Client Server Computing

It's "as dead as OS/2", but, like OS/2, it just might be for you if your application fits the crime.

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Just a couple short years ago Client Server was the tool Microsoft was using to crush all competition in corporate America. Unix was dead and all those costly mainframes would be unplugged by the turn of the century, all replaced by cheap PC networks. The big consulting firms pushed Client Server like cocaine, and the PHBs just lapped it up. Computer trade and business rags rated companies as live or dead depending on how fast they were adopting Client Server. Then Client Server hit the "bottom line" - hard. Real hard.

Like other over-hyped disasters, there is actually considerable merit to the concept - if it is implemented with care, foresight and planning. The theory is to distribute the user interface program to workstations, while the data store, business logic and sorting and selecting stay on an "application server". This greatly cuts network traffic and improves performance compared to standard network computing, but has a much more "user friendly" front end than host based (Unix, mainframe) applications.

The reason Client Server collapsed was it was universally rolled out as a Windows operation, Windows95 on the workstations, Windows NT on the server. The server side worked OK in many cases, but the cost of maintaining all those Windows workstations, and rolling out every change on the user side to all those workstations is something nobody wants to remember. Lets just say it made those "expensive" mainframes it was replacing look like absolute bargains.

In reality, Client Server is not actually dead, its benefits are being realized through saner environments, like IBM's OS/2 WSOD and Thin Client computing. It just isn't covered by the magazines any more because it isn't from Microsoft anymore.

If you have network applications with a moderately complex user interface linked to large databases, client server could be for you. It just takes care and thought to implement it in a rational manner.

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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