I am thankful for electricity.
That’s what I said last Thanksgiving, and I’ll say it again now. Without electricity, we’d have been sitting in the dark, eating turkey roasted over a spit. I’ll come back to this point in just a minute.
On Monday evening, I attended an event at the Waltham, Mass. Westin celebrating IEEE’s 125th anniversary. One of the themes of the presentation by IEEE president John Vig was the idea of celebrating the many contributions engineers and scientists have made towards a better world. Another point Vig emphasized was the fact that IEEE has expanded far beyond its original focus (on electrical engineering) and now includes not only electrical engineers but also computer scientsts and IT professionals, physicists, materials scientists and even medical doctors. Vig said that the spelled-out version of its name (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.) “no longer serves the organization well,” so now they just go by the letters IEEE.
Vig also showed a video — “One voice for engineering, communication, technological innovation” — that featured a number of IEEE members speaking about the scope of technological innovation and the importance of IEEE. Vint Cerf, featured prominently, said “Everyone using the Internet is making use of an IEEE standard.”
Vig was followed by William Kiczuk, Technical Director of IDS at Raytheon. Kiczuk spoke on Raytheon’s “significant new thrust in cybersecurity,” specifically through project Athena, a network-centric control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system. (Hmm, network in the weaponry, and it might turn into Skynet!)
The Raytheon portion of the presentation was aligned thematically with the concurrent Homeland Security Conference. There was not a huge network security presence at what I saw of the conference, but there was some fascinating technology and a poster session on homeland security. Most of the content revolved around detection and prevention or first response and communications in man-made or natural disasters. showed me the “Hazmat Cam,” an analog wireless video camera for first responders. The camera operates on an FM signal and transmits to an array of three antennas so the signal can be received despite thick walls and other barriers.
As I browsed some of the conference posters, which covered everything from gamma ray detection to biological weapons to school shootings, I started thinking about how the Internet can be good and bad when it comes to emergency communications. On one hand, you have the recent case of social networking (specifically Twitter) spreading a lot of confusing, inaccurate FUD about swine flu. As one of the posters at the IEEE event pointed out, with flawed communications systems, “the response may become a crisis itself.”
On the other hand: Last Friday, a huge damaging wind storm blew through Southern Illinois, where I grew up. The storm, being called an “inland hurricane,” knocked down trees and power lines, destroyed roofs and gas station canopies, and tied up traffic. It didn’t make the national news and nobody around Boston has heard of it. I actually found out about the storm via Facebook: My friends who have moved out of the area began posting updates about the status of the storm and communications with their families. People were unable to get through on the phone in many cases. So social networking turned out to be a very helpful source of information. (Interestingly, I obtained the storm info link from my friend Scott, who was able to get online using his car inverter and cell phone, which he uses for storm chasing.) [UPDATE: Here are some photos of storm damage in Carbondale, IL.]
Over the weekend, my family took cold showers, cooked eggs on their propane grill and threw out all their spoiled frozen food. Now, Southern Illinois has just begun to get power — which means my mother can resume taking hot baths and watching John and Kate Plus Eight reruns. But more than four days without electricity is brutal! And these conveniences — readily available electrical power and hyperconnectivity via Internet — make me even more thankful for the contributions of engineering and science.
Happy 125th anniversary, IEEE!
Bloomberg News is reporting that HP may make an acquisition soon to counter Cisco’s move into the server market. Shaw Wu, an analyst at Kaufman Brothers, an investment bank and broker that specializes in the technology sector, told Bloomberg that Brocade and Juniper are two potential targets, along with storage vendor NetApp.
Bloomberg framed the potential acquisitions in terms of triggering revenue growth because one of HP’s bread-and-butter markets, PC sales, is contracting the the recession. However, picking up Brocade or Juniper would have tremendous strategic value for ProCurve, HP’s networking business. ProCurve is generally perceived as the number two network switching vendor, but it lacks one key element from its portfolio: high-density, high-density 10/100 Gigabit Ethernet switches. Juniper’s young family of EX switches would help HP ProCurve take a big step forward toward filling that gap. Brocade’s line of high performance switches, which it acquired with Foundry Networks last year, would also be an ideal fit.
Acquisition speculation has surrounded HP’s ProCurve business for months, ever since HP put a renewed focus on building up its networking business to compete more directly with Cisco. Cisco’s announcement of its Unified Computing System servers has only intensified the conflict between HP and Cisco. Brocade and Juniper would be two rather large acquisition targets for HP. If the company wanted to acquire 10/100 GbE expertise on the cheap, it could target some of the smaller high-performance networking vendors on the market. As GigaOM noted several months ago, Arista, Blade Network Technologies or Force10 would make a lot of sense.
