Friday, January 6, 2012

Ubiquity of service — State of the Art of the Cloud, circa 1982

For 2012 to be a better year than previous ones, those of us in the various technology sectors must be less protective of IT assets that are commodities, and look aggressively at ways to expand and creatively built upon these assets, rather than maintaining large, complex systems. I call it the 'democratization of technology," the way Steve Jobs brought forth GUIs for the rest of us.

For those elements that require unusual thinking and partnerships, I suggest a change in approach -- emphasize focus to ensure that we are not squandering scarce resources simply to be among the first on the block to do something new. Rather, in a world of limited resources, I advise CIOs to be strategic about IT investments, driven by innovation tied directly to the mission of the organization. In rough economic times, seek partnerships to bring down costs and to maximize innovation and reduce risk.

History supports lofty goals for IT: Jim Morris, in 1982, was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He articulated a vision for connectivity and collaboration: “the primary goal should be to broaden, deepen, and improve the communication among students.”

The way that was accomplished was to devise a computing environment where information could be shared. Professor Morris, working with IBM, rolled out a network at Carnegie Mellon he predicted would be ubiquitous in the future. The Andrew Project, and within it the Andrew File System, was born. AFS was the first safe and efficient distributed computing system, available to both students and professors on campus. In 1982.

Near the close of 1990, Tim Berners-Lee built all the tools we take for granted today for the World Wide Web on the Internet: the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), HyperText Markup Language (HTML), a Web browser, the first HTTP server software, the first web server, and the first Web pages spelling out the project itself. The browser could access newsgroups and FTP as well, and ran on NeXT computers.

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