movies truly would last forever... no chance of degradation, lost in the attic, house fire etc.



    Obviously this doesn't work without some change. You have to trust some companies to follow through, they need to build that trust and demonstrate the clear advantages of this system. You have to believe your privacy is real and secure. These are not impossible ideas.



    Apple needs to help build this future and get in front of it, lest they get left behind like MS is starting to right now. It's possible you may never be comfortable with computing under this scenario, but I would bet that more people in the future will be than not. There's always room for hobbyists and tinkerers that roll their own, they'll just be the minority is all.
  • Reply 8 of 49
    nudistnudist Posts: 37member
    I think unlike some Tech companies Apple has the ability to right itself when things looks about shakey. Im sure they have the best tech minds money can buy working on this
  • Reply 9 of 49
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,652member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rain View Post


    Innovating so fast that the present goes unsupported.



    I don't think Apple can keep up this pace and quality / attention to detail that they used to. We are already seeing hints of this.



    I kinda get the feeling that they are reaching some sort of growth terminal velocity and risk spiraling out of control.



    If MobileMe is any indication of Apple's innovation into cloud computing...



    Tinfoil hat getting a bit thick in the frontal area??



    They may be growing at a rapid pace, but they are keeping their heads high unlike many other companies in the same industry.



    I've used MobileMe for the past couple years. Works great for me. We all have different expectation levels I guess.



    I'm looking forward to what Apple has up its sleeve. It's like Christmas 2 - 3 times per year with them!
  • Reply 10 of 49
    rainrain Posts: 538member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nudist View Post


    I think unlike some Tech companies Apple has the ability to right itself when things looks about shakey. Im sure they have the best tech minds money can buy working on this



    Money can't buy everything *see Microsoft



    Being the victim of ones own success sounds like something SJ is capable of.
  • Reply 11 of 49
    rainrain Posts: 538member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post


    Tinfoil hat getting a bit thick in the frontal area??



    They may be growing at a rapid pace, but they are keeping their heads high unlike many other companies in the same industry.



    I've used MobileMe for the past couple years. Works great for me. We all have different expectation levels I guess.



    I'm looking forward to what Apple has up its sleeve. It's like Christmas 2 - 3 times per year with them!



    Tinfoil hat? that makes no sense.



    You don't think Apple is starting to get stretched a little thin?

    iPhone, iPad and the app store are wonderful - but other area's have been left adrift.



    Just wondering how hard Apple can push innovation before there is a backlash. I'm not convinced that the average consumer is ready to abandon the hard drive and move to 'cloud'. For some things, sure, we already do, - but moving production to a cloud with cloud software, I don't think people are there yet. Your talking about a very 'closed' system. People might not want to hand over that kind of power to a Corporation.



    Facebook is already pushing the boundaries of privacy with lots of backlash.

    Google - the same with their Streetview and having their email hacked by the Chinese.



    Global Consciousness might not be there yet - and that's the risk Apple runs if they invest too heavily and push too fast for a closed 'cloud' model.

    I may very well be wrong - but I know there is zero way I'll support that model.
  • Reply 12 of 49
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,303member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by REC View Post


    I think to understand this you need to be a bit more forward thinking. Saying "what if you have no network connection?" someday will be like saying "what if the power goes out?". You don't refuse to buy a fridge because the power goes out less than once a year, or refuse to buy light bulbs because the power grid has occasional brown outs. Likewise you won't make this assumption anymore once the network is always present, always on and everywhere (minus the short and rare outages similar to today's power grid). Today the power might go out in your house, you don't refuse to buy a desktop computer because of this small chance?



    In such a world (which may very well be less than 10 years away) the network will be faster at running apps and your OS than local computing. It may have the advantages of being always on, instant on and zero configuration. No installs. Completely free data roaming (all displays are really just windows to your data with all the aforementioned advantages).



    Server storage will always be more reliable than local storage, in this scenario your data can never be lost. It's like losing your money at an FDIC insured bank, impossible without some kind of massive global failure (in which case, hard currency would do you no good anyway). Your data, photos and movies truly would last forever... no chance of degradation, lost in the attic, house fire etc.



    Obviously this doesn't work without some change. You have to trust some companies to follow through, they need to build that trust and demonstrate the clear advantages of this system. You have to believe your privacy is real and secure. These are not impossible ideas.



    Apple needs to help build this future and get in front of it, lest they get left behind like MS is starting to right now. It's possible you may never be comfortable with computing under this scenario, but I would bet that more people in the future will be than not. There's always room for hobbyists and tinkerers that roll their own, they'll just be the minority is all.



