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Hamilton--Which Server Will Serve Best?

August 1999
I admit it. I am a UNIX bigot. Having come to the printing industry from the computer side—they called it "data processing" back then—I took a dim view of other operating systems.

That was back in 1989. Of course, I have had to eat my words on more than one occasion since then, attacked on one side by Macintosh evangelists (zealots?) and, later, Windows NT folks on the other.

For those of you who aren't up on the latest in UNIX, this operating system was initially developed by Bell Labs back in the '70s. Ma Bell did not commercialize it because of antitrust concerns and published the core code, or kernel, which was picked up by the academic community and developed into several varieties that are now in widespread use. Among these are Berkeley UNIX (used by both Sun and HP), Carnegie Mellon Mach, Digital UNIX, IBM AIX and SCO UNIX, to name just a few. There was even a "war" over whose flavor should become the "standard."

The key features of all UNIX operating systems are: the ability to handle multiple transactions, run more than one application at one time and take advantage of multiple processors for higher throughput.

However, the desktop computing revolution, led technically by Apple and financially by Microsoft, moved things away from the propeller heads and into the hands of the "rest of us." This was driven both by the complexity of UNIX, as well as the demographics of the graphic communications industries—as it is primarily populated by small, creative work groups with neither the technical capabilities nor the financial wherewithal to deal with UNIX systems.

Of course, Apple Computer rightly rules the roost in the publishing and printing markets. Not only did it develop an integrated system that appealed to right-brain types, Apple has consistently integrated the tools for desktop publishing and prepress into its OS. Most significant among these have been embedding Color-Sync at the OS level and, now, supporting PDF at the system level. Despite its elegance and performance, however, the Macintosh is still first and foremost a personal computer.

Though individual workstations have worked well in what are, essentially, analog workflows, the problems grow with the implementation of all-digital workflows. Sneakernet may work for some environments, but it is not an efficient model for migrating to a data-centric methodology for prepress and printing.

Next Stage of Evolution
We are now coming to the next stage of computing evolution, that of the networked world and client-server computing. For us, this a blessing because publishing and printing are, at the core, collaborative enterprises that require input from multiple parties multiple times prior to going to press. And it is a necessary condition for printing companies that plan to evolve into communications services providers.

 

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