Technology has come to the rescue again. This is one of the most exciting times in this industry. Bandwidth constraints are becoming a thing of the past, while redundancy, virtTualization and grid computing are becoming the new buzzwords. Without a doubt, keeping up with the new technologies can be a full time job. Hopefully, reading this will ease your burden a bit. Each subject summarized below will be followed up with a full article detailing strategies, pros and cons, and things to watch for before deciding to jump on the new technology bandwagon.
In a previous article, we learned of Moore's Law, Parkinson's Law and Gate's Law, all of which say that roughly every 18 months we will need and have twice the horsepower and storage that we have now. At the recent SuperComputing conference in Arizona, the organizations involved in the TeraGrid project said that they have no doubt they will be pushing the envelopes on those limits. "TeraGrid" is a multi-year effort to build and deploy the world's largest, most comprehensive, distributed infrastructure for open scientific research. By 2004, the TeraGrid will include 20 teraflops of computing power distributed at five sites, facilities capable of managing and storing nearly one petabyte of data, high-resolution visualization environments, and toolkits for grid computing. Four new TeraGrid sites, announced in September 2003, will add more scientific instruments, large datasets, and additional computing power and storage capacity to the system. All the components will be tightly integrated and connected through a network that operates at 40 Gbps. (See www.teragrid.org for more information.) Believe it or not, organizations there capture images of the entire earth once a day -- the ENTIRE earth! Watch for a future article on the TeraGrid project.
Some industry estimates state that by the end of the century, there will be one terabyte of data stored for every person. This brings us to our first buzzword: Data mining. OK, so it has been around for a while, but it will be taking on a whole new meaning this year. With federally mandated redundancy requirements for some industries (finance and healthcare), and business needs for others, the management of all of this information has elevated far past the typical database administrator (DBA) role. Statisticians, data analysts, and even marketing analysts are going to find more creative ways to use and abuse this data. There are also new kinds of data sources in the form of downloadable music, video on demand, CCTV and subscriber-based gaming that are making their way into mainstream computing. Watch for the article "Data overload - How to get the most from your data."
All of this data has to be stored somewhere. This brings us to buzzword number two, data centers. Again, this is not a brand new word, but certainly there are new implementations. The TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) has addressed the cabling needs of a data center with a new standard due to be ratified this year. BICSI (Building Industry Consulting Service International) likewise has developed new design guidelines for data centers. More systems are going into the data center as well. Today, we see storage area networks in a variety of configurations all moving towards IP as the protocol of choice. We also see network attached storage where multiple servers running multiple operating systems can all access the same storage pool. Adding redundancy and real-time backups, images of data and selective magneto optical backups for the most frequently accessed information are becoming more commonplace as the backups cannot be completed off-hours. Watch for "Data Centers - They're not just computer rooms anymore" for an update of the design considerations and technologies within.
In the medical industry, new demands have created databases that track where each record resides. In a patient records, for instance, after a period of time, the supporting data that is stored gets moved to offsite storage. If the patient comes back into the office, the doctor obviously wants to see the old data when needs dictate. The new patient systems must be able to retrieve that data on the fly. The amount of data in patient care that is stored electronically is exponentially higher than it was even a year ago. With new technologies for electronic images and electronic patient care, the medical community has all kinds of new buzzwords, and teleradiology and telemedicine are maturing through a technology called DICOM (digital communications in medicine) and advancements over the older HL7 (Health Level 7) protocol. Watch for "Electronic patient care" to learn of these new advancements and implementation strategies for the integrated healthcare enterprise.
Another area of growing change is in the realm of the financial world. From the board of directors to the data center, financial institutions face serious penalties and certain doom if they are found to be non-compliant with Sarbanes-Oxley and SEC rulings. Privacy compliance and other legislation concerning consumers and their financial records are bound to take on a new personality in the New Year. This leaves security officers with yet another helping on their already overworked plate. Homeland security is fairly new as a concept, but as old as the Constitution in practice. In 2004, we will look at security and technologies for various industries as well as legislation and pending legislation centered around privacy and consumer protection. The buzzwords here are enhanced security, biometrics, homeland security, and consumer access protection. Watch for "How secure are you?" and learn about security measures that will affect financial institutions, government and the consumer.
