eWEEK 30: Client/Server Model Withered Under Cloud Computing Shadow
Enterprises remained committed to the client/server computing model for well into the new millennium. However, the founding of Salesforce.com in 1999 was emblematic of the first stirrings of a major shift in enterprise computing from client/server to cloud computing. The company’s founder and CEO Marc Benioff, who initially came to prominence developing the first Windows client/server applications for Oracle in the early 1990s, told anyone who would listen that client/server computing as it was originally conceived was a technological dead end. The smart and efficient way to go, Benioff said, was to move to “multi-tenant” cloud computing applications in which a single instance of the software runs on servers to provide application access to a multitude of computers via the Internet. Salesforce.com brought its customer relationship management software to market with a motto that highlighted another benefit of cloud computing: “no software.” This meant that since the application ran entirely on the Internet that could be accessed with a Web browser at any time of the day, there was no need to install application software on the clients. Furthermore, desktop administrators didn’t have to worry about application updates because all the software upgrades took place in the cloud—not on the client. Thus began the campaign by the emerging cloud computing companies to convert enterprises from applications installed on-premise to software-as-a-service” apps running in the cloud. It took time for enterprises to trust cloud computing as an alternative to client/server because they worried about whether the applications and more importantly their corporate data would be secure when stored on the Web. The rapid growth of Salesforce.com and companies like it convinced many CIOs that it was safe to at least try out cloud computing.Another factor was the steady increase in power of mobile phones, especially the introduction of versatile smartphones such as the Apple iPhone in 2007. These phones were now powerful enough to access business applications running in the cloud. So business users gradually went beyond just using their smartphones to check email, manage appointments or send text messages. They are using them now to access sales applications, confirm travel arrangements or update database applications, as well as for many other tasks on the Web. But these developments didn’t keep Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, CA Technologies and many other companies from continuing to release new versions of their client/server products into the second decade of the new millennium. But many of these products have moved fully or partly to the cloud. Today, while many enterprises are still using legacy client/server applications, there isn’t a lot of discussion, investment or development of new client/server apps. The proof can be found in a search of Google News where most of the current discussion about client/server is focused mainly on moving aging client/server apps to the cloud. Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008, authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made. eWEEK Editor in Chief John Pallatto contributed to this article.
The steady adoption of the Google Apps cloud productivity applications and other cloud software companies such as NetSuite, Workday, SugarCRM, MySQL and RightNow Technologies, which was acquired by Oracle in October 2011, helped convince enterprise IT managers that cloud computing was a safe bet.