Rather than focusing on best technologies, let's look and learn

In looking at the best technologies of the past year the leader emerged all too obvious: it's XML - simple, elegant, with fast, broad, and deep adoption. Boooriiinng. It took no insight to figure that one out; it barely even required a pulse.

In looking at the best technologies of the past year the leader emerged all too obvious: it's XML - simple, elegant, with fast, broad, and deep adoption.Boooriiinng. It took no insight to figure that one out; it barely even required a pulse.

So let's focus instead on the worst ideas of 2000. Our focus is on technologies this year, not individual vendors and products, which means they won't be including in their list my picks for worst ideas, such as:

Palm, for its complete lack of innovation. All interesting innovation for this platform came from Handspring and Sony. For shame.

Novell, for its Al Gore-like ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Never has such superior technology (NDS that is, although Gore's animatronics were phenomenal) suffered under such consistently inept marketing.

Microsoft, for releasing Active Directory as catch-up to NDS rather than as leapfrog technology, but that's really a 1999 carryover.

Apple Computer, for still ignoring that when you're the market underdog you need market and mind share, not margins. Macs must cost less than equivalent Wintel PCs, not twice as much. Despite Mac's OS X superiority, Apple deserves to fail for its poor business sense.

UCITA's backers, for stuffing it through an egregiously biased process. If you have any doubt that we've entered an era in which big-lie propaganda is business as usual, read the press releases defending this bag of muck -- and try not to gag.

But our focus is on bad technologies, not individual products or companies. The clear winner here would be Fat Network Architectures (FNA, the more accurate name for "thin client"), except that it's an old issue. FNAs offer convenience to providers while diminishing usability. They're only appropriate for applications whose deployment is broad but use is occasional.

Another candidate is EAI (enterprise application integration) security. EAI itself is incredibly important. With few exceptions, EAI systems must have superuser privileges, adding yet another, independent layer of security administration. (Incredibly, Microsoft seems to have gotten EAI security right in Biztalk, which reportedly passes through already established access rights.)

The runner-up is the ASP (application service provider). Never anything more than rehashed time-sharing service bureaus retooled onto FNAs (not a promising start), ASPs never figured out that technology is now built into the core of the modern enterprise. Integration -- a critical business priority and the reason EAI is important -- is hard enough when a business runs its systems on its own computers. The ASPs make it nearly impossible.

The clear winner for the worst technology idea of the year, however, is IAS (Internet Attached Storage). At least fat network architectures are sound engineering. IAS, on the other hand, separates data storage from data processing, connecting the two processes through the internet at speeds and latencies that are a tiny fraction of LAN, bus, or channel attachment.

I'm quite certain IAS is a winner when viewed through the distorted lens of TCO (total cost of ownership). I'm equally sure that if you move a production database to IAS, what used to be overnight batch will turn into something quite different. Between now and the time it's finished running, you'll have had time to fix the Y3K bug.

Lewis is a Minneapolis-based consultant with Perot Systems. Send him your bad-technology vote at ISSurvivor@cs.com.

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