25th > August > 2003 Archive

Sun sends Hitachi a love note

Sun Microsystems has gone ahead and done the expected. The hardware vendor has renewed its high-end storage vows with Hitachi, extending their reselling partnership through 2006. We called this move a couple weeks back, when HP also signed on to keep its deal with Hitachi going through 2008. Both Sun and HP rely on Hitachi's Lighting system to compete against EMC and IBM in the high end storage market. Sun tends to get dogged for its lack of storage prowess. It has seen competitors such as EMC march right in and sell endless Tbytes of storage for Solaris servers. On the high end, however, Sun claims its deal with Hitachi and the Hitachi Data Systems subsidiary is helping it gain ground. "In less than 24 months, we've gone from zero to almost 10 percent market share for storage in the data center," said Mark Canepa, executive vice president of Sun storage. Sun has moved more than 5 Petabytes of storage with Hitachi in the last two years. Sun concentrates its engineering expertise on midrange gear. Earlier this year, the vendor refreshed a number of its midrange and lower end systems, hoping to make up lost ground. Sun is in the process of building out its N1 management software for storage boxes, servers and software. Thus far, the N1 Data Platform - aka the old Pirus switch - is the cornerstone of N1 on the storage side of the house. Sun says the N1 Data Platform can already manage data on a Hitachi array. It's a bit bizarre to see three hardware giants such as Sun, HP and Hitachi get along so well, but the deals make sense. There are only so many customers demanding systems the size of Lighting. Sun does not want to spend the money needed to compete with IBM and EMC. For HP, the deal keeps it moving down a self-imposed VAR path that has infected its server and software businesses. ®
Ashlee Vance, 25 Aug 2003

Against SCO’s GPL jihad: one size doesn't fit all

LettersLetters A fortnight ago we rued the fact that our most valuable social contract, the GPL was heading to the courtroom for the first time. FSF counsel Eben Moglen assured us not to worry, and that the GPL would be upheld under United States Law at its first major test. But what about the rest of us? A win in the US does not guarantee a free passage for the rest of us, as Gary Lea points out. Gary is a law lecturer in London and highlights an important international dynamic that has been absent from the SCO vs. IBM coverage so far. We reproduce it in full. In general terms, I both think and hope that Eben Moglen is right over the GPL - his interpretation makes sense, SCO's does not and it would be a total disaster if SCO's view is upheld. However, there were a couple of things in your report (at paras. 12-13) that did not add up and I would like to see clarified (possibly by back-reference to EM). First of all, Moglen is reported as saying that "You don't need permission to use a copyrighted work" as there is no specific exclusive "right to use" in copyright law (unlike patent law); strictly speaking, this is correct as no right of that type/name exists in copyright legislation anywhere that I know of. However, the conventional view is that, because we have to copy in order to use, the exclusive right of reproduction effectively serves to control use when it comes to computer programs: let me expand on this a bit:- a) Apart from the basic matter of copying during installation, "conventional" theory has it that when a program is loaded from hard disk (or flash or other storage) to RAM (and, remember folks, the run-time object code version is protected as a copyright literary work: Apple v Franklin 714 F.2d 1240 (3rd Cir., 1983)), it is reproduced by that copy being created in RAM. This, in fact, is the mainspring that makes software licensing work - it is the authorisation to make *this* copy that approximates to authorisation to "use" under patent law and, hence, allows control over use via license. b) There is, in the US, a big "BUT" that runs up against the theory - the US Copyright Act demands that copies be "fixed" (recorded in some form) in order to be deemed infringing (if unlicensed). OK, sixty-four thousand dollar question: can a temporary copy held in RAM really be said to be "fixed"? There are arguments about this *even now* but most US courts faced with this issue have held that even the temporary copies held in RAM *are* sufficiently "fixed" to count (see, for example, MAI v Peak Systems 991 F.2d 551 (9th Cir., 1993)). c) In the EU, however, there is absolutely no doubt at all - Art. 4(a) of the Software Directive (91/250/EEC) clearly states that the rightholder has the exclusive right to do or authorise "the permanent or temporary reproduction of a computer program by any means and in any form, in part or in whole". End of story. In light of all this, it is (fairly) clear that, contrary to what Moglen is reported as saying, users (whether end- or other) *do* need licenses. But why is that a concern here? Surely, the whole point about GPL is that, thanks to Section 6, it really lives up to its name by being, effectively, "viral" as each person in the chain of copying, modification and distribution gets a license on GPL terms. The only quibble then might be that the permissions granted to those users who *only* copy (as opposed to "copy, modify and distribute") are inadequately covered by the license; but, again, on any reasonable reading, I think and hope not. But despite the international Conventions, all the national copyright Laws and Acts around the world still vary enormously (e.g. for reasons I won't bore you with here, it is not possible to assign [i.e. voluntarily convey/transfer] rights in literary, scientific and artistic works under Germany's Copyright Law 1965 (as amended) - the most a third party can get is an extended form of license called a "right to exploit"). Yes, even inside the EU, harmonisation is only partial (Copyright in the Information Society Directive notwithstanding). All this has a real impact when we think (i) about the exclusive rights a rightholder has, (ii) what constitutes infringement, (iii) what permitted acts/free uses/fair uses there are and, consequently, (iv) how licenses are/should be structured. This is just the copyright side, though: what about national/regional variations in allied fields like contract law? One interesting problem that arises from this comes about because of the "one size fits all" mentality that many US corporate lawyers have i.e. they draft licenses for the US market and then assume that they will work elsewhere. Big mistake: one of Microsoft's key OEM licence provisions on preventing diversion of media into retail channels was declared unenforceable in Germany by the Supreme Court not too long ago. Regards, Gary R. Lea IPRI Senior Research Fellow & Lecturer in Industrial Property Law Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute London Related Stories The GPL will win, claims law prof. GPL goes to court [...letters] [...more]
Andrew Orlowski, 25 Aug 2003

