What would the data center vendor market look like today if Carly Fiorina hadn’t been ousted as CEO of HP back in 2005? Under her leadership, HP maintained a cozy detente with Cisco. The two mega-companies happily engaged data center customers together. Cisco sold them switches and routers. HP sold them servers, storage and management software. And HP’s networking division, ProCurve, was consigned to operate in a relative backwater, carving out a solid niche with a pipeline into the SMB networking market.
Current HP CEO Mark Hurd has changed things up. First he named Marius Haas, a rising star at HP who had spent the previous four years overseeing the absorption of HP acquisitions, as ProCurve’s new senior vice president and general manager. Then Hurd and Haas snapped up the well-regarded wireless LAN vendor Colubris, giving ProCurve instant WLAN cred. Before the Colubris deal, ProCurve’s WLAN strategy was built upon an OEM partnership with Motorola.
Word soon came down from above. The incentives that HP had long offered to sales representatives who sold Cisco gear along with HP servers and storage were off the table. ProCurve products were the new priority.
Then last month ProCurve announced its first purpose-built data center switches. ProCurve executives made it clear while briefing reporters and analysts about these new switches that the incentives HP sales reps had for selling Cisco products were long gone. HP would be bringing the full might of its data center presence to bear on its ProCurve strategy. Enterprises could now expect HP sales engineers to offer packages of HP servers, storage, switches, software and services. Quite a proposition.
Of course, none of this has been happening in a vacuum. Cisco hasn’t been sitting still. For a couple years now, Cisco has made it clear that it intends to conquer all things data center as well. It has invested more than $1 billion in rolling out its new Nexus switch line. It has unleashed a barrage of new data center management software and services, labeled Data Center 3.0. And rumors continue to buzz about “California,” Cisco’s much anticipated entry into the blade server market.
So what happens next? It’s safe to say this battle will result in some acquisitions as each company tries to add some weapons to its arsenal. Allan Leinwand at GigaOM recently suggested a whole bunch of acquisition targets for HP. For instance, he suggested that HP snap up Arista Networks, Blade Network Technologies, or Force10 Networks in order to beef up its 10/100 gigabit Ethernet portfolio. For storage optimization, he suggested someone like DataDomain. He said HP should expand into WAN optimization and application delivery, by picking up someone like Blue Coat Systems or Zeus Technology. He also suggested HP target one of the emerging cloud computing specialists.
Meanwhile, Ashlee Vance at the New York Times blogged that Cisco is hoarding cash, leading many to speculate that a flurry of acquisitions is on the horizon. Vance says that Cisco CEO John Chambers is looking to strike next in the consumer electronics market with the $30 billion in cash it has on hand right now. But enterprise vendors are also rumored targets. Given Cisco’s strong investment in expanding its data center footprint, I think it will spend some of that money on vendors who will help it make war on HP. The EMC rumors just won’t go away, for instance. Last year I heard some whispers that Cisco might make a smaller deal for network management software vendor SolarWinds, but I haven’t heard much about such a deal lately. I’ve seen speculation that Cisco might also target VMware, which it already owns a small stake in. That would be a huge deal, but why would EMC sell it? VMware is a big performer for it. Cisco might buy EMC just so it can have VMware, but the price would be steep.
Once the dust settles over the acquisition blitz, what happens next? I just read a great blog post by Christopher Hoff (hat tip to IDC’s Abner Germanow) which offers a great overview on where all of this is going. For instance, Cisco isn’t really getting into the server business, he says. Instead, the so-called blade server Cisco is rumored to be working on is a natural outgrowth of the convergence of computing, where storage, servers and switches are becoming more tightly integrated into one infrastructure that supports virtualization and cloud computing. He writes:
My point is that what Cisco is building is the natural by-product of converged technologies with an approach that deserves attention. It *is* unified computing. It’s a solution that includes integrated capabilities that otherwise customers would be responsible for piecing together themselves…and that’s one of the biggest problems we have with disruptive innovation today: integration.
I imagine HP plans to travel down this road as well. Indeed, this should be a very interesting year.
