One of the questions I inevitably ask when speaking to CIOs and IT directors about an application they are running is: “What operating system does it use?” No one ever comes back with the response: “Does it matter?”
Businesses do not really care what operating system they run, so long as it supports the applications they require. Most appreciate that Windows comes from Microsoft; Unix from one of the server makers. One requires certified hardware and signed device drivers; the other runs on a specific hardware platform. In spite of the technical differences between the two, scalability and price/performance benchmarks, they do more-or-less the same job. Both are proprietary; both lock you into an IT architecture. Assuming businesses run a mixed environment anyway, the choice of operating system really shouldn’t matter.
Last week I met up with Alan Cox, who spent many years maintaining the Linux kernel, and now works at Red Hat. I interviewed him for a ComputerWeekly.com podcast. Cox is clearly a very smart techie, who knows a thing or two about developing and optimising the Linux kernel. But he’s also business savvy, has briefed members of parliament on Internet security and identity issues and recently completed an MBA at Swansea University.
It’s no longer accurate to describe Linux and open source software as “just for techies”. IBM, Novell and Red Hat have made open source software enterprise-friendly. Open source has evolved. Microsoft must acknowledge this and provide greater interoperability, rather than sending out mixed messages about “getting the facts“. Equally, open source zealots should start to build bridges with commercial software companies like Microsoft.
Apparently hackers have started targeting poor end users with a worm that spreads via USB memory sticks. According to Sophos which has reported the security risk:
The SillyFD-AA worm hunts for removable drives such as floppy disks and USB memory sticks, and then creates a hidden file called autorun.inf to ensure a copy of the worm is run the next time it is plugged into a Windows PC. It also changes the title of Internet Explorer windows to append the phrase “Hacked by 1BYTE
What strikes me about this type of threat is that USB memory sticks are everywhere. In fact I got one the other day at a conference. It has become the preferred way to distribute PowerPoint slides. They are very useful. But in making the USB memory stick so pervasive, the IT industry has created another way for hackers to attack corporate IT. I wish someone had considered the security implications before they became so widespread.
I’ve been thinking about Web 2.0 – not just the BEA posting yesterday, but what’s been happening on the Digg social bookmarks site. The site’s success has been largely down to the fact that people are able to publish bookmarks of web sites they find interesting – without commercial pressure.
The problem now is that some of its users have created bookmarks to articles that link to information providing a key to crack digital rights management on HD-DVD discs which could be used to pirate high definition DVD movies. Perhaps this is an example of the power of user-generated content. The big question is how well user-generated content works in a world of corporate censorship. Whatever happens at Digg will have an impact, for Web 2.0 and its use within the confines of business.
A few days ago I attended a meeting with BEA where the company presented its vision of how it would tackle Web 2.0. The hypothetical problem it presented was that of today’s teenagers brought up on a diet of iTunes, MySpace YouTube and mash-ups, bringing these technologies into the workplace. And BEA has just the tools to help you embed Web 2.0 into the work place.
Emulating the collaborative online experience of such sites is a worthy endeavour. But I’m not sure how well positioned a company founded on messaging and middleware, is to take this concept forward. Perhaps BEA has become tired of web services and the service oriented architecture (SOA). Best to try something entirely new, eh?
I am currently the managing editor on Computer Weekly magazine responsible for commissioning, writing and the magazine strategy concerning all matters relating to technology from up-and-coming research and development to systems management challenges and legacy support and maintenance.
I have been writing about these subjects since the early 1990s. I guess there has been many technically great ideas that have come and gone. Yet some concepts seem to haunt us, and never really go away.
Programmers learn never to reinvent the wheel and the IT industry as a whole does appear to take this to the extreme. Black box programming, Corba, object oriented, COM, web services, service oriented architectures…were these really so different, so revolutionary?
I think not. As much as we like to see technological breakthroughs, much of IT is evolutionary. Through this blog I hope to unravel the hype, weed out the fear uncertainty and doubt spun by the massive marketing machinery in the IT industry, and maybe give IT professionals and decision makers an alternative perspective on what’s hot and what’s not.