Virtual OS/2 International Consumer Education

September 1998

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Just What Does "Network Computing" Mean, Anyway?

By: Tom Nadeau

The term "Network Computing" has become one of those flexible, catch-all terms that everybody adopts to describe whatever it is that they are doing. IBM calls large server/thin client configurations Network Computing. Microsoft calls bloated servers replicating NT consoles Network Computing. Novell, of course, calls everything Network Computing because that's what they've always made -- Networks.

The real meaning of IBM's version of Network Computing doesn't have anything to do with a particular hardware configuration, though. Whatever hardware setup saves money and makes system management simpler and more reliable, that's where things should migrate. What Network Computing really means is this: we must stop thinking about computer connections as Point A to Point B, and start thinking about networks the way we think about air.

Air, the atmosphere around us, is a pervasive conduit for information. We exchange sound waves through it when we speak or listen, we exchange information via radio and television waves and cell phones, we exchange bacteria and viruses, odors, and numerous other forms of "data" via the air. Air is everywhere; it is not conspicuous by its presence but rather by its absence. We call an airtight package "hermetically sealed" because its main attribute is that it is airless.

This is the way we need to start thinking about computing. Communication is not from my computer to yours; it's through a marvelous, pervasive, global "atmosphere" called the Internet. IBM's genius and vision was to recognize that communication via the Internet would turn the tables on a Point A to Point B infrastructure that was slowly becoming Redmondized. Instead, everything will connect to everything else. The value-added will become in keeping unwanted things *out* -- in other words, people won't pay money to get connected, but rather to make sure that information passage is selective, as if through a membrane. In the case of ultra-secure systems, it will be the equivalent of "hermetically sealing" them.

And this is where IBM intends to make money. The average person won't spend money to keep people out. Banks and other necessarily secure enterprises will pay, however. For a bank, connecting and transferring data pervasively will be necessary for survival and prosperity, but ten times as critical in terms of security. The value of information that is secret and sensitive will dictate how much people will pay to keep the access to that information selective. Joe's Hardware Store will never pay for the level of security that Wells Fargo Bank will.

Network Computing via OS/2 is simply the smartest, safest, most reliable, and most cost-effective way of doing it. Network Computing exposes computer architectures to tests of stability and security that simple Point A to Point B data transfer does not. This new paradigm also carries a very important "secret weapon:" it means that it now *costs money* to exclude OS/2 users from the mainstream. Without open Internet standards, people could previously exclude OS/2 on the basis that it was "just another platform that costs money to develop for." Now it's quite the opposite: excluding OS/2 users from communicating and collaborating is becoming more and more difficult and more and more expensive.

Really, the number one issue left in this whole paradigm shift is this: What ever are we going to do about Microsoft Office file formats? It's basically come down to this.

Tom Nadeau
VOICE Marketing Director --
IBM OS/2 means Better Computing
OS/2 Headquarters -- Your Chauffeur on the Info Highway

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