10th > June > 2004 Archive

Crash test dummies get date for DARPA Robot Run II

DARPA has set a late 2005 date for the second running of its Grand Challenge robot race. Well over a hundred contestants are expected to give Grand Challenge II a go on Oct. 8 of next year. The event, like the first run this year, pits robot vehicles in a race across the Mojave Desert, forcing the vehicles to see and steer with no human intervention. DARPA - the oddest arm of the Defense Department - has upped the prize money for the second race to $2m, as reported earlier here. "This event is a challenge for American ingenuity,"said Anthony Tether, director of DARPA, in a statement. "It brings together individuals and organizations from the research and development community, industry, Government, the Armed Services, academia, professional societies, and from the ranks of students, backyard inventors, and automotive enthusiasts." The race proved too grand for competitors this March when only a handful of robot vehicles were able to travel more than a few of the 200 miles in the course. Some of the vehicles crashed into walls, one was tripped up on barbed wire and another fell victim to a boulder. The Grand Challenge was plagued by a host of pre-race problems as well, including DARPA's inability to deal with the quantity of entrants. The organization also made a series of last minute rule changes - a policy that displeased several competitors. DARPA has hopefully worked out these kinks for next year's event. A revamped Grand Challenge web site has been put up, but it lacks details such as the exact course data and timetables for submitting vehicle proposals. Notes posted on the site say DARPA will provide the information over the course of the year. DARPA plans to lead a conference on the event in Anaheim on Aug. 14. The major thrust behind the event is to create systems capable of recusing troops or hunting for enemies on their own. There's that whole killing people thing going on as well. The US government has called for one-third of all military vehicles to operate unmanned by 2015. ® Related stories Flying Car more economical than SUV Robot wars: One man's story of promotional monks and mechanical friendships DARPA's Grand Challenge proves to be too grand Final robot grunts picked for $1million DARPA race Robot grunts tumble in race for $1m prize $1 million Grand Challenge map leaked on Web DARPA quells robot road rage Could Segways replace soldiers as hired killers? DARPA chisels little guy out of $1 million race DARPA's indecision threatens integrity of $1 million race
Ashlee Vance, 10 Jun 2004

Germany approves Nokia's Symbian plan

The Germany competition regular, the Bundeskartellamt, has approved Nokia's acquisition of Psion's stake in Symbian, which would double its share to 63.3 per cent of the company. Germany is the third country to give its approval to the deal. When Symbian was formed regulatory approval was sought because the three founding shareholders, Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson dominated the handset market in roughly equal parts. Since then however Motorola has sold its stake and Ericsson spun off its handset division, which now has a very much smaller market share. However the most interesting part of the process may just be beginning. If shareholders Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Siemens and Matsushita all exercise their rights then Nokia's stake will be no more than 46.7 per cent. Ericsson has called on the others to increase their stakes, with Ericsson CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg saying that if Nokia gains more than 50 per cent, Symbian "becomes a Nokia platform. If that happens there will be a gradual deterioration in the view of Symbian". The pre-emption process is expected to be completed early next month, Nokia said today. The other stakes are Ericsson with 17.5 per cent and Sony Ericsson with 1.5 per cent, Matsushita (7.9 per cent), Samsung (5 per cent) and Siemens (4.8 per cent) ® Related stories Dollar decline stunts Symbian growth Sony, Ericsson plan move to block Nokia majority at Symbian UI Wars: Sony loves Symbian grits teeth Psion gets green light for Symbian sale to Nokia The Beast must buy? Fear and loathing in the Symbian shareholdings Symbian minorities to block Nokia sale Nokia dooming Psion's legacy to obscurity? Nokia bags Psion's Symbian stake
Andrew Orlowski, 10 Jun 2004

BT saves Station X for exploitation

It was five years ago today...It was five years ago today... The recent 50th anniversary of the death of Alan Turing reminded us of a time when Milton Keynes District Council threatened to do to Bletchley Park, aka Station X, what the Luftwaffe never could - reduce it to rubble: BT saves Station X for exploitation By Tony Smith Published Thursday 10th June 1999 14:57 GMT Bletchley Park, site of the British successful attempts to crack Nazi cyphers during World War 2 and old stomping ground of this reporter, is finally destined to become a crypto theme park. Today, Bletchley Park Trust chairman Sir Philip Duncombe announced that British Telecom and land-owning quango Pace have saved the site for the Nation from the clutches of the local authority, Milton Keynes District Council. Milton Keynes, famous for its cornflake box school of architecture and possessor of one of the highest young male suicide rates in the country, had considered turning the home of the world's first electronic computer into prime development land. However, thanks to funding from BT and Pace, the Bletchley Park Trust will be able to buy the site and turn it into a major heritage centre. BT and Pace will own the site, originally known by its codename, Station X, and lease it for a 250-year period to the Trust. While we welcome the preservation of this important national - nay, international - monument, we can't help be worried by the dreaded phrase 'heritage centre'. If it's anything like most such locations in the tourist-tempting British Isles, visitors can expected to be hawked Alan Turing Towel Sets, Wolfpacks of Biscuits, Bletchley Baseball Hats, Colossus Cream Teas, the Admiral Doenitz Bouncy Castle and other such tat. Mercifully, Bletchley Park has not become a cryptographical theme park, but a rather more sober affair rightly celebrating the work of the many codebreakers who worked there. Indeed, we suspect that any wearing any form of baseball cap will not be welcome at the forthcoming Enigma Ball on 12 June, and quite right too. What's more, Station X now boasts a replica of the original Colossus - and there isn't a cream tea in sight. ®
Team Register, 10 Jun 2004

Lucent trade secret suspect goes on the run

A former Lucent scientist suspected of stealing trade secrets was declared a fugitive from justice by US authorities yesterday. Hai Lin, who allegedly conspired with two fellow Lucent workers to commit industrial espionage against their employer and other US hi-tech companies, has failed to satisfy his bail conditions. Authorities last saw him on May 25. Hai's neighbours in Scotch Plains, New York haven't seen him, his wife or their three-year old daughter in a week, according to wire reports. Hai hasn't been into work with his present employer, Hauppauge Computer Works, for about the same time. He has also failed to stick to appointments to meet court officers. Yesterday US District Judge William H. Walls issued an arrest warrant for Hai and revoked his bail. Hai stands to lose ownership of his house, which he put up as collateral to secure a $900,000 bail bond. Prosecutors allege former Lucent scientists Hai Lin, and Kai Xu hatched a plot with former Lucent consultant Yong-Qing Cheng to create "the Cisco of China" by stealing data related to Lucent's PathStar system. A "substantial amount of the PathStar source code" was sent to Datang Telecom Technology of Beijing, it is alleged. The trio are also accused of stealing trade secrets from four companies that licensed software to Lucent or sold circuit boards used in PathStar. Lucent sacked Hai and Kai after their arrests. The three are accused of conspiracy, 14 counts of possessing trade secrets, and nine wire fraud offences. The conspiracy charge alone could put the men in jail for up to 10 years. A trial has been scheduled for 9 March 2005. ® Related stories Conspiracy to create Cisco of China Lucent workers busted for inside tech swindle Lucent fires 'corrupt' gang of four Lucent posts first Q profit in three years
John Leyden, 10 Jun 2004

