Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Assumption 1 – stand-alone and networked

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on February 22, 2010

We all think and plan and to keep these activities practical we all base what we think, plan and do in frameworks of assumptions – assumptions that we simply take for granted, and generally without any examination as to limits or range of applicability. I set up the basic framework for a series of postings examining this, with yesterday’s posting. My intent is to construct these postings as a series of challenges, each one raising and at least briefly examining a basic assumption. This posting looks into assumption number one.

I start this by looking at a constellation of current hot-topic terms: virtualization, cloud computing, server-side and user-side and more. I also find myself thinking back to a set of older terms that have never quite gone away at least for the underlying issues they sought to address like smart terminal and dumb terminal. The basic question I would raise out of these terms is fairly simple though I suspect the answer is changing in unexpected ways and that this change will simply accelerate.

• What does it mean for a computer or similar end-user devise to be stand-alone?

I will immediately add a second, connected question to that.

• Does it even matter, and if so how and under what contexts and circumstances?

I would in fact argue that where sufficient bandwidth is available and security and other aspects of reliable connectivity and functionality can be maintained, this is not important for most end-users. It does not matter if Google Earth and all of its extended and functionally connected options exist in the handheld in my hand or if my handheld is just a terminal and perhaps a really dumb one – if, that is, I can access and use everything I want and need as if it were here with me and all the time and everywhere.

What is a stand-alone device in this context and what does stand-alone even mean? I want to be able to say that the laptop computer I am writing this posting on is an effective stand-alone device and for many functions and uses it is. But if I need to go online, to post to my blog, do research, reach out to my network of contacts, work and so much more it is anything but stand-alone. Internet makes any and every computer other than simply stand-alone.

A computer, whether handheld, notebook, laptop, desktop or larger and all of the rest with servers, routers and so on are simply nodes in a system that as a whole is becoming less and less visible as such. As this overarching system is becoming more and more powerful and flexible and more and more ubiquitous, it and its parts outside of our hands and our line of direct sight are becoming more and more transparent – except in times of disruption where it all becomes visible again, for its failure to work. The better it works though the more invisible it becomes, and that is what our emerging systems and resources are built to do.

Redundancy and capability to continue functioning in spite of at least localized nodal or systems failure makes every end-user facing node look stand-alone even as every node becomes less and less so.

• How should this enter into our basic design and usability considerations for end-user and supporting nodes – devices and software?
• How should it enter into our consideration and planning for network continuity in the face of potential breakdowns?

For the later question, we have the basic architecture of the Internet, developed from before day one with continuity in mind. But are our systems and their components coming together in ways that are sufficiently qualitatively different now as to require new architectures or stack layers in the protocols we currently use? (That, in my thinking would not automatically just mean extra layers, but rather redeveloped ones, and use of layers like security that are sometimes left blank.)

One Response

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  1. Frokostordning said, on March 9, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Hmm that’s very interessting but actually i have a hard time figuring it… wonder how others think about this..

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