ne of the best things about writing for the President’s Corner is the fact that I get to choose any topic I want to write about. I have recently returned from the COMMON conference in Atlanta so I have decided to write about some of the most interesting topics that were discussed there.
The theme of the recent conference was COMMON Fall 96 - Your Knowledge Network. The vision of COMMON is to be the primary education provider for Information Technology, intrinsic to professional growth, a conduit for information sharing and a catalyst for solutions. They are the single largest voice to IBM. With around 1,000 sessions to choose from during the 5 day conference they are well on their way to achieving their goals. With a large trade show attached to the conference they provide the focused education and information on IBM midrange hardware that allows us to learn so much in such a short time. I have been fortunate enough to go to COMMON several times and look on the conference as a source of inspiration for the coming year. A time to find out what’s hot, what’s not, how-to implement a solution and what not to do. TUG models its successful TEC conference along the lines of COMMON and tries to bring many of the most interesting speakers and topics to TEC.
There were several really hot topics this conference - network computing and the advent of the thin client, Internet/intranets, Lotus Notes, Java and of course the Year 2000. In all of the above arenas the AS/400 plays a major role in facilitating.
They talked about client/server computing - for a long time thought to be the holy grail in the information technology area - only to find out some of the most startling facts. One out of 6 client/server implementations were successful, 2 out of 6 failed, and 3 out of 6 postponed the project. Client/Server is now purported to be the most expensive form of computing known to mankind with many companies rushing into it only to find the implementation and the ongoing costs exorbitant. The expense seems to go up and the productivity goes down. The more you spend on technology the less that gets done with the amount of time end users spend fooling with their PC estimated to be upwards of 5 hours a week. Network computing is changing the client/server model into something less expensive and more manageable.
With all the buzz in the press about end user/PC computing then it is difficult to explain how 35 million fixed function terminals are still used in business today with over one million new ones shipped per year. Network computing and the thin client seem poised to deliver the functionality of the client server model and all the advertised benefits with cost of ownership, ease of use and manageability comparable to the fixed function terminal. The advent of Java (an interpretive version scheduled for the AS/400 end of first quarter and a compiler version expected in the first half) that will compile to intermediate byte code that will run on low end devices delivering most of the functionality of a “fat client” to these network clients. The use of the Internet and intranets are expanding our information access beyond the four walls of our own businesses and beyond the incompatibilities and bottlenecks of today’s environments. Collaborative computing tools such as Lotus Notes (an AS/400 server version due out next fall) make sharing that information with others so much easier to do.
I look forward to watching the expanded role and the changing face of the AS/400. In its entire history, only 25,000 mainframes have been shipped from all vendors in total. With over 400,000 AS/400’s installed, it is the major player in the corporate computing arena, and I’m pleased to see it is gaining even more respect in the technology community as its 64bit architecture takes off.