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What's changed since 2001?

Looking back on the previous year's events is a time-honoured way to end the year -- but since this is also effectively the end of the naughties decade, I've decided to have a trawl through the last ten years.What's interesting is that the same discussions were going on 10 years ago that are happening today -- we're just calling them different things.

Looking back on the previous year's events is a time-honoured way to end the year -- but since this is also effectively the end of the naughties decade, I've decided to have a trawl through the last ten years.

What's interesting is that the same discussions were going on 10 years ago that are happening today -- we're just calling them different things. So on the networking side, there was much talk of a growth market for VPNs, for remote access, for cached networking. The combined, next-generation firewall was on the horizon -- not just a port filter but a true packet-inspection engine.

In 2002, we saw the first mention of a problem that now plagues all mobile operators: a flood of demand for data that threatens to overwhelm the backhaul capabilities of their base stations. About the same time, Bluetooth -- now so commonplace that it's ignored -- became mainstream, but it had problems co-existing with WiFi, with which it shares the 2.4GHz radio spectrum, a problem that's since been resolved.

Around the same time, I was besieged by vendors who predicted the end of the desktop as we know it -- I suspect this is starting to happen as a number of trends converged this year, especially the emergence of cloud, the wholesale application of virtualisation, and the desire and the cash to replace ageing desktop estates, either with Windows 7 or a thin client/remote desktop.

Virtualisation was of course one of the most significant technologies to emerge during the last ten years, enabling consolidation, savings in hardware purchasing and maintenance, and the cloud computing phenomenon, but bringing with it a host of problems related to systems management and server sprawl that we could only have imagined in 2000.

Helping to push that along, we saw the arrival of a standard for 10 Gigabit Ethernet, which has allowed faster interconnection of systems inside datacentres in order to cope with the tsunami of data with which they're faced every day.

The shape of the industry changed too. Mid-decade, people were already predicting the end of Sun Microsystems, with a number of prescriptions offered for its rescue, including moving Solaris onto an open hardware platform and selling the result as a high-value item.

And in 2009 Sun did indeed disappear, swallowed up by Oracle, along with a number of other familiar names that disappeared as independent entities over the last decade, including (deep breath): 3Com, Alcatel, Borland, Compaq, Macromedia, Maxtor, McAfee, Nortel, Novell, RSA Security, StorageTek, VMware, and Xen. And the trend looks set to continue as economies slowly emerge from the long dark teatime of the recession.

More generally, the problems faced by datacentre managers ten years ago seem tiny compared with the task they face today. Yes the tools are better and the arrival of complete stacks from the likes of HP, Cisco and IBM will make that task easier eventually. But right now, running a datacentre is a big challenge -- but at least more of them are starting to be cooled by fresh air, making them less environmentally invasive.

This is a trend that will pick up as countries start to implement the latest carbon emission agreements -- we have to hope.

Have a cool Yule.