Submerging Technologies: Five That Are Sinking Fast

jbone at jbone at
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tool is really outdated if it serves the needs of end users," says Eric 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 
Ethernet hubs.

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 


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."


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."


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 
do that.

"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.


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 
2003 Server.

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 


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.

900-MHz wireless LANs 802.11 WLANs Early WLANs installed in warehouses 
and manufacturing floors won’t work with 802.11b. Integration requires 
an upgrade.
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.
Dot-matrix printers
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 
makes sense.
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.

Source: Computerworld

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