Computing Fabrics (1998-2003)

On May 19, 2003: Eric Lundquist, Editor-in-Chief of eWeek, recognized that IBM's On-Demand Computing, HP's Adaptive Enterprise, and Sun's N1 are all movements towards Computing Fabrics as we first predicted them in 1998.

On January 7, 2002: eWeek called our 1998 Computing Fabrics Cover Story "Prescient"
and declared The Grid, a subset of Computing Fabrics, "The Next Big Thing".

Riding the
Third Wave

In the News 2002-2004

Computing's Next Wave 1998
(The First Report)

The Next Big Thing 2002
Computing Fabrics & Grids

The Three Waves of Computing


Defined & Compared


Conferences & Workshops

The Bigger Picture


The Three Waves of Computing
Illustrated Evolutionary Timeline from 1940 to 2005
(as prepared in 1998)

Infomaniacs Home


First Wave Animated 

FIRST WAVE Appears (1940's)
The first electronic computers were supercomputers, used for defense and scientific research. (Cray icon used for symbolic purposes only - the Cray debuted in the 1970's)

FIRST WAVE Rises (1950's)
Supercomputers gave rise to machines for business and financial use, called mainframes.

FIRST WAVE Swells (1960's-1970s)
Minicomputers make the scene. They fit the needs and budgets of departments and smaller organizations that can't afford or justify the expense and overhead of a mainframe.

FIRST WAVE Sweeps Ashore (1970's-1990s)
The microprocessor spawns the personal computer.

Advanced microprocessors, coupled with large memory, megapixel graphic displays, advanced OSes, Ethernet, and distributed file systems become technical workstations that were to supercomputers what PCs were to mainframes.

Second Wave Animated SECOND WAVE Rises (1980’s)
Supercomputing introduces robust parallel and distributed processing.

SECOND WAVE Sweeps Ashore (1980's-2000)
Minicomputers adopt clustering, multiprocessing, and fault tolerant storage to challenge mainframes, which hold their position due to the enormous investment in customer mainframe software.

Mainframes adopt multiprocessing and clustering.

Workstations adopt multiprocessing and clustering to successfully challenge low-end supercomputers.

PC servers adopt multiprocessing, clustering, and fault tolerant storage, and with workstation-based servers, challenge and displace the minicomputer.

Laptops, handhelds, smart cards, information appliances, game consoles, TVs, set tops, and communicators create a new computing layer close to the user and become a market segment, the new entry-level. Entry-level PCs merge with this category from above as pagers and cell phones merge from below.

Workstations and advanced PCs converge. PCs adopt multiprocessing, Gigabit networking, clustering, 3D acceleration, and, with the IA-64 Merced processor, large memory, big caches, and RISC techniques, making them full fledged technical workstations; Workstations adopt commodity microprocessors (IA-64), making them cost competitive with PC workstations, while featuring faster 3D graphics through custom ASICs.
Third Wave Animated

THIRD WAVE Rises (1999 - 2003)
Supercomputers and superservers become the first Computing Fabrics ss the interconnects and architectures within supercomputers converge with the networks between them, supported by fully functional distributed operating systems.

Supercomputer vendors adopt commodity microprocessors, leaving their R&D resources available for faster development of modularly scalable interconnects, distributed architectures, and distributed operating systems which "trickle down" to low-end and mid-range markets for the first time.

Entry-level devices converge with new wearable and embedded systems, poised to become powerful interface devices to Computing Fabrics.


THIRD WAVE Crests (2003+)
The trickle-down becomes a downpour, providing the industry with modular bus replacements, single system image clusters, and ultra capacity networks, now coupled with automated transparent object distribution.

Massive leveraging of technology eradicates the market boundaries erected by the first wave and eroded by the second as a scalable architecture is embraced all the way from desktops to supercomputers.

R&D, design, and production investments in enabling technologies become applicable across this entire spectrum, moving both up and down, creating an industry-wide economy of scale never seen before.

THIRD WAVE Sweeps ashore (2005+)
Mainframes and their software adopt Computing Fabric technologies.

New technologies easily integrate into the fabric and support fluid system boundaries at the processor scale, including nanoscale flexible logic arrays, optical computing, and bioelectronics. These begin to displace microprocessors just as microprocessors fall off Moore’s Law.

The fabric paradigm ultimately scales across all levels, from global broadband connectivity, through systems architecture, even reaching within the processor itself. Computing Fabrics will stand as the microprocessor’s grandest achievement, as well as the beginning of its own demise.
Updated October 5, 1998

By Linda Von Schweber
& Erick Von Schweber

Copyright 1996-2004 by Infomaniacs. All Rights Reserved.
Updated May 28, 2003