Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Java Authors: Yakov Fain, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Mike Kavis

Related Topics: Java

Java: 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
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
With several hundred implementations of IoT-enabled solutions in the past 12 months alone, this session will focus on experience over the art of the possible. Many can only imagine the most advanced telematics platform ever deployed, supporting millions of customers, producing tens of thousands events or GBs per trip, and hundreds of TBs per month. With the ability to support a billion sensor events per second, over 30PB of warm data for analytics, and hundreds of PBs for an data analytics archive, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Kaskade, Vice President and General Manager, Big Data & Ana...
In the consumer IoT, everything is new, and the IT world of bits and bytes holds sway. But industrial and commercial realms encompass operational technology (OT) that has been around for 25 or 50 years. This grittier, pre-IP, more hands-on world has much to gain from Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications and principles. But adding sensors and wireless connectivity won’t work in environments that demand unwavering reliability and performance. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ron Sege, CEO of Echelon, will discuss how as enterprise IT embraces other IoT-related technology trends, enterprises with i...
When it comes to the Internet of Things, hooking up will get you only so far. If you want customers to commit, you need to go beyond simply connecting products. You need to use the devices themselves to transform how you engage with every customer and how you manage the entire product lifecycle. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, will show how “product relationship management” can help you leverage your connected devices and the data they generate about customer usage and product performance to deliver extremely compelling and reliabl...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is causing data centers to become radically decentralized and atomized within a new paradigm known as “fog computing.” To support IoT applications, such as connected cars and smart grids, data centers' core functions will be decentralized out to the network's edges and endpoints (aka “fogs”). As this trend takes hold, Big Data analytics platforms will focus on high-volume log analysis (aka “logs”) and rely heavily on cognitive-computing algorithms (aka “cogs”) to make sense of it all.
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, had reached 30,000 page views on his home page - http://RobertoMedrano.SYS-CON.com/ - on the SYS-CON family of online magazines, which includes Cloud Computing Journal, Internet of Things Journal, Big Data Journal, and SOA World Magazine. He is a recognized executive in the information technology fields of SOA, internet security, governance, and compliance. He has extensive experience with both start-ups and large companies, having been involved at the beginning of four IT industries: EDA, Open Systems, Computer Security and now SOA.
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
Operational Hadoop and the Lambda Architecture for Streaming Data Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, representing a model of how to analyze rea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Open Data Centers (ODC), a carrier-neutral colocation provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Open Data Centers is a carrier-neutral data center operator in New Jersey and New York City offering alternative connectivity options for carriers, service providers and enterprise customers.
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
PubNub on Monday has announced that it is partnering with IBM to bring its sophisticated real-time data streaming and messaging capabilities to Bluemix, IBM’s cloud development platform. “Today’s app and connected devices require an always-on connection, but building a secure, scalable solution from the ground up is time consuming, resource intensive, and error-prone,” said Todd Greene, CEO of PubNub. “PubNub enables web, mobile and IoT developers building apps on IBM Bluemix to quickly add scalable realtime functionality with minimal effort and cost.”
SYS-CON Events announced today that GENBAND, a leading developer of real time communications software solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's WebRTC Summit, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The GENBAND team will be on hand to demonstrate their newest product, Kandy. Kandy is a communications Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that enables companies to seamlessly integrate more human communications into their Web and mobile applications - creating more engaging experiences for their customers and boosting collaboration and productiv...
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, shared some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, a...