It looks like the federal government might finally be cracking down on H-1B visa fraud. The controversial program, which many unemployed and underemployed IT workers will tell you is the reason they’re not earning a decent living, has been under fire in recent years. And last week the U.S. Attorney’s office in Iowa announced that the federal government has arrested 11 people in six states under suspicion of committing H-1B visa fraud. The U.S. Attorney has also indicted Vision Systems Group Inc., a New Jersey-based IT services company on 10 criminal counts, including mail fraud and conspiracy (You might notice that all of the links on Vision Systems’ web site appear to be inactive at the moment).
The H-1B visa system was designed to allow companies to bring highly skilled foreign nationals, particularly foreign nationals with IT skills, into the United States to fill jobs for which there is a shortage of domestic skilled labor. Companies are required by law to pay H-1B visa holders a salary equal to the prevailing regional wage for the role he fills. For instance, network administrators are paid more in New Jersey than they might be in Mississippi, so a company that hires a foreign worker to work in New Jersey should be paying that worker a New Jersey salary, not a Mississippi salary.
However, critics of the H-1B program, particularly Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), say that many companies are gaming the visa system, using the program to important cheaper foreign labor and displacing domestic workers. (Note that the U.S. attorney heading this particular investigation is from Grassley’s home state). Critics say companies frequently forge documentation about the qualifications of these workers and violate the prevailing wage requirements of the visa program. Last October, Grassley released a report which suggested that as much as 20% of such visas could be fraudulent.
If you’re a network manager, chance are you’ve possessed a laptop with a packet sniffer or protocol analyzer on it. Just plug that bad boy into the corporate network and you can look at all the traffic that’s going across the wire.
I’m sure you’ve worn a white hat while using such a tool, but has the thought crossed your mind at some point that one of your admins could go rogue with such a tool and cause some real trouble for you?
I recently talked to Steve Shalita, vice president of marketing for NetScout, about this worry. Back in the fall of 2007, NetScout bought Network General, the maker of one of the original packet sniffers, named (what else) Sniffer.
Shalita said NetScout is releasing a new version of Sniffer called Sniffer Global which introduces a server-based authentication point for all Sniffer desktop installations. Through this central server, network managers can set policies for usage of Sniffer technology.
“You can limit how far they can go into the packet,” Shalita told me. “And you have the ability to, by user and with very granular detail, report on what that user has done out there on the network. The server is doing policy control and authorization of what they can do and reporting back to you.”
Sniffer Global isn’t a cure-all for potentially rogue packet sniffers on the network. It isn’t backwards compatible with older versions of Sniffer. So you’d have to update all the desktops that have Sniffer on them. That means you’d have to find the ones you don’t know about, too. And of course, Sniffer Global’s server won’t identify packet sniffers made by other vendors, either. Instead, Sniffer Global’s value is in establishing centralized control over sanctioned Sniffer PCs across the network.
When I have conversations with network managers about whether they plan to upgrade to 802.11n wireless LAN technology, many say they’re in no hurry. They’re still getting plenty out of their existing 802.11a/b/g infrastructure, they say. And besides, all the legacy clients in their organization would just slow down the 802.11n clients, preventing users from enjoying the benefits of a faster wireless network. Access points are usually shared by multiple clients and clients can only transmit to an access point one at a time. This often means that faster 802.11n clients are stuck in a queue behind slower legacy clients that take much longer to transmit the same amount of data.
Several WLAN vendors, such as Meru Networks and Aruba Networks, have developed technologies to solve this problem. For instance, Aruba’s Adaptive Radio Management software can shift WLAN clients to different radio frequencies and can analyze the 802.11x protocol used by the client. If the client is a faster 802.11n device, the software gives it priority
Aerohive Networks, a start-up known for its controllerless WLAN architecture, has found a new way to tackle this problem. In the latest version of its operating system, HiveOS 3.2, Aerohive has introduced a new feature called Dynamic Airtime Scheduling. Rather than making airtime decisions based on protocol, Aerohive actually examines the airtime of the client’s packets to determine how fast it is. This is relevant because the farther a client is from an access point, the slower its transmission. So an 802.11n client which is much farther away from an access point than 802.11g client is could actually be slower. The Aerohive AP will give priority to the .11g client since its signal is closer and thus faster. With this technology, Aerohive can also give priority to a fast 802.11n client over a slower 802.11n client.
