imageRemember the days of the BWS?  I am confident that many younger IT folks do not remember the Big Water-cooled Suckers during the 60’s & 70’s. Ironically, today’s young IT professionals are spearheading a return to the glass houses of yesteryear :-).  Back in those day, users did their work on so called “dumb terminals” , while their applications ran on a mainframe or minicomputer  in a datacenter, usually far away, which was  tightly controlled by IT.

Then there was a huge push for distributed computing in the 80’s.  Departmental clusters of computers shared files through a dedicated fileserver,  while Epson or Okidata dot matrix printers hummed away in some unused cubicle.  A departmental administrator watched over the “network”,  ensuring that applications and printers were available.

With departmental clusters sharing files, they also shared gateways to the mainframes and minicomputers.  The dumb terminals were eventually replaced with intelligent workstations that could access the mainframe for applications.  I actually still saw a few dumb terminals last year.

As capability expanded in the 90’s, centralized IT gave way to personal computers.  Along came the proliferation of  Microsoft Windows and Windows, and centralized IT’s ecosystem was severely threatened.  The Windows based applications, in many instances, started to replace the mainframe applications.  Sure, intense applications (such as retail point of sale) still ran on mini/mainframes, but accounting, spreadsheet data analysis, word processing, and even database applications could now run on so called Personal Computers.

Initially, personal computers were considered expensive, from a departmental budget perspective, although the investment was much less than purchasing and administering  the mainframe/mini. Over time, PCs became more and more powerful, providing significant application platform capabilities at reasonable prices, further enabling departments to administer their own computing needs.

So what has now precipitated the return to the glass house datacenter?  The fact that all of the IT world has embraced virtualization in the data center, has now expanded to Application Delivery via Hosted Virtual Desktops from Citrix, VMware & Microsoft.

The past returns to the present – but i now need a smaller and greener glass house!!!

by Howard Kalman,  September 14, 2009 (hkalman@ipm.com)

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