Rapid Growth of Client-Server Networks and Inexpensive Powerful
The continuing explosive sales growth in the last 15 years of
ever-more powerful microcomputers (so-called because most of the
central processing functions are put on one chip), and especially
personal computers (PCs) and client-server networks is well known.
The author believes that the improvement in the ratios of computing
capability-to-cost in both hardware and software in the last 10 or
15 years has been so dramatic, that even the average computer user
may be surprised at the latest figures. Thus the author contends
that many manufacturing managers and professionals do not yet fully
realize the opportunities that the current application software for
client-server networks and powerful small computers offer large and
small manufacturing companies alike.
In an article in Fortune magazine (June 14, 1993), the estimated
commercial computing cost has declined from a $4 million per
MIPS (millioninstructions persecond )in 1965 to one or two thousand
dollars per MIPS in 1993 (Source quoted: Computer Economics). In the
same article, the authors estimate that IBM has a worldwide
installed base of about 50,000 mainframe computers in contrast to
135 million PCs and laptop computers in use. Expected shipments of
PCs are predicted to exceed 35 million units per year in 1994, or
about double the 16 million PC units shipped in 1987.
To document the
growth of client-server networks, an article from the Los Angeles
Times (May 25,1994) quotes data from DataQuest, a computer market
research firm, that estimates the client-server unit sales have
climbed from 250,000 server units in 1988 to 1.5millionserverunits
in 1994. This is a 6 fold increase in 6 years. The same sources
indicate that 1990 was a peak sales year for about 15,000 mainframe
computer units and that sales have since steadily declined to an
estimated 8,700 units for 1994, over a 40% drop in about 4 years.
The same L.A. Times
article (May 25,1994) describes how Northrop Corporation is an
example of many large corporations who are converting from a
primary mainframe computer strategy to a client-server computing
strategy. The advantages cited are lower costs, more application
flexibility, the use of cheaper, off-the-shelf software, and a
greater exchange of data and communication between computer
applications in the company. The claimed result is an overall gain
in productivity to the organization. One example of the new
capability provided by the client-server network at lower cost to
Northrop was the ability to eliminate hard copies of drawings. Users
can retrieve drawings in seconds and then zoom in and out of drawing
details on computer screens throughout the company.
The rapid growth of
ever more powerful microcomputers and new software at lower costs
have made the rapid growth of client-server networks possible. A
good example is the rapid progression of the so-called IBM PC
systems (and clones) in the last 14 years. The original IBM PC was
introduced in 1981, and since then we have seen the market upgrade
to the XT, AT, IBM 286, 386,486, and now in 1994, to the Pentium PC
model. And of course, Intel has already announced even faster and
more advanced successors to the Pentium processor.
In a Fortune
magazine article (June 14,1993) the estimated so-called computer
industry "power curve" has been the ability of industry to roughly
double the computing power for a given price every 18 months! The
power curve for PCs in the last few years illustrate this
The PC processing
speed (which is a rough index of computer power) has increased
tremendously in the last dozen years for the same or lower costs.
The maximum speed of a PC with the Intel Pentium P54C processor is
166.3 MIPS (million instructions per second) as of March 1994,
versus the 0.33 MIPS in the original Intel 8086 processor in the IBM
PC of 1981.(Byte Magazine, June 1994,pg 88) So the current
"IBM-type" PC now runs about 500 times faster than the original PC
at lower cost. Note also that the Intel Pentium processor speed in
the range of 100 MIPS is in the range of the typical mainframe
computer processor speed and the cost of the Pentium processor is
less than $1,000!
The data storage hardware cost per megabyte (1,024,000 bytes) ratio
has also been part of computer cost performance revolution. For
example, auxiliary random access high speed memory chips, have
declined from over $1700 per megabyte in 1986 to about $40 per
megabyte in 1994. The PC hard disk drives have a similar story. One
paid $500 for a 5 megabyte hard disk drive for the early PCs and now
one can buy a 420
megabyte drive for $260. This is a decline from $100 per megabyte to
$0.64 per megabyte of hard disk storage. At the same time the
transfer or access speed for a block of data to and from the PC hard
disk has declined from 84 milliseconds to 8 milliseconds in less
than 10 years.
Optical disk storage and the CD platter is creating another dramatic
technical revolution in data storage and fueling the so-called
"multimedia" computer revolution. The ability to store and process
large amounts of data at high speeds and low cost creates the
opportunity to mix data, sound and graphics on computers.
In contrast to the
CD, the popular 5 1/4 inch magnetic floppy disk for PCs originally
stored 160,000 bytes and then expanded to 1.2 megabytes. The "CD"
started with 640 megabytes of data storage and today is available
with 1.3 gigabytes (1 gigabyte = 1,000 megabytes). Computer trade
newspaper articles are predicting 10 gigabytes per optical disk
platter by 1998, at a cost of 4 cents per megabyte! Manufacturers
are currently offering desk top devices with access to 50 optical
disk platters, or over 65 gigabytes today. The same device may offer
over 500 gigabytes of data storage in a few years. One CD, with 640
megabytes, can store all the words in a complete book shelf
containing a full encyclopedia set, a large dictionary and several
other books besides.
To be Continued
For balance of this article, click on the below link:
Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 01
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