SIA: 2004 will be chip biz's best yet

2004 will be the best year ever for chip revenues, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) which last night issued a bullish forecast, revising figures upwards. Europe-traded Intel and AMD stock rose on the news, with Intel up seven cents to $28.47 and AMD up eight cents to $15.59 in early trading in Germany this morning. Texas Instruments jumped ten cents to $25.32. The SIA now believes global chip sales will total $214bn this year - almost five per cent up on the $204bn recorded in 2000, the previous record year. The projected revenues are 28.6 per cent up on 2003's figure of $166.4bn, which was 18 per cent higher than 2002's. The new forecast is a big jump over the 19.4 per cent growth the SIA predicted six months ago for 2004. In May, the organisation began talking about raising that figure above 20 per cent; but to take it to almost 30 per cent comes as a surprise. However, the broad trend remains the same: fast growth this year, a slower rate of expansion in 2005, followed by contraction in 2006 and revival the year after that. According to the SIA, sales will hit $223bn in 2005, up 4.2 per cent; drop to $221bn in 2006, a decline of 0.8 per cent; and rally to $247bn in 2007, up 11.7 per cent. Together, those figures yield an average growth rate of 10.4 per cent through 2007. Processor sales are unlikely to match that level of growth: the SIA reckons sales in this sector will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just 7.8 per cent, from $32.3bn in 2004 to $37bn in 2007. The winners will be optoelectronic, analog and DSP products, which will experience CAGRs of 15.5, 12.4 and 17 per cent, respectively. DRAM sales are expected to grow 7.9 per cent through 2007, though they will experience a big jump this year: 55.8 per cent to $26bn. The geographical spread of the market won't change much over the coming years. The SIA reckons Asia-Pacific will grow its market share slightly, from 40 per cent now to 43 per cent in 2007. Japan will remain static on 22 per cent, Europe at around 18 per cent, while the Americas will decline to 17 per cent. ® Related stories Trade body talks up global chip sales Replacement kit dominates world PC sales World chip sales may grow 30 per cent this year February chip sales edge up Chip sales fell in January World chip sales record strong 2003 growth Chip biz hikes annual sales forecast Chip biz body ups world sales forecast
Tony Smith, 10 Jun 2004

'Official' Pocket Loox 700 Wi-Fi PDA pic appears on web

Fujitsu-Siemens has given tacit confirmation that it plans to update its Pocket Loox line of PocketPC PDAs with a Wi-Fi model which will also sport a 480 x 640 display. An image of the machine - the Pocket Loox 700 - appeared on the company's website this week, though the pictures have now been removed. Fan site FirstLoox was able to grab a copy first, and it's clear from the device's buttons that the machine will offer a wireless connection of some kind: the top-right application button clearly sports an aerial icon. FirstLoox's backs up the shot with the specifications it claims the device will feature. The handheld will run Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, which will drive its VGA display. Different sources have suggested a 3.7in screen and a 3.8in screen, but the former seems the most likely. It may also offer a 1.3 megapixel digicam. The 700 is said to contain a 520MHz Intel XScale PXA270 processor, 128MB of RAM and 64MB of ROM. In addition to Wi-Fi, it also offers Bluetooth connectivity. There's a SD/MMC slot and a CompactFlash bay, apparently. These features match those of Asus' upcoming MyPal A730 PocketPC, which the company demoed at CeBit earlier this year and at Computex this month. It has been suggested by some observers that the 700 is essentially a rebadged A730, but the two are not identical. If the specs. are correct, Asus may well be producing the 700 on Fujitsu-Siemens' behalf. Alternatively, of course, rumours that this is the case may simply have led some observers to attribute the specs of the Asus machine to the Pocket Loox 700. Either way, the machine is also said to be scheduled to ship in August. Fujitsu-Siemens this week launched the Pocket Loox 400 series, a pair of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled PocketPCs based on Intel's old PXA255 processor clocked at 300MHz and 400MHz, respectively. Both sport standard PocketPC 240 x 320 displays. The Pocket Loox 410 is available now in Europe for €399 ($491/£263), while the Pocket Loox 420 costs €420 ($517/£277). ® Related stories Firms prep Wi-Fi Internet radio tuners Sony exits global PDA biz HP preps 4 July iPaq launch Asus shows second MS smartphone Orange squashes SPV smartphone Intel launches Bulverde, Marathon World PDA shipments plunge PalmOne, HP slog it out over Euro sales PDA, smartphone sales rocket in Europe Related reviews Medion MDPPC250 PocketPC GPS Bundle Evesham integrated GPS PocketPC PalmOne Zire 31 PalmOne Zire 72 Bsquare Power Handheld
Tony Smith, 10 Jun 2004
Cat 5 cable

AOL unveils IM for business

Monster ISP - America Online - has unveiled details of a new pay-as-you-go instant messaging service aimed at business users. Using its existing IM service, corporate users will be able to share online presentations and files while chatting to colleagues using a conference call facility. According to Reuters, AOL has hooked up with California-based WebEx Communications Inc for the file sharing bit of the package, while Massachusetts-based Lightbridge Inc is behind the voice service. It's estimated that some 14m people use AOL's service while at work and AOL execs have their fingers crossed that these workers will latch onto the service to help their businesses. The conferencing service costs around about 15 cents a minute per user, while the online presentation costs 33 cents a minute per user. ® Related stories Is spim worse than spam? UK firms must monitor staff IMs Cisco buys IP conferencing firm
Tim Richardson, 10 Jun 2004

Beware the rogue access points

Wireless LANs will continue to be a major security headache for businesses over the next few years, despite the introduction of improved security standards. Inadequate policies and poor installation, rather than inherent security weaknesses, are the main problem. The misconfiguration of WLAN access points and client software will account for 70 per cent of successful WLAN attacks in the next two years, according to Gartner. Updated security policies that address the particular demands of the mobile workplace must drive security for WLANs and personal digital assistants (PDAs), the analyst firm advises.. "Whether hackers are able to enter a company's WLAN through an unprotected AP (access point) or through a peer workstation, once they are associated with the network, they will be difficult to detect because they may not be visible in or near the network site," said John Pescatore, Gartner veep. "A clever hacker will play it safe and use the company's resources quietly, and as a result, may never be found." Businesses must ensure there are no unauthorized (rogue) wireless access points on their network and that APs are configured securely. In dense environments, companies must ensure that their users don't connect to the networks of other companies or vice versa. The least expensive - and least effective - way of doing this is to buy a wireless sniffer handheld and walk the perimeter of the network. The most expensive - and most secure - is to install wireless intrusion detection sensors, according to Gartner. ® Related stories Attack of the bandwidth-hogging hackers Wi-Fi group to update WLAN spec London Wi-Fi security better (but still not great) Rogue WLANS the next security battlefield?
John Leyden, 10 Jun 2004

