Working in the information technology field is both rewarding, frustration, laughable, and as direction less as a spring wind. This is what it feels like when you are in the trenches and don’t take the time to lift your head and look at the big picture… no not the one on the wall. The one that will give you clarity as to where all of this is going. Before I get too philosophical and totally out of my depth, let me clarify that statement. Where technology is going.
I keep reminding myself of the lyrics of an American country song titled ‘Welcome to the future’, where the lyricist reminds the listener of a time when he was young, and what he had to go through to participate in the world, contrasting it with the ease and total acceptance as fact of certain items. Like needing to go to the arcade to play pacman, while you can now pick up your cell phone and play any of hundreds of games.
I’ve been working on a number of machines that come to think of it is not the typical machines of twenty years ago. Implementing software as a service and databases on these virtual machines as I go along. A standard part of the day. It is only once I stood still for a few minutes that I realized that this trend has been slowly creeping up on us. How many remember the era of DOS, or the virtual machine concept in Windows. Some might still need that but now the virtual machine is no longer for backward compatibility, but purely to share hardware resources amongst as many applications and environments as possible. (I know for Java programmers, they still have the concept of the JVM – Java Virtual Machine – but that is not technically entirely the same)
You carve up the large box of hardware into various virtual machines, which you would access just like the old physical hardware. Except now, on one server that takes up the space of a pizza box in a cupboard in the computer room you can be running a application server, a database server, a web server and a client access server. The work of four different machines done in one piece of hardware. Each isolated from the other and needing a management interface to manage it.
Specialized hardware management consoles are springing up on Linux servers to allow you to add CPU, memory or disk to these virtual machines to accommodate growth. The only draw back, when you don’t have any more resources to add to them. Then you need to increase your pizza box.
I’ve also gotten so used to the virtual machines on my laptop that I can’t imagine a day without them. Working on multiple machines, sharing hardware has become like breathing… we just accept it. Most people don’t even notice the multiple machines that run their daily lives. Most just take it for granted that they can make a phone call, follow voice prompts, sent text messages, send multi-media messages and never once consider that there are at least eight different computers involved in this bit of human communication.
Yes, the song writer was correct — Welcome to the future!