Stories by Neil McAllister

Computing trends overburden the network

Don't call it "client/server." Today's database-driven applications are a world apart from the green-screen terminal apps of decades past. And yet, in this age when "the network is the computer," more and more data processing tasks are handed off to remote resources. Server-based applications, centralized content management, SOA (service-oriented architecture), and SaaS (software as a service) are all part of this trend -- and all put increased burden on enterprise network links.

Code bloat abounds

Application vendors love to wow customers with bells and whistles packed into each new version of their software. But after a few successive releases, the sheer number of features in an app can start to weigh it down. As "code bloat" sets in, user experience inevitably starts to suffer. It's little wonder why corporate users -- especially those unlikely to alter their application habits -- are growing increasingly reluctant to comply with IT mandates to hit the upgrade button.

Usability remains an afterthought

Have you ever tried to do something with your PC only to discover that you couldn't? It isn't that the software can't handle it -- the function you need is in there somewhere, as advertised on the packaging or in the long e-mail chain of functionality added to an internal app. The problem is that you simply don't know how to find it.

Centralizing IT gives rise to bureaucracy

When you're having problems with your enterprise laptop or workstation, who do you call? Is your IT staff just down the hall, or are they on the other side of the globe?

Lack of standards stifles agility

If you aren't happy with the performance of your software, the solution should be simple: Switch to different software. In practice, however, jumping ship is seldom that easy, and vendor lock-in is a reality with which most IT departments are far too familiar.

Security saps system performance

The tremendous benefits of computing in the Internet Age have come at a price. Viruses, worms, Trojan horses, DDoS attacks, spyware, phishing -- the list of network-based threats seems to grow longer every day. In response, IT managers pile security countermeasures onto servers and workstations, malware authors find ways around them, and the cycle continues.

Has Microsoft kept its Vista security promise?

According to Microsoft, it's the most secure operating system the company has ever produced. Five years in the making, Windows Vista promises to lock down the desktop and usher in the era of "trustworthy computing," in which PCs are more reliable, user experience is improved, and rampant malware is a thing of the past.

Are you an open source user or joiner?

In my previous column, I touched on the issue of what constitutes an open-source vendor. Ask Andy Astor that question, and his answer is a shrug. "Honestly," he says, "who cares?" To Astor, there are really two broad categories of companies with respect to their relationship to open-source code. Some are users. Others are joiners.

Free software is nothing to fear

Nat Torkington stirred up some controversy when he asked, "Is 'Open Source' Now Completely Meaningless?" He has a good point, however. With so many companies claiming to be "open source" -- despite seemingly disparate business models and licensing schemes -- it's getting hard to tell what is legitimate open source and what isn't. The mere fact that so many voices have begun to weigh in on the issue is proof of how murky these waters have become.

At 25, Sun struggles to reinvent itself

Developers by the thousands flocked to the International Convention Center in Hyderabad, India last week as Sun Microsystems kicked off the second leg of its world-spanning series of Tech Days conferences. The theme of the event was "shape your future" -- and indeed, no slogan could be more appropriate for Sun, its developers, and its partners.

Virtualization: Linux's killer app

I came away from InfoWorld's Virtualization Executive Forum this week with two conclusions. First, server virtualization is definitely a big deal. This time last year, customers and ISVs still seemed to be struggling to come to terms with this new approach to deploying and managing servers; today it's full speed ahead. And, second, nowhere is virtualization hotter than in the Linux market.

Linux and Vista users share driver pain

Customers are getting annoyed. They spent good money on the latest and greatest PC peripherals, only to find out that the hardware is only partially supported on their operating system of choice. Without the kernel drivers necessary to power them, some of the best features of the new toys are going unused.

The A-Z of server virtualization

In today's complex IT environments, server virtualization simply makes sense. Redundant server hardware can rapidly fill enterprise datacenters to capacity; each new purchase drives up power and cooling costs even as it saps the bottom line. Dividing physical servers into virtual servers is one way to restore sanity and keep IT expenditures under control.

Seven ways Solaris can beat Linux

At a recent Sun Microsystems press event, Sun execs talked up plans to market the company's Solaris Unix OS to startups and small-to-midsize businesses. "Open source is what [customers] want to go after," said Peder Ulander, Sun's vice president of software marketing. "It's not so much Linux. Linux just happens to embody open source."

Cleversafe dreams of distributed mass storage service

Cleversafe is one of the few enterprise storage technologies that began life as an open source project, but that's not the only thing that makes the company unusual. The organizations interested in Cleversafe's open source storage software aren't dealing with mere gigabytes of data -- they're storing terabytes, petabytes, or even more. According to CEO Chris Gladwin, Cleversafe's long-term goal is nothing less than to store all of the world's data. And with an aim that lofty, he says, open source is the only way to go.