Old lamps for new

Old technologies need re-inventing

Letters A couple of items in Reg Developer have prompted responses that continue a theme raised here before – that old software technologies that were developed years ago to solve perennial business management problems are still probably the best solution and should therefore be resuscitated - or perhaps unknowlingly re-invented.

For example, a welcome email arrived the other day from IBM distinguished engineer, Mark Cathcart (one of that company’s rocket scientists on virtualisation, architectures and design) in response to my piece on the possibilities of re-inventing batch processing.

He kindly pointed me at a press release that, I blush to admit, had escaped my notice. This revealed that, back in May this year, IBM had announced Batch-on-Grid – yes, good old batch processing technology adapted to run on Grid architectures, mixing old-style batch job queues with autonomic management systems to control and allocate the workloads.

In a comment to that piece, Del Merritt bemoaned the fact that most modern servers are only about as good as an old DEC VAX ever was. Given that HP can now run the VAX’s native O/S’s on the Itanium platform, perhaps it will re-invent that box, and give Itanium a new market as a helpful by-product.

In a similar vein, Deepak Vohra’s tutorial on Ruby on Rails has been generating plenty of positive interest, but it has also rattled the cages of one or two among our - how shall we say - more mature readers. And it is fair to say that the rattling has been caused by an arguably valid point.

As one correspondent put it:

'C' , C++, perl, Python, Java, Eifel, Ruby and Rails - those poor Unix-babies; they still don't get it?

The basic structures of 'C' and Unix are poorly suited to both business application development and device control.

Webservers are document presentation tools, not transaction processors.

Oracle is for data mining static tables, not real time posting.

One size does not fit all.

Quit trying to re-invent the wheel. Learn NS Guardian, System 360 (or whatever IBM calls it these days) Pathway CICS, DB2, NS SQL and COBOL.

It seems a fair point. There are technologies that are suitable for the glitz and gloss of presentation and the tricks unique to the web, but when it comes to what often lies behind that stuff – the need to run a business and not have it go belly up – most of the needed technology is there already, and has been for years.

Tell me I’m wrong, but it does seem like the software industry wants to invent new technology versions of "old lamps", when the old lamps are still better suited to the job. ®

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