Linked by Anton Klotz on Thu 18th Jan 2007 18:16 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems This article tries to explain why workstations are no longer an appropriate tool for the present working environment, what the alternatives are, and what consequences it has for the development of OSes.
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RE: Why Do Workstations No Longer Matter?
by ronaldst on Thu 18th Jan 2007 18:55 UTC
ronaldst
Member since:
2005-06-29

It's the same with Mainframes. Like it or not, they're a dying breed. They cost too much to maintain.

Reply Score: 2

rcsteiner Member since:
2005-07-12

Mainframes are cost effective in some cases, which is why we still use them (for example) and plan to for the next couple of decades (unless something better comes along).

Like most things related to IT, the viability of a given solution often depends very heavily on the specific business and technical context in which it is to be used.

Reply Score: 5

twenex Member since:
2006-04-21

It's the same with Mainframes. Like it or not, they're a dying breed. They cost too much to maintain.

Dude, mainframes have experienced an uptake in recent years. If you're as ignorant on the Windows/Linux issue as you are on this, I'm glad I've never listened. Nor am I surprised.

Reply Score: 5

deb2006 Member since:
2006-06-26

I don't know why this is modded up - it simply is not true. Had the author _any_ knowledge about this matter, he'd not written this crap. Mainframes are more wanted than ever. They are not dying - on the contrary companies rely more on them than ever. Well, guess why ...

Reply Score: 1

butters Member since:
2005-07-08

Mainframes are experiencing a resurgence, and it is precisely because they cost less to maintain. Less administration, less power, less heat, less space, less cabling, and much greater reliability.

The downside is a higher initial investment, but after giving distributed commodity infrastructure more than its fair consideration, the medium-to-large business is willing to pay boatloads to ease their maintenance headaches.

They're sick of fitting the pieces together with mixed results. They just want it to work. They want to shrink their IT departments and start concentrating on their business model instead of their datacenter. They discovered you can't do IT on the cheap. You either pay for it now, or really pay for it later.

We're seeing it in the high-end UNIX space. Customers are requesting mainframe technologies like I/O virtualization and live recovery. They also want the mainframe brand of customer service, where if a customer's system goes down, the senior engineers work around the clock in shifts until a fix is delivered and verified.

Edited 2007-01-19 04:05

Reply Score: 3

rcsteiner
Member since:
2005-07-12

For me at work, a traditional "workstation" is just fine, but I spend most of my time doing three things:

(1) Using terminal windows (VT+SSH or UTS) to access a server box and use software development tools on that box via command line.

(2) Using X clients running on a remote server box and displaying their graphical windows on my local workstation screen. This includes editors, debuggers, etc.

(3) Using normal "office" applications (word processing, web browsing, bitmap manipulation, vector drawing).

I don't typically move data from the servers on which it is stored. Instead, I manipulate that data locally on the appropriate server(s), and redirect the display as required. It's much easier. But that's what UNIX "workstations" (or in my case, Windows + Cygwin) have been able to do for well over a decade.

I'm not quite sure that the author has explored all of the practical options at his disposal. All this talk of moving data around is silly -- we have *LANs* these days for God's sake, not just FTP connections...

Edited 2007-01-18 19:08

Reply Score: 5

Flogging a stillborn horse
by twenex on Thu 18th Jan 2007 19:06 UTC
twenex
Member since:
2006-04-21

People have been saying workstations are dead since X-terminals came out. People have also been saying Unix is dead since about V4. Neither has happened. Although some find such things as the Linux Terminal Server Project useful (and more power to them if they do), it would be more accurate to say that X-terminals are dead.

When will people stop flogging this stillborn horse? At this rate there'll be another round of media-excitement over dot-coms (the ones that crashed and burned in the late 90's, even).

Reply Score: 5

RE: Flogging a stillborn horse
by arielb on Thu 18th Jan 2007 19:34 UTC in reply to "Flogging a stillborn horse"
arielb Member since:
2006-11-15

SGI is pretty much dead. anything else wasn't really a "workstation" but merely a unix pc.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Flogging a stillborn horse
by twenex on Thu 18th Jan 2007 21:45 UTC in reply to "RE: Flogging a stillborn horse"
twenex Member since:
2006-04-21

SGI is pretty much dead. anything else wasn't really a "workstation" but merely a unix pc.

