In 2004, we started seeing the products of engineering that went on underground during the recession. Whereas the market as a whole is doing the wait-and-see, early adopters are partying their butts off over true competition in operating systems and CPU architectures, the long-delayed delivery of the Java promise, and the essential paradigm shift from fast processors to fast throughput. Much of the technology that vendors were forced to put in the deep freeze has thawed. In 2005, the rest of IT will see why those forward-looking geeks (present company included) are so giddy.
First, Sun rescued Java by becoming honestly and deeply engaged with the grassroots Java developer community. The impact of the fulfillment of the Java promise extends well beyond open source and academia. Oracle stands out as an example: The vendor now offers its entire commercial Java product line for free download. Oracle permits license-free use of its software for development and testing. You pay only when you deploy, and then only when you deploy to an Oracle-branded server. Expect to see more of the “develop now, pay later” approach to platform promotion in 2005.
Sun is also gearing up for the official launch of its most ambitious operating system project to date, Solaris 10. This release, currently available as an early-access download, marks the return of enterprise-grade Unix to the PC. Those who argue that Linux already has that territory covered should to take an honest look at Solaris 10’s specs and pedigree. If Sun follows through, Solaris 10 will be hard to match for performance and high availability, and its binary compatibility with Linux will haul in open source developers who, after they land on Solaris, might like Solaris better than Linux.
And Solaris 10 will sell, along with Red Hat, Novell Suse Linux, and Apple’s OS X. The 64-bit future is here. Among the OS platform players, only Microsoft faces the overwhelming challenge of convincing thousands of ISVs to port their 32-bit applications to 64-bit hardware. Windows has a well-earned reputation as a haven for the kind of sloppy code that mucks up big systems and gets Unix programmers fired. Our tip: If you buy into 64-bit Windows, go with managed (.Net) and Java applications whenever you can.
As hardware gets more expensive in 2005, IT will discover it has three new friends: AMD, IBM, and Apple. AMD owned 2004, forcing Intel to ape its instruction set and closing deals with all the first-tier server vendors but Dell, which has expressed interest in climbing aboard. Why would IBM, HP, Sun, and Dell opt for AMD’s Opteron over Intel’s new Xeon EM64T (Extended Memory 64-bit Technology)? Because Intel planted the 64-bit instructions in a 32-bit Xeon chip that lives on Intel’s ages-old shared I/O bus. For Opteron and Athlon 64, AMD completely redesigned the processor and the system buses. If you’re not into architectural nuts and bolts, take our word for it: Intel’s got a lot of catching up to do.