27th > June > 2002 Archive

KPNQwest sale sought urgently

Liquidators of bankrupt carrier KPNQwest NV are now mulling over 40 bids for all or part of the 25,000 km network under pressure to come up with a quick decision. AT&T Corp remains favorite to buy up the network and while a team from the company has investigated details of its asserts it has stayed silent over its plans. However, an assorted collection of carriers and investment groups have disclosed ambitions to buy the company. UK-based pan-European telco Interoute Telecommunications Ltd, which has completed a $1.2bn pan-European fiber-optic network, confirmed that it had put in a bid for the rings around major Western European cities. Chairman Jim Kinsella said he was in daily negotiations for the metropolitan rings with KPNQwest's bankers. A consortium headed by Dutch venture fund Trimoteur said it had put in a "comprehensive" offer for the network with speculation in the Netherlands suggesting its bid is worth "a few hundred million euros". Urgency has crept into the situation because the French administrator may sell the local assets separately, and Swedish carrier Telia AB is understood to have put in a bid of around 10m euros ($9.9m). However, sale of the French assets would leave a hole in the network that would make the remaining assets less attractive so the Dutch administrators are trying to conclude a quick deal. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Jun 2002

Bush, SEC gang up on WorldCom

The White House and the SEC moved against WorldCom Inc yesterday, after the carrier revealed late Tuesday that it had improperly booked $3.8bn over the last five fiscal quarters. But the immediate judgment from analysts was that debt-laden WorldCom could well be headed for bankruptcy. In the meantime, the rest of corporate America tried to distance itself from the Clinton, Mississippi-based carrier. The Securities Exchange Commission said late yesterday "the WorldCom disclosures confirm that improprieties of unprecedented magnitude have been committed in the public markets." It said it was actively investigating the company, and that it was ordering WorldCom to "file, under oath, a detailed report". Reports late yesterday also said the SEC was seeking an order preventing WorldCom from disposing of assets, destroying records, or making payouts to senior company officers. The US Department of Justice also reportedly said it was examining the WorldCom scandal. US president George Bush, speaking about the WorldCom scandal at the G8 summit in Canada, said: "We will fully investigate and hold people accountable for misleading not only shareholders but employees as well." Where "egregious practices, such as the one today" are uncovered, said Bush, "we'll go after them. And need to." Bush said he could understand concerns about "the validity of the balance sheets of corporate America" but while "we've had too many cases of people abusing their responsibilities", the SEC and government was doing everything it could to pursue those responsible. He added that the US economy was strong, "and I know that most people that run businesses in America are above board, honest, and care deeply about their employees and their shareholders." However, even as Bush sought to soothe fears in the wake of yesterday's revelations, analysts questioned WorldCom's ability to survive. Credit rating agency Moody's downgraded WorldCom's debt from B1 to Ca yesterday, citing amongst other reasons, the fact that "material numbers" of business customers will migrate to other suppliers. It added that the company may not be able to recover from the accounting fraud allegations, a view expounded by other industry observers. Merrill Lynch said in a research note "events at WorldCom leave us lost for words." Recovering its powers of speech quickly, it noted that with no audited results, "there is heightened uncertainty as to how [WorldCom's recent] credit facility renegotiations play out." It added that "the increased likelihood of a bankruptcy filing by WorldCom would raise concerns over collateral damage to the companies' counterparties". Merrill Lynch noted that WorldCom was either a major customer or supplier of every other wireline provider in the US, and a major service provider to many corporations, large and small across the US. Inevitably, Merrill Lynch concluded, capex expenditure would continue moving downwards. Just as inevitably, equipment suppliers saw their stock prices battered, even as they sought to play down their exposure to WorldCom. Lucent Technologies's shares closed down 19.8% and Juniper Networks was off 18.44%. Ciena Networks closed down 3.12%. However, reports suggested that these, and other network equipment suppliers, as well as financial institutions connected to the carrier, were attempting to minimize the impact that WorldCom's troubles would have on their business. And by the end of the day, there was even speculation of a potential windfall for carriers such as AT&T, as customers flew to quality, if WorldCom does indeed give up the ghost. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Jun 2002

