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Looking Back at 2005

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If 1995 is considered the arrival of the browser and the rise of the Web, then 2005 was the year to take stock of what those 10 years hath wrought — the browser, the Web, the impact of the Internet across all walks of life.

But more than 10-year birthday parties for Java and the Web filled out the year.

Spyware, spam, virus writers for hire — the usual suspects were in great supply throughout 2005. So was the rise of virtualization and 64-bit computing and more storage needs to cope and comply with Sarbanes-Oxley.

Open source projects spread even farther into the IT ecosystem, and the world’s largest software company gave us a peek at the next version of Windows.

From the Supreme Court on down to blogs and wikis, herewith, a list of some of the biggest trends and stories that hit the IT world in 2005.

Virtualization Hits The Industry, Virtually

Virtualization, which usually includes running multiple operating systems or applications on one machine, has run on IBM mainframes for 40 years or so.

But, as The 451 Group tells us, virtualization is one of the technologies that is driving utility computing — still a nascent practice.

“Between IT vendors and early adopters, there is an area of consensus that ‘baby steps’ on the road to ‘utility’ models begin with server consolidation, virtualization, examination of metering and charge-back options,” the research firm said in a recent report.

Virtualization is also a factor in deciding how software vendors charge their customers, thanks to the proliferation of multi-core machines from IBM, Sun Microsystems, HP and Dell.

Intel and AMD have added virtualization features to their chips, and Vmware may still be the server virtualization king, but open source companies like Xen are challenging the throne. Xen recently released version 3.0 of its product.

IDC research indicates that spending on virtualization will rocket to nearly $15 billion worldwide by 2009.

To cut costs by consolidating servers, customers are partitioning smaller two- and four-way x86 volume servers with special software that helps carve up space on a server to run multiple operating systems or applications.

More Cores All Around

If the rise of dual- and multi-core didn’t top any “biggest news” lists in chips this year, then there is certainly enough material to make it big in 2006.

AMD caught Intel’s and the rest of the industry’s attention with the release of its dual-core Opteron processors, which found their way into powerful servers from HP, IBM and Sun Microsystems, among others.

There was a lot of speculation about when Dell would join the AMD party, but its competitors didn’t complain. They loved having something to market that the king of direct computer sales didn’t.

Intel has been slow out the dual-core gate, but revved up as the year went on and has now committed to moving most of its product line to dual- and multi-core.

Its newest line of consumer processors for Viiv PCs, set for release in early 2006, will all be dual-core, as will new “Yonah” notebook processors. Sun finished the year strong with the December announcement of servers based on its new eight-core, UltraSparc T1 processor.

Sun also said it open sourced elements of the UltraSparc T1 processor’s design.

64-Bit, Multi-Core Computing Arrives

It’s been a hot discussion topic with the IT set ever since AMD debuted its Opteron processor two years ago. But 64-bit computing is not exactly a new hot topic.

DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) is widely credited with breaking into the market with its Alpha 64-bit processor (for RISC-based architecture), released in 1992.

But timing is always a key factor with adoption. Fast forward to 2005: 64-bit is gaining momentum, thanks to an old-fashioned horse race between AMD and Intel.

Throughout the year, both companies ramped up their efforts to push the envelope beyond their workhorse 32-bit processors. They also have multi-core architecture strategies in their roadmaps, which gives x86 64-bit architectures plenty of room to grow.

And while analysts suggest there is no “there, there” yet for 64-bit applications, Microsoft is making sure 2005 set the stage for more 64-bit applications in the coming year.

Two years after the launch of AMD’s Opteron processors and its 64-bit extensions to classic x86 architecture, a robust computing ecosystem is finally growing around dual-core, 64-bit computing.

With Microsoft’s long-awaited shipment of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Professional x64 Editions, as well as AMD’s growing list of satisfied customers using its Opteron dual-core CPU for volume needs, the word is spreading about its ability to deliver cheaper, more powerful computing.

