The major volume and/or super expensive software suppliers have had a free lunch for the past fifteen or more years.
Basically making bug fixes and a few feature improvements they got performance boasts from CPU clock and pipeline improvements, plus I/O improvements, and dropping DRAM and disc drive costs with increased capacity – the ISVs have been the biggest benefactors of Moore’s law.
Now they have to do something. Now they have to embrace Heterogeneous Processors (HPUs), GPU-compute, multi-threading, and parallel-processing.
Having spent the last three decades trying to obtain silo dominance with proprietary and incomprehensible file formats, obnoxious, infuriating and incompatible (within their own product lines) UIs, and unjustified maintenance and upgrade fees for fixing what they didn’t do right the first time, the software vendors are finally confronted with reality – they’ve been holding the industry back, have failed to exploit the hardware developments and abdicated their opportunity to lead. Software should be driving the industry, not lamely following it.
But the free ride has been over for the past four years – and as might be expected, the software industry seems not to have gotten the memo. No more clock speed improvements to make their ten to forty year old inefficient software go faster.
Unless the ISVs learn how to take advantage of the power of the multiple processors they will be stuck in time and watch new, smaller, more agile companies who will learn the structures, develop the compliers, and run faster smarter code.
What’s new about that? Start ups have always done that haven’t they? Yes, but on traditional structures. This will be a new paradigm, based on parallel architectures, based in the cloud and on amazingly powerful mobile devices. And so the venerable PC that software vendors took for granted and re-used to push will find their applications going to different clients and a different client-server model and we’ll see the software equivalent of the mainframe to minicomputer to PC replacement look like the BP blowout.
Consolidation won’t save them. The now big (and bigger) ISVs have tried to solve their innovation gap problems by acquiring their upcoming competitors. That scheme, already in tatters, won’t work anymore. Already the hodgepodge of programs being bundled together or put in suites are ridiculously incompatible and bewildering to the end users. The one thing they had to glue them together was their reliance on serial processing. New applications making use of multi-threading and parallel processing will be incomprehensible to the armies of programmers struggling bravely under the misguided short term bottom line bonus fed managers in the software companies. And after wandering through the decades of undocumented and bloated spaghetti code the new parallel architectures will be totally inconceivable to those heroic programmers.
So now we sit and wait. The semiconductor suppliers can’t stop, they’ve got tens of billions invested in design and manufacturing following the dream that if you build it they will come. But the consumers aren’t coming, not like they used to. The illusion is faded, the promise not realized, and it’s just the same old thing – even lipstick won’t help this time.
Only the ISVs can lead us out of this stagnation. Think they will? Think they can? Or do we have to have destruction before we can have development? Sometimes you have to tear something down before you can build something new.