Channel Marker

August 31, 2006  4:53 PM

Would like to hear from you

Brein Matturro Profile: Brein Matturro

As Sean mentioned in his introductory post, the editors behind Channel Marker are preparing to launch a set of Web sites to meet the information needs of the technical folks who implement and support technical solutions as a service. I’m spearheading our efforts in the networking and security spaces. After nearly six years editing TechTarget’s, I’m happy to expand my knowledge of the security industry by focusing on the channel and to take on a new subject area – networking. But enough about me. I want to hear from you.

I’ve been meeting with potential contributors and readers to find out what issues we should be covering in the networking and security spaces. So far, integrating heterogeneous network and security devices, security event monitoring for regulatory compliance and aligning IT infrastructure to business strategy, top the list. I’d also like your two cents. What common problems are you helping your customers solve? What challenges do you face in doing so? Feel free to comment here or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

— Crystal Ferraro, Editor, and

August 31, 2006  11:15 AM

Radio Shack Deletes 400 Employees by e-Mail

Brein Matturro Profile: Brein Matturro

The NY Times reports that Radio Shack has laid off 400 employees, and notified them by e-mail. The electronics retailer (and HP and Sprint/Nextel retail channel partner) cut the jobs mostly from its headquarters staff; it has also closed close to 500 stores has consolidated its distribution centers and product lines.

Aside from the HR faux pas, Radio Shack has been relatively savvy about how it uses technology to drive the company. But the company is suffering for the same reason that many small VARs are suffering–what was once a business that thrived on upgrades and tweaks and personalization has become a commodity business that is increasingly dominated by big box retailers and manufacturer direct sales.

Radio Shack’s move toward sales in stores based on a more broad appeal may have made sense a few years ago, but based on personal experience, I’m betting that it’s cut down on their retail foot traffic. In the past year, I’ve stopped going into stores because they no longer carry the kinds of cables, adaptors and other techie niche products that used to pull their core audience in–which in the past they had successfully converted into larger sales. All that specialty stuff is online now — which doesn’t help them any, because the whole reason Radio Shack got my business in the past was convenience (their ubiquity meant I could find one close by) and instant gratification (I could always get it cheaper someplace else, but I’d have to wait).

In other words, Radio Shack has picked the wrong customers to focus on, and the wrong way to interact with its best customers. Strikes one and two. How good are you at identifying your most potentially profitable customers, and making yourself indispensable to them?

August 30, 2006  3:48 PM

Windows NT: “I’m Not Dead Yet”

Brein Matturro Profile: Brein Matturro

Realizing that (a) delays in Vista have dampened revenues, (b) customers probably won’t widely adopt Vista for business use until at least Service Pack 1 (or maybe SP 2), and (c) there was increasingly large potential for mass attrition among some trailing-edge customers from the Microsoft brand to one of those free operating systems that run well on legacy hardware if they didn’t do something, Microsoft has extended its Custom Support Agreement program to provide for at continued support of Windows NT (paid) support for large customers. The same is true of Exchange Server 5.5, and Windows XP Service Pack 1, which were both due to be dropped from support shortly.

The long life of Windows NT in some particularly conservative markets has certainly surprised (and probably distressed) Microsoft, which attempted to pull all life support for NT a few years ago but extended the lifecycle of Windows NT due to popular outrage/demand in 2002. That extension was supposed to end at the conclusion of this year.

But now, laggards with applications that absolutely require Windows NT 4.0, XP SP1, and Exchange 5.5 will be able to pay for continued patches and technical support from Microsoft — at a sharply increased price, as support pricing is shifted to a per-device basis. As a result, the ROI calculators of many customers still stuck in the 90’s may become a little more upgrade-friendly. But Microsoft is “all about customer choice”…

August 30, 2006  11:40 AM

How to Cram for the CCNA Exam

Brein Matturro Profile: Brein Matturro

On his Cisco Blog. Jeremy Cioara provides a blueprint for an inexpensive testbed network for practicing for the CCNA exam. Check it out, Cisco-ites; it’s a thing of beauty.

August 29, 2006  1:12 PM

Microsoft Vista Pricing Revealed…on Amazon, at least

Brein Matturro Profile: Brein Matturro

Ed Bott on ZDNet reports that Microsoft accidentally released pricing for Vista on its Canadian website. The pricing is also now visible (at least as I post this) on

Microsoft had been rumored to be close to sending out Release Candidate 1 for Vista. This would seem to confirm that. Amazon is taking pre-orders now for delivery in January.

Based on the pricing shown ($300 for a Business license? $200 for an upgrade?), I don’t think mass early adoption will be much of a problem for the channel. On the contrary, Microsoft seems to have made pushing this puppy out to its installed base through the channel an extremely low priority by setting the bar so high…or maybe they need to charge more to make up for the revenue they lost from delays?

