Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reflecting on the "Oughts"

Ok, I know - it should be "naught" but "ought" is how I've always heard it. With that out of the way it actually surprised me that we are at the end of a decade. I guess it shouldn't have - I pretty much remember the end of the 60's and the moon landing, the end of the 70's as a party haze, the end of the 80's as a career building time, and the end of the 90's as the end of the world as we know it. At least the Y2K EOW (End Of World) was a nothing.

I do remember 2000 more distinctly as I would guess most do. I remember as a kid in the 60's and 70's how OLD I would be at the end of the 'century'... the 2000 wow factor. It came, it went, and nothing happened. I remember being 'on call' on 12/31/1999 in case the world did end, like I could really have done something about it.

So now we are at the end of the "oughts"... or "naughts"... whatever. Where did this decade go? Still odd how time is relative and you don't know it until you get older. I can remember 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd, 4th, 5th, then 6-7th... and then it becomes "middle school", "high school", "college" and all of sudden it's the 80's, 90's, and now the "naughts". I guess soon it will be "B50" and "A50" - BEFORE I was 50 years old and AFTER.

It has been an interesting decade - We watched the USA start out this century with great confidence, take a sucker punch and get mired in very difficult to "win" wars. We watched email spam grow from a minor annoyance to nearly 85% of email being moved around in bits and bytes. We watched the Internet go from a cool thing to use to a must have to survive in today's connected world. We watched trying to send data through a cell phone to the world go from 9600 baud to 1mb and the internet in your palm.

I personally watched my 69 Mustang rebuild project sit... and sit... and sit.. and then finally start, and then stall, and stall... I'm running out of weekends in my life here. But I still let building a one off go kart, making numerous Lego 'stop motion' animation films, and an 88 Turbocoupe and 85 Mustang SVO take my time.. but I did enjoy it.

We moved to our current home in 2000 so it's easy for me to divide the 1900's with the 2000's - they really are like two different centuries in my mind. I wasn't that crazy about the move but am glad we did now along with picking up the acre lot next to us to keep us from being blocked back in like in town.

So the "oughts"/"naughts" are gone and the 10's/Teens are upon us. What will the next decade hold? Personally it holds watching our son start driving his 91' Mustang GT (and praying he isn't as stupid as I was back then in my 69), watching him graduate and get through college (please, please get through college), and winding down my career. Where did that lifetime go?

I am *IN* the technology business but honestly can't imagine what tech changes we will see in the next decade. I'm sure we'll see the cloud take over our apps, more and more power in our pockets, likely direct connections with our feeble brains with more bio-tech integration and the complete move to everything digital.. it's pretty close already.

Is the future bright - sure it is! There will be twists, turns and tarnish on the bright future but it will be bright... and challenging. I hope to see a few more of these decade things pass by... ok, at least two or three.

Happy 2010 and here's to the 10's/Teens!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Future is Cloudy

That is for sure... how "cloudy" is still an open question...

That is "cloudy" as "in the cloud" for the future of Information Technology. It's only a matter of time and economics. When it's cheaper to outsource your IT needs to hosted "in the cloud" solutions, individuals, business and government will "follow the money". Things like security, control of your data, privacy, etc will be secondary considerations.

In Nicholas Carr's The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, much of this is explained and is compared to the early days of electricity. There is a striking resemblance to the history of power, generation, and use and the path that Information Technology has taken over the years. It's a good read even if not totally perfect in regard to the future.

We've watched computing technology go from huge rooms with staffs of hundreds, to mini computers small businesses could afford with dumb terminals, to islands of smart but standalone PC's, and through to client/server configurations that mixed in the best of both local power and server power. Now applications are running on machines anywhere in the world and available from any connection, once again requiring very little end machine power.

The switch will not be overnight but little by little, app by app, solution by solution. Today, using web based email such as GMail is the easiest and most effective way of handling the most common "app" of the Internet. In the not too distant past, you had a desktop program that you had to configure to use whatever mail server was provided by your company or Internet Service Provider. Now you can use Gmail or other webmail solutions from any machine, anywhere in the world without an app. You can brand it under your own domain and few will every know the difference.

I used to scrounge around for an old version of Word so I could have a word processor on my home computer, one that I used maybe 5-10% of it's power for the actual writing I do. Today, Google Docs provides an efficient, effective word processor along with a spreadsheet program, presentation options and even form capture abilities... without any cost as an individual user.

Even in personal productivity using the Getting Things Done paradigm I wouldn't even consider an application that ties me to a single computer or hand held device. Not when I have options such as GTDAgenda or TaskWriter available to me. Available again from any computer or the trusty iPhone that is always in my pocket... and much easier to manage than a physical binder or notebook.

As cloud computing does take over, local IT staff need to be re-thinking our jobs and what added value we already have, and what other added value we can provide to insure the future of local IT support. Will all IT Departments be gone in the next few years from corporate or government America? Not likely but they WILL be redefining their role in the enterprise.

The days of managing the endless technical nuances of servers and desktop operating systems, keeping systems patched and secure, and making sure everyone has the latest version of their word processing and email program is quickly coming to and end. Soon local IT staff may be more concerned about keeping their Internet connection solid and making sure the local wires are in good shape... or not with the expansion of wireless solutions.

How long will it be until super thin clients running on expendable hardware that connect wireless to a cloud company's freely provided router that is remotely supported and managed without anyone being local? No long I would image... Not long. Actually it's already here in one form or another.

Hello, I'm a recovering Systems Administrator and looking for a job... might not be too long for that.