Submerging Technologies: Five That Are Sinking Fast
jbone at place.org
jbone at place.org
Mon Oct 20 23:53:49 PDT 2003
On a down note, here're some things --- if you're betting the farm on
them --- on which you shouldn't be betting. According to the
"experts" of course, caveat amply noted. Fold these negative
predictions into Black-Scholes and adopt a contrarian attitude you'll
be making money in no time, black holes excepted. It's all herd
mentality. (Don't take my word on it. I'm almost a negative
predictor: I'm (statistically) almost certainly a bigger loser than
you will ever be in this game. ;-)
Apologies for the bad formatting... bandwidth and latency and laziness
are assumed to be less important than Google meta-mind text mining.
So close, and yet so far...
And don't forget: YOU CAN'T CATCH "THE GAY." ;-)
Submerging Technologies: Five That Are Sinking Fast
By Gary H. Anthes and Robert L. Mitchell
OCTOBER 20, 2003
Most corporate IT organizations have steering committees to craft
strategies for new technologies, chief technology officers to assess
new products, and IT policies and procedures for developing and buying
new hardware and software.
But where are the review committees for obsolete technologies? Who's
looking at what's in the data center, on desktops and in briefcases to
see if they still make sense? Who's checking to see if spare parts,
vendor support and employees with the right skills will be available
next month—or next year?
In most companies, no one is doing those things in any rigorous way,
says John Parkinson, chief technologist for the Americas region at Cap
Gemini Ernst & Young in Chicago. "I know of very few companies that
actively manage sunsetting their IT," he says. "They think it will last
It doesn't, of course. But in most cases, there's no need to rush: "No
tool is really outdated if it serves the needs of end users," says Eric
Goldfarb, CIO at PRG-Schultz International Inc. in Atlanta. However, IT
managers who wait too long may risk being forced into expensive
last-minute changes to accommodate new technology initiatives as
business needs change. That IP telephony call center application won't
fly if you have to replace not only the private branch exchange but
also update network cabling and those nonswitched, shared-media
Parkinson says that for each type of software and hardware installed,
companies should have an estimated cost and date to replace it and an
estimated cost to retain it. "You really should have this in the plan
when you [buy], otherwise you won't know what ROI to expect," he says.
Of course, some technologies need closer scrutiny than others. So
Computerworld asked corporate IT managers and analysts what items they
would put at the top of their lists. Some of them may justify an
immediate rip-and-replace strategy; others should be put on your
"endangered" list. Here are five submerging technologies to watch in
1. WINDOWS 9x
Why it's sinking: Can 92 million users be wrong? Yes. Declining
support, reliability problems, security issues and incompatibility with
new applications should drive the remaining installed base to Windows
2000 or XP.
Submerging Technologies: Five That are Sinking Fast
Credit: Red Nose Studio
No obsolete technology is in wider use than the 9x versions of
Microsoft Corp.'s operating system. "Windows 9x is getting to be pretty
much unsustainable," says Tony Iams, an analyst at D.H. Brown
Associates Inc. in Port Chester, N.Y. Indeed, many companies have
already migrated to Windows 2000 Professional to gain the reliability
of an operating system built on the more stable NT kernel.
But eradicating Windows 9x won't come easy: IDC in Framingham, Mass.,
estimates that by year's end, there will still be 17 million Windows 95
installations, 48 million Windows 98 users and 27 million machines
still running Windows Me. And the majority of those are business PCs,
claims IDC analyst Dan Kuznetsky. "In the long term, it will probably
be less costly to upgrade [to Windows XP], just because the NT kernel
is much more reliable," he says.
But what if your organization has waited? Should you go directly to XP,
wait for the next generation (code-named Longhorn) or choose something
Don't hold your breath for Longhorn: It isn't due to arrive until 2005
at the earliest. Linux is a widely touted option, but for many the idea
of replacing thousands of Windows installations, training users on a
new operating system and getting it to work with existing Windows
applications is a nonstarter.
Tom Pratt, information systems manager at Coastal Transportation Inc.
in Seattle, says he has no plans to abandon Windows 98. The
applications running on his boats won't run on anything else, and it's
perfectly satisfactory for his office applications as well, he says.
Can Pratt stay on Windows 98 forever? "Forever is a funny term," he
says. "Let's just say 'indefinitely.' "
But John Montgomery, chief technology officer at Marine Terminals Corp.
in Oakland, Calf., is making the move to Windows 2000. "Our newer
applications are not going to run on [Windows 9x]," he says. "The main
reason why Windows 9x is still out there is for legacy applications
that it took us quite a while to get rid of."