    Excellent points. It is difficult to shift one's mind set from the known to the unknown future for most.
  • Reply 13 of 49
    Finally! The graphic for the patent clearly shows that Apple has big plans for SE/30's like the three that I have socked away in my basement
  • Reply 14 of 49
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,303member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rain View Post


    Tinfoil hat? that makes no sense.



    You don't think Apple is starting to get stretched a little thin?

    iPhone, iPad and the app store are wonderful - but other area's have been left adrift.



    Just wondering how hard Apple can push innovation before there is a backlash. I'm not convinced that the average consumer is ready to abandon the hard drive and move to 'cloud'. For some things, sure, we already do, - but moving production to a cloud with cloud software, I don't think people are there yet. Your talking about a very 'closed' system. People might not want to hand over that kind of power to a Corporation.



    Facebook is already pushing the boundaries of privacy with lots of backlash.

    Google - the same with their Streetview and having their email hacked by the Chinese.



    Global Consciousness might not be there yet - and that's the risk Apple runs if they invest too heavily and push too fast for a closed 'cloud' model.

    I may very well be wrong - but I know there is zero way I'll support that model.



    I feel, as REC pointed out, Apple need to be thinking ahead of the curve. Apple didn't just announce this as some new feature remember. This is a peak into a possible future and even then the possible uses are guess work. If we were to be transported back in time and read what future things Apple might be up to you would find vast numbers with negative comments about any change. ... "Apple might be dropping floppy disk drives ... OMG!" ... and so on.
  • Reply 15 of 49
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,303member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aestival View Post


    Finally! The graphic for the patent clearly shows that Apple has big plans for SE/30's like the three that I have socked away in my basement



    Ha ha ... you never know I have an SE FDHD in a closet somewhere too
  • Reply 16 of 49
    Hey all! Long time lurker, now Ive joined up! Good to be here! Anyways...



    I read an interview with Steve Jobs in Wired Magazine back in the 90's. I was working at a CompUSA so sometime between 95 and 99 (I think right before Jobs was once again CEO of Apple?). In it Steve explained where he thought computing was headed and where he thought it should go.



    He said that he thought eventually all computer software, both OS and applications, would be stored on a "cloud" computer and would just be streamed to your home computer. He also mentioned that you wouldn't be buying software outright anymore, but that you would rent it (monthly fee, ppv, etc) from the company that ran the cloud. He thought that this was the best way to do it as everyone would be sick of having to go to a store and buy the software. They would just turn on their computer, connect to the cloud and all your OS and Applications would all be right there for you to use. He specifically mentioned programs such as Photoshop and the OS etc...



    Interesting to see that 15 years later he is basically doing exactly what he said he would do.
  • Reply 17 of 49
    Of course it would be bad to have no locally installed software. My internet service sucks but I can still work on my computer and upload when it's working better. Electricity isn't always available everywhere, that's why they sell generators. When I buy software I get the disks. I like having it in my hands. Things f*ck up all the time. With the disks I can reinstall. I can also back up my own data without some nebulous cloud protecting me. You will not believe how f*cked up life will be if you have to depend on the "cloud".
  • Reply 18 of 49
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by thevil View Post


    Haven't OS X had net boot since like 1998?



    Provisions allowing "thin clients" to boot an operating system over a network -- using some, little, or zero local storage -- have existed at least since the 1980s. That's why most discrete PC Ethernet cards (dating all the way back to 8-bit ISA cards for IBM XT PCs) included a Boot ROM chip socket, where you could install a BIOS extension program which would automate the process of acquiring a network address and downloading the operating system from a remote fileserver.



    This patent cannot cover every possible method of net boot -- there's too much prior art out there, public knowledge for more than 20 years at this point, which would make the general method of net booting unpatentable.



    Rather, this patent, if valid, could only possibly cover particular methods of improving the process -- for example, by improving the efficiency, or making it easier to configure, or something else along those lines -- which had not previously been reduced to implementation and made public knowledge prior to the filing of this patent.
  • Reply 19 of 49
    ivan.rnn01ivan.rnn01 Posts: 1,822member
    Apple's patent applications used to not having any practical consequences. Now that's indeed a good thing...

    This is probably an outcome of Apple's active research in the realm of zero-configuration remote services.

    *yawn*
  • Reply 20 of 49
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,312member
    Clearly they are going to do this. Here is how it would work.



    You log into the cloud. Every so often, or at logout, there is a sync back to your real home directory. Or if that is more up to date, as you may have worked offline it happens ( sync to network) online.



    Advantages:



    Get a new mac. Login to your home directory.

    Go to your firends house. Login to your home dirctory.

    Go on holiday. There is a mac. Login to your home directory. Desktop settings, display settings et al.



    ( Although some device level settings will not be set).



    Could be even more useful for an iPad. Introducing multi-user and keep the purchases online per user. PLay from any iPad. Login on any iPad. Theres your stuff.
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