I wonder if, 66 millions years ago when they “left the building” , the dinosaurs were saying: “We’ll be back …”. After all, they were kind of terminators.
30 years ago, other kind of dinosaurs were preparing for extinction: the mainframe computers. But, at that time, for sure we did not hear any promise of return. Maybe it was only whispered through the teeth.
It is amazing how many similarities one can find between dinosaurs and mainframe computers. They both were very large, powerful and self-confident. At some point in time, they were the rulers of the world. Although many species were populating the planet, only one was the “king”, the feared one, the undisputed ruler.
Their extinction bares similarities, as well. A global size phenomenon changed the climate and dinosaurs were not capable to adapt as quickly as they should. Instead, a plethora of smaller, more adaptable and resilient animals pushed them away and took over the world supremacy. For mainframe computers the global phenomenon, they were not prepared for, is impersonated by the Moore’s law. The exponential evolution of the semiconductor technology gave birth to smaller, cheaper, more adaptable computers. Falling down from (apple)tree, or born under the shadow of the big brother, they outnumbered and sometimes cannibalized the much larger relatives.
However, there is at least one striking difference between them: the time span. The dinosaurs history is measured in hundreds of millions of years. The mainframe computers dominated the world for only 50 years.
But this difference is such an opportunity for us. The computer’s spiral of evolution is so fast, that it allows us to witness the return… Although we did not hear their whisper in early 90’s, we hear them now, loud and clear: “WE ARE BACK!”.
They are even larger, more powerful and, again, dominate the world. And also, fundamentally, they work based on the same model as their ancestors. They say: we have enough power to serve you all. Don’t waste resources to replicate this power in your office or household. Get the minimum necessary, enough to reach our SaaS, PaaS, IaaS or whatever “aaS” you like.
But, of course, they evolved. First, they changed their name. No more “mainframe computers”. They are now: “data centers” working on clouds.Then, their performance is so much ahead compared with their ancestors. The extraordinary advance in semiconductor technology, working through a positive feedback loop, is responsible for the nowadays huge availability of storage capacity, fantastic processing speed, and ultra-fast communication. These are the key ingredients of the new generation. The irony is that the one thing that killed the mainframe computers (Moore’s law), is also the catalyst for the new generation of “mainframes”.
My parent’s generation was enthusiastic with the mainframe domination. The same I am today with the azures, apples, googles, aws, and such. They really offer services not conceivable 10 years ago. However, I can’t stop thinking of the evolution spiral, and asking a few questions: What’s next? Which global phenomenon will challenge the current rulers? Will there be future “rabbits”, “deer” and “dogs” in computing world to strike back?
Then, how about the real dinosaurs? After all, they only have a much longer evolution spiral…