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Return of the Mainframe Era

I have written about this topic before - please click here to read my article published in Recruitment International magazine April 2008 edition. In that article I discussed cloud computing and how things had evolved up to that time.

In this short article, I want to bring things up to date now that almost 5 years have gone by.

During and after the second world war, the modern computing industry was born with code breaking machines and government sponsored initiatives (culminating in the internet via Darpa in the 80's) . This was followed by commercialisation of big mainframe computers by companies like IBM, Unisys and ICL in the 50's and 60's.

In the mainframe era, each company manufactured their own hardware and also designed and wrote their own operating system and application software to take advantage of their own hardware. Re-read this sentence - it is important later.

When the mini-computer industry was born in the 70's with machines like the PDP-11, hardware companies still made their own software such as operating systems, but allowed new 'software companies' to develop application software for these platforms. Software companies wrote applications for a variety of business uses, such as the Oracle database.

When the micro-computer industry was born in the 80's with the IBM PC kick-starting the industry, hardware companies used operating systems developed by software companies e.g. Digital Research CPM or Microsoft DOS so that these standard operating systems would attract other software companies to develop applications to help attract customers. Lotus was the most successful of these application software companies with their 1-2-3 spreadsheet.

Whilst software companies flourished, Moores law dictated that whilst the power of hardware would double every 18 months, the price would half in that time also. This meant it was very difficult for hardware only companies to be viable as we entered the 21st century.

Couple that with the rise of the internet and subsequent cloud computing, the IT industry was a very different beast to that in the 70's, 80's and 90's.

Now in 2013, Microsoft is rumoured to be buying DELL very soon. A couple of years back, Oracle bought Sun. Both Apple and Google build their own software and hardware.

Given that todays geo-cluster-clouds are comprised of effectively millions of computers, they are the mainframes of today. Millions of users today use the cloud computer mainframes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple (and soon Oracle).

What does this mean? It means that the worlds biggest software companies are going to operate just like the worlds biggest mainframe companies of the 50's and 60's.

They want us to connect to their hardware and run their operating systems and use their application software.

They are also manufacturing client-side-devices such as phones, tablets and PC's, which also run their own software.

Who says history does not repeat itself?

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