Alcatel plans 10,000 job cuts

Alcatel has given up hope of making a profit this year and the telecoms equipment vendor plans to cut its workforce by another 10,000 as it sees no sign of an upturn in spending by the world's carriers. In April, the Paris, France-based company was far more confident than its US competitors and said it had hit the bottom of the current market downturn in the first quarter. It then forecast quarterly sequential growth in revenue and income from operations turning positive by the second half. But after a nasty reality bite, it now offers nothing but pessimism. It forecasts lower-than-expected business in the second half due to the increased spending constraints of service providers, though it is confident it can reduce net debt by the year end. With revenue remaining sluggish, Alcatel is forced again to cut costs. While it originally aimed to cut quarterly break-even costs to 4.7bn euros ($4.7bn) by the end of this year, it is now looking to reduce this to 4.5bn euros ($4.4bn). As the business climate continues to worsen, Alcatel now aims to get quarterly costs down to 4bn euros ($3.9bn) on average during 2003. Alcatel's workforce, which was around 99,000 at the end of last year, will be cut to 80,000 by the end of 2002 and fall to around 70,000 by the end of 2003. The company has set aside 1.2bn euros ($1.18bn) for the restructuring operation. The company's shares fell by 13.4% to 8.10 euros ($8.01) on the Paris Stock Exchange. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Jun 2002

FBI raid sparks Akamai v. Speedera court battle

Akamai Technologies Inc and Speedera Networks Inc took their increasingly bitter rivalry to court in San Francisco yesterday, with two lawsuits being filed after it emerged the FBI is investigating the alleged "hacking" of Akamai's confidential data by Speedera's CTO, Richard Day, Kevin Murphy Speedera confirmed yesterday five FBI agents raided the company's offices in Santa Clara, California early Monday morning. Reports said Day's computers and data were seized, though Speedera would not confirm this. The FBI declined to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. "The FBI search was as a result of an affidavit filed by Akamai," said Gordon Smith, Speedera's marketing director. He said that the search warrant was under seal, but that supporting documentation indicated information from Akamai was responsible for the raid and the investigation. An Akamai spokesperson declined to comment on its involvement in the criminal investigation. But the company filed a civil lawsuit in the San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday that seems to back up Smith's claim. Akamai says it has evidence of the misappropriation of data over the internet from Day's Mountain View apartment. Akamai alleges that Speedera co-founder and CTO Day has been illegally accessing Akamai's confidential data from the Keynote Systems Inc's computers since at least February this year. Speedera has used that data to identify which potential customers Akamai is pitching to, and to pursue those companies itself, Akamai's lawsuit claims. Speedera denies the claims. Keynote is a web site performance measurement company that both Akamai and Speedera use to gauge the speed of potential clients' sites both with and without their content delivery network services. The data is then used to improve the value proposition the companies make in their sales pitches. "Richard Day gained access to Akamai's proprietary information stored on the Keynote database on at least 33 separate occasions," Akamai claims. "Defendants obtained Akamai's secret password by hacking the Keynote website, or through the participation of one or more unidentified accomplices who aided and abetted this unlawful scheme." When asked if this is true, Speedera's Smith responded "No. There's no hacking." Speedera CEO Ajit Gupta said that Speedera is also a licensed user of Keynote Systems and that whatever information Speedera allegedly obtained from Keynote is not confidential or protected. Smith added: "Akamai has thrown everything in the legal book at us. They are trying to stifle competition. They're losing customers to us, profitability is nowhere in sight, they're a desperate company." Privately held Speedera said Monday it will be profitable in the next 90 days, comparing its target to Akamai's 2003 EBITDA breakeven target. Smith said that under the terms of Keynote's client contract, all data belongs to Keynote, so no data on its systems was proprietary to Akamai. Keynote spokesperson Dan Berkowitz said: "The data does belong to Keynote, but it should only be accessible to the company that paid for it." He declined to reveal Keynote's involvement in the FBI probe. An Akamai spokesperson refused to comment on when and how Akamai discovered Day's alleged activities. He also declined to comment on what specific damages Akamai may have suffered. At about the same time as Akamai filed its suit Tuesday, Speedera sued Akamai, alleging unfair competition, false advertising, trade libel and intentional interference with prospective business advantage. According to Smith, these claims are based partly on marketing material Akamai has been circulating to prospective customers. The documents "misrepresent everything about us from our financial situation, our customer base and the performance of our technology" Smith said. He claimed Akamai has told users Speedera does not have a network operations center, that one customer, iFilm, makes up more than 50% of its revenue, and that Speedera has never delivered a live streaming event. Smith said all these claims are "outrageous" untruths. Akamai president Paul Sagan responded to this lawsuit in a statement: "This is an attempt to draw attention away from Akamai's much more serious allegations against Speedera and the FBI raid of Speedera's offices. We believe Speedera's claims have no merit and we intend to vigorously defend Akamai." However, the suit mirrors closely parts of previous complaints Akamai has filed against Speedera. In a suit filed earlier this year, Akamai's said its US patents on CDN technology are being infringed in Speedera's services. In the same suit, Akamai alleges that Speedera has been using false advertising to lure Akamai's existing and potential customers away from it. It's an increasingly nasty battle between two companies that clearly despise each other, and it's remarkable that either party tries to claim the moral high ground. The Akamai-Speedera battle seems set to be one that will ultimately be played out in courtrooms on both coasts of the US, rather than in the marketplace. At a hearing yesterday afternoon in the San Francisco Superior Court, a judge issued an order for Speedera to show why the requested injunction should not be entered against Speedera. The court granted Akamai's request for expedited discovery and set a hearing date for July 24. Akamai seeks an injunction and damages. The case continues. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Jun 2002