2. CLIENT/SERVER COMPUTING
Why it's sinking: Two-tier computing with fat clients had its day, but
there are now better ways to distribute data and computing power for
flexibility, ease of maintenance and business continuity.
The original client/server scheme—where the application's visual
presentation and business logic reside on the desktop, and data resides
on a server—is an idea whose time has passed. It's being replaced by
Web browser clients, n-tier systems and Web services.
Why should users replace their two-tier systems? "Flexibility would be
the big reason, and some issues around business continuity and disaster
recovery," Parkinson says. "Also, a lot of that software was built with
second-generation client/server tools, like [Sybase's] PowerBuilder and
SQL Windows, and things have moved on a lot since those days." It's
becoming harder to find people with those skills and to get the object
code to run well on newer technology, he adds.
Randy Heffner, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge,
Mass., makes a distinction between mission-critical enterprise systems
and "low-affordability," or departmental, applications. "Strategic
applications should never be developed in the traditional fat-client,
two-tier client/server model," he says. "The business logic becomes
inaccessible and hard to maintain. Instead, the right approach is a
service-based design—that is, to build a business services layer in the
application that can be exposed via Web services or any other
But two-tier computing with fat clients is still the best approach for
companies such as PRG-Schultz, a $500 million "recovery audit" company
that analyzes clients' accounts payable records to see whether they've
overpaid. "Because of the creative work our auditors do on their
desktops—data mining, analysis—we keep a lot of computation there,"
Goldfarb says. Response time is enhanced by keeping the power local
rather than relying on a network, he says.
Jim Honerkamp, CIO at Clopay Corp. in Mason, Ohio, has found a way to
extend the lives of his two-tier, fat-client applications. He replaced
desktop PCs with Windows thin-client terminals from Wyse Technology
Inc. and moved the client code to a MetaFrame server from Citrix
Systems Inc. "This allows you to put a very thin client on the desktop,
and it greatly simplifies support on the desktop," he says. "The
application thinks it's still running in a client/server environment."
3. IBM SNA/PROPRIETARY NETWORKS
Why it's sinking: Proprietary network protocols are so 20th century,
getting shoved aside by the power and ubiquity of TCP/IP. Migration
will ease support and interoperability concerns.
"All proprietary protocol stacks—such as SNA, DECnet, AppleTalk, Novell
IPX/SPX—are in great decline," says Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at
Illuminata Inc. "Over time, TCP/IP has taken on their jobs—a process
that continues as TCP/IP products continue to improve with multigigabit
switches, quality-of-service techniques and so on."
You don't have to scrap those old IBM mainframe/SNA/3270 applications
right away. You can run Data Link Switching over an IP network, which
encapsulates SNA traffic in an IP wrapper, and leave the application
and the SNA hardware unchanged. But you'll pay a performance penalty to
"There are a lot of Band-Aid solutions, but ultimately the idea is to
move the application to Unix or something and make it IP native," says
David Passmore, an analyst at Burton Group in Sterling, Va. "If you
can't rewrite or replace the application, consider software that maps
old IBM 3270 terminal to Java-based browser interface."
David Pensak, senior research fellow in advanced computation at Du Pont
Co. in Wilmington, Del., says he still has printers on an AppleTalk
network. "Why get rid of it? The printers are fully depreciated," he
says. Pensak says he also has an AppleTalk network at home, adding, "I
won't replace it until I get a new computer, and maybe not then." But
he says he has dumped his old DECnet applications. "TCP/IP is so much
better; it does so much more," Pensak says.
4. TAPE BACKUP
Why it's sinking: Tape is cheap, but disk technology is closing the
cost gap. For day-to-day backups, disk-to-disk systems that use
inexpensive ATA technology make sense.
Although magnetic tape's cost per megabyte will give it a role in
keeping archival records for years to come, better technologies and
techniques are eroding tape's dominance for day-to-day backup and
recovery tasks. "It will be replaced by other kinds of protection, like
journaling and/or replication, snapshots or point-in-time copies," says
Dave Freund, an analyst at Illuminata in Nashua, N.H.
Several technologies are changing the basic approach to data backup.
