IBM's pricing hots up as data centres overheat and HP makes a sizzling buy

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Well, it might be nearly August, and feel even hotter, but it's been a week of big announcements from leading vendors.

Microsoft talks

Microsoft spent the week reassuring investors that its $2bn spending plans had been thought through. Despite taking its time to understand the impact and importance of the internet, of portable music and of paid-for search, the software giant tried to persuade Wall St that it has got the right strategy in place.

Steve Ballmer was delivered up to make the pitch, but what his speech seemed to be missing was anything really different. The company's move into paid-for search is not different enough to that offered by Google. The company talks about disruptive business models, but still seems to be looking for one. All its efforts are measured using traditional metrics and it still looks like it's playing catch-up.

Meanwhile, we heard from chief operating officer Kevin Turner that the company itself will "focus on excellence" and "becoming experts in the art of selling".

Ballmer should have the last word. Talking about Microsoft's music player, Zune Ballmer said: "There's no other company that would be attempting to get into that business at this time, no other company has the opportunity, financial resources or let's just leave it at that." Indeed.

Read more from Ballmer, and why Microsoft delays are a thing of the past. And here's Kevin Turner on how to "compete respectfully but compete and compete hard each day".

IBM prices processors

Big Blue is changing the way it runs its software licensing on big machines. Traditionally, such licenses were charged per user or per processor – or some combination of both. Complicated enough.

IBM is taking a third way. From the release of Intel's Clovertown four-way chips the company will work out licensing costs according to "Processor Value Units". Each chip will be given such a value by IBM and prices will vary accordingly.

All the big vendors are going to make pricing changes with the arrival of multi-core chips and it remains to be seen whether anyone else follows IBM's lead or if Processor Value Units stay as a proprietary terminology.

Getting an accurate answer on how much this is going to cost you is always difficult in this industry, and the new pricing models don't look like they'll change that.

Now we know you don't want to, but...go here for an understandable explanation of pricing changes.

Hyping the hype

This week's Reg reader research study looked at Service Oriented Architecture – which has been marketed so heavily and for so long that you might have forgotten what the hell it actually is.

Luckily, some of the kind folk who completed our survey do know. Some of them even have successful projects under their belts. And many of them admitted that the hardest part of getting a project approved was explaining to business people what SOA actually is. Wisdom from your peers on SOA.


An important meeting took place this week to decide what should happen next to ICANN – the closest the internet has to a governing body. The US government accepted that it is time to hand over the reins to what is now a global resource.

The meeting also heard from a Canadian representative who said it was time for ICANN to recognise its quasi-judicial role and adopt policies to match. He called for more openness and written notice of its future meetings. So what should the future leadership of the internet look like?

Security Roundup

Nothing too appalling on the security front this week. But there's a nasty hole in Firefox. A piece of research from Sophos showed that the US is still the world's biggest spammer.

In bizarre arrests this week (which we might make a regular feature), we had: PI arrested just before giving presentation at security show, and Company sack man arrested for working for company.

In "kind of" security news, it was announced this week that Microsoft will push IE7, its next browser release, through automatic update – that annoying box that flashes up in the bottom right corner of your screen.

This means most people will be blindly clicking "yes" and installing the new browser. Which might cause grief for ecommerce sites and anyone else running online applications.

The good news is Microsoft has released a blocker for corporates – so you can stop the auto update until you've got everything running properly with IE7. IE7 coming soon

Remember the $100 laptop?

Nicholas Negroponte's $100 laptop had a mixed week. The idea is to provide kids in the developing world with a hand-cranked laptop computer.

To keep the price down, the One Laptop Per Child project needs pre-orders for between five and 10 million machines from governments. And this week saw the first government order with Nigeria ordering a million laptops. This led to a small flurry of emails offering a wide variety of jokes predicting a new wave of junior 419 scams.

But in less good news, for OLPC India decided against backing the project. In fact, they rejected the idea. Education secretary Sudeep Banerjee said the project was not mature enough to be taken seriously and that Indian schools would be better off sticking to existing spending plans.

And while we're on India, we heard this week from a senior guy at Indian software and services association Nasscom. He was talking up security on the sub continent following a high profile jailing of a fraudster working for an HSBC call centre. Fraud is everyone's problem.

Big buy of the week

HP took us back to the heady days of 2000 this week by making a massive old school purchase. It paid $4.5bn for Mercury Interactive. The biggest buy since Compaq means a big boost for HP's software business, and it will be getting into the lucrative enterprise resource market.

Mercury Interactive has also been bolstered by the increasing need for companies to ensure their IT systems are good enough for US regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley.

Sadly of course, in a case of the cobbler's kids having no shoes, Mercury Interactive is currently under investigation for breaching regulations concerning the granting of share options. Indeed, the takeover by HP won't happen until the company has refiled its accounts. Here's HP buying Mercury and some analysis of what the deal means.

It's hot in the City

The only glimmer of hope for an IT journalist looking for news in the quiet dog days of summer is the legendary over-heating data centre. The only trouble with writing a story warning of such problems is it inevitably means the heatwave ends.

But this week it actually did happen. Level3's hosting centre on Goswell Road, which had struggled, and failed, all week to keep temperatures down suffered five hours of downtime on Sunday.

And it wasn't alone. Register letter writers, still the best source of information at Vulture Towers, tipped us off that Globix had suffered a similar power failure on Sunday. Then another reader told us Orange had problems, and so did Yahoo!. More hot letters-based misery here.

Before we go, take a quick look at Ashlee's piece The Life and Times of Bill Hewitt and Dave Packard. It's got pictures of the famous garage, their shared office, and even of their shared bathroom. There's also some interesting tales from how these two men helped shape the culture of a whole industry.

That's about it for this week. Stay out of the sun, and don't forget it's SysAdminDay. ®

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