When I saw that Gartner had published a new Magic Quadrant for enterprise local area network (LAN) infrastructure, I knew one thing was for certain. Cisco Systems would be THE leader in the market. The only question was for me was – how would the rest of the market shake out?
In this blog post I’ll review this year’s Magic Quadrant for the LAN market, and I’ll compare it to last year’s Magic Quadrant for Campus LAN infrastructure, which is essentially a measure of the same market.
As I wrote above, Cisco is THE leader in the LAN market, scoring high in both of Gartner’s criteria for the quadrant: completeness of vision and ability to execute. In their assessment of Cisco”s position, analysts Mark Fabbi and Tim Zimmerrman noted that Cisco maintains the broadest portfolio of LAN switching and WLAN technology on the market. The introduction of its Nexus switches have shown that Cisco is providing some leadership in addressing emerging connectivity demands in data centers.
However, Gartner cautioned that Cisco remains the high-priced vendor, with some workgroup switching products being twice as much as alternative products on the market. Gartner also said Cisco might be taking its customers for granted, especially those customers who believe in buying networking gear from more than one vendor. The analysts wrote:
We are hearing increasing concerns about Cisco’s presales organization taking customers for granted, and not providing expected levels of service, especially for customers that have not endorsed an end-to-end Cisco solution.
The only other leader in this Magic Quadrant is HP ProCurve, which was a leader last year as well. Gartner described ProCurve as the fasted growing LAN switch vendor during the past two years and when clients speak with Gartner about their shortlists for vendors, ProCurve is the the second-most-asked-about vendor after Cisco. Gartner praised ProCurve’s integration into HP’s Technology Services group, which gives it access to HP’s broader sales force. It also praised ProCurve’s low cost of ownership and the successful integration of the WLAN technology it acquired with Colubris Networks.
But Gartner cautioned that ProCurve still lacks high-end core switches (An acquisition of a high end core switching vendor like Arista Networks or Blade Network Technologies would do the trick!). The company also needs to expand its channel for larger sales opportunities. ProCurve has in the past been known as a good vendor for SMBs.
A third leader from last year’s campus LAN Magic Quadrant fell down a notch in this year’s quadrant. Foundry Networks, now known as Brocade, the storage networking company that bought Foundry last year, was classified as a visionary in this year’s Quadrant, scoring high on its completeness of vision but scoring a little lower than last year in its ability to execute.
Gartner praised Brocade’s integration of Foundry but said Foundry lost momentum last year due to its U.S.-centric and data-center-centric sales focus. Gartner said it wants to see market evidence that Brocade’s integration of Foundry is successful and that Brocade can regain market momentum. I have no doubt that last week’s announcement of a new Ethernet switching OEM agreement between IBM and Brocade will go a long way toward helping Brocade regain some of that lost momentum that Gartner is looking for.
Gartner identified three other visionaries in this year’s Quadrant: 3Com, Enterasys/Siemens and Extreme Networks.
Last year Gartner classified 3Com as a niche player, but it elevated the vendor to a visionary in this year’s Quadrant, giving it higher marks for its completeness of vision. Gartner praised 3Com’s revamped product lines and its growing market share in China and other emerging markets. H3C, 3Com’s Chinese subsidiary, has a 35% market share in China, for instance. And 3Com has a very large, low-cost R&D workforce in China. 3Com recently told me H3C has 2,300 engineers in China. But Gartner cautioned that 3Com and H3C have been, until recently, run as two separate companies. It will be important for the two to integrate. Also, 3Com has very little market penetration outside of Asia. Gartner warned that taking products developed for China and selling them globally will be a challenge.
Enterasys, which merged with Siemens Enterprise Communications last year as part of a Gores Group acquisition, maintained last year’s position as a visionary. It drew praise from Gartner for it full complement of products from the data center to the access layer, its tightly integrated security technology, and good customer buzz around support and services. But Gartner said Enterasys’s market footprint remains small and its distribution channel is limited. Marketing has also been weak, Gartner said, as the market waits for the new combined company Enterasys/Siemens to change its name.
Extreme Networks, the third visionary in the Quadrant, drew praise for broadening its XOS-based switch line and its policy-based configuration and open architecture. But Gartner noted that Extreme is struggling to maintain revenue and it remains one of the smallest vendors in the market. Gartner also cited some support issues affecting the company’s install base.
Gartner identified two niche players in this year’s Magic Quadrant. First there is Nortel, which was downgraded from its visionary status in last year’s Quadrant. Gartner cited Nortel’s bankruptcy as an impediment to the company competing for new business. Gartner is predicting significant loss of market share and revenue for the company as it remains in bankruptcy. Gartner also said Nortel needs a new core switching platform.
