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IT Systems Management: Learning from History

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Infrastructure expert Rich Schiesser presents an historical perspective on some of the major IT developments of the latter half of the 20th Century and discusses how these developments influenced the discipline of systems management.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter concludes our historical look at systems management by presenting key IT developments in the decade of the 1990s along with a few predictions for the new millennium. This is worth reviewing since the future direction of IT is where many of us will spend much of our professional lives.

We begin our final chapter in part one with the ever evolving mainframe, showing how it adapted to the major IT influences of the 1990s. Among these influences was the tendency of computer centers to move toward a more automated management of operations. This focus on a lights-out type of computing environment led to a more intense emphasis on facilities management, the last systems management discipline we will cover in this book.

Next we discuss how midrange computers and client-server platforms changed and moved closer to each other. PCs continued to grow substantially during the 1990s, not only in sheer volume but also in the assortment of models that manufacturers offered to their customers. Network computers—the so-called thin clients—and desktop workstations—the so-called fat clients—and almost every variation in between saw their birth in this time frame.

The proliferation of interconnected PCs led to critical emphasis on the performance and reliability of the networks that connected all these various clients to their servers. As a result, capacity planning expanded its discipline into the more widespread area of networks.

Undoubtedly the most significant IT advancement in the 1990s was the worldwide use of the Internet. In the span of a few short years, companies went from dabbling in limited exposure to the Internet to becoming totally dependent on its benefits and value. Many firms have spawned their own intranets and extranets. Security, availability, and capacity planning are just some of the disciplines touched by this incredibly potent technology.

No discussion of the new millennium would be complete without mention of the ubiquitous Y2K computer problem, the so-called millennium bug. Although the problem was identified and addressed in time to prevent widespread catastrophic impacts, its influence on a few of the systems management disciplines is worth noting.

This chapter concludes with a table of all of the systems management functions that will be discussed in detail in upcoming chapters. The table summarizes the origins of each discipline and the major refinements that each has incurred during the past 40 years.

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