Sun choreographs Web Service interface dance

Sun Microsystems Inc has rallied a handful of ISVs to the newest web services specification, potentially aggravating partisan splits within the industry. Palo Alto, California-based Sun is backing the Web Service Choreography Interface (WSCI), to describe and manage flow of elements inside a web service. Backing WSCI are BEA Systems Inc, SAP AG and little-known business process management vendor Intalio Inc. Sun said WSCI 1.0 will "soon" be submitted to a yet-to-be confirmed standards group for further development. Missing from the initial line-up, though, are Microsoft and IBM. Their omission adds to a growing perception of partisanship over development of web services specifications, blighting the original vision of web services for seamless interoperability. IBM and Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft have participated in development of a number of key web services specifications, such as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). Meanwhile, Sun - it seems - was deliberately omitted from foundation of the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization, co-founded by IBM and Microsoft, with the approval of Bill Gates. Susy Struble, Sun XML industry initiative manager, said IBM and Microsoft were "aware" of WSCI and that they had seen the specification. She did not say, though, whether the companies had been invited to join this effort. Neither IBM or Microsoft were available for comment. WSCI will be offered to the industry free of royalties - a further point of contention. Controversy was recently stirred when IBM notified the Organization for Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) it owned patents over elements of the Sun-backed electronic business XML (ebXML). Struble said it didn't matter if vendors actually charged royalties, but that their mere existence created uncertainty for organizations building web services. "We are genuinely concerned. It creates pressure on the developer and the user," she said. WSCI is based on WSDL but designed to overcome the description language's limitations. Sun said WSDL and other specifications are suitable for the retrieval of simple information, like stock quotes, but do not support more complex transactions such as airline ticketing systems. An airline ticketing system, for example, must deal with booking and payment transactions, and handle internal faults and recovery. WSCI is designed to enable this process by describing the flow of messages exchanged by a web service in a particular process and enable message exchange among interacting web services. It's an approach taken by San Jose, California-based BEA. The company allows developers to build these so-called "conversational" web service elements in WebLogic Workshop - announced this week. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Jun 2002