SIA wants more money for nano-electronics

The US needs to invest an additional $1.5bn per year in semiconductor and nanoelectronics research, or risk falling behind in the global IT industry, according to IBM's Dr John Kelly. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has called for the creation of a Nanoelectronics Research Institute to coordinate a massive nanotech research effort before the industry reaches the physical limits of CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) technology. SIA says this limit will be reached in the next 15 years and warns that if action is not taken now, the consequences will be ugly: "The price for not starting now on a massive, coordinated research and development effort in nanoelectronics could be nothing less than a loss, in just two decades, of U.S. economic and defence leadership," according to Kelly, senior VP of the IBM Technology Group. He argues that without the technological edge, the US cannot expect to compete in the global market where labour is so cheap. "Constant innovation is the key to being competitive while paying high wages to our workforce", he says. SIA proposes a collaborative research group, the Nanoelectronics Research Institute (NRI) which would be a joint effort of the semiconductor industry, academia, and government. The goal will be to generate new ideas and discoveries in nanoelectronics. Specifically, the SIA says, the NRI will need to demonstrate "the feasibility of creating a new switch with associated interconnects and memory using novel materials and manufacturing techniques by the year 2020". The European Commission recently published a paper calling for greater investment in the area. It said the nanotech market will be worth trillions within the next decade, and called on Europe to take the lead in the industry. reg; Related stories Europe slips behind on nano technology EC to fund Euro 45nm process with 24m grant World safe from nanobot 'grey goo'
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Jun 2004

Bluetooth group preps 2.1Mbps spec

Bluetooth communications are set to get rather faster with a new version of the specification that takes its data throughput 2.1Mbps in the offing. The new version, Bluetooth Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), is offered as a "prototype specification" by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). The technology increases data transmission by compressing more data into each packet rather than by increasing the rate at which packets are sent. Today's devices support speeds of up to 712Kbps. Bluetooth EDR will use existing Bluetooth 1.2 technology for connecting devices and sending data, so older devices will still be able to communicate with machines supporting EDR. The SIG says EDR will consume less power than the current version - it reckons EDR devices will eke out battery power for twice as long as Bluetooth units do today. And the new specification also provides improved facilities to use several functions or devices simultaneously, due to more available bandwidth. The Bluetooth SIG expects the EDR specification to be finalised this coming Autumn. Products based on the specification are set to ship some time in 2005. The SIG needs to come up with improved versions of the spec if it's to prevent Bluetooth becoming overshadowed by UWB-based technologies such as the 480Mbps Wireless USB. WUSB's first spec isn't due until the end of the year, and even if it's implemented quickly, Bluetooth has a considerable lead in terms of the number of devices that support it. ® Related stories Promiscuous BluePod file swapping - coming to a PDA near you Orange squashes SPV smartphone Asus shows second MS smartphone Dialogue demos 'total wireless' sub-notebook HP preps 4 July iPaq launch Dell launches 624MHz Wi-Fi PocketPC
Tony Smith, 10 Jun 2004

Desktop Dothans 'will not replace Prescott'

Intel's upcoming Pentium M-based desktop processor, possibly codenamed Conroe, will not support the company's HyperThreading technology, it has emerged. And Intel's Prescott Pentium 4 line-up will survive the arrival of Conroe, an unnamed company marketing rep revealed this week. According to Geek.com, which cites said Intel staffer, the chip giant will indeed bring the Pentium M 'Dothan' core to the desktop - but not as a Prescott replacement. The reason? Dothan's shorter pipeline is "poorly suited" to HyperThreading, which leverages under-utilised processor maths units and other trickery to fool the host operating system into thinking it's running on a two-way box. HT remains a key part of Intel's desktop processor marketing, particularly in the consumer space, so it would be difficult for it to turn round in a couple of years and say that the technology is suddenly less relevant than it once was. The Intel rep mentioned the possible arrival of dual-core Prescotts by the end of 2005 - presumably as Intel moves down into the 65nm domain - and noted that with HT in place, they will effectively operate as quad-core devices. Not so Dothan-derived chips, which will be pushed at devices that need to run more quietly - and thus more coolly - than any future Prescott box is likely to. It's not hard to foresee Intel segmenting its desktop Pentium line to target a broader range of machines, even though clearly they'll all be x86 PCs under the hood. Prescott will be pushed at performance-sensitive applications (desktop PCs, home media servers and the like) while Dothan-based Pentiums will be pitched at fanless, living room-based devices - much as VIA is currently doing today with its C3 x86 chip and Micro ATX form-factor. Intel is increasingly keen to drive the chip sales by touting platforms rather than processors. A case in point is Centrino, which is promoted more as a usage model than as a CPU type. The chip giant is starting to do the same kind of thing in the desktop space - its entertainment PC concept, is one example - though it has yet to start branding its desktop platforms in the way it has with Centrino. In any case, HT is arguably a broad enough brand name to take in a multi-core Pentium M-based chip. After all, like today's HT-enabled P4s, it will be able to run two threads simultaneously. There's nothing in the HT branding that specifies how that thread-level parallelism is to be achieved, only that multi-threading is there. You're simply replacing one chip with single physical core behaving like two logical cores with another chip that contains two physical cores operating as two logical cores. A dual-core Dothan might conceivably still consume less power and dissipate less heat than a single-core Prescott running at a comparable speed. ® Related stories Intel preps P4 core update Intel ships mobile Prescott P4s Intel to ship 64-bit Prescotts on 1 August Intel grabs 21 June for Grantsdale launch Intel moots Centrino-style home PC platform Intel launches Dothan with Pentium M price cuts Intel to 'ditch' Pentium 4 core after Prescott Intel's deskbook CPU platform merger plan Hitachi preps Pentium M desktop PC Intel confirms Pentium model numbers
Tony Smith, 10 Jun 2004

