Nice little number, this one
Opinion: Smaller, neater, cheaper - the network computer has few drawbacks, argues Andrew Ward
Monday 06 May 1996
But throughout the computer industry, massive investments are being made in network-centric computing. Are Sun, IBM and Oracle really all wrong? And if not, why not?
Some say the NC will not be much cheaper than the PC. That was recently disproved by Oracle, which demonstrated a network computer with a bill of materials of around $295 (pounds 200) - a fraction of the cost of the PC.
Scepticism is also voiced about the claims by Sun and Oracle for "near- zero administration costs". In fact, people are already implementing network- centric applications using PCs, so we know the administration costs for this computing model are low; replace the PC with the NC and they will be lower still.
There is also concern that the "newness" of the NC will result in teething problems. It will not. Technically, there is very little about the NC that is new. Yes, electronic devices do fail and the NC will be no exception, but its lack of moving parts and cooler running will give it a virtually indefinite lifetime - certainly far, far in excess of that of the average hot and noisy PC. And without a shadow of doubt, the NC will be smaller and more attractive than the ugly brutes littering our desktops today.
Network speed is another concern. But network-centric computing actually makes fewer demands on network bandwidth than existing PC-based applications. Database programs such as Access shunt vast amounts of data around networks, and massive applications such as Word 7 are often loaded from servers, creating huge bandwidth demand. NC programs will be much, much smaller.
And it is a nonsense to suggest that reliance on the network makes the NC somehow more exposed to failure. The reality today is that virtually all serious corporate use of PCs requires a network connection, so huge sums have already been invested in ensuring network reliability. Besides, there is nothing wrong with relying on a network; a telephone would not be much use without one, after all.
Another worry is a perceived lack of application software for the NC. This is an understandable concern, given the often considerable delays that beset development of new PC programs. But according to Ray Lane, of Oracle, "Sun's Java language will enable software suppliers to design and deploy mini-programs very quickly", so we can expect to see a greater variety of software coming to market more quickly.
The truth is that network-centric computing is not some idea for the future: it is here and now. "Web-enabled" applications, whose only requirement on the part of the client computer is to run a Web browser, are already up and running. Many tailor-made applications are in use now at organisations throughout the world, and off-the-shelf program suites such as Oracle's InterOffice are just around the corner.
Out in the real world, IT users are already convinced by the network- centric argument, which is why they are building these systems today. For the moment, the client software runs on PCs, but it is ready to take advantage of the much cheaper NC as soon as it becomes available.
Nevertheless, the NC will not take over completely from the PC, just as the telephone did not completely remove the need for messenger boys (we call them dispatch riders today). Nor will the PC disappear overnight. But as companies come to replace them, I believe they will increasingly turn to network computers. The PC will remain, but as an expensive and specialist tool, used by a minority.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
Life & Style blogs
Movie pirate given almost 3 years in prison for filming Fast & Furious 6 in back of cinema
What is ALS and the Ice Bucket Challenge?
Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for beauty pageant
Doctors tell Treasury of their anger at rejection of pay reviews
Exclusive: Tickets for Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in London are not on ‘sale’
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
- 1 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for beauty pageant
- 2 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 3 Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 5 Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'
£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...
£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...
£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...