Vodafone UK aims to stamp out unsolicited text messages

Vodafone UK has announced a trial program designed to control the amount of unsolicited text messages its customers receive. When an unsolicited text message is received a Vodafone customer can forward it, free of charge, directly to 87726 or VSPAM on their mobile keypad. Vodafone will then collate a consolidated report of all the unsolicited text messages reported by its customers, which it plans to send directly to mobile messaging regulators. Previously when customers report an unsolicited text message to Vodafone they are advised to contact the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) directly. With this new initiative, Vodafone customers will no longer have to do this and can simply forward the message to VSPAM to allow automated reporting. Vodafone says it is the first UK operator to launch a trial initiative designed to help reduce the mobile texts nuisance. The consolidated VSPAM report will be sent to ICSTIS on a daily basis so that it can take regulatory action against parties running such services. ICSTIS has prosecuted several service providers so far and it intends to "name and shame" the operators who currently support the service providers running these premium rate services. Jeremy Flynn, Head of Commercial Partnerships, Vodafone UK said: "We launched VSPAM for our employees a month ago and it has proved to be an extremely valuable tool in helping to track down people who send unsolicited text messages. We recognise that this is an issue for our customers which we want to help resolve." Premium rate SMS: saint or sinner? Recent research into consumer awareness, experience and perception of premium rate SMS, further supports the launch of VSPAM. The findings revealed the extent of public annoyance caused by unsolicited text messages promoting premium rate numbers. Two in three (63 per cent) of all respondents to the survey had received an unsolicited text message inviting them to reply using a premium rate number and 85 per cent of those quizzed believed that there should be controls to restrict unsolicited messages, particularly those targeting children. This is reinforced by the soaring numbers of public complaints about such messages received by ICSTIS - 3,500 in the first six months of 2003 alone. ICSTIS Deputy Director Paul Whiteing welcomed Vodafone's initiative against unsolicited text messages. Whiteing said: "We will continue to work with all mobile operators to identify ways to stamp out this practice so that consumers can have confidence when using premium rate services on their mobiles." On a more positive note, the research also demonstrates the popular appeal that legitimate premium rate SMS services have with customers. The research showed an encouraging level of public awareness and confidence in premium rate SMS services that deliver text and other content to mobile handsets. Nearly 50 per cent of respondents had used a premium rate SMS at least once, with ringtone downloads being the most popular service. Convenience and usefulness were cited as the major reasons for using services and only 11 per cent of respondents had encountered any problems. The 13 million customers of Vodafone's UK network send out more than 10 million text messages every day, according to the mobile operator. ®
John Leyden, 25 Aug 2003
Cat 5 cable

SuSE and SGI form SMP pact

SuSE and SGI want to help Linux grow up together. SGI has decided to start shipping SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 on its Altix 3000 servers. SGI has been doing the large Linux SMP thing for awhile with its own version of the OS. But with the help of SuSE, SGI reckons it can speed Linux's march into the data center and have a 128 processor system ready by next year. SGI made this move for some obvious reasons. Partnering with SuSE gives customers a popular platform to pick. SGI does a lot of custom work for its niche in the high end graphics and visualization market, but standard software is always welcome. SGI and its users can now tap into the SuSE application and support base. The one downer of the whole standards strategy is SGI's use of Itanium chips in the Altix systems. Intel's 64bit chip is anything but a standard with sales coming in very slow thus far. The performance is there, but customers' desire to move code to the EPIC instruction set is not. SuSE is hoping the deal can extend its place in the high performance computing realm. SuSE's OS is typically found on one and two processor Web servers not the huge systems made by SGI. This process, however, will take some time. Most analysts agree that mature versions of Unix such as SGI's own IRIX OS have an edge over Linux on the SMP. Customers spending millions of dollars per server tend to like software that has been put through years of testing. But in the end, you have to start somewhere, and SuSE and SGI are a nice fit. SGI says it has over 100 large Linux on Itanium installations. The company will continue to deliver its own version of Linux along with SuSE with both companies providing support as needed. SGI does not plan to ink a similar deal with Red Hat anytime soon. ®
Ashlee Vance, 25 Aug 2003