Bring out the bicarb, hide the scales – it’s fressers’ season once again. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are upon us… a gastric hat trick that makes necessary conversions from belts to braces. And then there are the nightmares: joining a new, more expensive health club guaranteed to host an even more resistant strain […]
Bring out the bicarb, hide the scales – it’s fressers’ season once again. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are upon us… a gastric hat trick that makes necessary conversions from belts to braces. And then there are the nightmares: joining a new, more expensive health club guaranteed to host an even more resistant strain of tinea, all the while praying the fungus will be satisfied eating one’s feet; being forced to remember when one was young enough to metabolise rich food into something other than methane; performing the Toyota two-step to avoid snagging the open car door on the kerb. And this kind of behaviour is normal. In South Carolina, the authorities are considering a ban on Australian cane toads. People are licking secretions off the skins of these repulsive amphibians in search of bufotenine – a hallucinogen that responsible doctors say might make some unlucky thrill-seeker croak. In England, a fellow was arrested for stealing cutlery from a restaurant the hard way: he ate a fork and three knives. The utensils had to be extricated from his gullet by a surgeon. The perpetrator was conveyed from hospital to slammer, possibly undergoing a psychiatric exam or at least a breathalyzer test along the way. The Portuguese nearly seceded from the European Community after bureaucrats in Brussels issued their Jam Directive. Hoping to set continental standards for sugary preserves, the government that nobody elected said that jellies worthy of a place on grocers’ shelves must contain a prescribed mix of fruit and sweeteners.
At first, nobody noticed that the Portuguese have a love for marmelada de cenoura, which is carrot jam. Rather than reverse or embellish the rule it worked so hard to issue, the EC instead passed a resolution declaring that the carrot is a fruit. In nearby Paris, palate police are coping with a plot to trifle with truffles. The subterranean delicacy comes in two basic varieties: rare, expensive black ones and more common, cheaper white ones. A shortage of black truffles and an abundance of walnuts led French scam artists to dye white truffles black with walnut juice. Gourmands the world over ate the fake black truffles, generally didn’t know the difference and kept paying $250 a pound for the fungi in mufti. The French have not yet disclosed how the scandal came to light. How, then, can one be shocked by the peculiar appetites corporations have for MIPS? According to IBM, third parties and most anyone else willing to opine, the 9021 series of water-cooled processors is in great demand.
These machines are 3090s given a treatment similar to that the Perigordian fungus hunters used to create ersatz black truffles. But IBM’s sales force, using logic akin to that which made the carrot a fruit, has convinced customers that the machines are truly a new generation. Our surprise is not in users’ hunger for more processing power, but rather in the way they have chosen to satisfy it. Independent leasing companies, suddenly saddled with a glut of older processors, are similarly puzzled and additionally concerned. The principle on which the success of the used computer business is based comes down to providing more (if older) bang for the buck. It used to work. Until this season, the customer’s selection of new versus used equipment was often logical. –
By Hesh Wiener
Even the buyers that were most vulnerable to IBM’s sales pitches behaved in ways that bordered on rationality. When two machines did exactly the same job and the older, bulkier one was cheaper, some customers took the economical route. On the other hand, when a new kind of computer offered functionality that simply wasn’t part of older machinery, third parties had to slash prices and agree to perilously short commitments from lessees just to keep their ageing hardware out of the barn. IBM’s new computers aren’t yet much different from their predecessors… but you can’t tell that from the market’s behaviour. It is as if there were some primordial urge in the user base that is forcing customers that know better to wage corpora
te crusades on behalf of ostensibly new processors. Somehow, the healthy desire for progress has taken on a life of its own. Conditioned by generations of new systems from IBM, the marketplace has chosen flimflam over frustration. This perverse phenomenon couldn’t come at a worse time for the corporations of commerce and industry. The machinery that promises to vault big companies into the 1990s has been announced by IBM for delivery beginning next year. Based on the announced specifications of Big Blue’s two fastest computers, reports from visitors to the plants that will make the processors and the history of IBM’s mainframe development process, the ES/9000 models 820 and 900 will be significantly different from the first round of 9021s. These are the machines hard-pressed companies should be saving up to buy. Instead, a large number of organisations with marginal needs have joined the ranks of those whose systems simply must be replaced immediately. The ill-conceived rush to install 3090-technology computers will engender upgrade costs that are overwhelmingly likely to be greater than customers expect… and come into play sooner than any user would wish. There is bound to be a corporate reaction to all this gluttony. Questions will be raised not only about the arguments advanced by information processing executives that led to premature purchases, but about the basic ways and means computing departments are using to deliver services to their companies’ end users. Departments that are already struggling to manage the mainframes they are accustomed to will be driven mad by the overreactions of general managers who have just enough knowledge to be dangerous.
A VPDP trying to manage migration to a relational database really isn’t up to meetings with non-technical honchos – however well-intentioned – that want an instant understanding of exotic alternatives to the mainframe. Trying to explain the place, if any, in a company for transaction-processing computers, massively parallel processors, high-speed networks, RISC processors and the zillion other gadgets the industry has invented (or at least imagined) can be a mind-bending experience for a serious information processing jock whose main immediate problem is making sure online accounting systems will survive inspections by persnickety auditors. The real question that will be asked by management – however many zany topics come up in meetings with computerphobic suits – is this: where did all that money go and what have we got to show for it? This type of inquiry is particularly unsettling. During business expansions, a little excess in the computer room is a good thing. With the notable exception of companies (like yours) that know in advance exactly how long it will take to perfect an application and precisely the amount of various computing resources it will consume, a little slack on a mainframe can provide great peace of mind. But during less ebullient times, information systems managers can get caught between bean-counters armed with MBAs and pocket protector packing nerds hungry for power. This may be the season to consider making that second helping second-hand. Bon appetit!Copyright (C) 1990 Technology News of America Co Inc