Disk-to-disk backup systems based on relatively inexpensive ATA storage
can rapidly back up and restore entire networks. Snapshot features such
as Network Appliance Inc.'s SnapMirror allow rapid imaging of a system.
One indication that such software tools are becoming mainstream is
Microsoft's inclusion of its Shadow Copy snapshot feature in Windows
The more sophisticated tools can also briefly "quiesce," or pause,
applications such as databases and flush the caches for copying without
bringing the system down. "We believe that five years from now, most
medium- and large-sized customers will be using snapshots on disk as
the primary recovery media," says Bob Passmore, an analyst at Gartner
Inc. "But that doesn't mean tape is going away in the next 12 months."
Alternatives just aren't well known yet, he says.
"I wouldn't consider tape old technology," says PRG-Schultz's Goldfarb,
whose company backs up 165TB of data onto a gigantic IBM 3590 tape
system. He says tape will be his medium of choice for three to five
more years. But Goldfarb says it will eventually be replaced with
disk-to-disk or Flash Erasable Programmable read-only memory backup
5. VISUAL BASIC 6
Why it's sinking: As Microsoft gradually withdraws support from Visual
Basic 6 and programmers abandon it for Visual Basic .Net, those old VB
6 applications will get harder and harder to maintain.
Visual Basic 6 may be the most popular programming language, but its
days are numbered. "VB 6 is the dinosaur of old. There's tons of legacy
code out there, but no self-respecting developer wants to go there
anymore," says Dan Mezick, president of New Technology Solutions Inc.,
an IT training firm in North Haven, Conn. As a result, the talent pool
for maintaining VB 6 code is already shrinking. And Microsoft will
phase out support for VB 6 in favor of Visual Basic .Net in the next
two to four years, says Mezick.
PRG-Schultz has a number of VB 6 applications but is writing all new
ones in VB .Net. Goldfarb says that in 12 months, he'll have more VB
.Net applications than VB 6 applications. "Right now," he says, "I'm
straddling both sides of the stream."
Mark Hall and Frank Hayes contributed to this story.
SINKERS AND SWIMMERS
OUT IN WHY
900-MHz wireless LANs 802.11 WLANs Early WLANs installed in warehouses
and manufacturing floors won’t work with 802.11b. Integration requires
1U (1.75-in. high) servers Blade servers They save space, eliminate
cables and lower costs by sharing power supplies and connectivity.
Color ink-jet printers Color laser printers Color laser printers used
to cost thousands; now they’re well under $1,000. And color laser
cartridge changes are less frequent—and less messy.
CRT monitors LCD monitors Flicker-free LCDs reduce eyestrain; the
tubeless design saves on desk space, and the LCDs are less
environmentally hazardous at disposal time than CRTs.
Ink-jet/laser printers Dot-matrix printers are still good for multipart
forms, but as volumes have fallen, prices have jumped above those of
both ink-jet and low-end laser printers.
Ethernet hubs Intelligent switches Newer switches are inexpensive, a
prerequisite for IP telephony, and typically support Simple Network
Management Protocol for remote manageability.
File servers Network-attached storage appliances Why maintain file
servers for shared storage when you can plug in a simple appliance?
Floppy disks Flash disks, writable CDs, DVDs What fits on 1.44MB of
disk space anymore?
Mac OS 9 Mac OS X Increased stability makes this upgrade a no-brainer.
Modems Wireless LANs With WLANs expanding across offices, public spaces
and hotels, the modem, with its 56Kbit/sec. speed limit, is fast
becoming the computing equivalent of an automobile’s limited-service
spare tire—used only in emergencies, at low speeds.
PBXs IP telephony/call manager servers With applications that require
an integrated voice/data network already emerging, another long-term
investment in a digital PBX at this point probably doesn’t make sense.
PDAs Cell phone/PDA hybrids Free up your pockets! New hybrid models are
finally reaching a size and price where a single, integrated device
Serial/parallel ports USB 2.0 ports The ports won’t go away on PCs
anytime soon, but for new hardware, Universal Serial Bus peripherals
are faster and often easier to set up.
Token Ring Ethernet Ethernet: Cheap and ubiquitous. Token Ring:
Expensive, with limited vendor sources. Any questions?
Windows NT servers Windows 2000, Server 2003 Support will disappear
soon—as will all those security patches and updates.
Zip drives Rewritable CD/DVD drives CD-ROM drives are inexpensive and
ubiquitous, and the media are cheaper.
More information about the FoRK