Cliff Saran’s Enterprise blog

July 3, 2007  8:36 PM

Can we cut down e-waste with upgradeable hardware?

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
BIOS, e-waste, Green IT, PC, upgrade

I wish PC hardware could be reconfigured, directly through software, to prevent everyone having to upgrade every few years to support new chipsets, processors, memory architectures and buses.

In an article on the BBC’s website last November, the United Nations explained the extent of electronic waste:

United Nations Environment Programme estimates that up to 50 million tonnes of waste from discarded electronic goods is generated annually.

Cut down on upgrades and we cut down on e-waste.

Of course we have firmware upgrades, but this just affects the BIOS. I’m talking about the ability to reprogramme the micro code in an x86 processor, to switch on new functionality; programmable gate arrays that can be reconfigured through software to improve hardware performance.

I bet the hardware companies must think I’m mad. But I believe the gap between an older generation PC and the latest spec is getting smaller and smaller. Soon, PC buyers simply won’t see the value of an incremental upgrade.

Instead, why not shift to revenue based on services, where the PC hardware can be completely upgraded via the Internet. The user simply pays for the upgrade when they need it and there is no need to buy a completely new box. The only time a PC will need to be shipped back to the manufacturer is if a component fails and needs replacing.

July 2, 2007  7:59 PM

Web 2.0: the risks

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
The next big thing

The real threat of Web 2.0 is lazy workers. I’ve noticed a lot of people in the IT industry talking up the risks of Web 2.0 – MySpace, YouTube, Facebook et al. But I think the risk is not that you’ll loose valuable corporate information but that your staff will spend all their time on these sites speaking to their mates, uploading pictures and videos, rather than doing their proper job.

June 29, 2007  4:45 PM

Microsoft’s second class support for virtualisation

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Licensing, Microsoft, Oracle, Support, Virtual Server, Virtualisation, VMware, Windows

Microsoft has not updated its support policy covering the use of third-party virtualisation products since October 2005. The company’s support policy is as follows:

Microsoft does not test or support Microsoft software running in conjunction with non-Microsoft hardware virtualization software. For Microsoft customers who do not have a Premier-level support agreement, Microsoft will require the issue to be reproduced independently from the non-Microsoft hardware virtualization software. Where the issue is confirmed to be unrelated to the non-Microsoft hardware virtualization software, Microsoft will support its software in a manner that is consistent with support provided when that software is not running in conjunction with non-Microsoft hardware virtualization software.

Frankly this is poor customer service. Virtualisation is regarded as the evolution of data centre computing, enabling server consolidation and increasing server utilisation. As I have noted in a previous blog post, companies like IBM and Oracle do not recognise soft partitioning, so you end up paying for all processors on the physical server, irrespective of how many are being run by your application.

Continued »

June 28, 2007  5:03 PM


Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
iPhone, mMcAfee

So Apple’s iPhone is coming out on Friday. The bad news, at least according to Jan Volzke, global marketing manager for McAfee Mobile Security, is that hackers are primed and ready to start attacking the new device. In an email I received earlier today he said:

It will be imperative for Apple to continue to analyse the inherent security risks with the iPhone architecture. As it grows in popularity, the iPhone will surely become an attractive target for hackers. With the OS X operating system and expansion of the iPhone into new global markets, Apple and its customers will need to implement best practices to avoid the latest malware techniques specifically targeted toward these types of smart mobile devices.

I guess the same is true of any new smartphone that comes to market. Come to think of it, my four year old Orange SPV may be at risk. Lucky companies like McAfee are looking out for me…for a small fee. Who says you can’t make money ourt of bad news.

June 27, 2007  4:34 PM

Virtualisation licence – Big Deal

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Oracle, Transparency, VMware

When I last quizzed Oracle UK managing director, Ian Smith, about his Oracle’s licensing policy, he admitted some user may not wish to deal with the complexity of Oracle’s licensing. To simplify matters, Oracle offers a site licence. This is a way round soft partitioning, which Oracle still does not support. I expect such licences are not cheap. So instead of buying a licence for eight processors, when you only want to run Oracle on two in a soft partition using VMWare, you can licence Oracle across the whole of your company.

