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Unravelling the outsourcing hairball


How to get out of Outsourcing

One of the problems IBM Warwick (UK) is always complaining about, is that customers either do not let go of the management of their contracts, or do not prevent their own IT staff from continuing to interfeer after the management of the contract _should_ have been passed wholly to IBM. The line between what the customer's IT dept should do, and what is left to IBM staff alone, is never nailed down properly at the time when the deals are being finalised (which I think is what your article implies). IBM contract acquirement staff are often too keen to nail a deal, and make unrealistic quotes on what can be done, while clients are too keen to get shot of the costs of running their systems, without accepting that they lose control of them, to some extant.

Client insistence upon the decommissioning of servers without, doing proper audits on what the machines are doing (and whether all their work has been reallocated to
new machines) is a typical case in point: there's always some obscure cron job running every vernal equinox that someone's overlooked. IBM leads the field in DR systems, but these are too often called into action because of front line system failures that could have been avoided.

Insufficient knowledge of the hardware system itself, is an endemic problem, too, since IBM often just takes on all or part of the existing hardware infrastructure of
the system being outsourced.

On the whole, IBM does best out of (and _for_) it's longterm deals, such as those it maintains with several European holiday firms: much of the infrastructure is in place, well-documented, and of long standing. Problems arise with clients who expect the same level of support "straight out of the box" - but in the IT industry this is by no means a story confined to service provision. In the longer term, the use of webservices may do something to reduce the attractiveness of outsourcing. The impossibility of maintaining communication between disparate systems is what has traditionally driven companies to outsource, in the first place, and part of the web service Nirvana is the final resolution of this longstanding problem.

In this respect, IBM is better placed to maintain its hold on the outsourcing market than others, however. Despite their hype, web services can allow the adoption of a modular approach to outsourcing (a customer's MS SQL Server clusters can be entirely replaced by a set of more powerful and stable DB2/Unix arrays, for instance, without the rest of the client's network needing to be aware that _any_ change has occurred).

Because IBM have massive resources, it can then make savings which simply aren't available to regular companies. For instance, IBM can save money on transactional database work by to passing the jobs around the planet, between machine centres, on an ongoing 24-hour basis (so that hardware is only running at peak rate during off-peak hours in any on time zone): combine this with the inherent five to ten-fold cost savings of running larger hardware, and IBM have a potential cash cow.

IBM's success has also partly been down to its hardware/software agnosticism: on the whole, IBM sell technical expertise. While some of their marketing people may wish the customer to buy IBM, they will invariably install whatever the customer asks them to buy (for all his whingeing about IBM servers competing in his company's homeground, for instance, one of the things Scott McNealy never owns up to is that IBM is - via third-party deals, like this - one of the world's largest purchasers of Sun hardware). Not only does this help maintain customer loyalty and belief in the IBM promise (sometimes referred to as "Trust through Antitrust"), it also allows IBM to hide its level of dominance and control in many areas of the IT industry: Gartner analysts tend to examine raw statistics for how many of X company's servers, or operating systems, have been sold, for instance, without regard to how much extra cash is being drawn in by third party vendors (or who those vendors are).

It is true that all is not well at IBM - its strength is also its weakness; it's a generalist. In times of climate change, however, generalists always tend to fair better, and IBM is one of the biggest generalists in the world. If a coral reef could be a generalist, IBM would be that reef.

Daniel Walker

Rude Words

Prudes sue for right to edit rented flicks

I don't understand your slanted version of the story about a service that alters customer's movies from R or PG-13 versions to PG or even G versions. Usually The Register is very pro-individual and anti-big business - what is it about this subject that causes the problem for you?

I believe Hollywood intentionally adds items to movies in order to get the rating they think will best benefit their movie. In other words, swearing, sexual innuendo, etc. are artificially added when they don't seem add anything to the movie experience, except a desired rating.

Is it prudish of me to encourage my children not to swear? Is it prudish of me to encourage my children not to have sex before marriage?

The reason the Denver company is suing is that the movie industry leaked a story that they had already filed a lawsuit. The Denver company is also suing to find out if what they are doing is legal. Please present all of the facts in your story, even if you end up slanting them to the far left. See this the Desert News article

Lance Mortensen


Audio slips into Apple's maw. Or not

Are Apple's Emagic switch rebates enough?


Your article misses one key point. For musicians everywhere, every other software title just suck as compared to Logic Audio, with the possible exceptions of ProTools (which is very expensive and sucks on a PC) and Digital Performer (which is not available for PC or MAC OSX.) Any other choice is just so unsatisfactory that at best it only delays an inevitable return to Logic Audio at some future point. Sonar feels like a shareware app. Cool Edit Pro and CakeWalk are just plain confidence-sapping Cubase hemorrhages it's use base constantly to Logic Audio and shows no sign of being able to stem that flow.

