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Issue of January 2006 

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Tug of war

It’s a tug of war
What with one thing and another
It’s a tug of war

Paul McCartney

When McCartney wrote Tug of War he was referring to the creative give and take that characterised the most successful songwriting partnership in the history of popular music Lennon/McCartney. He could very well have been writing about the relationship of standards and innovation.

Innovation by its very nature is unpredictable and is widely regarded as the spur for economic growth. Then you have standards that bring to mind years of committee meetings that end up with agreement on what usually ends up being a minimal subset rather than a superset of competing innovations.

Yet, without standards enterprise computing wouldn’t exist in the form that we know it. So how is corporate IT to rationalise this dichotomy between standards and innovation?

Most CIOs elect to be pragmatic. They prefer to play it safe and wait till the genie of innovation is bottled and standardised for mass consumption. That said, many a time demand for a particular feature is so strong that even before it becomes a standard, adoption is widespread.

Take the case of the 4 GB memory barrier on 32-bit x86 hardware. Long before AMD came up with the Opteron and launched the x86-64 era, server vendors like Compaq and Dell were using ServerWorks chipsets to breach the 4 GB limit. So it’s not the fact that x86-64 can access 64 GB of memory that’s worth mentioning. What is significant is the fact that the extra memory addressability is done in a standardised manner.

Standardisation can spell the difference between success and failure. Take the case of iSCSI which languished initially till the standard was ratified. Once version two of iSCSI was approved, IP SANs based on this technology began to mushroom. In the case of Cat 7, delays in standardisation have led to Cat 6e emerging and now it seems doubtful if Cat 7 will take off any time in the near future. Then there is 802.11n, a technology with the potential to change the rules of the game.Once it gets ratified, it promises Wi-Fi speeds as high as 600 Mbps. One of the biggest deterrents to Wi-Fi adoption (other than security which the technology aims to address) is speed, or lack thereof.

These are just three of the technologies that we have profiled in this issue most of which are standards with the rest getting there in 2006. I leave you with in-depth features on ten technologies that cover everything from storage to networking, hardware to enterprise software—it’s all there in the latest edition of TechScope.

Prashant L Rao
Head of Editorial Operations

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