Well, SCO boxes were "Unix PC's". Compare the state of Sun, DEC, DG, HP and IBM hardware in the 90s, and the software that was run on them, with the equivalent Amiga/Mac/PC offerings and I think you will agree HP, DEC, Sun, DG and IBM Unix boxen were "workstations" at the time.

And of course IBM and Sun Unix workstations are still around, as are HP-UX boxen if anyone wants them.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Flogging a stillborn horse
by arielb on Thu 18th Jan 2007 22:16 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Flogging a stillborn horse"
arielb Member since:
2006-11-15

yes Sun and IBM are the last holdouts. Everything else is using x86 plus some nvidia card. But SGI in particular was something special.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Flogging a stillborn horse
by butters on Fri 19th Jan 2007 04:27 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Flogging a stillborn horse"
butters Member since:
2005-07-08

IBM doesn't really have a viable UNIX workstation. They sacked their entire 3D graphics team a while ago. If you enjoy the vintage feel of CDE cerca 1996 I guess you'll be quite happy. If you don't, you'll probably prefer telnet, or even better, use the networking support in the hypervisor to let you directly access the system console over virtual serial.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Flogging a stillborn horse
by twenex on Fri 19th Jan 2007 05:12 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Flogging a stillborn horse"
twenex Member since:
2006-04-21

True enough for vanilla Aches, but KDE is also available for it (and maybe GNOME).

Reply Score: 2

same old
by Cloudy on Thu 18th Jan 2007 19:17 UTC
Cloudy
Member since:
2006-02-15

"workstation"? There are still "workstations"?

I've enjoyed the centralized/decentralized argument since, oh, 1973. It really has little to do with technology and costs. The decentralized systems have almost always had a higher total cost of ownership than the centralized ones. It's always been about control over working environment.

Reply Score: 4

RE: same old
by twenex on Thu 18th Jan 2007 19:22 UTC in reply to "same old"
twenex Member since:
2006-04-21

The decentralized systems have almost always had a higher total cost of ownership than the centralized ones. It's always been about control over working environment.

Exactly - it's not all about TCO. I'm willing to bet that a Ford Mondeo has a higher TCO than a horse, and a Lexus a TCO higher than a Ford Mondeo - but can you see the owner of a Lexus or even a Mondeo swapping their cars for a horse?

Reply Score: 3

Workstations are alive and well
by Southern.Pride on Thu 18th Jan 2007 19:58 UTC
Southern.Pride
Member since:
2006-09-14

The Mainframe environment is growing, there has been an increase in sales, because Big Iron is dependable and will be around 20 years from now.

As far as workstations go, if you plan to deploy some dummy terminal computing (already failed in the past) it is a waste of time, money and productivity. It is cost effective to use PC's in a business and more productive than a single point of failure dummy terminal service for end users. I myself have to have a workstation at work, if not I could not use any of the tools or support multiple environments.

Workstations - PC's have finally got to being a cost effective solution and other operating systems are available to run now like Linux what I use at work.

Reply Score: 1

Pretty far reaching prediction
by Sphinx on Thu 18th Jan 2007 20:08 UTC
Sphinx
Member since:
2005-07-09

While I do agree with the Sun vision that the network is the computer I think it may be just as likely you'll see a mainframe under every desk intead.

Reply Score: 3

Perspective
by Murrell on Thu 18th Jan 2007 20:10 UTC
Murrell
Member since:
2006-01-04

Good grief.

I know that some people will find this odd, but often the type of work you do will define the hardware configuration you use.

If you are on the road as sales person, you'll probably have a laptop with local applications that try and copy as much as possible to the local hard drive.

If you do weather prediction or simulate nuclear explosions, you probably have a fixed workstation that connects to a massive super computer or cluster, and if you work in animation, I'd guess that you'll have a heavy duty workstation that you use to do pre-rendering before uploading to a cluster.

I would guess that students would most likely find laptops useful, whereas a hard core gamer is probably hanging to his or her desktop system.

Different strokes for different folks.

