Technology – Age before Beauty

When the debacle of the Healthcare.gov launch first hit the media, there was a talking point that nearly drove me to destroy my TV with any object I could find.  Was it not for the fact that I really like my TV, things could have been ugly!

What was it that drove me to such madness?

Forget the fact that:

  • The platform obviously suffered from a lack of testing.
  • The website was clearly not built from requirements that included customer input.
  • The budget ran over by millions of dollars.

It was the earth-shattering realization that the new website, Healthcare.gov, had been built using 10-year old technology! (Gasp…)

USA Today was one of a few news sources that covered this notion and cited “technology experts” that made claims referencing 10-year old technology. To date, I can’t find anyone that specifically identifies the offending antiquity by name. I guess I can find some comfort in knowing pundits on all sides were pointing fingers at old technology – at least their collective ignorance on the issues are bi-partisan.

Therefore, in honor of this senseless demonizing of all things old, I would like to devote my second entry in this series to a few technologies that turned 10 long ago, and are still going strong today.

Our first old-timer is Ethernet. You know, that big phone line that you plugged into your laptop before the prevalence of Wi-Fi. Come to think of it… doesn’t Wi-Fi resemble Ethernet in many ways? ethernetEthernet was developed in the 1970’s at Xerox, introduced in 1980, and standardized by the IEEE in 1985.  Over the years it has gained features (such as our much-maligned friend auto-negotiation) and increased capacity, but has fundamentally remained unchanged. And while more and more corporate networks are moving to wireless LANs, you can be sure that nearly every web site you visit is ultimately at the other end of a service provider’s Ethernet-connected core and lives on a host with one, if not several, Ethernet connections.

Next on our list is TCP/IP. If Ethernet connected your computer to the world, TCP/IP gave it eyes and ears. TCP/IP has its roots in research led by Vint Cerf at DARPA in the 1960’s and 1970’s and was formally adopted by the US Department of Defense in 1982. TCP/IP provides for logical addressing (IP addresses) and structured communication (via TCP ports) and supports virtually all communication on the internet today.

httpFinally, I would like to wrap up with HTTP. Compared to Ethernet and TCP/IP, the Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the new kid on the block, having been introduced as recently as 1991. Supporting communication across what we know today as the World Wide Web, today HTTP accounts for the vast majority of all internet traffic.

So, there you have it. Three technologies, each at least 20 years old, and they fundamentally support the modern internet. I could easily go on with others such as UDP, DNS, and BGP, but the lesson learned is simple – respect your elders.

Stay Tuned…

The 3rd in this series will cover the dangers of building a product without customer input.

If you haven’t already seen the 1st in this series on capacity management be sure to check it out.

 

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