We’ve been told for years that the Wireless Office is finally here: A world of no Ethernet cables criss-crossing office floors, of impersonal hubs allowing workers to pick up and drop down whenever, wherever without further configuration or just stroll the aisles while video chatting on a high-def Cisco Cius lag-free. But are we finally there?
For one thing, no two offices are alike (though they sure do try their darndest), and for another we’re not going to be truly cable-free for a long, long time: Even the almighty .11n pales in comparison to the demands of a lightweight NAS.
But corporate IT is becoming, like it or not, more and more wireless-driven: Better, faster networks make hopping in and out of meeting spaces a breeze, and with more data being pushed to “The Cloud” (that’s a whole other story), pervasive connectivity is near necessity, and if you don’t provide it they’ll get it from their MiFi device or (cover your eyes) the local Starbucks Hot Spot.
This month, we’ll be taking a look at the promise and progress of the Wireless Workplace, but we’d love to hear your stories. If you have a good wireless success story (or dire warning!), I’d love to hear it at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com. We’ll reprint our favorites and hook up the senders with some great swag, from your choice of training books to the coveted ITKnowledgeExchange T-shirts. Anonymity guaranteed if requested.
So, what’s your wireless war story?
This month, we took a look at the fast-evolving storage landscape here at ITKnowledgeExchange: It was a big month for acquisitions, announcements and – in at least one case – public breakups, all setting the ground for a 2012 full of interesting developments, particularly as SSD, Cloud Computing and other (very) relatively new technologies come into regular usage.
But what is the good of all that data in the first place? Oracle tried to drum up a answer with the release of its Exalytics BI Machine, which turns your Oracle-powered shop into a real-time, “Big Data” crunching powerhouse. What we’re seeing is a closer linkage between Business Intelligence and the data it needs to work, which means storage has to step up to the plate in a number of new ways: Faster indexing, faster retrieval, and much, much higher I/O to deal with streams of incoming, outgoing real-time data that must be accounted for.
But how to pick your date to the storage ball? We loved Eric Slack’s three keys to a good storage vendor partner:
“The scale out storage technology and expertise Red Hat is gaining from the acquisition of Gluster will serve as a powerful foundation for future public, private and hybrid storage clouds,” said Henry Baltazar, senior analyst of The 451 Group.
“Over the past few years, Dell has grown to become a robust storage technology provider with differentiated capabilities across several product families, including Compellent, EqualLogic, PowerVault, and Dell / EMC,” is the way the company actually put it, on what used to be the Dell/EMC product page.
Dell bought EqualLogic in 2007, and Compellent in 2010 — spending a total of $2 billion on storage acquisitions — after starting its partnership with EMC in 2001. Other acquisitions included Exanet for scale-out NAS technology and Ocarina for data compression and optimization, as well as making its own DX6000 object storage hardware, partnering with Caringo for the software. The company also reportedly said that its own storage properties provide almost 80 percent of its storage revenues and 90 percent of its profits in the second quarter of this year.
Nothing good lasts forever, as they say, but Dell is serious about owning more of the enterprise stack and this is a strong step in that direction.
All in all, it’s an exciting time for storage, and ITKnowledgeExchange readers are keeping up with the trends: Getting up to speed on how to capitalize on the cloud, without crashing the business, was a Community Goal for 2012, which is why Randy Kerns post makes a great closure to this month’s wrap up, in which he reminds us that storage isn’t a sprint, it’s a decades-long marathon:
The excitement around a new technology needs to be kept in perspective with how long it takes to be deployed successfully by IT. The technology adoption rate reflects the inertia and conservative nature for handling the critical task of storing data.
The longer technology adoption rate can kill start-up companies when they can’t get the investments required to get to the point of profitability. Many investors have an aggressive profile that defies the reality of adoption rates. Larger companies can handle the conservative adoption more successfully, but with much internal angst.
But no matter how great a new storage technology may be, the customer needs to understand it to make correct decisions about investing in it before it takes hold in data centers.
After a not-so-good year, Research in Motion, it seems, has come to a halt. Tuesday’s San Francisco unveiling of BlackBerry’s “next generation platform” is being called “little more than a rebranding” by the Times’ Ian Austen. What was supposed to be an appetizing display for developers turned into a disappointing realization that BBX, the new software, isn’t much more than a spruced up QNX operating system.