Reply Score: 5

Video Conferencing
by intangible on Thu 18th Jan 2007 21:03 UTC
intangible
Member since:
2005-07-06

Quote: I'm not aware on any cross-platform videoconference software which is available for Linux.

Ekiga uses the same protocol as Netmeeting and there are multiple clients that support this protocol. Ekiga can also double as your VOIP phone for world-wide communications (we use it a bit here).

Reply Score: 3

RE: Video Conferencing
by SpasmaticSeacow on Thu 18th Jan 2007 21:36 UTC in reply to "Video Conferencing"
SpasmaticSeacow Member since:
2006-02-17

And GnomeMeetnig, also compatible with NetMeeting. There are also proprietary Linux solutions (I don't know the brand off hand, but my companies videoconferencing hardware runs embedded Linux, though I don't know if they make a client available for desktop machines).

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Video Conferencing
by ValiSystem on Thu 18th Jan 2007 22:07 UTC in reply to "RE: Video Conferencing"
ValiSystem Member since:
2006-02-28

Ekiga is the (not so) new name of GnomeMeeting.

Reply Score: 2

Network computers
by trenchsol on Thu 18th Jan 2007 21:37 UTC
trenchsol
Member since:
2006-12-07

There was an interesting idea about network computers some 10 years ago. The trend was, unfortunately, killed by Microsoft. They have seen it as a threat. Later they released Windows terminal server, which is a similar concept.

There is a psyhological problem about that. Employees often see their machin as "their own pc". And often they do stupid things with it, so someone has to reinstall, clean the viruses, reconfigure, etc.

DG

Reply Score: 1

RE: Network computers
by Rcoles on Fri 19th Jan 2007 19:49 UTC in reply to "Network computers"
Rcoles Member since:
2006-01-18

What to you is a stupid thing, may most likely be to the person who does it a great productivity enhancer. The whole reason that the PC has trumped centralized Computing services, is the degree of ownership the user has over the environment, that they are free to construct their own spreadsheets, to download/install a new tool, or use a new website.

Yes this does raise the total cost of ownership in terms of IT supported needed, but it has a great benefit, and the clear lesson from pracitcal experience, is that the benefit outways the cost, if it did not, we would see lots more companies out there with dumb terminal systems.

Users and business are generally not dumb ( even though they may not know the details and theories of technology systems ) they understand whats needed to get their job done in a more efficient manner, much better than anyone else.

In many ways its a parralell of the centrally planned economies ( where "experts" decide approach and "citizens" aren't free to make mistakes) versus a free market economoy when people are given ownership and are free to succeed or fail.. on average in an ownership society, there is faster progress than one ruled over by so called "experts".

Reply Score: 1

Mixed is everything.
by JamesTRexx on Thu 18th Jan 2007 22:09 UTC
JamesTRexx
Member since:
2005-11-06

There will never be a pure client/server or workstation environment. It has all to do with the right solution to a problem.
For instance, our main offices use laptops/pc's, the branch offices use thin clients connected to terminal servers at the main office so we don't have to support local servers.
I use a laptop because I have to be mobile sometimes, and it runs VMware server for testing, has all the applications to independently create documentation and of course occasionaly I watch video on it.
This is something I can't do well on a terminal server.
On the other hand I use a thin client as well to connect to a special terminal server with all the administrative software and tools to manage the network. This way I can disconnect and everything will keep running until I reconnect from home.
Nowadays I can't imagine having to solely use one or the other, to me both the local workstation and the thin client/terminal server are important tools to do my job.

Edited 2007-01-18 22:10

Reply Score: 3

Sorry...
by Tuishimi on Thu 18th Jan 2007 22:11 UTC
Tuishimi
Member since:
2005-07-06

...the ideal solution for me is to have my workstation. I like a large screen in front of me with lots of windows open for coding, documentation, email, etc. I also have to run several containers at the same time, locally, so I can test changes to our sites, BEFORE checking them into CVS (a copy of which is also kept locally) for our nightly builds. Some of us even run copies of our Oracle database on workstations to be able to screw around with the structure of major tables without impacting our fellow developers as they too test.

I suppose of someone builds a laptop with a 20+ inch screen I might bite... but also don't particularly want to take my work home with me if I don't have to. (This is a bit of a lie, I actually work from home - so let's say I don't want to take my work all around with me).

