Take a 20-foot shipping container; provide it with integrated cooling, networking, and power distribution; add external hookups for hot and cold water, 208-volt three-phase AC power, and Ethernet networking; integrate sensors, alarms, and GPS; fill its eight 19-inch shock-tolerant racks with servers -- either 120 Sun Fire T2000 servers or 250 Sun Fire T1000 systems -- and you've got one or two thousand processor cores, 7TB of memory, and more than 2PB of storage. Connect them all as a grid, for simplicity.
According to Sun, this configuration can support 10,000 simultaneous desktops without requiring an administrator, and it can be located almost anywhere: on a rooftop, in a parking garage, in a secure warehouse. It can be delivered rapidly, even to theaters of operation or catastrophe areas. What's more, Sun claims that a Project Blackbox datacenter is a tenth the price of a standard datacenter and that it can be turned on and configured in a day.
So if you find yourself unable to build or power or cool a datacenter fast enough to keep up with your enterprise's growth, or you're in need of a server farm on the go or at a hard-to-reach outpost such as an oil rig, you may find yourself in the market for this deliverable soon.
-- Martin Heller
10. Quantum computing and quantum cryptography
The manipulation of subatomic particles at the quantum level has raised eyebrows in computer science research departments lately -- so much so that several approaches to incorporating quantum mechanics into computing have been launched to varying degrees of success.
The most advanced field of research is quantum cryptography, a bit of a misnomer given that it doesn't rely on anything resembling traditional codes or ciphers. Instead of locking up data in a mathematical safe, the technique encodes messages in the clear by tweaking the quantum properties of photons -- a 1 may transform into a photon with "left" spin; a 0, into a photon with "right" spin.
The technique offers security because it is believed to be impossible to detect the spin of a photon without destroying or significantly altering it. So any eavesdropper would annihilate the message or change it enough for the recipient to notice. Two leaders in the field, IBM and Los Alamos National Laboratory, have built working devices and have demonstrated the transmission of photon streams through fiber optics and even the air.
Another technology based on the principles of quantum mechanics, quantum computing, attempts to model computation with quantum states. The field has produced tantalizing theoretical results that show how such a computer instantly could solve some of the most complicated problems such as factoring exceedingly large numbers.
Quantum computing is much further from having an impact in the lab or the enterprise than quantum cryptography. No one has built a particularly useful quantum computer yet, although some researchers have built machines that work with one or two bits. One group recently announced it is building machines that work with problems that take around 1,000 bits to describe.
-- Peter Wayner
11. Semantic Web
Originally designed for document distribution, the Web has yet to realize its full potential for distributing data. XML has done its part. Yet every XML document requires an XML Schema -- and relating them isn't easy. Until a viable means for surfacing and linking data is established and adopted, humans will remain the Web's core categorizing agents.