IBM chases HP and Sun with i5

According to the top brass in the iSeries division, IBM will be pushing on several fronts to grow the OS/400 server business and pump up the OS/400 ecosystem on which it depends. Timothy Prickett Morgan examines IBM's new strategy... Both Al Zollar, general manager of IBM's iSeries line, and Cecelia Marrese, vice president of marketing for the iSeries, have been open about their battle plans for the using the new eServer i5 line of Power5-based servers to get the OS/400 market growing again. Mr Zollar recently said that he wanted to keep the iSeries line, now the eServer i5, in the press and in the minds of customers as they consider platforms. And one thing IBM will do to make this happen is to keep significant iSeries announcements coming out at a steady pace and with the latest IBM technologies. "We are moving away from big bang announcements and moving on a roadmap where we have something significant to say to our customers every quarter," Zollar explained. "This will keep a level of interest and vitality in the platform." It will also help with publicity, as the IT trade press that is consumed by IT workers, from system admins to chief information officers, will see a steady stream of i5 announcements. From PR to pricing But the strategy goes far beyond that. While the attention is good, the best kind of sales pitch is a competitive price for OS/400 servers and their related software. To that end, IBM a few weeks ago cut memory prices by 20 - 60 per cent and cut storage prices by 20 per cent, it dropped the price of activating Power4 and Power5 processors on the iSeries and i5 line, and said that it would keep the common components (such as server processors, memory, and disks) at parity with the pSeries (soon to be "eServer p5") Unix server line, which has historically had much lower list price tags and much higher discounts than for the iSeries. While IBM will almost certainly not close the gap at the retail level (even if customers bring in Sun and Hewlett-Packard with competitive Unix, Linux, or Windows systems), the gap is considerably smaller, and the unique advantages of the iSeries over the alternatives make it possible to sell against those alternatives. Before, the sticker price was so high on the iSeries that business partners couldn't even get their foot in the data center door to make a pitch. With these price cuts, the data center door has opened a crack, and the i5, with its sophisticated partitioning and multiple operating system support, has a decent chance of actually compelling CIOs and VPDPs not only to open the door but also to bring in partners to pitch the machine to solve their problems. IBM has always understood that the box count for the iSeries had to remain high if the OS/400 ecosystem was to not only survive, but to thrive. And the price cuts are key to IBM's plan to boost the box count coming out of the iSeries factories in Rochester, Minnesota, and in Dublin, Ireland. Maintaining revenues Of course, with such big price cuts for servers, memory, disk, and other core components, this raises the question of how IBM can maintain iSeries hardware revenue, much less increase it. It may be that the OS/400 server market is more elastic than IBM's marketing model suggested. IBM had its reasons for charging high-prices - it needed the margins because its manufacturing costs were high, and to help pay for its very aggressive battle against Sun and HP in the Unix market, where it is arguable that IBM may not have broken even as it uses pricing as a way of gaining market share. Now that IBM has huge credibility with the Power-AIX servers, and Sun and HP have backed off a bit on price cuts, IBM has a little more room. IBM also has a little bit more room since the iSeries and i5 machines sold in Asia-Pacific are now being built in Ireland, where labor is cheaper and shipping costs to Asia are lower. The pSeries manufacturing for Asia-Pacific customers also has been moved to Ireland, and IBM also has a bulk deal with United Parcel Service to ship from Ireland to Asia. This, combined with hundreds of tiny changes in the supply chain of parts that go into the iSeries, and in how the product is manufactured and delivered, has enabled IBM to get iSeries prices lower. What about profits? IBM cares a lot about revenue growth, but it has always cared more about profit growth. So with prices on the iSeries essentially cut by 40% with the i5 launch, can IBM grow revenues and maintain profits? The answer seems to be yes. Zollar says that IBM's plan is to sell more boxes, which is obvious enough, but that he also expects IBM and its partners to be able to sell richer configurations of the boxes. My guess is that the average selling price of a box is not as low as you might think, because the mindset shift from spending as little as possible to do the bare minimum of work on an iSeries to spending about the same amount of money or slightly more to do a lot more things with an i5. "I think there is a huge pent up demand for memory and disk storage," says Zollar. Marrese says that the Green Streak promotions in late 2000, which eventually led to the revamping of the iSeries line in January 2001, were the first step in the transformation of the OS/400 server into a competitive box. But a beta test in March of this year for the Model 520 and OS/400 Express packaging that debuted in early May seems to have been what pushed IBM over the edge to start cutting prices. Italy, Marrese explained, has a labyrinth of tax laws that make it painful to run a large business, and that is one of the reasons why the country is teeming with small businesses. Many of those small businesses, it turns out, have acquired AS/400 Model 150 and Model 170 servers. And they just keep using them and don't upgrade as much as IBM would like. In the beta program, IBM took an iSeries Model 800, packaged it like the Model 520 Express machine (low price, lots of software, ready to run out of the box), and found out that if it cut the price of this configuration in half, compared with the cost of building it with regular iSeries Model 800 pricing, it sold twice as many boxes. High availability Another area that Zollar says he is focusing the iSeries division on is one of the standard drivers of the product line: high availability. "Because of the historically high reliability of the AS/400 and iSeries, our customers are very under-invested in high availability and resiliency," he said. While high availability and system clustering software have been the biggest drivers of AS/400 and iSeries sales in the past decade, it seems likely that only about 10,000 of the 215,000 OS/400 shops in the world have implemented high availability solutions. With cheaper and easier-to-use high availability software, and much cheaper i5 boxes, IBM should be able to make it up in volume. Getting partners excited Zollar has implemented a few other changes to help boost sales. For one thing, he said that the company is reaching out to the legion of small iSeries partners with only a few dozen accounts to try to get them back into the game. IBM is giving decent discounts to partners that buy Model 520 Express configurations in blocks of 10 or 20, and the company will not sell the new i5 machines direct in competition with its channel, which accounted for about 85 per cent of iSeries revenue in 2003, according to Zollar. While iSeries sales growth in 2003 was in the "healthy double digits" for midrange and high-end iSeries machines - Zollar said the number "began with a two" when I pressed him to nail it down somewhere between 10 per cent and 99 per cent, and my guess is around 25 per cent revenue growth - it is the low volumes of entry machines that has been a drag on both iSeries shipments and iSeries revenue. Shipments were flat and sales were up seven per cent in 2003 across the iSeries line. Clearly, getting partners excited about selling the i5 Model 520 Express configurations is a key to the new strategy. Key drivers But it is not the only opportunity IBM is looking at. Marrese says that IBM booked around $100m in Linux-related iSeries server sales in 2003, a factor of six larger than Linux sales on the box in 2002. She says sales to support traditional green-screen applications was flat or down, and that Domino, high availability, Windows integration, and WebSphere are key drivers. What really has Marrese smiling, though, is the coming support for native AIX within logical partitions on the i5 machines. As it turns out, nearly 40,000 OS/400 customers also have Unix servers in their shops, of which the vast majority are running HP-UX applications. Getting even a percentage of these customers to port their HP-UX applications to AIX and move them onto the i5 supporting both their OS/400 and AIX workloads will go a long way toward boosting overall iSeries sales. Perhaps more than anything else, the timing of the i5 announcement with a recovery in the worldwide economy is auspicious. Marrese says that, in 2003, iSeries sales in Italy, German, and France picked up, that North America started off strong, and that Asia-Pacific countries like China are exploding - albeit from a very small installed base. "Customers have been buying to do the bare minimum," Marrese says, "but now they are getting the green light to spend again." Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor Related stories IBM dishes out Power tools for Linux IBM's Power5 pops up first in new iSeries IBM to assault users with virtualization technology IBM offers buy now pay later server deals
Datamonitor, 10 Jun 2004

Aperto WMAN deals in France and Ireland

Aperto Networks has picked up two major new contracts for implementation of Wireless Broadband in Europe using its Packetwave system which are committed to move towards the emerging WiMAX IEEE802.16 standard for wireless metropolitan area networks. Aperto is one of Intel’s approved partners and was an early backer of WiMAX and it is this potential leading edge that has meant that France Telecom and Leap Broadband in Ireland, have chosen Packetwave, this week. France Telecom R&D has just built a pilot broadband wireless network in France, in 3.5 GHz licensed frequency, in Brittany, adding to the trials and overseas rollouts that France Telecom has elsewhere with Aperto equipment. “This pilot in Brittany proves that Aperto Networks' systems have the capabilities including range and robustness required for deployment of broadband access,” said Yann Rochefort, project manager for wireless IP at France Telecom R&D. “We give PacketWave high marks for QoS, for spectral efficiency and the richness of its IP functionality. We expect this pilot to prove the benefits and efficiency of next generation broadband wireless access systems. And because of their leadership in IEEE 802.16 and the WiMAX Forum, we expect to benefit from Aperto's leading-edge influence in the implementation of the standard.” The system is currently being used for Wi-Fi backhaul, for highspeed Internet access, and direct broadband access to customers. It will then expand to provide broadband access for schools, local government, small and medium enterprises in this western region of France. The Leap broadband contract is down to the fact that it has won new licenses in Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Cork, which, when installed, will put Leap within reach of 80 per cent of the Irish population for wireless broadband services. Again it is using Packetwave and again in 3.5 GHz and again it is a repeat customer for Aperto, having already been granted a license by the Irish Commission for Communications Regulation in Dublin. Leap now has four additional cities, Limerick, Galway, Cork and Waterford and will expand its Dublin service offerings and add residential service before the end of 2004. Initially, Leap had offered unlicensed services in the 5 GHz band. Copyright © 2004, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories WiMAX approaches tipping point with new specs and carrier support Nokia quits WiMAX Forum Wireline operators flock to WiMAX
Faultline, 10 Jun 2004