Another issue with laptops is that if I have to have a local copy of the code on my laptop, and my laptop is stolen, now someone else has access to that code.

I am not saying Citrix is not nice, I tunnel into work now, but a laptop will never replace a workstation for me.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Sorry...
by Southern.Pride on Thu 18th Jan 2007 22:20 UTC in reply to "Sorry..."
Southern.Pride Member since:
2006-09-14

Nice site by the way...

I agree a laptop is required in the office now, but I also have a workstation. Most large corp's lease them from (DELL) like ours does.

My next position will be home based, I would be more productive at home with more time to work on stuff.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Sorry...
by cjcoats on Fri 19th Jan 2007 14:19 UTC in reply to "Sorry..."
cjcoats Member since:
2006-04-16

Large screen, multiple CPUs, fast local disk: all these help productivity.

I'm running a quad-core Opteron workstation with 8GB RAM, a heavy duty NV workstation card, 24-inch monitor (on which I actually run 10 virtual screens, each 2400x2000), and dual 15K-RPM SCSI discs. Let me tell you that direct display of scientific visualization is much faster than display on my office-mate's similar machine, connected to mine by 1000GB Ethernet.

Reply Score: 2

amadensor
Member since:
2006-04-10

Another thing is missed here. What once constituted a workstation (in terms of memory, disk, processor, etc.) is now no longer the high end of machines. They are now the discount chain special.

There is a place for centralized processing and storage, but there is also a place for having a local copy for just one user to work with. The tools need to fit the job. With the insurgence of Linux on the scene, that heavy lifting that was once done only by Unix Workstations can now be done with an inexpensive machine and a Linux disk.

The world is changing, but there will always be a need, by some, for a high end machine on the desktop. It is just that now the delta from cheap to expensive in terms of performance has shrunk.

Reply Score: 3

Rcoles Member since:
2006-01-18

I think this is one of the main points here, the gap between the top and bottom of the computing platforms in use has narrowed a lot, such that it isn't at all clear what people mean when they say workstation.
E.g. I have a windows machine at my desk, that is I beleive called by the manufacture a workstation, because (maybe it has 2 CPUs in or more than a couple of monitors attached ) - but its a few years old and probably no more powerful than a modern bottom end "dual CPU". All would be more powerful that the ageing sun "workstation" I also use from time to time to work with Solaris code.

In addition, the other major change, is the way we scale computing power, its no longer normally just ever faster bigger/faster boxes, as you move from workstation to server.

Now our most powerful computers are no more than clusters of boxes similar to those we have on our desktops, which has lead to design changes in software, where once our final code may have run on seriously heavy iron, we may have needed a "workstation" just to test / develop it.
Instead we now have software that it more componentised and can be run/tested /developed in smaller isolated blocks.


Sometime ago, there was a PC for day to day tasks / documents e.t.c. But it couldn't really run the more complex systems we would build even in development, those simply needed more memory / more CPU / more throughput to even test them. Then our production servers were generally large, expensive multi CPU boxes.

Now the deployment system tend to be "grids" of smaller systems, rather than big hulking machines.. so the software can also now run in smaller units, which means we no longer

So yes, I would predict a continued demise of the workstation..

Reply Score: 2

KenJackson Member since:
2005-07-18

...it isn't at all clear what people mean when they say workstation

Very true. And that's always been true.

I remember doing schematic capture and programmable logic design in the early '90s on a PC with an 80286 processor. Some people called that a workstation, but others insisted that it was not.

Reply Score: 2

Well, rubbish I'd say:
by deb2006 on Thu 18th Jan 2007 22:31 UTC
deb2006
Member since:
2006-06-26

It's all a matter of personal preference. I don't like laptops, and I would not say they are very flexible. Yes, you can take them with you. That's about the only advantage they have over a PC. Otherwise they are very, very inflexible. I want to be able to exchange parts of the PC - which is still close to impossible with laptops. With PCs it's a snap. And to be honest: I don't know a single person that is sharing his laptop. A PC, yes, but not a laptop. That's total rubbish.