The standards bodies have been in a flurry addressing new technologies and speeds. Ten gigabit is already an IEEE standard for fiber, with a new study group having been formed to allow for 10 gigabit transmission speeds over legacy multi-mode fiber. There is an IEEE copper counterpart to that standard, 10G-CX4, which allows for short range 10 gigabit transmission over twinax, and the 10G-BASE-T study groups should be officially a task force by the end of January to standardize 10 Gigabit transmission over twisted pair cabling. TIA and ISO are working on various standards for healthcare, data centers mentioned earlier, cabling, etc. and the NFPA (the authors of the National Electrical Code) are also updating and working on new standards. There are several federally mandated security and data storage strategies that are expected to broaden and/or move in their second phases this year. Power over Ethernet and wireless standards are being implemented as well. There are several new buzzwords here -- each relating to its own standard. Watch for "Standard and mandate updates" and learn what is happening within the standards bodies and codes and how they will affect your business.
All of these new technologies have to tie together, be accessed, and function. This brings us to our next buzzwords -- grid computing and virtualization. Grid computing can be thought of as a mesh of computers and storage in a fully redundant configuration. Servers can be scaled horizontally, vertically or diagonally or virtualized (appear to be within the company when they are really housed and maintained offsite). This type of outsourcing is becoming increasingly popular due to the number of resources required to perform the same functions in house. There is a feeling, however, of loss of control, which may prove to be too large a hurdle for some companies. Watch for "Grid ready services and products" and learn what is available within the industry for high availability computing.
We have heard or read a wealth of information on wireless technologies. While it is easy to see that wireless is not for everyone or every enterprise, it is a truly unique niche market that is facilitating communications globally. Buzzwords include Wi-Fi, WLAN, RFID and VoWi-Fi and/or VoWLAN. We now have wireless voice, data, and e-mail -- no doubt this is only the beginning. How much spectrum will be available at the end of the year, and what measures will have to be taken to assure that enough bandwidth is available for the growing plethora of wireless devices? RFID technology (Radio Frequency Identification) is being developed for tracking pallets of merchandise. Will it gain acceptance for tracking patients or children? Watch for "Wireless rules and regulations" to learn what's going on with the FCC and wireless product manufacturers as well as do's and don'ts for wireless implementations, and the security issues surrounding wireless communications for both protected and unlicensed spectrums.
Also, watch for our other weekly articles that address a wide variety of topics and practical applications that will assist you in your everyday operations. Don't see your topic here? Well, there is a remedy for that!
Carrie has been involved in the computing and networking industries for nearly 20 years. She has been involved in sales, executive management, and consulting on a wide variety of platforms and topologies. She has held Director and VP positions with fortune 500 companies and consulting firms. Carrie has taught classes for Novell, Microsoft, and Cisco certifications as well as CAD/CAE, networking and programming on a collegiate level. She has worked with manufacturing firms, medical institutions, casinos, healthcare providers, cable and wireless providers and a wide variety of other industries in both networking design/implementation, project management and software development for privately held consulting firms and most recently Network and Software Solutions.
Carrie currently works with The Siemon Company as the Network Applications Market Manager where her responsibilities include providing liaison services to electronic manufacturers to assure that there is harmony between the active electronics and existing and future cabling infrastructures. She participates with the IEEE, TIA and various consortiums for standards acceptance and works to further educate the end user community on the importance of a quality infrastructure. Carrie is one of the few that chose to work with applications and networks providing her with a full end-to-end understanding of business critical resources through all 7 layers of the OSI model. Carrie currently holds an RCDD/LAN Specialist from BICSI, MCNE from Novell and several other certifications.