Computing enters third phase

With billions of users and millions of apps, computing is entering a 'third platform' of architecture, says EMC.

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The third platform of computing has arrived, according to Howard Elias, president and COO for global enterprise services at EMC.

Speaking at the EMC Forum in Johannesburg yesterday, Elias observed that computing has entered a third phase, distinct from previous identifiable periods in computing.

"Before now, we've seen change at every level of the stack, whether base infrastructure, applications, data fabrics and models, and client access devices. But never before have we seen the changes happen all at the same time, and at such an increasing rate and pace. The way we look at the world is that we're entering the third platform of computing," he explained.

The first platform, said Elias, was mainframe computing, which was, in essence, about automating paper processes. "It had architectures designed for millions of users, typically in enterprise accounts, and thousands of applications, which were generally custom and bespoke types of applications."

The second platform was "client computing and distributing computing", he added. "This was the PC revolution: here we fanned out and were addressing hundreds of millions of users in businesses of all sizes, and even consumers, with tens of thousands of applications, and more of these apps were packaged in nature."

These waves do not diminish quickly, nor are they immediately subsiding, he noted. "These technologies have served us very well. The first platform is still around, and the second is going to be around for a very long time. These are 20-, 30-year waves that occur.

"But the third platform is upon us now. We know all the trends: cloud, big data, social media, mobility and security - and we are now addressing an architecture for billions of users around the world, and millions of apps. Technologies from the first and second platforms will not get us to where we need to be in the third platform. The challenge is that we all have businesses to run, and will need to continue with the first and second platforms running, while we get onto the third platform."

Successfully implementing third-platform technologies requires a delicate balance, taking into account all relevant factors, including lowering operational costs, increasing revenue and reducing risk, and requires seeing infrastructure as a means to an end, said Elias. "Infrastructure is there to run apps, and apps are there to automate business processes that deliver value."

Implementation also requires an assessment of how best to run application workloads, taking into account performance, capacity and required service level. "Some apps require high performance and high service levels, where consistency of data as close to real time as possible is critical. Others require high performance, but can take a bit of time on data consistency, and some require lower performance. It's important to map them out not only when you think about infrastructure and approach, but also about the type of cloud that makes sense for each of those apps."

Moving to the third platform is, according to Elias, a multi-year journey, involving "thinking about what type of architecture to use, which type of cloud to deploy, and how to ultimately inform the operating model going forward."

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