US punters face higher phone charges

Consumers and businesses in the US have been warned that they could face higher phone charges in the future after the Solicitor General said he would not seek to challenge a recent ruling by the Appeals Court. In August last year the Federal Communication Commission FCC ruled that the four major regional phone companies - BellSouth, Qwest, SBC and Verizon - must give their competitors access to their networks at discounted prices in its 2003 Triennial Review Order (TRO). But the Bells, as they're known, got the hump arguing that the rules made no competitive sense (well, not for them at least) and in March, a US Court of Appeals agreed with them throwing out the FCC's new rules. Yesterday, hopes that the decision might be overturned were dashed as the US Solicitor General decided not to appeal the decision. Now, world+dog are lining up to let everyone know exactly what they think of the latest twist to hit the US telecoms industry. In essence, those backing the Solicitor General's decision claim that the absence of regulatory intervention will give the industry stability and aid investment. Those against say millions of punters must now brace themselves for higher phone charges. Peter Arnold, spokesman for Voices For Choices, a coalition of associations and companies that supports fair competition in local telephone service and high-speed Internet access, said: "One result of today's decision is already clear. Higher phone prices are going to hit like a rock. "The Appeals Court ripped away one of the most important consumer protections in federal telecom law. The only reason calling prices dropped in recent years is because competition emerged to the Bell monopolies. "Now the Administration has flipped positions and in effect allowed the Bells to block these emerging choices not only in a few states, but nationwide. The higher prices will impact more than just the 19 million Americans who have switched local phone providers - they'll impact all ratepayers. "With today's decision by the Solicitor General, you'll likely see a return to the Bells' typical pattern of constant price hikes." Chicago-based communications outfit Access One had this to say: " We feel the Solicitor General's decision is wrong, since it is contrary to the law and the public interest. For these reasons, it only makes sense that the Supreme Court have the last word in this contentious debate. "Bell monopolies state this is a victory for consumers when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. How can you trust the companies who have willingly paid more than $2 billion in fines over the last eight years solely in an effort to keep others out of their markets?" But there are still plenty around to defend the decision. The Telecommunications Research & Action Center (TRAC), which claims to promotes the interests of residential phone punters, said: "In this high stakes negotiations it is time to move from the court room to the negotiating table. Further litigation would not serve the interest of consumers. "The potential of more litigation would have created a wait and see attitude. Now all parties should be willing to sit down and conclude negotiations that will assure reasonable rates AND incentives to invest in deployment of new fibre networks to all people." While the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) Commission said it applauded the Bush Administration for "resisting the call for continued regulation, and for taking this very important step toward a working telecom market". ® Related stories FCC attempts telco compromise Court backs telcos in US network wars US groups lobby over VoIP regulation
Tim Richardson, 10 Jun 2004

Unpatched IE vuln exploited by adware

Detailed information on a brace of unpatched vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer has been posted onto a dull disclosure mailing list. The flaws involve a cross-zone scripting vuln and a bug in IE's Local Resource Access and pose an "extremely critical" risk to Windows users, according to security firm Secunia. The vulnerabilities affect both Internet Explorer 6 and Outlook. Secunia has confirmed the vulnerabilities in a fully patched system with Internet Explorer 6.0. Improved security features in the XP SP2 reportedly block exploitation but users would be ill advised to rely on beta code for protection. SP2 doesn't help users of earlier versions of Windows who are also at risk. The vulnerabilities are actively being exploited in the wild to install adware on users' systems, security researchers warn. Other exploits - include computer viruses - based on the same techniques of tricking users into visiting a maliciously constructed website housing malign script could follow. Etienne Greeff, director at MIS Corporate Defence Solutions, said: "This is a very sophisticated exploit using encryption and stealth technologies to deliver its payload, using previously unknown vulnerabilities to work." Windows users should disable Active Scripting support for all but trusted websites until Microsoft releases patches to address the vulnerabilities. The vulnerabilities were publicised by a Dutch 'white hat hacker' called Jelmer, who came across an example of an exploit of the flaws already in circulation last weekend. ® Related stories Browser-based attacks on the up IE flaw exposes weakness in Yahoo! filtering MS releases double-plus critical security fix MS hatches June patch batch - no sign of a fix in June patch batch
John Leyden, 10 Jun 2004

Copy protection to extend to multiple but limited burns

The two most prominent suppliers of copy protection for music compact disks, are set to come back to the market with rethought offerings whereby CD copying is allowed, but limited to a set number. This strategy, dictated by the record labels as “where they are trying to get,” will emerge in new offerings from market leader Macrovision and SunnComm, during the course of 2004. So far, CD copy protection has been crude. It is either on, or it is off. You can either copy as many times as you like, or not copy at all, and the record companies have been terrified of implementing the “copy protection on” mode in sensitive markets. For sensitive markets read the US, primarily, and some parts of Europe. In Europe there have been some prominent legal cases in which customers have returned CD disks as “faulty” if they cannot play in the various different CD players, including car stereos, or if personal copies cannot be made. Last week CNET talked the problem through with both Macrovision and SunnComm which both confessed they were about to launch new versions which allowed a set number of burns, but no more. The record labels haven’t dared jeopardize their strongest market in the US by putting copy protection on music CDs, instead they have been happier to experiment with these types of schemes in less sophisticated markets, until now. Once they have brought some acceptable form of copy protection to the US, then they will try to bring the same concepts to the online music services of only allowing a set number of CD burns or other copies, for each downloaded track. Consumers have been getting more and more used to having a track they like cut into multiple playlists on both music players like iPods and on CDs, so this may prove a more difficult market to regulate after its recent freedoms. Bertelsmann Music Group made history when it became SunnComm’s first customer for copy protection in a market which is virtually a monopoly for Macrovision. This backfired when it was widely publicized on the Web that the protection could be bypassed by holding down the shift key on a protected CD while it was loading. In April last year Macrovision announced that it has taken a license for Microsoft’s Data Session Toolkit which meant that working with Macrovision’s content protection the Toolkit will allow copies of downloaded files to be made on slave, tethered devices but each one needs to be authenticated using the original PC that downloaded it. This would take care of copy protection online once Macrovision is asked for it. Last week QuietTiger, the worldwide sales and marketing subsidiary of SunnComm International, announced that it had landed a licensing agreement with independent music giant Koch Records. Reseller Sonopress helped on the deal. The New York-based Koch Records will use the MediaMax Music Management System on its releases. Related stories 321 lookalike punts DVD copy software Philips leaks Intertrust 'open' DRM details Microsoft squares Intertrust DRM suit for $440m New workaround for Apple DRM EMI admits CD copy protection compatibility problems Copy-crippled CDs launch in UK, baffling Auntie Beeb
Faultline, 10 Jun 2004

