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Linux Journal: Competencies

Feb 21, 2004, 10:00 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Doc Searls)

"In geology, the term competent applies to hard and useful rock. Climbers prefer competent rocks--so do builders. Right now, I'm sitting in a Scottsdale hotel, looking at a big example: Squaw Peak, a mountain standing in the middle of the flatness that is Phoenix. Squaw Peak's rocks have proved their competence for 1.7 billion years. Camelback Mountain, Squaw's neighbor to the east, is 300 million years younger. Yet both are near the ends of their lives, slowly downwasting to sand and gravel. In another few megennia they'll be gone. To weathering forces, rocks merely are a source of dirt. Squaw Peak and Camelback Mountain are the near-solitary remains of a departed landscape now almost entirely reduced to flat desert floor. Most of the surrounding rock has been blown away or washed to sea by red and brown rivers. Today, the nameless mountains and plains of the former Arizona are layers of mud slowly lithifying below the floors of oceans.

"This kind of perspective is helpful when considering the existence--and the persistence--of certain heavy-duty enterprise platforms and applications. Mainframes, for example, date from computing's Precambrian Era and have been headed for extinction since its Paleozoic. Yet, they still persist as irreplaceable building materials for large enterprises of all kinds. IBM mainframes even host smaller virtual computers of the sort that was expected to replace them..."

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