Nokia touts firewall certification

Nokia Internet Communications Inc, the Nokia Corp internet appliance subsidiary, will today take the wraps off an interoperability certification program for security appliances it has been quietly operating for the last seven months, and will reveal the first batch of "hand-picked" partners. The aim of the program is to provide customers with a stamp of approval that third-party software works with Nokia's popular firewalls. Software developers taking part in the program will port their software to Nokia's IPSO operating system, and make it available either on standalone Nokia boxes or bundled with Nokia firewalls appliances. "We will sell more boxes because of this program, our customers will save more time because of this program, and our partners will sell more software because of this program," said Nokia VP of product management Dan MacDonald. He added: "We will selectively invite partners based on market demand. It's a hand-picked scenario, it's not open." Initial partners come from the field of network management, content filtering and firewall management software. Named companies in the final stages of approval include: HP (for OpenView) BMC Software, Concord Communications, FishNet, OpenService, Permeo, SurfControl, and Tripwire. Nokia's firewall appliances use the company's proprietary IPSO operating system, a "hardened" version of the open-source FreeBSD OS. Alliance partners will be given a software development kit that exposes ISPO APIs, to allow partners to port their software to the operating system and run on Nokia boxes without compromising security. Nokia firewalls actually run Check Point Software Technologies Ltd's popular Firewall-1/VPN-1 firewall software. As such, companies already certified under Check Point's OPSEC interoperability program will have the best chance of getting "Nokia OK" validation, MacDonald said, although OPSEC is not required. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 27 Jun 2002

UK Gov inches towards pooled broadband spending

The UK Government is beginning the task of using its massive public sector spending power to help boost demand for broadband in areas currently not served by affordable high speed Net access. Regional broadband advisors will try to ensure that public sector procurement of broadband - from schools, local authorities, and health services - is sufficiently coordinated enough to entice broadband providers to roll out services in areas currently deemed commercially unviable. Or to put it another way, the Government has set up a new unit charged with promoting demand for broadband by aggregating public sector procurement, a view spelled out in a Government action plan published in February 2001. According to the new e-commerce minister, Stephen Timms: "There are still too many people, especially in rural areas, who cannot access affordable broadband. "The new broadband unit and its network of advisors will use the public sector’s spending power to boost availability and take-up in these unconnected areas." Let's hope they get a bloody move on. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jun 2002

Lesbian sperm bank site proves popular

Thousands of men have signed up to a Web site to help lesbians start a family. Mannotincluded.com went live on Monday. Since then 5,000 sperm donors have registered with the site along with 3,000 lesbian couples who want children. Mannotincluded.com matches lesbian couples with potential sperm donors and is due to open up for business next month. Said mannotincluded.com founder John Gonzalez in a statement: "I have believed for a long time that same sex couples have a fundamental right to have children. "This right has been denied through bureaucracy and prejudice for too long. It is now time to redress the balance so that lesbian couples are able to bring children into a loving, caring and happy environment." This introduction service costs around £500. Lesbian couples will also have to fork out medical fees for using a fertility clinic. What's wrong with a turkey baster? ® New Scientist: Semen acts as an anti-depressant
Tim Richardson, 27 Jun 2002

Xbox hackers take legal advice followed by an early bath

One of the groups working on a mod chip for the Xbox has pulled the plug on its project following legal consultations. The group, Enigmah-X, had hoped to create the second Xbox chip to go into circulation, following the release of the first working chip, the Xtender, for the system in May. However, earlier this week their site was replaced with the following message: “After speaking to lawyers we feel that we must not do this project anymore. There are many other chips and methods for guys to play with anyway so have fun and good luck to everyone out there.” Microsoft is known to have looked into legal methods to shut down mod chip production in the past. However, only Sony has successfully taken on the creators of mod chips in court – the company forced Channel Technologies, the makers of the Messiah PS2 mod chip, to shut down its activities before the chip was commercially released. However, it was a somewhat incomplete victory for Sony, and Microsoft would be unwise to celebrate the closure of the Enigmah-X project too soon either. Messiah chips are currently being mass-produced in the far east, and several companies and individuals in the UK have stock of the chips and are prepared to install them for a price. Similarly, Xbox mod chips aren’t going to go away any time soon; plans for devices like these achieve a kind of immortality when they are uploaded to the Internet. Xbox mod creators, however, claim to have the moral high ground in this discussion. Similarly to the Dreamcast hacking teams, they focus their efforts on creating chips which can run homebrew software rather than pirated games, such as the Xbox version of MAME (designed to emulate old arcade machines) and the recently released DivX video player. © gamesindustry.biz Related stories Sony is killing PlayStation mod-chips Messiah does not play pirate software, humans do Sony turns courts on PS mod-chip makers Buy DVDs and games abroad - and break the law
gamesindustry.biz, 27 Jun 2002

