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April 27, 1994

CLIENT-SERVER IS MORE COSTLY THAN MAINFRAME COMPUTING, GARTNER REPEATS

By CBR Staff Writer

Managing enterprise-level applications with client-server technology is not only more complicated but also substantially more expensive than through centralised computing, according to analyst the Gartner Group Inc. And the market is set to change rapidly over the next four years, says Gartner, which held a series of seminars on the topic last week. Client-server middleware, rather than the mainframe data centre, will become the strategic foundation of enterprise computing architectures, and object orientation and message-based technologies will be at the centre of this change. According to Peter Schay, vice-president and service director of the Gartner Group, data processing managers are still underestimating the cost of client-server computing. We do not believe that in general client-server is down-costing. Other forms of downsizing may be, but client-server is expensive, he said. When you have personal computers on users’ desks, on average a typical personal computer user spends half an hour per week as a part-time amateur systems manager – installing software, reconfiguring, back-ups – and that is extraordinarily expensive. Schay said he reckoned that a client-server environment generally costs around UKP40,000 per user over a five-year period. Key to client-server development, according to Gartner, will be object technology – provided data processing staff are sufficiently well-trained – and what Gartner calls message-based middleware. By this it means technologies for remote data management, enabling mobile users to connect with the host at intervals to update information. It’s still client-server because the application doesn’t complete its work until the change has taken place, said Schay. This trend, he said, will limit the long-term usefulness of Remote Procedure Call technology. According to Gartner analyst Charlie Burns, another major trend with client-server is for user departments to put servers into data centres, looking for centralised management of their systems to save costs. If you compare client-server with the classic mainframe system, we haven’t found an environment where the mainframe costs more. The mainframe approach is always less expensive, but you get less for it, he says. The bottom line expenses for organisations are going up, but they’re hidden. But at some point the folks in accounting are going to wake up to this and then all hell breaks loose. Burns said that organisations are gradually cottoning on to the fact that client-server is not an answer to all ills. The US, as so often, took to the new technology before Europe did, and some of the problems are beginning to be publicised there. As more and more of these facts come out, it should slow down the blind rush, Charlie Burns forecasts.

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