Some people do have a natural affinity with one or another audio app. I myself are one of the few UK users of Digital Performer (though I was far happier with the discontinued Opcode StudioVision) Yesterday I tried Logic Audio on OSX.2 for the first time. It has 1ms round trip latency for MIDI and audio. I'm not going back to Digital Performer and any Logic Audio PC user will feel exactly the same way once they try Logic under OSX.

Resistance really is futile.

Simon Tyrrell

Other beg to differ.

Emagic has announced that it will only support the brand new Audio Unit plugin format on Mac OS-X. It will not support Steinberg's VST format for softsynths and samplers (VSTi's) and Plugins (eg compressors, reverbs, echo processors etc). The Audio Unit 2.0 SDK was only relased last week so there are no AU plugins at this stage.

Most Logic users like myself (a PC guy) have a considerable investment in VST instruments and plugins. If you are a PC user you will probably have Direct X plugins as well. It seems likely that the "built into the OS" Audio Unit format will be adopted by many plugin/instrument builders. VST format plugins for OS-X are almost non-existent at present -- OS9 VST plugins won't run on OS-X.

The upside of all this is that the raft of incompatible plugin formats may be superseded by the AU format on OS-X -- one version of a soft-synth for all the different audio programs. Steinberg's documentation of VST leaves much to be desired apparently -- this has meant that Emagic has always lagged behind in its VST support.

But you need all new plugins if you are switching to Mac -- your vendors will have to rewrite/ re-compile their code to fit the AU format which has been described as a "superset of VST" by one of the VST developers. The big vendors like Native Instruments will probably supply versions in the AU format -- these might be paid upgrades or free downloads. Only some of all the freeware and shareware plugins and instruments we have come to know and love will be ported to this new standard.

The situation now that Logic 5.3 on OSX has been released is that you can't run ANYTHING but Logic's own synths and plugins at this stage.

Given the lack of information and the bad faith and the extra cost for way worse performance on Mac hardware what PC user is going to abandon all their VST is and plugins an plonk down a fortune for a relatively slow new Mac that will run nothing except Logic's own plugs on OSX. (OS9 development will continue for a while yet) The deadline for the insulting crossgrade offer is the end of this month -- amazing. The quoted 1300 bucks is a con of course -- it rolls in discounts on Apple's Cinema displays that are current offers for any purchaser -- Who wants to spend 3000 dollars US for a display so you can qualify for a rebate on it?

Basically they are offering a free crossgrade to the Mac platform that costs them nothing and a free softsynth and some small discounts on Apple hardware that you could probably negotiate yourself with a dealer.

[name and address supplied]


If Apple was serious they'd mail every Emagic customer who is registered with the Windows version an "Apple Check" for $1000 which is only redeemable through the Apple Store as payment for a G4 with a monitor. Forget the rebate, make the discount apply up front.

Tim Scoff

Is this so crazy?

OK, there are 60,000 key switchers. Let's say Apple wants to get ensure at least half of these convert to Macintosh. The retail value of a deal is $2,000. We know Apple's margins are 27 per cent, and are almost certainly higher for purchases through the Apple store, where there's no intermediary. So let's suppose the lost margin is $400 per switcher.

That amounts to $13.5 million in inducements: a lot of money, and almost as much as Apple paid for Emagic itself. But then those switchers become core users for many years, and each upgrade or replacement unit means money for Apple.

(Switchers who buy extra memory or a SCSI card from Apple at the time of cashing in their voucher will reduce Apple's loss here significantly.) It could be a price worth paying.

And there's always a third option. ®

La Grande and Dead Certs

Re:

Where art thou Stuckists? Intel reveals share denial PC scheme


DRM sucks overall, but this really scares me. Consider:

1) No some external entity can reach in and effectively destroy my computer. By accident or deliberately- does it matter? "That Andrew wrote something I don't like. I think I'll call up and have his certs revoked. Haha- that'll teach him!" Of course, writing something negative about Verisign will greatly increase the odds of an "accidental" revocation of certs, naturally.

2) How can I sell my computer without also selling my electronic identity? I'd have to register every transfer of ownership with the cert company.

Does the word "Orwellian" mean anything?

Brian Hurt


Just one thought on Intel's and VeriSign's comments that you report on today. They say that "you could magically revoke the certificate and render the machine as dead metal".

This is unmitigated bullshit. IIRC, VerSign issued certificates, as well as Microserf issued certs, come with a blank Revocation Authority field. You may also know that RA's are responsible for maintaing the revocation lists.

The rest is obvious: if your verifier doesn't know where to check for revocations, you can revoke your certs all day long but it won't mean diddly to the person who stole your laptop.

Jim D Kirby

Who or what controls revocation of these "embedded" certificates? We'll endeavor to find out. ®

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