UK suffers Net outage

The UK suffered an Internet outage this afternoon after a switch at the London Internet Exchange (LINX) went tits up. The incident occurred at around 2.35 this afternoon at LINX's Telecity centre at Millharbour, in London's Docklands. Those hit by the problem would have had difficulty with their email and accessing the Web. The scale of the incident is not known although one insider told us that corporate customers were "hopping mad". LINX - an Internet exchange point based in London - said all it members (outfits such as BT, Easynet and Thus) were hit by the fault but that it only lasted for around half an hour. That said, some users would have experienced a delay getting their Web access and email running back to normal once the problem was resolved. Others, though, would have been unaffected by the problem. "This was not a major outage," said a spokeswoman for LINX. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jun 2002

Glitch hits Orange GPRS service

Orange today fixed a "minor technical fault" which left a "small number" of its GPRS users in north London and surrounding areas without service over the last two days. The glitch came to light after a Reg reader contacted us about problems he has had connecting via the service since Tuesday. Customer service reps at Orange told him the service had crashed. Orange played down the significance of the problem, which it was able to rectify this morning. The mobile operator was reluctant to go into details of the fault, but we understand only a small number of people were affected. In a brief statement, Orange expressed regret about any inconvenience caused by the partial unavailability of its service. ® Related Stories Orange network down again (some of it) 1m Orange punters hit by glitch BT Cellnet mmail falls off the Internet
John Leyden, 27 Jun 2002

IBM says Intel eServers trounce Dell, challenge Sun

IBM has announced a set of benchmarks for its Intel servers which it says show big performance gains in Web applications over competitive systems, from Dell and Sun Microsystems. The eServer x440 and x255 hold first and second places, respectively, in TPC-W results for a 10,000-item database, outperforming Dell systems by as much as 84 per cent. The x440 database server, together with x330 systems (functioning as application, image and Web cache servers), delivered a performance of 14,356.2 WIPS@10,000 and price/performance of $32.04/WIPS@10,000. The result is 84 per cent better than that recorded with a Dell PowerEdge 6400 system (7,783.3 WIPS@10,000; $24.50/WIPS@10,000), according to figures released by IBM yesterday. In the tests, The x440 database server was configured with four Intel Xeon Processor MP 1.6GHz/1MB L3 cache processors and 4GB of memory, and ran Microsoft SQL Server 2000 and Windows 2000 Advanced Server. A figure of 13,531.2 WIPS@10,000, or 74 percent better than the Dell system, was recorded by a x225 server system in comparable tests. Separately, IBM announced that in NotesBench iNotes benchmark a 4-way eServer x360 delivered 91 percent of the performance of an 8-way Sun Fire V880 - at 40 per cent of the cost. According to audited results, the IBM x360 supported 6,750 users accessing iNotes mail, while the Sun V880 supported 7,500 users. The Sun machine required eight 900MHz UltraSPARC III processors and 32GB of memory to achieve only 9 per cent better performance than the IBM server, which used four 1.6GHz Intel Xeon Processor MP and 3GB of memory. The x360 system cost $8.01 per user and $15.48 per NotesMark (transactions per minute), compared to the Sun V880, which costs $18.06 per user and $34.97 per NotesMark. The Sun Microsystems Sun Fire V880 configuration tested was priced $135,471.51, compared to $54,068 for the IBM eServer x360 rig. The iNotes Web Access workload executes Lotus Notes transactions that model a server for users who access their mail via the Web. The resulting capacity metric for a server is the maximum number of users that can be supported before the average user response time becomes unacceptable. ®
John Leyden, 27 Jun 2002

