We are in the process of refreshing some server hardware for a client. We have servers ranging from 6 plus years old to fairly current in use.
In that relatively short time frame, we have gone:
- From single core processors where it was pretty much all about clock speed to get better performance,
- To single core processors with hyper-threading,
- To 2 core processors,
- To 4 core processors with hyper-threading
- (6 and 8 core processors with and without hyper-threading have been released or are on the way)
One 2 processor (4 cores with hyper-threading) server now has enough horsepower to replace at least eight servers from 5-6 years ago or four from 3-4 years ago.
If it wasn't for considerations around disk I/O, we could do so for 1/5 of the cost of the original hardware.
And this is just the last 6-7 years.
Back in my early exposure to computers (high school and university) I used the Commodore 64, an early Apple, and a VAX 11/780. Yes that is a long, long, long time ago.
The Commodore 64 had a whopping 64 KBytes of RAM, but you could play a surprising number of games on it. How many developers today could stay within 64 KB of RAM with operating system, etc?
I saw roomfuls of computers using tubes and iron core memory that were 20-30 years older yet (older than me in fact).
Then the x86, 286, 386, 486, Pentium 2, Pentium 3, Pentium 4, etc.
I started using the Internet actively in 1995 with a dial up modem.
And this is all within the last 25 years.
During that same 25 years, if cars had gotten faster at the same rate it would now take me a second to get to work. But they haven't. However, they do now have computers controlling everything including engine performance, acceleration, braking, etc. (And sometimes, they don't control like like they should and bad things happen.)
Now when the iPhone 4 comes out people think "cool". But we are no longer really surprised.
In fact, we are pretty much so used to innovation in information and communications technology, we are no longer easily wowed… we take this innovation for granted. It is expected that miracles will continue to happen.
Once in a while it is good to reflect on how far we've come.
And dream about how far we can still go.