Dynamic Airtime Scheduling also applies policy to the clients as well. For instance, a company can give airtime priority to employee devices over guest devices,
Niall Pariag, senior network administrator at Riverside Health Care Systems Inc., a network of hospitals and clinics based in Yonkers, N.Y., is in the process of replacing legacy Cisco infrastructure in his facilities with Aerohive 802.11n access points. He said Dynamic Airtime Scheduling solves a problem he’s been worried about ever since he decided to upgrade to 801.11n.
“It solves the only quirk we had with the wireless network, that slow clients basically slow down fast clients,” he said. “That’s a concern we kept ignoring, because we knew we were going to cross that bridge when we got to it. We don’t have that many clients connecting now, so it wasn’t a concern.”
Pariag said that in the future his company will be adding more and more clients to the wireless network, and airtime scheduling will become critical to him.
If Sean Hannity can run a dating site just for his fans, surely there’s enough interest out there for a geek-friendly “Match.com.” (Please note, the only reason I would ever visit Hannidate would be to screen for people NOT to date. Fortunately the Hanni-pickings in Massachusetts are pretty slim).
Geek-friendly scifi blog io9.com has given some link love to a Chicago Sun-Times article about “Nerds at Heart,” a series of Windy City geek gatherings where men and women herd together and look for potential mates. io9 highlighted a couple choice paragraphs about these gatherings that I just have to include here.
The game of Risk may not sound romantic to everybody. “I was playing; he was knocking my cavalry over into the ocean,” remembers Flaherty. But it led to a first date at a book fair. And, eventually, love.
In April, their wedding-cake topper will depict them holding Wii controllers.
Now, I’m not aware of any geek dating websites out there, but surely there’s a market for one. I’d love to find a woman who appreciates my passion for the Star Wars universe and George RR Martin books… someone who would help me sell off some of my 6,000 comic books on Craigslist for some extra money.
A college professor once warned me never to put things in writing — which was funny given that he was a writing professor. What he meant was that to ensure confidentiality between people I communicated with remotely, I should speak with them over the phone. That way, he said, it would be much harder for a person to publicize or look back on anything said. Arguably, phone call privacy isn’t guaranteed, but between a hand-written note, an email, an IM conversation or a phone call, the audible record was the most anonymous. Google’s recent acquisition of GrandCentral Communications, however, makes phone call privacy much less likely.
As consumer-centric as Google initially set out to be, they just keep either building new useful enterprise applications or acquiring companies that do. This acquisition is a prime example; GrandCentral Communications “provides services for managing your voice communications,” according to Google’s blog entry.
GrandCentral’s pitch is this: “No matter how often you move, change jobs or phone providers, everyone can still reach you through the same phone number.” And the business advantage can be seen in that this technology would give enterprise workers more flexibility: If you miss a meeting or a call, you can listen to it through someone’s forwarded email. When you discuss ideas with your boss you’ll never have to take notes again or run the risk of forgetting an assignment.
But this advantage also comes at the price of having to pay much more attention to the words coming out of your mouth. Editing what you say can only happen inside your head. Once it’s out, it’s there to be heard — and recorded, and posted to a blog and turned into a techno song by Indaba Music users.
Yes, with GrandCentral.com a conversation can go from phone to public forum within clicks. They keep your phone call records in their database and you can forward them to your colleagues, post them to a blog and more. So unless you’re talking to someone in person, any mode of communication through a device may as well be a record of your intercourse.
Let’s not get forget the impact this has on server space and network bandwidth. As the network remains the central core that enables connections and communications, the converged network which carries voice and video traffic across IP networks, is all the more demanding. Some months ago, Cisco’s push for network convergence was said to broaden the role of network pros. But with corporate kings like Google vying for more enterprise voice and video, this is only the beginning of what networking professionals will have to deal with.
Now that workers can easily manage their voice accounts, you may be wondering who is helping network pros manage the voice data on their network. SearchNetworking.com created a workshop on how to manage voice performance on your network, dedicated to this very cause. And if there are any other management tools you’re looking for, let us help you find them and get organized.
On a side note about getting organized, GrandCentral’s FAQ section says “Google acquired GrandCentral because its communications services fit into Google’s mission to organize the world’s information.” That was “to organize the world’s information.” At least you don’t have that responsibility.
