Flutterby™! : Everything Old is New Again

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Everything Old is New Again

2005-07-20 21:02:32.15399+00 by petronius 4 comments

No idea in IT ever stays dead; they just keep on returning. According to Infoworld, many enterprises are beginning to look again at Thin Client systems, where all apps and files are kept on the servers, and desktop boxes have no hard drive or input system other than the mouse and keyboard. Of course, we also know this idea from some of its older incarnations, such as Larry Ellison's "Internet Computer" of the last decade; the dumb terminal of the 80's and the Timeshare system of the 70's. This time the allure is not saving money on hardware, instead its being pushed for security, with desktop idjits not having the wherewithal to volunteer for spyware installation or to copy virus infestations from home. They also see it as a great labor-saver, since you don't need any roving desktop support teams. Instead, you have guys in bunny-suits tending blade servers back at HQ. We sahll see it this one has better wings than the Internet Computer.

[ related topics: virus Net Culture Segway/Ginger/IT ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2005-07-20 22:45:47.023662+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think that this is related to the recent bemoaning by various luminaries of the lack of progression in computer technologies. The personal computer made inroads around the mainframe/terminal model because the end users could make the personal computer do things that the IT groups wouldn't. For a few thousand bucks you could have one hell of a calculator on your desk, and build one-off applications that IT wouldn't. But you also had something that IT wouldn't support.

And we've really seen no advancements in the mode of computing since the early 1980s: We still primarily use spreadsheets and word processors (and I remember the first piece of business-style animation software being in the 1985-6 range), with forms based databases (web forms owe a lot to 3270 terminals...)

We had this problem in selling some of the ideas which underlay the technologies I was working on at Alvanon: Groups without IT departments to support them didn't have the wherewithall to deploy a complex distributed database application, and groups with an established IT base didn't want to rock the boat or deploy a lot of computing power to the desktop at the expense of ease of administration.

It takes a strong need to cause a revolution from within, and the only places we've seen real advances in computing aren't general case, but very specific. Once there's a general case need for, say, a lot of graphics processing power in the end user's hands we'll see another case of people bringing in and deploying the technology outside the constraints of "the system", but until then keeping operating costs low will trump flexibility on desks.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-07-21 03:54:13.878255+00 by: Shawn

I'm not sure this idea ever even pretended to be dead - at least over the last decade. I've been hearing a variety of people wishfully talking about [a return to] thin clients since before the first "Internet Computer" was a gleam in somebody's eye. This was, after all, why Microsoft finally stood up and took notice of the Internet - (paraphrasing) "The Internet/browser is the new OS".

#Comment Re: made: 2005-07-21 04:27:58.565387+00 by: meuon

It's a great idea.. when done right. So many places do it poorly. I've seen it done with Citrix, MS-Term Server, super-long VGA/keyboard cables.. Next week I talk to a large local company who is thinking of ditching several "simple" business-centric VB apps on WinXP talking to MS-SQL for what couple be a really slick use for custom Knoppix CD's (or similiar on a hard drive, with a re-write userspace on boot) with a web browser and such for talking to a LAMP server. The desktop users can't mess with the environment and can only do what the company wants.. With some decent web based e-mail/intranet stuff.. most 'worker bees' don't need anything beyond mission critical apps.

We should have just kept the big iron. ;)

#Comment Re: made: 2005-07-21 15:04:39.191309+00 by: petronius

A lot of this has to do with corporate culture. I remember a few years ago teaching Notes Mail at a branch of a big local bank. The IT crew would modify your desktop and I would step in to show them the new mail application. What people were shocked by was that they suddenly lost all control of their desktop. They couldn't even find Control Panel without a higher-level password. They had recently been acquired by a big out of town bank, and this was the first step in a consolidation program. It was a bit like conquered people being made to march under Attila's battle standards.

Now, I know that it doesn't look good to see Elvis screensavers running on the loan manager's screen, but these people were really creeped out. They also lost most of their e-mail archives, except the higher-ups.