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The Network is the Computer!

Remember a whole bunch of years ago when Sun Microsystems ran an ad campaign stating that “the network is the computer”? Don’t worry if you don’t; it may just be because I have more … err… experience (not age!) than you do.

Either way, it turns out the company was right – although not for the reasons it expressed at the time.

What Sun had in mind, I think, was the notion that the effectiveness of an organization’s network depended upon the power and capabilities of the computers connected to it. The company wasn’t necessarily wrong in this, but events – not the least of which was the rapid rise and internalization of the Web by both businesses and consumers – eventually passed it by, and it ultimately was acquired by Oracle.

The mark that Sun missed lay in not thinking broadly enough, for today’s Web is really a macro version of the company’s more micro view. Think of it: there is a direct analogy to be made between a server’s internal structure and the Web’s basic architecture. A circuit board, for instance, includes processors that communicate over soldered pathways; the Web operates in much the same way, except it includes servers that communicate over Internet pathways.

How is this relevant to your process and technology decision-making? Because your workflows and architecture likely already do, and certainly will, follow this same essential model!

An enterprise solution that facilitates information interoperability via content and business process management – perhaps with a healthy dose of CMIS mixed in – is conceptually nothing more that a giant circuit board or mini Internet, and thinking of it that way can really help demystify the issues when pressures become intense.

Whether you’re spending brain cycles on EMC Documentum, Open Text, SharePoint, or other information system (and there are tons to pick from), the bottom line is that you are basically connecting distributed silos of processing power and stored information for particular business reasons – just like a computer does inside the case, and just like Sun probably wishes it had all those years ago.

Want to demystify more complex issues? Attend my AIIM ECM Practitioner Preconference Course at Info360 next week in Washington, DC!

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