And for Google, who does have that mission, thank you for helping me find, through your search engine, these articles on ways you frighten the general public:
- From ABC News: Is Google Turning Into Big Brother?
- From Bill Snyder’s “Tech’s Bottom Line” blog: Google plays Big Brother
- From CSMonitor.com: Big brother isn’t watching – Google is
And believe it or not, there’s an entire website devoted to the topic: Google as Big Brother.
Thanks for reading, watching, and hearing…
Gartner has published its first Magic Quadrant for the global network service providers since the summer of 2007.
As you probably know, the Magic Quadrant is a market assessment tool that rates vendors on their ability to execute (their service quality, pricing and track record) and their completeness of vision (an understanding of what enterprises want from their providers). Vendors who score high in ability to execute are challengers. Vendors who score high in completeness of vision are named visionaries. Those who excel in both areas are leaders. Those who fail to excel in both areas are niche players.
The key takeaways from this quadrant:
- AT&T has overtaken Orange Business Services and BT Global Services as the highest rated provider in the leaders quadrant.
- The four providers in the leadership quadrant (AT&T, Orange, BT and Verizon Business) are all very tightly grouped together, meaning their abilities to serve enterprises are pretty evenly matched.
- Gartner has added three providers to the quadrant: Telefonica, NTT Communications, and Reliance Globalcom. All are rated as niche players.
- Cable & Wireless has slipped from visionary to a niche player.
- T-Systems has climbed from the niche player quadrant to become the only challenger in the market.
In their market overview, authors Neil Rickard and Robert F. Mason wrote: “There are four leading providers, with the remaining players way behind, often focused on a particular market segment.”
They added that the increase in the number of providers in the Magic Quadrant represents increased competition, which is good for enterprises. However, it also means that smaller providers will struggle to compete in the market because they lack the ability to scale. They predicted that some market consolidation is possible given the global economy.
Aruba Networks has joined the growing ring of vultures circling above Nortel Networks’ Toronto headquarters, where executives are busily trying to restructure Nortel while under the cover of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Aruba announced an “investment protection” program for customers of Nortel wireless LAN (WLAN) technology. The vendor is offering Nortel customers a discount on Aruba’s AirWave Wireless Management Suite, a WLAN management technology that can work in multi-vendor environments.
Nervous Nortel customers, who are worried that Nortel might not be around a year or two from now to support their wireless infrastructure, might find this offer from Aruba appealing. It gives them a a way of managing legacy Nortel infrastructure.
And Aruba no doubt sees this as a potential foot in the door with Nortel customers who will likely give new WLAN vendors a good luck when it comes time to refresh or expand their infrastructure. Today, Aruba can sell them AirWave. Next year, Aruba will have a better chance of selling them access points. Now if only Aruba had a wired networking division as well, they could attack Nortel on multiple fronts.
Are you the Romeo of routing? The Orlando Bloom of the OSI model? Here’s your chance to shine…
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Daily Candy is running a contest to find the “hottest tech dude in all the land.” Since we’d like to see that award (justly) go to a networking pro, we couldn’t resist posting the link for you in the Network Hub. Theoretically, nominations are supposed to come from ladies who subscribe to Daily Candy’s newsletters (which promote shopping, dining and travel items of interest). But any toothsome techie worth his salt should be able to figure out a way around that. 😉
In addition to bragging rights, both the winner and the person who nominates him will receive an HP Mini 1000 XP edition series netbook with an upgraded 60 GB hard drive.
The Daily Background blog has created quite a stir for pointing out that a Belkin buisness devleopment rep was offering money for positive product reviews on Amazon.com. The product, a wireless USB hub, was getting terrible reviews on Amazon, so Belkin representative Michael Bayard posted an ad on Mechanical Turk, Amazon’s online marketplace for menial tasks, requesting that people write positive reviews of the product “Write as if you own the product,” the ad stated, and “Mark any negative reviews as ‘not helpful.'” Take a look at the Amazon reviews for this router and you’ll see 17 reviews that gave it one star and two positive reviews. Looks a little fishy to me.
Belkin’s president Mark Reynoso has since issued a statement to The Daily Background which apologizes for the “isolated” incident and promises that Belkin will work with online retailers to make sure any fake reviews are taken down. Reynoso doesn’t mention anything about the fate of Bayard.