Investment on Network Computer, is it worth while?!

[ by RJ Raja Yusof ,June1996,to bottom part of article]


Apple,IBM,Oracle,Netscape and Sun all agreed on making an open_based computing standard - the NC.This announcement brings together the leading firms in the industry intent on proving solution for customers seeking to lower their cost of ownership and take advantage of the new model of computing.

Oracle UK's marketing director claimed that people are interested in breaking away from Microsoft and Intel technology.Also,Oracle cheif executive said he believed the device would become as common as telephones and that more NC than PCs would be sold by the year 2000.

NC introduces the concept of "What you see is what you need" while PC introduces the concept of "What you see is what you get".The PC has evolved into a more complex device driven by Microsoft and Intel and 80% of the users use only 20% of its facilities.

These claims are being made from the companies that are trying to promote NC to the market whose views are tend to be biased.How does it affect the future of computer industry and furthermore is it a worth while investment?

The Customer's Needs

Rich Data Management Needed

The change of information industry is a shift to rich,complex data & it demands the management of data that is much more complex then ever before, data for which most exciting relation database management systems(RDBMS) find themselves very poorly prepared.In search of efficiency in managing simple data , many RDBMS have extend their system to manage new type of data. The fundamental change in the data management industry can be looked at from 3 widely scattered examples:

1.Financial Services

The older data management systems are limited to managing only simple numeric and are unable to meet the challanges of managing new kinds of data.The Financial sectors had a critical problem of highly efficient access to time_series data on open systems giving rise to the need of RDBMS.

2.The World Wide Web meets Coorparate IS

There is enormous demand for Web commerce so this will lead to companies needing to interface their rich data Web systems with core buisness systems like order processing & billing. At the same time the idea of applets,small applications that can travel freely around the Net between clients & servers had come up.In order to support the above managing,the amount of rich data needed to run an existing Web site has become a challange.

3.The Media Industry goes Digital

There is a shift from analogue to digital technology in the media industry since visual media can be handelled digitally at resonable cost.Large collections of digital media are being assembled,offering the promise of searchable media archives,provided that data management solution can be found to handle such complex data & queries.

Client/server infrastucture

Spending on enterprise computing is having a solid resurgence that may last beyond the end of the century according to 1996 Datamation/Cowen Computer System User Survey.This year survey shows that there is an increase of 6.7% anually over the next three to five years spend on IS(Information System) Budgets.By looking at the graph on the left we can see that there is a healthy growth over the past few years.

The major drivers of the increase in IS budgets are due to the fact that there is a shift to new architectures,the explosion of the internet and corporate intranets and the deployment on the client/server technology.The companies using or implementing client/server system will be increasing at the rate of about 8%.Compared with sites that have no client/server plans,they'll be spending more on networking(44%),hardware overall(22%) and PC hardware(27%)

Small Survey

A small survey in the department of computing in Imperial college directed to the ISE2 students was made,half of the students are keen in NC & half of them were not.One of them said:

"Individuals must be given the choice to control their own data, otherwise they will not make full use of the services offered & the entire technology could be placed in a weak commercial situation."

And another one said that:

"I quite like the feeling that my hard disk is safely locked away in my room."


The overall customer's needs lead to a bright future for NC but for individual that have not heard of NC they maybe very sceptic of the whole idea.

Other Related Industries

PC Performances

For NC to be a worth while investment,it has to break the market of widely used PC around the world.Could it be done?

A survey has been done in Japan,One of the leading countries in the computer technology industries.There is a growth of 84.4% to 67 300 units of shipment on PC servers last year and it is continuing to grow at a fast rate.PC servers market in Japan swelled 91.8% from 1994 reaching a level of #374m in 1995.

company name year-on-year growth
Compaq 25.6%
NEC 20.8%
IBM 14.7%

NEC a late comer in the PC server market is forecasting a 60% increase in orders over the previous year to approximately 35 000 units

At the same time there is also a survey on the PC sales.PC makers predicted that there will be a growth in sales of 28 to 30%.They predicted wrongly since it came out to be 25% sales growth.An Analyst with Nat West securities Coorp,says price decline will accelerate throught out the year.As he puts it:
"Last year's(1995) PC prices dropped 10% through the first 9 months of the year.You'll probably see 20% cuts this year.

With the cut off price in PC & a healthy growth of PC server market,NC will have a hard time attracting customers.NC needs more than an advert to break the market maybe a big publicity stunt!

Existing Network Users

PCs are attached to LANS up from 72% in 1995.And 76% of network nodes are hubbed.In 1997 respondents expect these number to jump to 87% & 81% repectively.Departmental LANS exits at 85% of sites,69% are connected sitewide & 56% are connected organization wide.Penentration at all level is headed towards 90% and beyond.

The problem with this is that the more PC that are networked, the greater the capacity problem.Currently 13% of the respondent have bandwidth constraints but more and more organization are rapidly running out of capacity by the year 1997.


The number of people using the Net is growing and therefore one could conclude that there is a need on greater bandwidth than is generally available today. There are plans from companies like Bell Atlantic to facilitate the growing demand of Bandwidth.It is only a natural thing to do to switch to a machine like NC in the future since this kind of machine is design to work well in a network environment.It would well be a good investment for the network users.

Oracle vs microsoft

One analogy between Oracle (company provinding sofware for managing system) and Microsoft( company providing software for PC):
Microsoft offers users land & allow them to build on it as they please,purchasing the plans & tools from Microsoft & paying maintenance cost.Oracle would be a benevolent landlord offering low-cost,low-maintenance apartments with the benefit of a personal residence.

Larry Ellison of Oracle claimed that aircraft company Boeing had ordered more than 100 000 NC but this has been rebutted by the company.Instead Boeing firm has just invested in a company-wide deployment of Microsoft Exchange,used to support email.

Sun's point of view

Sun microsystem admitted that NC won't be cheap but will probably be near the price of a resonable PC.

IBM's point of view

Claimed that the world of networked computing is one full of promise & enormous oppurtunity.

Hardware/Software Suppliers

Involve companies like Acorn,Adobe System,BT,Cable & Wireless Innovation,Fujitsu Limited,LG Electronics and others all say that there is a bright future for NC in the market.


Opinions on the future of NC is an optimistic one.Oracle and other related companies is working hard to promote NC but so far there is no strong evidence to support the sales and demand of NC is growing.

Final Conclusion

By the data gadered in this article there are more evidences to support that investment in NC is a worth while one , but it seems that thre are not a lot of demand for this type of machine-the NC.More effort and time have to be given to make NC a reality in everyone's home. From the customer's point of view we can see that their needs are rapidly changing towards a better database management system which support the NC. These are only what is predicted based on the the information available at hand.Who would have thought that the internet is going to be a much hyped subject now.May be it is the same case as the NC in the future.


  1. NC Reference Profile Participating Endorser Quotes
  2. Computing,23May96,pg1
  3. Computing,16May96,pg32
  4. White Paper(Infomix and Illustra Merge to Create Universal Server),Feb96
  5. Datamation,1May,96,pg66,72
  6. Survey in Department of Computing directed to ISE-2 students
  7. http://techwe
  8. PCWorld,Feb96,pg31

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