Friday, July 11, 2003

Why did TCP/IP win?

SNA was a great networking protocol. In really every performance respect, it was superior to TCP/IP. So why haven't you heard of it? Because with TCP/IP, nodes could be added to the network without centralized configuration. The coordination cost of SNA was too high. This is a strategic error that IBM made -- and to a lesser extent, continues to make -- over and over again; emphasizing performance over usability. OS/2, SNA, AIX. This is the Worse is Better principle at work, of course, but it highlights a specific principle: that coordination overhead can kill a technology.