MS boffins build real-time stereocam

Computer science boffins at Microsoft's research labs in Cambridge have developed i2i, a stereo camera for use with instant messaging technology that automatically frames and tracks its subject. This makes it seem that the user is looking at the camera, even he is actually looking at his PC screen: so video communication is more like face-to-face conversation. Using multiple webcams and a new algorithm, the technology creates a 3D image which can be rotated and viewed from many angles. Like 3D photography, this relies on combining two (or more) sets of camera data to produce one Cyclopean image. Unlike still photography, the algorithm can produce the image in real time, on an ordinary laptop. The team has also developed 3D emoticons. These can be included in the combined image, and appear to float in orbit around the users head, with pretty impressive field depth. It can also blur the background, allowing a certain amount of self censorship, or insert an entirely alien background. "This part is counter-intuitive," says lead researcher Antonio Criminisi, "But we get a better image if there is a cluttered background. The Cyclopean view of the face will be fine if the background is plain, but the background will be attached to the back of the head as there is no way of discriminating between two points on the background. "This works just fine for just normal stereo video, but if you want to do anything else, superimpose the image on other backgrounds or do anything with the flying emoticons for instance, it starts to behave very strangely." Criminisi, who joined the research team at Microsoft from his post-doc work at Oxford, says the technology is not far off being ready for commercialisation. Processor load is still an issue, but has come a long way in the last six months, he says, and will work respectably (at around 10 frames per second) on an unexceptional laptop now. There is, however, no guarantee that it will ever make it out of the lab and into product development. "It is what every researcher wants, to see your work make it in the real world, but we'll wait and see," Criminisi shrugs. The team is now working on a way of developing a 3D mask that could be wrapped over the users real face. This could be used to create avatars in games, for example. "Once you have reconstructed the 3D geometry of your image, there are so many cool things you can do," he said. ® Related stories New Yahoo! Messenger piles on the pounds UK firms must monitor staff IMs Gatelinx preps free P2P videocon messenger
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Jun 2004

Opera launches 250% go-faster for mobile phone browser

Opera has launched a go-faster service for mobile phone browsing, claiming the system cuts bills and increases rendering speed on mobile devices by up to 250 per cent. The Opera Mobile Accelerator is a proxy-based system available for Sony-Ericsson P800/P900 and all Series 60 handsets, including Nokia, Siemens and Sendo X (it say here, so it must be due soon). Current users of Opera's mobile browser can configure the system automatically by pointing their phones at http://www.opera.com/proxy, where they'll have access to a two week free trial. The Register has been using a pre-release version for about a week now, and it's noticeably nippy, although the system could obviously benefit from larger numbers of users pointing the proxy server at our favourite pages, so that they come compressed by the server by the time we get to them. Opera proposes to license Mobile Accelerator to operators, and is also selling it as a subscription service for individual users. It costs €12 for three months, €20 for six or €30 for a year. In addition to the 14 day free trial, customers buying Opera for Series 60 devices will get a complimentary three month subscription to Accelerator. ® Related links: Mobile Accelerator details
John Lettice, 10 Jun 2004

Ask Jeeves if it's just bought Tukaroo

Internet search outfit Ask Jeeves Inc has acquired US-based desktop search outfit Tukaroo. Financial details were not disclosed. Ask Jeeves is keen to wrap Tukaroo's technology with its own to enable Net users to search their PCs for all their bibs and bobs. For, as computers get stuffed to the gunnels with all sorts of files, Ask Jeeves reckons punters need a way to find a way to navigate through all their stuff. Said Ask Jeeves chief exec Steve Berkowitz: "We expect that Tukaroo's desktop search and information management capabilities will enable Ask Jeeves to deliver a seamless, end-to-end search experience across the desktop and the Internet." Two days ago Ask Jeeves asked the US financial authorities for the green light to sell up to $400m (£220m) of its stock and other securities to fund further business developments. ® Related stories Ask Jeeves if it ate Excite.com Yahoo! and Google escalate portal wars DARPA to invest in digital butlers
Tim Richardson, 10 Jun 2004

MP slams failed online university

An online university that cost the government £62m to set up has been closed down having failed to attract enough students. Dr Ian Gibson, Labour MP and chair of science and technology committee at the Commons has condemned the scheme, UKeU, as a "shameful waste" of public money, and an "absolute disaster". Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Gibson said that those who ploughed public money into the venture should be publicly censured. He also called on the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) to explain its role in the affair. The online university was intended to act as a portal, selling other universities' online degree programmes. It was a joint venture between the government, the universities that signed up and Sun Microsystems, which provided the platform supporting the whole thing. According to the BBC, the plug was pulled on the scheme in February this year, and says it is now being "quietly dismantled". The UKeU bills this process as restructuring, and said it would transfer some of its activities. The Hefce sent consultants in to investigate in December 2003. Their report, which was leaked to the BBC, criticised the management's lack of focus, and said the marketing was based "more on optimism than market-led judgements". Shortly after the report was filed, Hefce pulled the plug on funding the organisation it is current form. Even so, Hefce maintains a very strong public defence of the e-university. It says that things have changed considerably in the time since the venture was set up in 2001, the very tail end of the dotcom glory days. Despite a prolonged publicity effort, the e-university only attracted 900 students. Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Commons education select committee, said that the public cost per student had been £44,000. El Reg's sums put the figure at closer to £70,000. The whole affair will be examined by the Commons education select committee in June. ® Related stories UK gov gets school IT gold star RIAA tax could add millions to education fees EU thundering down information superhighway
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Jun 2004

Orange users suffer tech fault

Orange UK has confirmed that a "small number" of its customers have been unable to use their mobile phones over the last couple of days because of a technical fault. The victims appear to be punters upgrading their phones or switching between contract and pay as you go (PAYG) services. Orange told us: "We can confirm that on Tuesday 8 June a small number of Orange customers upgrading their phones or moving from contract to PAYG may have experienced difficulties. This was due to a technical fault that has now been identified and resolved. Normal service has now been restored to all customers." Well, not quite. El Reg has been contacted by one hacked-off Orange punter to say that his service is still down. What's more, he's been told by Orange support staff on more than one occasion that this technical fault has affected "thousands" of Orange punters. A spokeswoman for the mobilephoneco promised to go away and investigate further. Half an hour later she came and confirmed, rather sheepishly, that the problem has not been resolved. Although the glitch has been identfied, Orange is still "working to resolve the issue so that normal service can be resumed to all customers as soon as possible", she told us belatedly. Ahem ® Related stories London sees red as Orange service goes crash Orange UK sorts German roaming snag Orange squashes SPV smartphone
Tim Richardson, 10 Jun 2004

Mobile porn is a 'time bomb'

