Saving time

Techno Page By Harendra Alwis

Aconspicuous trend of technology through most of not-so distant history has been its intimacy with time. The upward trend in technology has been stamped unmistakably by our ability to slice the seconds and milliseconds ever finer. Therefore it is no surprise that the computer, which has been doubling in speed every 18 months for decades, has become the most iconic image of modern technology.

"Fast food" and the microwave oven have been around since the 1940's. They were among the first commodities that reflected a cultural trend that would spark a consumer demand for machines and processes that could accomplish more, but took less time to do so. More and more time-saving devices and practices have been invented over the last century to exploit this cultural shift in thought and further fuel the resulting consumer demand. If something is faster, it was generally perceived to be better because it would 'save' time.

However, after all the years of exponential growth in processing power and time saving devices, people all over the world sleep less today than they did 70 years ago and have less time to do anything.

Apparently we no longer have time for instant soup sachets that will be ready in 2 minutes after adding boiling water, because heat-and-serve soup that's ready after 30 seconds in the microwave is becoming more popular.

IT managers and CIOs have in recent times, begun to notice that performance improvements in technology infrastructure do not always translate to proportional gains in productivity. There is a simple reason for this. Even though our capacity to create faster and meaner machines may be boundless, we are however bound by our biology. No matter how fast the Internet gets or how fast ours computers crunch numbers, we are just a species of animal that lives on a rock that revolves around the sun. We do not yet have any technology that is capable of changing that reality.

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Google Gears

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Rain in the clouds

CNet news reported last week that Google Docs was offline for about an hour, a couple of weeks ago. It brought new life to the debate about the viability of adopting 'cloud computing' as a reliable business strategy. Cloud computing is the idea of using software that is installed and running on a remote server on the Internet instead of on a client's computer.

It is an economically sensible strategy that nevertheless has to be backed up by the speed and reliability of servers on which the software runs as well the networks that delivers the service. Powerful proponents of cloud computing such as Google, offer a service level agreement (SLA) guaranteeing that Gmail, the online e-mail component of its overall Google Apps service, will be available 99.9 percent of the time, with service credits extended to paying customers if service levels recede below that level.

The word is out that SLAs will soon cover the rest of Google Apps. Google has been a strong promoter of the idea of cloud computing, and actively trying to build ubiquitous high-speed networks to deliver software as a service. Yahoo has recently formed a cloud computing group of its own. The trend has the potential to seriously redistribute wealth within the computing industry.

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