A terminal? No way. Too little, too late. Seriously, this has been around for some time now, and it has _never_ worked. SUN has claimed it, but not even they managed to push it thru. Now MS is proclaiming the server in every home - maybe that leads to terminals altho I doubt it very much. A PC can be had for as little as $ 200. Why should I buy a terminal that is more expensive? I don't see any reason.

Mainframes are dead? You must be joking! Mainframes are used more often than before, and their market share has considerably increased. Increased, not decreased. So I really don't know what the author is talking about.

This reminds me of predictions made by analysts. When you read them you often have the impression these analysts live on the moon. Well, same with this article ...

Edited 2007-01-18 22:35

Reply Score: 2

RE: Well, rubbish I'd say:
by jamesd on Fri 19th Jan 2007 03:10 UTC in reply to "Well, rubbish I'd say:"
jamesd Member since:
2006-01-17

"A terminal? No way. Too little, too late. Seriously, this has been around for some time now, and it has _never_ worked. SUN has claimed it, but not even they managed to push it thru. Now MS is proclaiming the server in every home - maybe that leads to terminals altho I doubt it very much. A PC can be had for as little as $ 200. Why should I buy a terminal that is more expensive? I don't see any reason."[/i]

what is the real cost of that $200 computer. First at that price it can't come with Windows XP or Vista with full networking capabilities so add on $150. Next we need antivirus, malware, and a copy of MS office, so that is another $500 or so in software, plus about 4 hours of a techs time at $25 an hour for another $100. Now if anything breaks a tech will have to respond to the desktop say that happens once every 3 months, and it takes an hour each time that is another $100 a year, then add in power costs so that $200 computer now costs the company about $1000. All these are low figures in real life they are much higher, and involves keeping a pile of computers that need to replace deffective ones or spare parts.

Now lets look at a Sun Ray, they are about $300 requires about 15 minutes to setup so that works out to be $325. All administration is done at the server, and can be configured to automatically login to a terminal server running a shared license of Office, anti virus, malware removal and is setup once and costs an average of $300 per user for the license that is shared between a dozen users, if you are running an opensource solution you can subtract the $300. Since its maintained all on the servers it means that joe tech that used to run around from cubical to cubical and taking extended breaks betwwen calls is now replaced saving the company his $50,000 a year salary and benefit package.

How long does the computer last, a cheap $200 computer would probably last 2years, 3 at the most, so budget another $1000 in 3 years for a "new $200" computer. The sunray last 5+ years because they don't have hard drives or fans that fail, and don't need to be replaced when MS decides to release a new OS thus saving another $1000 because it didn't need to be replaced after 2-3 years.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Well, rubbish I'd say:
by vegai on Fri 19th Jan 2007 07:16 UTC in reply to "RE: Well, rubbish I'd say:"
vegai Member since:
2005-12-25

> what is the real cost of that $200 computer. First at that price it can't come with Windows XP or Vista with full networking capabilities so add on $150. Next we need antivirus, malware, and a copy of MS office, so that is another $500 or so in software, plus about 4 hours of a techs time at $25 an hour for another $100. Now if anything breaks a tech will have to respond to the desktop say that happens once every 3 months, and it takes an hour each time that is another $100 a year, then add in power costs so that $200 computer now costs the company about $1000. All these are low figures in real life they are much higher, and involves keeping a pile of computers that need to replace deffective ones or spare parts.

Have you heard of this thing called Linux?

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Well, rubbish I'd say:
by jamesd on Fri 19th Jan 2007 13:23 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Well, rubbish I'd say:"
jamesd Member since:
2006-01-17

Have you heard of this thing called Linux?

sure have, but most offices are still running Windows, but feel free to to subtract the $500 software fee, and double the install time unless you have a tech that is really on the ball (and more expensive). And also double price because windows tech are a dime a dozen, Linux/Unix guys tend to make more money. And the tech will still need to make at least 2 trips to the desk a year for hardware and networking problems.