AMD Takes on Intel

AMD got plenty of publicity with its controversial antitrust lawsuit against Intel. One case in Japan was decided in AMD’s favor, but the U.S. case isn’t expected to go to trial until 2007.

Intel vigorously denied AMD’s charge that it’s an abusive monopoly. A new controversy arose over how much should be revealed during what’s expected to be a lengthy discovery process. AMD has to walk a delicate balance of wanting to publicize Intel’s business dealings, while at the same time not alienating its customers by dragging them into the case.

Whither Itanium?

Intel’s highest end processor, Itanium, lumbered on in 2005 despite constant barbs by competitors and the embarrassing news that Montecito, the first dual-core version, would be delayed until mid-2006.

Intel’s allies formed the Itanium Solutions Alliance group late in 2005 to pump up developer support.

Microsoft’s New Openness

With thousands of developer bloggers spilling the beans, and with more community technology preview (CTP) releases that show the warts in evolving products — and with Bill Gates actually committing to ship dates — Microsoft revealed itself as a major software provider in the midst of changing the way it produces products.

Some of the company’s major moves this year included its big hug of Software as a Service and when it announced ad-supported online versions of its Office productivity suite and Windows operating systems.

The tech world got its first peek at Microsoft’s next-generation operating system, Vista, back in July. With all kinds of new graphical features, the Vista beta promised to focus on the fundamentals of security, deployment, manageability, reliability and diagnostics.

According to Microsoft, image-based setup is less error-prone than scripted installation.

The Windows Pre-installation Environment lets administrators configure Windows offline to diagnose and troubleshoot the hardware before launching the setup process.

They can use the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) to identify, analyze and resolve issues with non-standard applications being migrated to Windows Vista.

Web Services for Management (WS-Management) makes it easier to run scripts remotely and to perform other management tasks. Microsoft Management Console 3.0 (MMC 3.0) provides a common framework for management tools, making them easier to find and use, with richer graphical user interfaces that let admins run multiple tasks in parallel.

It also got a little more comfy with the concept of open source, such as taking dramatic steps to simplify its open source-style shared source licenses by paring the number it offers down to three.

Microsoft Settles Up

Microsoft settled its last big anti-competition suit, inking a deal with Real Networks (Quote, Chart) with a $761 million cash payment and vows to cooperate.

Real sued Microsoft in December 2003, charging that Redmond violated state and federal antitrust laws when it used its Windows monopoly to limit choice in digital media players.

Meanwhile, Microsoft slogged ahead with its defense of the 2004 ruling by the European Competition Commission that it had abused its monopoly power, shipping a version of Windows sans media player as ordered.

But in December, the company got slammed by a similar ruling by the Korea Fair Trade Commission.

Open Source Linux Trends 2005

Linux and other open source technologies continued their upward growth and adoption curves in 2005. IBM was perhaps the biggest winner in the Linux sweepstakes reported the third quarter of the year it had hit $1 billion in revenues from Linux.

Version 2.6.14 was the latest of four major Linux kernels released to see the light this year. Novell opened up its SUSE Linux development and Red Hat released its Enterprise Linux version 4, which introduced SE Linux (Security Enhanced) to enterprise customers.

Debian picked up steam this year with the long-awaited release of Sarge, as well as some big wins by way of Sun Wah Linux in China and Ubuntu earning IBM certification status.

IBM had other open source news, including the announcement that it opened up its IP coffers with a huge patent grant.

Sun is another vendor that had its share of open source news this year. In perhaps the most noteworthy open source release of the year, Sun’s Solaris, which for years has been synonymous with “proprietary” Unix, opened under the OpenSolaris project.

This article was first published on Writers: Clint Boulton, Tim Gray, Colin Haley, Erin Joyce, Sean Michael Kerner, Susan Kuchinskas, Roy Mark, David Needle, Catherine Pickavet, Jim Wagner. To read the full article, click here.

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