Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Automic Blog, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Roger Strukhoff

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

The Death of Mediocrity

The Death of Mediocrity

Computers can generally be characterized into two types: ones that are designed to have more than one user attached and those intended for a single user. In the beginning almost all computing was done on large multi-user machines, partly due to their expense, which precluded their use to all but large institutions or wealthy corporations. Mainframes ruled this era and excelled at their role: providing a reliable computing platform for hosting databases, transaction servers, and centralized applications. The interaction was through character-based screens that, while providing fast and efficient green screen access, was to be their Achilles heel.

At the other end of the scale are personal computers. PCs have two major benefits over mainframes: a lower cost per unit and the ability to host operating systems with graphical user interfaces. GUI applications make use of event-driven user interfaces that can respond to fine-grained mouse, keyboard, timer and paint requests. This provides the framework on which everything from shoot-em up 3D games, WYSIWYG word processors, business presentations with embedded video, and a plethora of powerful desktop programs reside.

Most of the problems over the 20 years in IT have occurred because one of the two ends of the computing spectrum has tried to venture into the other's domain. PCs tried to become multi-user servers and big iron boxes attempted presentation logic.

The computing section of my local science museum has an exhibit showing black and white photographs from the 1970s with reel-to-reel tape drives, floor-standing disk platters, and wardrobe CPU units filling an operations room. Next to this is a display case with an Altair 8800, the sign teaching us how the smaller machine replaced the room-filling mainframe by matching its computing power at a cheaper cost. The analogy drawn is to that of the dinosaurs, where the large and inefficient behemoths couldn't cope with extreme climate change and died out while smaller and nimbler mammals arose to rule the world in their place.

The rise of PCs is a huge phenomenon where, for most of the 1980s and 1990s, there were more new PCs sold per year than the entire installed base. The prediction by George Moore in 1965 was that the transistor density of semiconductor chips would double every 18 months. This largely held true for the next 40 years, benefiting PCs that continued to double in speed while halving in cost. For those who were in the game of downsizing from mainframes, this enabled them to create server farms by simply daisy-chaining PCs together.

The big iron server guys have always wanted to challenge the rise in PCs, fueled by resentment at the insults of "dumb screen" and "legacy system" that were being thrown at them. The Intern et gave them an opportunity to do this, by enabling them to reinvent themselves as hosts for Web application servers dishing up HTML to clients in place of 3270 or 5250 datastreams.

What has occurred is that PCs have scaled up to become servers and servers have become controllers of presentation through HTML. Both are poor compromises and I think have hurt usability, resilience, and general IT efficiency. The trend in many social systems can be characterized as a pendulum that swings between two extremes, politics being a prime example - once policies become attempted, they fall short of promise and expectations, allowing the previous failed polemic to regain popular traction.

For the fast, nimble PCs that now fill rooms, their fate, ironically, is to be replaced with smaller and faster modern mainframes that outperform them in terms of speed, price, and simplicity. Because of advanced workload management techniques, mainframes can be driven harder, often running at 70-90% utilization, while Wintel boxes typically only manage 5%. While Moore's law held fast for the past 40 years, the runway has run out, as physical laws governing thermal flux prevent any further significant miniaturization. A modern Pentium consumes 100 watts of power and generates more heat per square inch than exists inside a nuclear power station's reactor core. The scalability of a virtualized mainframe is huge, with benchmarks showing that up to 20,000 copies of Linux all running Web servers can co-exist happily inside a single box.

For the PC, what we're seeing now is a growth in applications that exploit its capabilities as a first-class client desktop, rather than a rendering engine for dumb HTML. For Google, the bastion of all things Web, two of their most impressive applications are Google Desktop, which indexes all of a PC's files and provides a set of integrated functions such as chat, to-do lists, phone clients, and for mapping Google Earth offers the ability to walk the earth in 3D making use of the PC's native graphics functionality through DirectX.

What this should spell is a new era in which the two poles of computing go back to basics and rediscover what they're best at is doing what they were designed for. Big multi-user servers will continue to grow in terms of their capacity to become application hosting giants, while PCs will enjoy a period of rich applications that fully exploit their graphics capabilities and provide a high-usability end point. Over the past 20 years the server and the client have fought wars where each has tried to replace the other. What we need for the next 20 is for each to excel at what they're best at, and for users to benefit from faster, easier, and richer software.

More Stories By Joe Winchester

Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, discussed how they built...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Among the proven benefits,...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile exhibited at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on qua...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cedexis will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cedexis is the leader in data-driven enterprise global traffic management. Whether optimizing traffic through datacenters, clouds, CDNs, or any combination, Cedexis solutions drive quality and cost-effectiveness. For more information, please visit https://www.cedexis.com.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Google Cloud has been named “Keynote Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Companies come to Google Cloud to transform their businesses. Google Cloud’s comprehensive portfolio – from infrastructure to apps to devices – helps enterprises innovate faster, scale smarter, stay secure, and do more with data than ever before.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vivint to exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. As a leading smart home technology provider, Vivint offers home security, energy management, home automation, local cloud storage, and high-speed Internet solutions to more than one million customers throughout the United States and Canada. The end result is a smart home solution that sav...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Opsani will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Opsani is the leading provider of deployment automation systems for running and scaling traditional enterprise applications on container infrastructure.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Nirmata will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Nirmata provides a comprehensive platform, for deploying, operating, and optimizing containerized applications across clouds, powered by Kubernetes. Nirmata empowers enterprise DevOps teams by fully automating the complex operations and management of application containers and its underlying ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Opsani to exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. Opsani is creating the next generation of automated continuous deployment tools designed specifically for containers. How is continuous deployment different from continuous integration and continuous delivery? CI/CD tools provide build and test. Continuous Deployment is the means by which...