Even with the reduction in costs the $200 computer still costs closer to $500.

with the sun ray techs only need to visit the users desk for setup and total hardware failure since there are no user configurable parts on the sun ray its just set and forget as far as the tech goes and no hard drive or fans to die.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Well, rubbish I'd say:
by deb2006 on Fri 19th Jan 2007 14:26 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Well, rubbish I'd say:"
deb2006 Member since:
2006-06-26

Apparently companies haven't quite understood SUN then. I don't see many companies that use SUN's SUN Ray hardware. Maybe SUN's marketing department isn't doing its job then ;)

No, seriously. SUN has been saying this since when? Nothing really has happened. So apprently this is theopretically a great idea but it fails in practice.

No - it doesn't convince me - and it hasn't convinced others who are decision makers either.

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: Well, rubbish I'd say:
by drdoug on Sat 20th Jan 2007 05:50 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Well, rubbish I'd say:"
drdoug Member since:
2006-04-30

Apparently companies haven't quite understood SUN then. I don't see many companies that use SUN's SUN Ray hardware. Maybe SUN's marketing department isn't doing its job then ;)

Your correct in saying Sun has not done a good job selling the Sun Ray. Having used a Sun Ray for years, I can say they are a fantastic device. The older it got the faster it went - faster, cheaper servers....

One thing I found was if somebody had not used a Sun Ray before they just did not understand where they can be used and why they can be cheaper to run.

Reply Score: 1

I refuse to use a laptop
by Priest on Thu 18th Jan 2007 22:37 UTC
Priest
Member since:
2006-05-12

Notebook sales have been gaining on workstations in terms of market share for a while now but I'm still not interested in owning one.

I had one for work for a while but all I did was stick it in a docking station.

When I needed to get work done from home I would rather sync the files to my workstation and use that than fumble around with a laptop.

Besides, you can get a high end work station for the price of a mid-range laptop, and when you need to upgrade, you can save money by not needing to upgrade the monitor as often as the tower.

I also disagree with the authors implication that becasue data needs to be shared that people need to use VNC or some terminal client to share it.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Sorry...
by Tuishimi on Thu 18th Jan 2007 23:11 UTC
Tuishimi
Member since:
2005-07-06

Thanks...

"My next position will be home based, I would be more productive at home with more time to work on stuff."

There are some things to be wary of... I've been working from home full-time for 1.5 years now, and before that for 2 years I worked from home 2 days per week.

I have to admit that at times I feel like I am falling out of touch with my co-workers. Also we had an IT re-org and I am working with people I have never met in my life, now.

I also have two small children, one is in school now, but the other does not understand the difference between daddy at work with his door closed and daddy at home . . . she tends to barge in whenever she pleases despite my wife trying to keep her out. ;)

On the plus side... I can work at any time of the day/night that I want. ;) As long as I get my assigned tasks done, my boss isn't too caring about when I do it, as long as I am either available during their work hours (I am on the other coast) or at least let them know when I won't be available.

Reply Score: 4

NX
by jakethecake on Fri 19th Jan 2007 08:17 UTC
jakethecake
Member since:
2007-01-19

Where I work we just got freeNX/NX/2X instead of citrix, it's x11 protocol compress is super, the latency issues we had with citrix is gone.

Reply Score: 2

RE: NX
by grat on Fri 19th Jan 2007 12:57 UTC in reply to "NX"
grat Member since:
2006-02-02

NX is one of the most underrated technologies out there for linux/unix at the moment.

It makes X11 over a DSL connection not just usable, but actually convenient. Anyone who does any form of remote X11 (Or would if it didn't suck so hard) really needs to check it out.

That, and an rsync-type system for file-sharing (iFolder springs to mind, but development of the non-NetWare version seems permanently stuck in "slow") would address 90% of the issues the author brought up.

It won't change the fact that a laptop makes a lousy workstation, or that I'm far more productive with a desktop resolution of 2560x1024, however.

Reply Score: 2

What is a workstation?
by Fred on Fri 19th Jan 2007 14:54 UTC
Fred
Member since:
2005-07-06

The author forgot to define what he thinks a workstation is. Definitions vary depending on who you ask.

In either definition this subject has been rehashed over and over again. Xterminals, the PC, thin clients, web applications...every "solution" has sparked this kind of debate. Lets just agree that there's room in the market for all, and that each have their purposes, eh? Declaring obselecence to a particular type of technology is at best shortsighted...see the mainframe, it's doing fine while its death has been predicted since the '70s.

