Networking's greatest debates in the Data Center

Networking's greatest debates in the Data Center

All time classic debates include Mac Vs PC, Tape storage vs. disk storage and AMD vs. Intel

Macs vs. PCs

Macs belong in design firms, art departments, schools and the ilk, but never in enterprise data centers; PCs belong in the corporate enterprise. Enough said?

No, probably not, especially if you talk to those who use Macs. When the Macintosh was introduced in 1984, Apple introduced the concept of a graphical user interface. The IBM PC, which debuted in 1981, used an interface more familiar to users of the time - one based on ASCII text.

At Mac's introduction during the 1984 SuperBowl, a Ridley Scott-inspired character threw a hammer at the screen of an IBM text-based computer in an attempt to inspire legions of people to switch from PCs to what Apple perceived as a more user-friendly Mac. After the drama of its introduction, sales of the US$2,500 Macintosh eked in. By September 1985, some 20 months later, only 500,000 Macs had been sold.

Some said that Apple's focus was on the wrong area - its Macintosh, which, shipped with MacWrite and MacPaint to show off its GUI, wasn't a magnet for application developers. Applications for the Mac needed to be completely rewritten, and except for a handful of independent software vendors (ISV), application porting didn't happen.

"When Apple brought in a Macintosh to show it to us, I asked: Where are the business applications such as VisiCalc and a database?" says Jim Bagley, formerly vice president of marketing for Radix in Salt Lake City. Creative types - advertising agencies and video professionals -- remained the low hanging fruit for Apple, inspired by programs such as PageMaker, PhotoShop and Macromedia's Director and FreeHand, which first worked on the Mac.

The IBM PC on the other hand enticed ISVs - companies wrote business applications for it. One of the first was the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet in 1981. The program didn't become available on early Macs until 1991.

By 2006, even Apple had thrown in the towel to compete with the PC - it adopted Intel CPUs and made computers that could run Windows. -Deni Connor

Micro Channel vs. EISA and PCI

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for IBM, the developer of the proprietary, yet oh-so-capable Micro Channel (MCA) bus. Created in 1987 for use in its PS/2 personal computers, the 16- or 32-bit bus was designed to overcome the limitations of the ISA bus, which suffered from a slow speed, limited interrupts and a lack of bus-mastering support. IBM had the misfortune of butting heads with a bus developed in 1989 by IBM competitors - the EISA bus, which was backward-compatible with older PC- and XT-bus computers and also offered bus-mastering support.

The IBM competitors, the so-called Gang of Nine -- AST Research, Compaq Computer, Epson, HP, NEC, Olivetti, Tandy, WYSE and Zenith Data Systems - reacted to IBM's proprietary architecture and refused to license it for use in their servers. The gang prevailed and their EISA design, which was used in clone PCs, soon won out.

Walt Thirion, formerly CTO for Level One Communications of Sacramento, remembers the Micro Channel/EISA bus wars and does not want them repeated. As president and CEO of Thomas-Conrad, Thirion had to manufacture network interface adapters for both EISA and Micro Channel computers. You might ask him if that was a burden making adapters to two different bus specifications and Thirion, like the CEOs of Standard Microsystems and 3Com, would have said 'Hell, yes, it was a pain for little return."

The Gang of Nine wasn't the only group that riled IBM. The Music Corporation of America, then a powerhouse in the music publishing field, filed a suit claiming its rights to the MCA acronym. IBM uncharacteristically withdrew its use of the acronym - going forward the Micro Channel bus would be known as just that.

In 1996, IBM caved in to the EISA bus backers when it introduced computers that used the technology. In spite of the spat between IBM and the rest of the PC industry, desktop PCs continued to use the EISA bus, until the introduction of PCI. Today, neither server nor desktop PCs use MCA (whoops Micro Channel) or EISA - they all use PCI and its successor PCI-Express. -Deni Connor

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