The second visionary, Alcatel-Lucent, drew praise for a solid product strategy and its growing market share and revenue; however, Gartner said the company needs to invest more in R&D to keep pace with the latest innovations in data center switching and wireless LAN technology.
Force10 Networks, which was identified as a niche player last year, was dropped altogether from this year’s Magic Quadrant because it no longer meets Gartner’s revenue requirements for inclusion, whch is 1% of ports sold overall or 5% of ports sold in a specific market segment.
Gartner also noted that Juniper Networks has entered the Ethernet switch market, but it hasn’t earned enough of a revenue share to be included in this year’s Magic Quadrant. Juniper’s switches earned the company $56 million in 2008.
So there you have it, for what it’s worth. Cisco remains on top, but the other players in the market continue to make moves. ProCurve and 3Com are on the rise. Nortel and Force10 are in decline. Everyone else is looking to take a step forward.
Last week, Bridget Botelho blogged about how she had attended the New England VMware Users Group meeting in Newport, RI and found it to be a boys’ club, sparsely attended by women. Botelho was made to feel like something of an outsider, especially when one (male) attendee asked her, “So, why do you write about technology? Wouldn’t you rather be writing about fashion or something?”
Botelho’s blog post (and subsequent comment thread) went on to speculate about the dwindling numbers of women in IT, particularly in VMware, professions, and cites some statistics to that effect.
Today I read Darryl K. Taft’s related column on eWeek, “Do Alpha Male Geeks Scare Women Away from Programming?” The column drew from David Heinemeier Hansson’s blog post on the same subject and discussed whether so-called “alpha-male geeks” and macho programmers might deter women from choosing careers in programming.
“Um… Alpha-male geeks? Is there such a thing?” you might be thinking. Taft and Hansson might agree. Wrote Hansson:
I just can’t get into the argument that women are being kept out of programming because the male programmer is such a testosterone-powered alpha specimen of our species. Compared to most other male groups that I’ve experienced, the average programmer ranks only just above mathematicians in being meek, tame and introverted.”
This got me thinking. As a female in the tech publishing industry (not to mention a life-long girl geek), I’m pretty accustomed to the boys’ club feel of most tech conferences (not unlike comic cons). And while there’s always going to be the contingent of gawkers and incredulous “whoa-it’s-a-girl-I’m-going-to-spaz-out”-ers, I find that generally, these so-called boys’ clubs are welcoming and respectful of female members. And like Hansson points out, most (male) geeks are meek. These days, most of them even know how to put on clean socks before they leave the house.
Of course, IT can be a weird space for women. At any tech show, we have leaders and experts like Padmasree Warrior, Danese Cooper and Lisa Phifer heading up keynotes and seminars, while scantily-clad “booth babes” parade around the exhibit hall. I don’t see that dichotomy changing any time soon, no matter how many girls major in computer science or know how to secure your wireless network.
I don’t have the answer why more women aren’t in VMware, programming, or networking. I think there’s probably some truth to the theory that IT becomes perceived by girls as “uncool,” but the same might be said of any number of professions where women abound.
I do know that what I hear day after day from IT professionals would be enough to deter any sane person — male or female — from selecting a technology career. After all, who wants to be overworked and underpaid? Who wants to work long hours for little reward, only gaining visibility when something goes wrong? Who wants to deal with countless end-user complaints and co-worker headaches… technology that doesn’t work how it’s supposed to… vendors and carriers who don’t deliver… bosses who don’t understand what you’re saying? Who wants to wade through the certification alphabet soup and pay hundreds of dollars for an arguably not-that-useful credential that expires in 3 years? And so on.
Maybe “why aren’t there more women in IT?” is the wrong question to be asking, though. Maybe we should be asking women who are in IT why they chose that path, and how they are succeeding. That might be enough to convince others to follow suit.
In March I noted that network management software vendor SolarWinds had filed an updated S-1 form with the SEC, a bureaucratic step towards making an initial public offering (IPO).
Today the Wall Street Journal reports that SolarWinds has set the terms of its IPO today. It will ask for a share price of $9.50 to $11.50 and it will make 12.1 million shares available to the market. SolarWinds hasn’t announced the date that it will go on the market, but the Journal article noted that companies usually time their IPOs to occur about two weeks after they set their terms.
IDC has identified SolarWinds as having the eighth highest revenue share in the network management market, just behind such industry heavies as IBM, CA, HP and EMC.