This is great news for Oracle. I guess it’s not such great news for CIOs and IT directors who have to pay the licensing fees. The IT industry will actively hunt you down iif you are found to be running unlicensed software, yet it seems to make little effort to make licensing more transparent.

June 26, 2007  5:11 PM

Licensing must support virtualisation

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
IBM, Licensing, Oracle, Virtualisation, VMware, Xen

As my Computer Weekly article points out today, people running server environments like VMWare and Xen are having to pay more than they should for applications running on the server.

Some software companies are not prepared to recognise a soft partition which means IT departments running the supplier’s applications on a virtual server, need to pay for the full capacity of the server. If the server has 12 processors and you’re application is using four, you have to pay for all 12.

This seems grossly unfair. In previous blog posts I have mentioned that Oracle and IBM both follow a policy of not recognising software partitioning, as far as licensing goes. This looks to me like a way for them to jump on the virtualisation bandwagon and make a stack of money out of it.

I wonder how many other software companies do not recognise licensing of soft partitions. We need to put pressure on them to change their approach now – otherwise we should be ready to buy someone else’s product that does offer soft partition licensing.

June 25, 2007  4:02 PM

Virtualisation is cheap – you’re kidding

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Fact or fiction?

I raised the question about virtualisation in production a few daya ago because I’ve been researching an article for Computer Weekly about licensing following a podcast interview I conducted with Gartner’s Alexa Bona.

I’m sure there are people running products like VMWare and Xen in production. But, I’ve heard from a number of readers that software licensing can be a deal breaker.

Why? Well, some companies like Oracle don’t recognise software partitions:

soft partitioning is not permitted as a means to determine or limit the number of software licenses required for any given server.

If you decide that it would be a good idea to buy an eight-way server then use VMWare to deploy the Oracle 10g database server on two of those processor, Oracle will charge you for all eight. Your licence fee is four times as much.

Continued »

June 21, 2007  6:15 PM

Bank cashes in on ID theft

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Fact or fiction?

I received some junk mail last week from my bank. It was a letter warning me of the problems with identity theft and offering an insurance scheme for just £6.99 per month to protect me against identity fraud.

Needless to say, the letter was junked. First, the banks appear to have done very little to tighten their own security. They are in a privileged position. After all, they hold my money – they know my address, date of birth, direct debits, my mortgage payments, when I last used my debit card, how much I spent at the supermarket, my monthly salary and who my employer is…Yet it does seem to be far to easy for someone to open an account in my name. I think no customer should have to pay for an insurance scheme that covers them against a failing in the checks their bank makes to set up a new account.

June 20, 2007  11:41 PM

Does virtual make sense?

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
scaleability, Virtual Server, VMware, Xen

I’ve been hearing good things about VMWare and other hypervisors. It seems virtualisation can do no wrong. My main problem is finding suitable references. How many people have deployed VMWare or Xen or even Microsoft Virtual Server in a real production environment? How do these products scale in a live data centre rather than a development lab or pilot rollout. Is there anyone out there who can help?

June 19, 2007  8:26 PM

The virtual choice

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
data-centre, Green IT, Virtualisation

Virtualisation offers us a way to extend the life of old software. The hardware can be upgraded to the latest specification, allowing the legacy software to take advantage of increased performance.

In the past applications tend to be run on their own dedicated server hardware. More applications mean more servers. Virtualisation reduces server sprawl, as IT departments can consolidate several applications on a singe box. And virtualisation does have a role in Green IT: it can improve the efficiency of servers and lower the amount of electricity consumed.

IT directors and CIOs have a real opportunity to break from traditional data centre designs and run virtualised IT environments. How this will work in practice remains to be seen, but the benefits are very clear indeed.

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