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Microsoft Conceives of Fast Boots Via the Cloud

Microsoft updated a U.S. patent application this month that describes a streaming mechanism to facilitate fast computer bootups.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hasn't issued a patent on the technology, but the invention described in the application seems highly aligned with Microsoft's cloud computing technology focus, and it maybe goes beyond present implementations. The 14-page application, "Fast Machine Booting Through Streaming Storage" (No. 20110197052), was originally filed last year but Microsoft updated it on Aug. 11.

The fast-booting application apparently describes a way to speed computer operating system boot times by accessing a remote server or updating local file storage. That concept sounds like typical client-server technology, which is nothing new. However, the invention seems to center on the use of virtual hard disk technology as a coordinating mechanism.

The patent application describes "a technology by which a virtual hard disk is maintained between a far (e.g., remote) backing store and a near (e.g., local) backing store, which among other advantages facilitates fast booting of a machine coupled to the virtual hard disk." The far backing store uses a "base layer," while the near backing store can contain a "cache layer" that's equivalent to the base layer. There's also a "differencing layer" that handles read and write requests on the local backing store.

The use of "a chain of data structures (e.g., differencing and base layers)" in the virtual storage device can speed up boot times, according to the document's summary.

"The technology facilitates fast boot because the virtual disk is available for use immediately, rather than needing to download an entire operating system image before booting from that downloaded image. For example, during a boot operation, only a relatively small amount of data is needed from the boot disk, which is available from the far data and/or the near data."

The invention is described as being capable of working with PCs and servers, mainframes, "distributed computing environments," as well as laptops, tablets and set-top boxes.

The patent application is tough reading, but it seems to describe a use where fast boots can be supported through the Internet cloud. Microsoft already has its Remote Desktop Services technology for virtual desktop infrastructure computing, which can use thin clients along with Microsoft's RemoteFX technology to run graphics-intensive apps. In that case, the entire OS runs in a virtual machine and is accessed remotely. Given that concept, it's not clear why it would be necessary to cloud-enable OS bootup data specifically. The patent application doesn't describe the practical applications exactly.

A ConceivablyTech article picked up on speculation that Microsoft may be considering something like a "streaming OS," but it's not so clear. If so, it doesn't sound too different from Google Chrome OS, which was launched on laptops in June. Google claims fast boot times from its Internet-based operating system, which bypasses legacy OS tasks like checking for floppy drives that normally drag down boot times. Google had also discussed a concept of having print drivers lodged in the cloud, rather than stored with the local client device.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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