“Underwhelming is a good word,” analyst from MacDougall, MacDougall and MacTier told the Times.
For once, Microsoft has actually set a better example in the world of mobile and applications. Perhaps RIM should have taken a page out of the old Microsoft Build book and wooed its potential developers with hip new devices equipped with BBX. Instead, it frustrated the crowd with more vague information about the actual release date for BBX phones and no opportunity for developers to interact with prototypes.
Others think the simple act of renaming the OS from QNX, which PlayBooks are running, to BBX is a mistake. Ken Dulaney, VP of mobile computing at Gartner, told Tech News World that it “could be confusing for the BlackBerry community,” making “it look like RIM doesn’t have a unified operating system approach.” And RIM would do best not to confuse its loyal customers so soon after trying their patience with the recent BlackBerry outages around the world. The subsequent offer of free apps and free technical support (for one month, for enterprise customers) did little to patch up the largest network outage in the company’s history. As one community member of Slashdot put it: “This is the second major outage RIM has experience while my company has used their phones. Unfortunately for them, this one came right in the middle of my company’s evaluation period for new phones company-wide and it just sealed their fate. RIM’s going bye-bye.”
RIM wasn’t all foibles, however. The company finally delivered a set of software tools that will ease the transition of apps originally made for Android to BlackBerry phones. But analysts cringe at RIM’s adherence to the Android platform instead of fighting against it and offering something better.
Telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan told Tech News World the trick to RIM’s avoiding “going bye-bye”: “They have to wow the marketplace. They haven’t wowed the marketplace since the Apple iPhone came out. The marketplace has yawned when it comes to BlackBerry.”
What do you think RIM could do to wake us up to BlackBerry?
The “Death of IT” has been heralded for years, probably since around the time Grace Murray Hopper literally quashed the first computer bug. All that computer mumbo jumbo is destined to get simpler, right? That’s the Pointy-Haired Boss dream, at least, and it was one posited strongly in Nicholas Carr’s now infamous 2003 essay, “IT Doesn’t Matter.”
In that essay, he suggested that IT-based initiatives were rarely if ever a strategic priority; instead, such investments were generally a cost center. Technological advancements and falling prices meant any major investments today would likely be proved standard tomorrow and obsolete a generation later.
Windows 8’s impending release has caused a bit of a stir especially in the blogging community, but not everyone is as concerned as we originally thought. When asked how they were planning to deal with the effect of the Windows 8 secure boot and Linux clash, community members all but laughed in our faces. Take a look at how the IT community is planning on dealing with this – minor – speed bump in its Linux life.
In a bid to stir up debate that goes beyond “conventional politics”, Politico is holding an imaginary U.S. primary of off-ticket, independent candidates. The ballot features the likes of Michael Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton and Jon Huntsman (ok, so not completely beyond convention). Also in the ranks is one tech CEO: Cisco’s John Chambers. From Politico’s nomination:
The guy has a good personal story to tell: He was diagnosed with dyslexia as a kid, overcame it, excelled at Middle America universities – first at West Virginia and later at Indiana – and rose to head one of the world’s largest and most influential companies. He has an even better and more relevant business story to tell: He has pulled a company through a wrenching period – including big layoffs – helped reinvent its culture and operations and made money in the complex global marketplace.
He knows firsthand how government can both impede – and encourage – growth and deals daily with the competitive pressures of China and other emerging markets.
He could run as an authentic outsider, someone who hasn’t spent his life pursuing public office. A Washington-has-no-damn-clue message on navigating and dominating the world economy would resonate for many. His smooth speaking style and self-confidence would play well on the national stage.
More ingenious Cisco product placement? I hope not, but Chambers is one of the most non-conventional candidates on the list, now that Bloomberg’s established his political chops. Would he or could he make a presidential contender? I’m doubtful. Sure, he has the sales experience that comes with a large enterprise business, and that would surely help negotiate through the labyrinthine maze of Washington deal making.
Wired.com has put together a particularly moving tribute to Steve Jobs, who died yesterday at the age of 56. In it, the thoughts and admiration of his friends, followers and competitors are collected, memorializing a man who reshaped, and fundamentally rethought, his industry.
Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives. The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.
By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.
