Skip to content

Standards, squashing the pile, and maturing technology

Paul Venezia poses the question: Countless IT admin tools depend on these technologies. Do you have a plan to keep yours working?. What prompted the question goes back to browser incompatibilities, browser limitations, and efforts to provide services via web browsers.

A quick glance around an IT infrastructure of any size will reveal a rich mosaic of hardware and software management tools in use. They might be as simple as a Telnet UI into an older Ethernet switch or as sophisticated as a whiz-bang GUI to a virtualization framework. We use a wide variety of different tools to manage everything within our purview.

Unfortunately, many of these front ends, due to fateful choices by their makers, are starting to cause big problems, and those problems may be with us well into the future. The fundamental mistake these vendors made was building critical management clients on platforms, namely Flash and Java, that may have seemed stable at the time but have ultimately fallen by the wayside. The upshot is that unless you start stocking up on clones of older operating systems and software, some of your critical infrastructure components will become unmanageable.

The fact of the matter is that losing Flash and Java plug-ins isn’t a bad thing — in fact, it’s very good news. They’re old, unnecessary, and insecure platforms that truly don’t belong in the Internet of 2016. There are better ways to do it now

This problem isn’t going away. It won’t improve. It’s better to get out in front of it while there’s still time. Try to choose a platform that will not hit a similar dead end in a decade or less. Good luck.

The problem is that you have to make choices when designing a system but when the basis for those choices is rapidly changing, it is quite likely that the lifespan of your choices is going to be short. That puts pressure on reducing costs which, in turn points choices to platform shopping which, in turn leads back to the problem of keeping your system current. There is pressure against the status quo in that the IT field is a prime target for the avocational pursuit of finding flaws and faults in available systems.

The squishing part is in the growth of standards which address the needs exposed by plug-iins. Those standards become more complex but they stabilize the basis for developing systems. A browser’s behavior becomes better defined and includes a known interface that is also better defined. An example of this is in the development environments for smart phones. Both Google and Apple provide a defined environment for app development that splits the driver and basic function side from the developer and user side. In the cases of modern browsers and cell phones, there was a broiling sea of ideas and options that were distilled and then consolidated into platforms that enabled a focus of innovation, faster growth at lower cost, and longer amortization periods.

There is a third regime that is a part of this as well. That is down at the hardware part level. Whether it is ARM type processing units that can be plunked into a system on a chip die or the communications protocols such as I2C, the hardware is also consolidating its interfaces to facilitate its use in systems.

Interesting times, indeed. What’s next?