Dual-core, IT utility set to highlight IT’s 2006

It’s the time for prognostications and a time to consider what’s likely to be important in the world of Information Technology in 2006.

Such predictions aren’t simple considerations, given the overblown hype of everything IT. Listen to the constantly churning gristmill of marketers and you’d swear there isn’t a lousy or non-relevant technology anywhere. But which IT products are truly meaningful?

Looking back on a year’s worth of IT trends gives some indications as to what might matter in the 12 months ahead. Admittedly it’s no more than a guessing game, since the majority of big IT ideas ultimately wind up losers and long forgotten.

Think of the Larry Ellison “thin client,” the Apple Newton, Windows Millennium Edition, switched token-ring technology and BOB (the graphical user interface add-on for Windows 3.1) .

There are more than enough turkeys, but let’s consider what technologies and IT trends are likely to matter most — at least within the timeframe of the coming year.

Here are four possibilities.

Dual-core multiprocessing: Two or more microprocessors plugged into the same chipset are definitely better than one when it comes to computing. That’s what dual-core multiprocessing is about, and it’s finally here for desktop computers. The unofficial unveiling of dual-core for the mainstream happened in 2005, and next year should see it take off in servers and workstations aimed at smaller businesses.

Dual-core is now fully embraced by chipset giants Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. By the end of 2006 it will be the microprocessing standard. That’s confirmed by Intel, a company that reports, “70 [per cent] to 85 per cent of all new desktop, mobile and server processor shipments will be dual-core by the end of 2006.”

64-bit computing: The next generation of computing in small business comes in the form of dual-core and 64-bit processors like the AMD Opteron and Intel’s Itanium and Xeon chipsets.

These hunks of silicon feature king-sized memory caching (a theoretical 16 billion gigabytes of memory versus the 4GB capacity of 32-bit systems), and eliminate the archaic need for continual data swapping from slow hard drives.

WiMax: As the communications world sheds the shackles of wireline, the time is now for a wireless networking technology like WiMax. There’s the promise and potential of fantastic high speeds and range — 75 megabits per second (Mbps) over 50-kilometre spans under optimal conditions.

In 2006, the technology will break ground as a fixed-point wireless link, delivering something closer to 2 Mbps.

Virtualization: Now you see it, but you really don’t. That’s virtualization for you. It’s scattered computing power and application resources brought to bear as a single high-performance resource.

It’s IT not necessarily sitting in one place, but scattered everywhere and tied together by software that links processing and application functions into a managed collective to build a big engine made of smaller separate pieces.

“Virtualizing” of everything, from processing to storage, from network communication systems to distributed application function, is what will matter in 2006.

IT infrastructures of many small businesses are being pushed beyond their limits. Many would rather not do IT themselves. In 2006, they may not have to.

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McLean is editor-in-chief of IT World Canada and can be reached at dmclean@itworldcanada.com.

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