Tim Cook, Jobs’ successor as Apple CEO:
No words can adequately express our sadness at Steve’s death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him. We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.
Each new year is a chance to set a new spin on your business, and IT is no different. We asked the community what goals they have to finish out 2011 to position themselves for 2012, and we received a range of answers.
Out with the old (software), in with the new
Promising to help customers reign in unstructured “Big Data” (think everything from ubiquitous smart meters to ever-present dumb Tweets), Oracle CEO Larry Ellison introduced the company’s new Exalytics BI Machine, alongside its new Big Data Appliance. The announcement, made as Oracle OpenWorld kicks off, embeds analytics right in with the hardware, crunching a terabyte of compressed data (which InformationWeek reported Oracle stating would equal about 5 to 10 terabytes of usable uncompressed data) with 40 on-board CPU cores.
AllThingsD’s Arik Hesseldahl has a good inside-baseball piece analyzing how the last few weeks of quarreling between Oracle and HP over Autonomy, culminating in yesterday’s announcement:
And what did Ellison talk about in his keynote address Sunday night? Lots of things. One of them was an appliance called the Exalytics Intelligence Machine that does — guess what? — unstructured data. It’s designed, Ellison said, to do all its analysis while the data is loaded into the machine’s main memory, while four 10-core Intel Xeon chips make it scream on the processor side. “Databases run faster, everything runs faster if you keep it in DRAM, if you keep it main memory,” he said, describing it as data analysis at the “speed of thought.” Structured data, relational data, unstructured data — it does it all, Ellison said. Now all that mishegas makes sense. It’s all about having the last word.
There’s been a bit of outrage recently over what seems to be Microsoft’s sly tactic against open source operating systems on Windows machines.
Worry over what this means for non-Windows users – especially in the vocal Linux community – has run rampant despite Steven Sinofsky’s claim that “[t]he UEFI secure boot protocol is the foundation of an architecturally neutral approach to platform and firmware security. Based on the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) process to validate firmware images before they are allowed to execute, secure boot helps reduce the risk of boot loader attacks. Microsoft relies on this protocol in Windows 8 to improve platform security for our customers.”
It is precisely the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) that makes this roadblock possibly permanent. While this is what they say is the “key” to allowing non-Windows users access to their machines, it may prove to be the lock instead. Matthew Garrett, mobile Linux developer at Red Hat, said in a blog post, “As things stand, Windows 8 certified systems will make it either more difficult or impossible to install alternative operating systems.”
The real worry comes when users buy newer models, since Microsoft has no control over whether or not manufacturers allow users to disable secure boot, the one saving grace of the whole fiasco. As Garrett points out on his blog: “[Microsoft’s] competition can’t [require hardware vendors to include their keys]. Red Hat is unable to ensure that every OEM carries their signing key….or any other PC component manufacturer.”
Not all Linux users see the hype as warranted, as IT Knowledge Exchange blogger Eric Hansen of I.T. Security and Linux Administration puts it: “I personally think all of this is nonsense.” Citing the optionality of Secure Boot and that this feature only affects newer models already set up for Windows, Hansen doesn’t see any immediate effects on the way he uses Linux.
“I’m not sure what the system specs are for Windows 8, but I’m pretty sure even those systems running the (now) archaic BIOS is going to be able to boot Windows 8. If you don’t have UEFI on your system, then Secure Boot isn’t going to make a difference anyways,” Hansen writes. “[H]ow does this involve Linux? Well, in the short term, it doesn’t.”
It’s true, it doesn’t seem that non-Windows users need to feel threatened by the BIOS replacement and default secure boot for now. Brad Chaco of Maximum PC highlights one Slashdot forum user’s “chilling prophecy of the future“: “Today you can throw Linux on any old hardware, and do something useful with it. 5-10 years from now, you’ll have to specifically hunt down unlocked software. This has a rather drastic effect on the utility of Linux, which is Microsoft’s intention.” Bing Tsher E follows up with an indirect response to Hansen’s less-than-alarmed post: “The hardware vendors are also vigorously trying to make certain there isn’t any ‘old hardware’ to employ…. It won’t matter whether the old hardware can boot Linux if it’s been sucked out of existence and destroyed.”
What do you think: Is this the beginning of the end or mere conspiracy theory?