Reply Score: 2

RE: What is a workstation?
by Doc Pain on Fri 19th Jan 2007 23:16 UTC in reply to "What is a workstation?"
Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

"The author forgot to define what he thinks a workstation is. Definitions vary depending on who you ask."

That's a good point. Among better educated german computer scientists, you'll usually find this definition (or something similar):

Workstations are a subset of computer devices of smaller size so they fit on top or under a desk. Furthermore, they do not run "Windows"; to be mor precise (additional claim), they are not able to run it.

Small Computers = { PCs | Workstations | Mac }

Typical workstations: Sun Sparc, Sun Ultra, SGI Octane ... Fuel; just to name a few (of my favourites).

You could count devices like Sony's PS 3 to be in the set "Small Computers", allthough it's neither a PC nor a workstation, it's more a computer system designed for gaming.

Terminals and thin clients (such as Sun Ray) can be considered a workstation too, because their power is based upon a server (usually a UNIX machine). But I'd think they're a different set because they're not very usable on their own.

Equipment = { Small Computers | Terminal Devices | Accessories }

Typical for workstations: Except the hard disk drive extensions are not built into the machine itself, instead they're attached via wire (e. g. SCSI DVD-RAM recorder).

Just a suggestion.

"Lets just agree that there's room in the market for all, and that each have their purposes, eh? Declaring obselecence to a particular type of technology is at best shortsighted...see the mainframe, it's doing fine while its death has been predicted since the '70s."

When it's up to reliability and stability, I would choose a mainframe (if you can call the IBM AS/400 or RS/6000 systems that way). Most people have a room full of equipment ("dinosaur") on their mind when talking about mainframes, and something similar when they talk about "workstations".

On SGI workstations (for example) you could to things 10+ years ago that require a high end PC today. So, in most cases, if the PC world (especially MICROS~1) claims to have invented something new, you'd say: "Uh... I've used this feature ten years ago..." This hoes for hard- and software. Multicore, multiprocessor, big monitor, SCSI, RAID, LVM, VMS, networking, interoperability, multiuser, multiprocessing, ... :-)

The question - as usual - is: What task to you need a computer for? This will specify which kind of computer you will use: One for gaming, one for HPC, or just a better typewriter. And if you just want a typewriter replacement, a PC would fit just fine, but if you have to do scientific evaluation, image processing (CT, MRT, PET) or managing control over an intensive care unit (ICU), you would rely on a real workstation computer.

Reply Score: 2

Times change
by smilie on Fri 19th Jan 2007 19:16 UTC
smilie
Member since:
2006-07-19

I would like to point out that operating systems like OS/360, MVS, and VMS/OpenVMS are not "server only" operating systems. They are general purpose operating systems.

The first two are mainframe O/Ss and VMS/OpenVMS ran on workstations, servers, and minicomputers. I don't know if it ran on DEC-10/TOPS-10 so I can't say if it ran on a mainframe.

One important difference between the current PC/Workstation/Server O/Ss and the old mainframe/minicomputer O/Ss is the expected uptime. Some MVS systems have been up for 30+ years with no unscheduled down time. VMS/OpenVMS systems have recorded uptimes on the order of 20 years.

Modern Unix and Windows systems are, at best, 1 to 3 orders of magnitude less reliable that those systems. And you pay for that reliability.

Reply Score: 1

I tried to read this
by joshv on Fri 19th Jan 2007 19:29 UTC
joshv
Member since:
2006-03-18

I really did. I tried. I just couldn't get through it.

It's obvious that English is not the author's first language. But if you are going to write something in English with the intent of publishing it to a large audience, you might want to have your copy proofread by a native English speaker.

I did manage to decode the following:

"From the view of user the server OS is visible in his Citrix client window as an application. In fact it is comparable with a WebOS, which are running in a browser window. Server OS must be stable, reliable and scalable. "

Which basically shot any credibility the author might have had with me. Citrix is nothing at all like a WebOS. With a WebOS most of the computational resources are local. Code, and initial graphical layout are loaded from the server, but then execute in the browser - very much 'client-server'. I'll grant that a WebOS is 'thinner' than a fat binary client, but its nothing at all like a Citrix thin-client.

Reply Score: 1