Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Chris Schwarz

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
"We've been engaging with a lot of customers including Panasonic, we've been involved with Cisco and now we're working with the U.S. government - the Department of Homeland Security," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Calligo, an innovative cloud service provider offering mid-sized companies the highest levels of data privacy and security, has been named "Bronze 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. Calligo offers unparalleled application performance guarantees, commercial flexibility and a personalised support service from its globally located cloud plat...
"We are focused on SAP running in the clouds, to make this super easy because we believe in the tremendous value of those powerful worlds - SAP and the cloud," explained Frank Stienhans, CTO of Ocean9, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
"The Striim platform is a full end-to-end streaming integration and analytics platform that is middleware that covers a lot of different use cases," explained Steve Wilkes, Founder and CTO at Striim, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We provide IoT solutions. We provide the most compatible solutions for many applications. Our solutions are industry agnostic and also protocol agnostic," explained Richard Han, Head of Sales and Marketing and Engineering at Systena America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global 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. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" 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. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
DX World EXPO, LLC., a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
"MobiDev is a Ukraine-based software development company. We do mobile development, and we're specialists in that. But we do full stack software development for entrepreneurs, for emerging companies, and for enterprise ventures," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global 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. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, discussed the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insights from the vast t...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EnterpriseTech has been named “Media 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. EnterpriseTech is a professional resource for news and intelligence covering the migration of high-end technologies into the enterprise and business-IT industry, with a special focus on high-tech solutions in new product development, workload management, increased effic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" 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. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze 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. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CHEETAH Training & Innovation 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. CHEETAH Training & Innovation is a cloud consulting and IT training firm specializing in improving clients cloud strategies and infrastructures for medium to large companies.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datanami has been named “Media 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. Datanami is a communication channel dedicated to providing insight, analysis and up-to-the-minute information about emerging trends and solutions in Big Data. The publication sheds light on all cutting-edge technologies including networking, storage and applications, and thei...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...