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Downsizing emerges as major force in network computing.

Downsizing has emerged as one of the major forces in network computing. Part of the reason is the growing price/performance advantage enjoyed by today's powerful workstations and micros. But another key factor is the changing organizational structure and the increased emphasis on supporting end user information needs.

At a recent seminar in Washington, D.C., Rich Smith, senior vice-president of the Gartner Group, put a number to the price/performance margin between mainframes and micros. According to the projections of the Stamford, Conn. firm, the current 100:1 price/performance gap will continue to widen by 24 percent each year, to reach 700:1 by the year 2000. With this kind of edge, application deployment is sure to continue its radical shift to micro-based systems throughout the decade.

Despite the downsizing, though, most budgets for information systems (IS) will need to increase substantially in the years ahead.

Flattening organizational hierarchies will increase information demands. Plus, IS organizations will be further pressed by the new architectures needed to handle changing user needs. Client/server computing provides a near-term solution, Smith notes, but he warns that programming costs will be high. According to Gartner Group estimates, transitioning to client/server computing could increase the budget by 35 to 60 percent over a five-year period, depending on how aggressively an organization embraces the new architecture.

At the same time, Smith advises IS organizations to shift staff resources from host systems toward the workstation, and to divest itself of mature services to create additional capacity for critical new services.

Battling inertia

To be successful, Smith believes managers will need to spend more time on requalifying vendors and determining their future product directions. "Vendors face disruptive times," Smith says. "Gross margins will decline as competition increases among suppliers of standards-based, substitutable products."

Equipment suppliers will consolidate, but service and software firms will continue diffused, he predicts. "Vendors are merging, announcing lower profits, cutting back and changing directions," he says. "Today, it is unclear which vendors will prevail."

IS managers also have to battle the forces inhibiting organizational change, such as the huge investments in hardware and applications, and the well-developed skill sets. Further, systems are vulnerable if modifications are made. In addition, multiple, incompatible vendors are the norm, and no clear answer exists for migration.

There are certain high-impact technologies to consider, such as RISC and parallel processors which will provide more function per dollar.

Palm-top computers, wireless telephone terminals and optical disks will also have a major impact, Smith believes, along with speech recognition, image management and object-oriented programming.

User self-sufficiency

In addition to the technological change, managers must face the reality that organizations are "re-engineering, transforming and restructuring." Smith believes the business architecture of the 1990s will create a new functionality that will, in turn, drive a new master platform for information systems--one that will require new skills, structures and paradigms.

Smith believes IS organizations have limited time to respond to the changes.

"IS organizations which do not include end user data access and user self-sufficiency in their objectives within three years will risk their firms' relative competitive position," he says.

Users need transparent access to heterogeneous data, including existing data bases, Smith notes. IS organizations must also optimize access to data residing on multiple platforms for many groups of users.

In the long run, he concludes, the objective should be to maximize the end user's ability to be self-sufficient in meeting his or her individual information needs.

Data communications consultant Morris Edwards serves as program advisor to the Network Computing Solutions Conference and Expo, which will be held at the Disleyland Hotel, Anaheim, April 22-23, 1992.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Netcomm Update
Author:Edwards, Morris
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:605
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