Fibernet suspends German/French networks

Fibernet - the high-speed data communications company - has suspended its German and French national networks following the collapse of KPNQwest. KPNQwest's fibre network forms more than 80 per cent of Fibernet's network infrastructure in Europe, but with the collapse of the pan-European company, Fibernet has had to rethink its strategy. In a statement today the company said: "Having examined our potential to replace KPNQwest assets in these territories, Fibernet does not believe that the current economic conditions justify such additional capital expenditure at this time." As a result, Fibernet has decided to write down the value of its assets by around £75 million. It claims this will lead to cost savings of £9 million a year. Fibernet will, however, maintain the operation of its metropolitan services in Frankfurt. An unspecified number of jobs will be lost as part of the closure of its German and French networks. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jun 2002

BT woos SMEs with broadband

BT is continuing its drive to tempt businesses to sign up to broadband with three measures which, it says, will help provide "hassle-free" technology for small and medium businesses (SMEs) in the UK. Following on from the ACT NOW scheme in Cornwall, in which exchanges in areas deemed commercially unviable were upgraded to broadband thanks to a public/private partnership and loads of cash, BT is to expand the scheme to other parts of the country. Schemes in Scotland, Cardiff, Wiltshire and Swindon, Devon, Hastings and West Sussex should see 90 more exchanges upgraded, bringing an additional 45,000 SMEs within spitting distance of broadband. Separately, BT is also working with broadband service provider, Bulldog - a vocal critic of BT in the past incidentally - to run an SDSL (Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line) broadband trial in London from late autumn. The trial - which allows companies to send and receive large files - is planned for late autumn and will involve around 30 SMEs in central London. By the end of March 2004 some 500 punters are expected to be using SDSL technology. And finally, BT has teamed up with Computacenter to offer what it calls "hassle-free" technology with the provision of IT help and support services geared towards SMEs. BT Retail chief exec Pierre Danon said all three initiatives were aimed at meeting the needs of customers in the SME sector. Some 30,000 SMEs have so far signed up to ADSL in the UK and numbers are growing by around 2,500 a week. Elsewhere, BTopenworld claims that almost half of businesses it surveyed claim that education and understanding was the "prime catalyst to accelerate broadband uptake in Britain" ahead of other "perceived barriers", such as cost and availability. Perceived barriers? Surely, the biggest barrier to broadband take-up is availability - if it ain't available, you can't have it. Simple. And if availability is only a "perceived barrier", why then is the chief exec of BT Retail announcing further schemes to deploy broadband in rural areas? ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Jun 2002

MS patches Media Player secure music vulnerability

Microsoft has issued a cumulative patch for Windows Media Player designed to patch three vulnerabilities, the most serious of which might permit an attacker to run arbitrary code on a victim's PC. An advisory by Microsoft says that the most serious of the three problems is an information disclosure vulnerability, which it rates as severe. The vulnerability results because of a flaw in how Windows Media Player handles certain types of licenses for secure media files when the media file is stored in the IE cache. Specifically, when a type of secure Windows Media file is opened, the media player erroneously returns information to the server that discloses the location of the IE cache. If the attacker were able to cause an executable program to be stored in the cache, the location information obtained by this vulnerability could then be used to access content in the cache directly and bypass IE's cache security mechanisms. Attacks could be made using either maliciously constructed Web pages or HTML mails. The patch also addresses a less severe privilege elevation bug which might enable an attacker who can physically log on locally to a Windows 2000 machine and run a program to obtain the same rights as the operating system. Then there's a still less severe script execution vulnerability, which Microsoft says would be very difficult to exploit in practice because it involves tricking a victim into playing a specially formed media file and then viewing a maliciously constructed Web page. With the patch, Microsoft has introduced a configuration change relating to file extensions associated with Windows Media Player. It is also debuting an optional security configuration feature for users who want to disable scripting functionality in Windows Media Player versions 7.x or higher. ® Related Stories RealNetworks the Buffer Slayer Windows Media Player must be patched to fix IE
John Leyden, 27 Jun 2002