Dan Raffo, over at our sister blog Storage Soup, reports that Brocade is cutting between 5% and 10% of its workforce today. Sources told Dan that the job cuts will come mostly from the storage side of the business rather than on the IP networking side, which made a big splash this week when IBM and Brocade announced that IBM would OEM Brocade’s Ethernet products. This is the first series of layoffs reported at Brocade since the storage networking vendor bought Foundry Networks last year.
Aruba Networks emails me quite often with wireless LAN customer wins. Either it is signing more customers than other WLAN vendors, or it simply publicizes its wins more often. Usually I don’t bother to write about this customer news, but a couple of recent announcements have caught my eye.
First there was Aruba’s announcement that Carnegie Mellon University has just completed the deployment of 1,540 802.11n access points across its campus. Aruba said that Carnegie Mellon was particularly attracted to the company’s Adaptive Radio Management (ARM) technology, which simplified access points deployment and maintenance. The school was also attracted to Aruba’s Policy-Enforcement Firewall (PEF), which provides identity-based security, Quality of Service (QoS) control and traffic management.
Meanwhile over in Australia, IBM announced that it had won a contract from the government of New South Wales, to design, deploy and manage wireless LAN infrastructure for 463 secondary schools. IBM will install Aruba technology in all of those schools, providing wireless connectivity to more than 200,000 students and 25,000 teachers. That’s a big contract and a lot of access points.
How appropriate. The swine flu hysteria is generating new email spam. If Monty Python’s Flying Circus was still in business, they’d put together a wonderful skit about this. (Spaaaaam, oh wonderful Spam!)
Cisco IronPort reports that messages about swine flu now make up 4% of global spam messages.
Here are some of the subject lines you will be seeing in your inboxes soon:
- Swine flu worldwide
- Swine flu in the USA
- Swine flu fears
- First US swine flu victims
- Swine flu in Hollywood
- Salma Hayek caught swine flu
- Madonna caught swine flu
Those last two subject lines are particularly devastating to anyone who is a fan of bad 1990s comedies co-starring Matthew Perry or mediocre 1980s pop music.
On the heels of today’s huge news that IBM has signed an OEM agreement with Brocade to sell IBM-branded Brocade (formerly Foundry) switches and routers, Juniper and IBM are reaffirming their ongoing alliance.
I received a press release this morning from Juniper specifically detailing the joint work Juniper and IBM are doing in cloud computing, such as Juniper collaboration with IBM to develop a single data center fabric for cloud computing with its Juniper’s Stratus Project.
Juniper also pointed out that the Brocade OEM agreement is only part of IBM’s larger Dynamic Infrastructure announcement today that highlights a new series of products and services from IBM aimed at helping enterprises build next generation data centers and move into cloud computing. Juniper is a critical participant in IBM’s strategy, Juniper points out..
In the Juniper announcement, IBM vice president for enterprise initiatives Jim Comfort said:
Juniper is an important supplier of networking products. IBM is already a reseller of Juniper’s Ethernet switches and routers and we continue to look for opportunities to expand this relationship to provide increasing choice for our customers and the flexibility to support their dynamic infrastructure needs.
This week Cisco announced a bunch of new cloud-based security and collaboration products, including a new cloud-based intrusion protection system (IPS) and Cisco ASA 5500 Series 8.2, with a new botnet traffic filter. The company also announced that is re-branding the WebEx MediaTone Network, a series of eight data centers around the world that make up the WebEx cloud, as the Cisco WebEx Collaboration Cloud. This cloud network now offers enterprise IT departments policy control over WebEx meetings, empowering IT to set policies about desktop sharing and file transfers. It also offers global load balancing and intelligent routing, making sure that users enter the WebEx cloud through the best ISP to the most convenient and least taxed data center in the network.
However, what caught my eye in this series of announcements was a new WebEx blade device designed for the ASR 1000 router series. The WebEx Node for ASR 1000 basically transforms Cisco’s ASR 1000 router into a node on Cisco’s WebEx cloud.
Here’s how it works: Let’s say a company wants to hold a WebEx training session for 500 employees. In the old days, each of these 500 employees would log onto WebEx individually across the wide-area network (WAN). With the WebEx Node blade, the ASR 1000 router acts as a broker between the users and the WebEx cloud. The blade establishes a single session with the WebEx cloud. The 500 employees connect through the corporate firewall to the ASR 1000 router and the router connects to the WebEx cloud. By having just one connection to the cloud, shared with hundreds of employees, an enterprise can reduce the amount of bandwidth consumed. This will be especially handy when a company wants to stream high-definition video or send voice-over-IP and/orlarge data sets through WebEx. Companies will avoid WAN bottlenecks and employees will enjoy a better user experience.