European mobile phone firms must act to ensure that adult content reaches only adults, a research company warns. Mobile operators face a backlash over adult content if they are unable to balance lucrative revenues with legitimate parental anxieties, according to a report from research company Current Analysis. The warning comes as visual advances in mobile handset technology have led to the widespread introduction of mobile devices capable of taking pictures, videos and watching short video clips and films. "There could be uproar in Ireland when 3G arrives and hardcore pornography is available over 3G phones," report author Bena Roberts, Current Analysis European wireless services analyst, told ElectricNews.Net. Yet the "Adult Content: Social Responsibility vs. Revenue Gain" advisory document states that there is "little that can be really achieved" to control adult content on mobile handsets. The report follows the news that 3G mobile phones sold in Ireland are to be registered to their owners in an effort to safeguard children from inappropriate content. A three-pronged initiative aimed at ensuring the secure and responsible use of mobile services was also launched by the Irish Cellular Industry Association (ICIA) and mobile operators O2, Meteor and Vodafone in early June. An industry code of practice, a parental guide to mobile phone services and a mobile content filtering trial were unveiled as part of the initiative. For mobile operators, social responsibility comes from "having to show that they care" in order to avoid lawsuits, said Roberts. "The UK's code of practice is an attempt, but in reality it serves as a security blanket," she said. Mobile operators such as O2 UK, Orange UK, T-Mobile Germany, Telefonica Moviles in Spain and Vodafone Portugal all currently offer adult content services, and Italian operator Wind is deriving up to 80 per cent of data revenues from its sex channel, dating and flirt SMS services, notes the report. "Even if Irish operators are not directly offering services, there is already access to adult content in Ireland over mobile phones via third party providers," Roberts said. The only way to stem anxiety about adult content is to tackle the issue head on and offer consumers clear guidelines so that they can find what they want, if they want it - but can never come across such services accidentally, states the report. The report concludes mobile operators must educate parents, let users decide for themselves which content they feel is appropriate and, in the UK, implement the code of practice immediately. Operators should also consider banning the use of adult content services for pre-paid users, using child-centric mobile phones or follow the German option of having mobile SIM cards that do not support adult content. © ENN Related stories Ireland to build register of 3G phone users US to ban up-skirt voyeur photos Parents worried about 3G phones Porn and the handset No porn for kids, say mobile phone operators
ElectricNews.net, 10 Jun 2004

Mysterious Phoebe: Cassini's next fly-by

Tomorrow, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft will fly past Phoebe, one of Saturn's many moons and one of the most mysterious bodies in the solar system. The craft will send back pictures 1000 times more detailed than those produced last time Phoebe was photographed, when Voyager 2 swung past in 1981. The pictures below, sent back earlier this month, are already twice as good as any that have been seen before and reveal a substantial amount of detail. For example, the shadows suggest a surface covered in deep craters and tall mountainous peaks. Scientists hope the data Cassini-Huyges sends back, which will include spectroscopic and radar data, will help them learn more about the composition of the moon. The ESA says the mission will help with unanswered questions such as did Phoebe ever melt? Does it have evidence of past interior melting? Was it ever an icy body? Just 220km in diameter, Phoebe is in a very peculiar, retrograde orbit, and is very dark. Scientists speculate that it could be a body from the distant Kuiper belt, way out in the outer solar system. ® Related stories Scientist seeks alien cloud-dwelling bug Cassini images delight star gazers Rosetta space-bound at third attempt
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Jun 2004

IBM breathes life into Itanium ecosystem

The Itanium processor has a dirty secret, and it's buried in Armonk. The one Itanium vendor with the most to lose from the processor's existence is showing the most dramatic growth in Itanium server sales. In the first quarter, IBM set a company record for Itanium server sales, shipping 1,113 systems, according to Gartner. That figure is up from the desperate total of 29 units in the first quarter of last year. IBM barely mentions its two-processor x382 and four-processor x455 Itanium servers. In fact, the first item returned in a search for "Itanium server" on IBM's web site is a study declaring that Linux running on IBM's own Power processor is a much cheaper option than Linux running on Itanium, UltraSPARC or Xeon processors. IBM makes solid money promoting Power and isn't about to give Intel's 64-bit behemoth public credit. That said, IBM is now the second largest Itanium vendor. Its sales have risen from the 29 units in the first quarter of 2003 to 2 units, oops, in Q203 and to 148 units in Q303. But the real jump came in the fourth quarter of last year when IBM shipped 1,082 Itanic boxes, leading in to last quarter's total of 1,113. Quite a leap! In reality, however, the success of IBM's Itanium business is an interesting side-attraction for what is a carnival gone wrong. As mentioned last month, a grand total of 6,281 Itanium servers were shipped in the first quarter at an average selling price of just $45,000 each. This meager amount of sales might not be so bad for the "Itanium ecosystem" if it were not for HP's total domination of the market. HP accounted for 4,425 of these sales, according to Gartner. And this figure would not be so bad for HP if it were not for the sequential decline in its own Itanic shipments. HP shipped 4,993 Itanium systems in the fourth quarter of 2003. Higher fourth quarter sales are to be expected as vendors' look to close year-end deals, but any decline is bad news for a "bet the company" product. HP receives top marks for a year-over-year surge from the 1,135 systems shipped in the first quarter of 2003. Still, not even Merrill Lynch's Steve Milunovich would be gullible enough to bet a company on these types of volumes. What scraps did HP and IBM leave for the rest of the ecosystem? Well, Dell managed to move 271 Itanium servers in the first quarter of 2004. That's a nice jump from the, um, 15 shipped in last year's Q1 but a decline from the 314 shipped in Q4. One can only imagine how many employees Dell dedicates to handling Itanium sales. Not quite the number that the volume icon is used to. Nonetheless, Dell this week released a new four-processor Itanium box. Back to work, Bob. NEC is the fourth-place Itanic powerhouse with 130 boxes moved in the first quarter of this year. Again, this is a stunning gain over the, cripes, 4 systems shipped in the same period last year and 55 moved in the fourth quarter of 2003. SGI - another bet the company on Itanic firm - managed to pump its first quarter totals up to 110 units shipped. That's a rise over the, dear lord, 33 boxes moved in last year's Q1 and a slight gain over the 98 systems shipped in the fourth quarter. SGI does, however, tend to ship larger systems than most of the Itanic vendors, so it might be pulling in a bit more cash than close rivals. All told, the Itanic market still looks quite unhealthy. The chip was always billed as an industry-standard part, but three of the largest server vendors in the world are managing but 500 total shipments in the best quarter of the chip's history. And that's with RISC switching "incentives" in play. Wouldn't it be something to see IBM pull its Itanium systems off the market all together and cull the ecosystem by close to 20 percent? It's not a likely scenario, but would help pull IBM out of a rather awkward position. At the moment, IBM is the only thing stopping Itanium from looking exactly like the PA-RISC/Alpha replacement many suspect it is. If there is an Itanium ecosystem, it's IBM's fault - a stigma that brings little financial gain for the company. ® Related stories HP must create separate printer biz - analyst Dell makes room for midrange Itanium system Sun goes back to the future with Metropolis First 64-bit Windows virus sighted Intel to ship 64-bit Prescotts on 1 August Itanium and Opteron show spotty sales Server vendors work hard for their money in Q1
Ashlee Vance, 10 Jun 2004