August 29, 2006  11:17 AM

Disaster Preparedness for SMBs: Plan B for $150

Brein Matturro Profile: Brein Matturro

With Eduardo starting to puff its way toward Florida, Orlando-based Vlad Mazek, the CTO of managed infrastructure service provider Own Web Now Inc., has come up with a quick-and-dirty disaster recovery plan that can be executed in under an hour for $150. The key elements: a prepaid cell phone, a Skype Dialin voice mailbox, an analog phone (for the “ride-it-out warrior”, says Mazek), and a disaster blog for coordination of staff.

After my experience with a no-warning loss of all Internet connectivity a few years ago, I can add the following things to that list:

  • A low-cost, password-protected website with a Wiki. We were able to keep a certain news operation running after the loss of all workflow by using a Python-based simple Wiki running with htaccess-based security on my $7-a-month personal web account.
  • Instant messaging and web mail accounts. If you can get connectivity, and you have everyone on a common instant messaging platform, you can quickly coordinate responses to a disaster. Webmail is also useful. But a better plan for SMBs is to outsource email to someone else–like Mazek’s company.

  • August 29, 2006  9:59 AM

    Symantec Uncovers New Intel Marketing Campaign…er, AMD virus

    Brein Matturro Profile: Brein Matturro

    VNU reports that Symantec security researchers claim to have found two variants of a proof-of-concept virus that specifically attacks AMD processors.

    Although harmless at this stage, the viruses could be used to create malware that affects computers with disparate operating systems, according to Vincent Weafer, senior director at Symantec Security Response.

    “If I can get to the processor level, potentially I can start tying myself into the core hardware,” he told

    While it’s intellectually interesting that someone has figured out how to execute arbitrary code independent of the operating system on Opteron, allegedly independent of the OS, any virus written to do so and actually go after elements of the hardware–like storage, or a network interface–would probably have to be tailored to specific system configurations. On the other hand, if an organization bought enough systems with a single common hardware configuration, that might create an opportunity for someone who really, really had some time on their hands and a desire to make life miserable for that select audience.

    Of course, it doesn’t take a virus for that to happen. Any time you have a hardware/software monoculture, simple problems can become huge problems very quickly. Ask anyone who worked with Unisys’ whitebox systems built for the Air Force Desktop III contract, which initially shipped with a SUMO SCSI controller that turned out to be incompatible with Windows. The support hassles, I have been told, ended up costing Unisys more money per deployed system than they were paid for delivery of them.

    August 28, 2006  5:28 PM

    Why the IT Staff Hates You

    Brein Matturro Profile: Brein Matturro

    Over on, Mark Arnold explains the The downside to outsourcing Windows desktop and server management from the IT manager’s point of view. While it focuses on large-scale outsourcing, the problems are similar to what any organization will face when a service provider takes over management of a Windows environment — or at least the points of resistance that the service provider will encounter:

    [A]ny problem with a server that you control will take significantly longer to resolve when you’re relying on an outside company to solve it. … Server and Active Directory permissions are almost always changed. Settings … are set in a way that only personnel in the data center or remote support center are able to control such things as drive configuration, Registry settings or patch levels. If you have an application problem, rest assured that the problem will come straight back to your lap, but you will have one hand tied behind your back while you are troubleshooting and resolving the problem.

    [Read more]

    August 28, 2006  10:27 AM

    Google Going After SMB Messaging Market

    Brein Matturro Profile: Brein Matturro

    All you Microsoft partners doing Outlook/Exchange/Microsoft IM installs in the midrange market or providing hosted Exchange services, take note: Google wants to eat your lunch.

    The NY Times reports: “Taking aim at Microsoft, Google plans to offer a package of software for business users.”

    The initial software bundle, called Google Apps for Your Domain, will provide e-mail (based on GMail), calendaring and instant messaging, as well as a Website development tool–for free. The bundle is obviously aimed at the same space as Microsoft’s Windows Live services.

    Google plans to offer a paid version of the service later that will include technical support and other services. I’m betting those other services include Writely, the web-based word processor that Google recently acquired , and a Google spreadsheet application. I’m also betting that the services will eventually also be bundled with the Google Mini search appliance for an all-in-one solution for document and knowledge management.

    Free is a hard price to beat, particularly at the price point Microsoft currently offers Exchange seats at. And with Microsoft looking to capture the same audience with its own software-as-a-service play (Windows Live), it’s going to get increasingly difficult to make any kind of money providing core software and services for SMB’s like messaging and basic knowledge worker applications. But that was true before Google got into the market — the safer ground is still customization and integration.

    But if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

    August 25, 2006  11:50 PM

    Sun Server Sales Up in Shrinking Market

    Brein Matturro Profile: Brein Matturro

    IDC claims Sun regained the #3 position in overall server market share this summer, with 12.9% of a weakening market, stepping over distressed Dell. IBM still leads the server space, and HP remains in second; but only Sun saw an increase in market share, and a bump in revenues as well.

    The UltraSPARC platform is still Sun’s main money-maker…

    “…but the growth in the company’s Opteron-based products are having a positive impact,” IDC enterprise server research director Steve Josselyn said.

    …reports BetaNews.

    Well, duh.  Having a viable product to compete with Dell (with less heat issues) certainly should have a “positive impact.”

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