Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.
Re: the OS price
Author: Eric Kidd Posted: 7/4/1999; 12:45:26 PM Topic: scriptingNews outline for 7/2/99 Msg #: 8176 (In response to 8167) Prev/Next: 8175 / 8178
(I'm speaking for myself here, not for UserLand.)
I'm not coming from the usual place, I'm seeing a market that's huge, much bigger than today's server market. Simplicity and price and configuration competition is what's needed to make this market happen. NT can't participate in that market, with its current distribution options and pricing.
I'm watching this market, too. I like owning a server; it lets me do cool things without anybody else's permission.
There's no such thing as a consumer server, yet, but we're getting closer. Let's look at the history of servers:
- Big iron. Back in the old days, large companies bought expensive, proprietary machines from IBM and DEC. These came with service contracts, heavyweight databases and (litterally) walls of documentation.
- Big Unix. During the 1980's, big servers slowly moved from mainframes to Unix systems. Unix systems were cheaper--a few tens of thousands of dollars at most--and you could get by with a couple of smart programmers as administrators. In 1983, there were over a dozen companies fighting to control servers and professional workstations. Unix ran over most of these companies like a freight train. It was vendor neutral, cheap and the college students loved it, having learned Unix on their school's DEC hardware. (DEC was still promoting VMS heavily, even though more than a third of their users were running Unix on the sly.)
- NetWare and NT. During the late eighties and early-to-mid nineties, the action drifted away from Unix. NetWare (and later NT) were easier to use, cheaper and more familiar than Unix systems. You didn't need a highly-trained Unix guru; you could make do with a "certified engineer" who had a few years of computer experience and a couple of good night-school courses. Plus, NetWare and NT played nicely with your PCs.
- The Internet and Linux-for-Geeks. While Microsoft was focusing on Sun, Linux crept beneath their radar. Microsoft on Unix: "Unix is expensive, incomprehensible and requires high-priced talent." The Linux position: "Linux is dirt cheap, lots of college students understand it, and it does this whole Internet thing really well." Linux hasn't "won" yet (whatever that means), but it has become a force in its own right.
I can see a long-term trend here: servers get smaller, cheaper and easier to administer. Right now, things are split--NT has "easier to administer" and Linux has "smaller and cheaper". My prediction: the trend will continue, as it has for the past twenty or thirty years.
My guess: the next important group of servers will cost no more than a cheap PC (perhaps less), speak standard protocols, and require no particular expertise to set up and run. In an ideal world, it would be possible for VARs and software developers to customize these machines heavily, and there should be lots of competing vendors. Oh, yeah--I don't want to hear the words "per processor", "per client" or "special Internet license" when I ask about prices.
The Cobalt Qube is a step in the right direction, as are some of the other networking appliances. I'm waiting for something which can be set up by the average Mac or PC user, preferably without any real understanding of TCP/IP.
The Linux community is clearly headed in this direction. Microsoft needs a story here, too.
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