Windows HPC edition in the works

Although Microsoft has refused to confirm the many reports that say so, it appears the company is working on a version of its Windows Server platform specifically tailored for the high performance computing market... That Microsoft would branch off from Windows 2003 Server to create an HPC Edition makes perfect sense for a number of reasons, but the main benefit would be to cut off one of the major growth areas for the Linux market, while filling its own coffers. How the sector evolved Thirty years ago, the HPC market was dominated by massively expensive vector supercomputers that ran a collection of Fortran and C programs on Unix operating systems. A vector processor is a fancy name for a specialized computer that does floating point math very fast, and being a specialized machine for a relatively tiny market, vector processors had to be expensive by definition. In the mid-1990s, as HPC computing requirements went up faster than budgets (particularly for weather modeling and weapons research), research organizations in government and academia swiftly adapted many of the supercomputing programs to run on so-called massively parallel supercomputers that were created from clusters of Unix workstations or servers. These servers were linked together by special fast switches and software based on the Message Passing Interface standard. This MPI approach gradually went corporate, and with the advent of Linux clusters on cheap X86 iron in the past few years, it has gone mainstream. Microsoft wants a piece of the action. Since 1992, Microsoft has been working with Dell, Intel, and the Cornell Theory Center of Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, to create MPI-based clusters running a variety of Windows operating systems. There is a plethora of software available to make Windows clusters, but most companies are moving from Unix to Linux clusters because of the close relationship that exists, from a code execution point of view as well as from a system administration perspective, between the Unix and Linux systems. Overlooked factors The people jabbering about this rumored HPC Edition for the past few weeks didn't stop to realize two things. First, MPI is an open standard and Microsoft can easily weave it right into the guts of Windows, either at the communications layer or within the Common Language Runtime (CLR) execution environment of the .NET Framework. The latter would be more useful, since it would better insulate programmers from the complexities of having to program for parallel environments. (That's the theory, anyway.) Microsoft could partner (say with MPI Software Technology, one of the experts in this area that has Windows-compatible MPI code already done). Here's the other thing they forgot. With the Services for Unix (SFU) layer of Windows Server 2003, which was significantly expanded in February and is now free, Microsoft has a Unix development and runtime environment inside Windows. This could also be extended with MPI, allowing Fortran and C applications written for parallel Unix clusters to be more easily ported to parallel Windows clusters. In theory, the parallel Unix applications would not have to be tweaked much (but would have to be recompiled) to run within the SFU environment on Windows. This is not such a big deal. Companies moving from Unix to Linux clusters are already doing it, in fact. There are other possibilities, including creating a grid environment, as Sun Microsystems has, that aggregates the processing capacity of servers in an MPI cluster with desktops residing on the corporate network to create an even more massive parallel supercomputer. What Grid Engine does for Solaris - creating a virtual processing pool for parallel applications - Windows Server HPC Edition could do for Windows. Competing on price The main thing Microsoft has to realize is, if it wants to get into the HPC market, it not only has to more tightly integrate MPI and other protocols with the Windows platform, it will have to compete on price as well. The dirty little secret in the parallel Linux cluster market is that a lot of these machines are not running expensive server editions of the commercial Linux software (if they are using commercial versions at all), but rather are using stripped-down versions of desktop Linux editions, which basically have the kernel, some compilers and libraries, and the clustering software installed. Windows Server HPC Edition, whether it comes out later this year or next year, is going to have to be very inexpensive to beat Linux in the HPC market. Linux didn't just take off in the HPC market because it was like Unix. It took off because it was cheap or free. If Microsoft can make programming for parallel supercomputers easier, through the magic of CLR and the future Visual Studio 2005, it may be able to charge a slight premium for a future Windows Server HPC Edition. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor Related research Datamonitor: Microsoft: making strides with NSPs? (BFTC0799) Related stories Oracle, HP, Intel and Sun start YAGCSB* Tyan aims four-way Opteron board at supercomp makers Cray to buy AMD cluster maker
Datamonitor, 10 Jun 2004

EMC puts voodoo in new software biz

It's fitting that in a week in which Ronald Reagan and his voodoo economics passed, EMC has stepped up with a voodoo data protection plan. "We have to beat Veritas, and we are," David De Walt, an EVP at EMC, told CRN. "I've already been sticking pins in my (Veritas CEO) Gary Bloom doll." The voodoo tactic is just one part of a revamped software strategy announced today by EMC at its analyst conference in New York. EMC has created a new Software Group organization that combines the products and operations EMC acquired from Legato and Documentum with its own existing software business. VMware, EMC's third main acquisition, will continue to operate on its own as a subsidiary. Smart move there. DeWalt and his doll army will manage the software business with fellow EVP Mark Lewis. EMC expects to pull in close to $1.5bn in revenue with its software license and services revenue combined over the course of 2004. That's out of a $8.1bn total forecast for the company's entire 2004 revenue. EMC has long been very vocal about wanting software to account for a larger chunk of overall revenue. The days of over-priced storage systems are fading due to ever-lowering disk costs and competition. That's precisely why EMC paid billions for Legato, Documentum and VMware. It makes sense to operate VMware on its own as the company has close ties to EMC rivals IBM and HP. VMware is basically the industry standard software maker for partitioning applications on x86 workstations and servers. Analysts had been wondering how EMC would deal with its numerous acquisitions and today's move answers those questions. EMC will now have its entire fleet of storage management software, including ControlCenter and OpenPath, under one roof. VMware will no doubt be invited to contribute server-side help where needed. None of this, however, changes the basic problems facing EMC. Storage customers are yearning for what they see as "open" management software. The open category is Veritas's forte, and the company has beefed up its arsenal this year with a host of its own acquisitions. Veritas is without doubt considered a friendlier vendor in the software arena, which is something voodoo dolls may not help change. And, on a larger scale, vendors such as HP, IBM and Sun have stronger stories to tell, at this point, about managing server and storage systems together. EMC is weak on the server-side, with its rivals having about a two-year lead on the "whole package" management idea. That said, EMC has been performing well of late and appears determined to succeed as a software company. ® Related stories EMC retools archiving software EMC, Dell and Brocade enjoy menage a SAN EMC and Dell get cheap together EMC goes low with new NAS head
Ashlee Vance, 10 Jun 2004

Accenture accensured for offshore tax haven

A bid led by consulting giant Accenture to administer the IT project that tracks foreigners has been halted in the United States Congress because Accenture is a foreign company that uses Bermuda as a tax haven. So says an important Congressional committee which has voted to strip the company of a lucrative contract. Accenture, along with Dell, AT&T, Sprint and Raytheon, won the right to administer the US-VISIT project that records and tracks visitors to the USA, in a deal worth around $10bn. But the Congressional appropriations committee has voted 35-17 to strip the victorious 'Team C' of its prize. Rival bids had been tabled by two consortia led by CSC and Lockheed Martin respectively. Accenture, naturally, isn't very pleased, and points out that it is headquartered in Illinois and pays US taxes. But members of the Congressional appropriations committee expressed outrage that the company, which spun out of the multinational Andersen Consulting in 2001, uses a complex corporate structure with a home in the tax haven of Bermuda. Accenture has 25,000 employees in the US. Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, who sponsored the amendment, said that "this is about leveling the playing field". Her measure prevents offshore companies from bidding for government contracts. ® Related stories Accenture wins $10bn Homeland Security gig US plans $10bn computer dragnet The USA: outsourcing heartland
Andrew Orlowski, 10 Jun 2004