Case Study: Speedy returns are Google's goal

While few Web sites can handle an average of 200 million queries and a billion HTTP requests a day, Google has done it for years. But the search engine leader wanted to do it better.
Known for its speedy return of relevant search topics, Google recently decided to give its site a boost with a Web server load-balancing upgrade. But the firm wanted a product that did more than just keep traffic flowing smoothly among its thousands of servers, says Urs Holzle, a Google fellow, who heads infrastructure strategy at the firm.

Written by Phil Hochmuth17 Nov. 03 22:00

Product Review: ClearCube arms desktop-client revolution

Control is at the center of a never-ending tug of war between users and desktop administrators. Users instinctively want total control of their desktops, believing only they are qualified to configure their most productive work environment. IT administrators long for the days of thin client, mainframe-style computing when they had total control over everyone's desktop, because only they know how to run a safe, productive working environment.
ClearCube Inc.'s PC Blade solution and its accompanying management software aim to please both users and IT administrators. While maintaining the user's usual desktop environment, ClearCube gives administrators far more manageability, security, and flexibility than do straight desktop computing or traditional thin-client computing.

Written by Oliver Rist and Brian Chee17 Nov. 03 22:00

Blade software needs sharpening

Mass production techniques revolutionized industry in the past two centuries, but when it comes to server configuration in the year 2003, the handcrafted approach of configuring boxes manually, one at a time, still predominates.
This handcrafting may be suitable when businesses have a few machines, but the adoption of blade server technology makes the one-off method impractical. If blade servers are to become the revolutionary IT tool they are touted to be, system vendors must deliver a new generation of management tools, and software vendors have to rework their licensing models.

Written by P.J. Connolly17 Nov. 03 22:00

Case Study: Working-class wireless

In a wide range of companies, wireless often wears a blue collar, supporting gritty but essential applications far removed from the world of executive BlackBerry pagers or airport lounge wireless LAN "hot spots."
These emerging blue-collar wireless uses make possible fundamental business processes that often can't be hooked into wired networks due to geographic or environmental conditions, says Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass.

Written by Bob Brewin17 Nov. 03 22:00

Case Study: Baylor signs up for course on WLAN security

Baylor University learned about wireless LAN security in the school of hard knocks. Three years ago, Baylor began installing 270 Enterasys Networks Inc. wireless access points across its Waco, Texas, campus in libraries, classrooms and dorms so students and faculty could access the campus LAN from computers outfitted with 802.11b WLAN cards. That was the easy part, according to Baylor's IT staff. But finding a way to add authentication to enable unimpeded wireless access has meant a crash course in security technologies that hasn't yet ended.
In fact, 802.1x, the authentication technology Baylor just started using last month, is causing the WLAN network to crash from time to time. "We're forcing the wireless access points to do more than we had them do in the past," says Bob Hartland, director of IT servers and networking systems at Baylor.

Written by Ellen Messmer17 Nov. 03 22:00

Case Study: Web services: Early adopters

It's not hard to find companies that have dipped their toes into the water to explore how Web services might help address some of their nagging integration problems. But few have launched major initiatives of the scope at Eastman Chemical Co. and Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.
One of the distinguishing characteristics that separates these early adopters from the mere dabblers is the systematic approach they take to building the sort of service-oriented development architecture that experts say they'll need to realize the full benefits of Web services. Some of the biggest challenges they've faced so far have been finding the right tools and establishing best practices without a well-established road map.

Written by Carol Sliwa17 Nov. 03 22:00

Blades attack data center

Dwight Gibbs, director of technology acceleration at Capital One Financial Corp. in McLean, Va., says the combination of blade server hardware and management software allows him to deploy new Web servers in minutes, and to do automated patch management on 20 servers at once.
Appro Systems, an application service provider specializing in financial lending applications, is using high-density blades to fit the processing power of 20 servers into the space that previously held three rack-mounted servers. This allowed Appro Systems to increase the capacity of its data center from 350 to more than 600 customers, without adding space or power.

Written by Suzanne Gaspar17 Nov. 03 22:00

Case Study: ASPs: The next chapter

Allied Office Products Inc. lost US$8 million worth of business when the World Trade Center, where many of its customers worked, was destroyed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the $300 million office products company was forced to lay off employees and reevaluate its entire business and sales strategy. Executives came up with a plan to generate new accounts and reactivate those that had lapsed. They also decided they needed a sales-force automation (SFA) system that would improve customer service and enhance sales employees' productivity. They eventually zeroed in on an ASP that promised reasonable costs and a quick turnaround.
However, ASPs held a number of negative connotations for Allied executives, who remembered the ASP meltdown in 2000, when scores of hosted software companies went out of business after the dotcom collapse. COO Mike Palmer, who was CIO at the time his company was searching for an SFA product, worried that the ASP he had settled on-- Inc. -- might go out of business in the chilly economic climate for IT spending. He was also concerned that a hosted solution couldn't be customized or easily integrated with his company's back-end systems. And he obsessed about whether the ASP could provide adequate protection for his company's crown jewels--its customer data.

Written by Meridith Levinson17 Nov. 03 22:00

Servers on the edge

Just call the researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Advanced Computing Laboratory "blade runners." That's because the New Mexico-based facility has replaced its conventional parallel cluster supercomputer with blade servers, compact card-based devices that promise to replace standalone servers.
For Los Alamos, blades offer a less costly and more reliable way of handling massive, parallel processing-based computations, such as simulations of galaxy formations and supernova explosions. "In general, it's a more efficient solution with respect to space and energy consumption," says Wu-chun Feng, leader of the laboratory's Research and Development in Advanced Network Technology (Radiant) team.

Written by John Edwards17 Nov. 03 22:00

IBM builds TV-sized supercomputer

IBM has built a 512-node prototype of its Blue Gene L supercomputer that has been ranked as the 73rd most powerful computer in the world. The machine, which is capable of a peak performance of 2 trillion floating-point operations per second (teraflops), is about the size of a 30-inch TV.

Written by Robert McMillan17 Nov. 03 10:25

Answer the phone; it may be Microsoft

Microsoft is bound to play a growing role in enterprise telephony systems over the next few years, helping them to evolve beyond the simple features such as speed dial, conference call and voice mail most companies know today. What's less clear is what that role will be.

Written by Stephen Lawson17 Nov. 03 08:41

Microsoft builds spam filters into Exchange

Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates will use his keynote address on Sunday at the annual Comdex 2003 trade show in Las Vegas to announce plans to make the company's Exchange e-mail server better at stopping unsolicited commercial ("spam") e-mail, according to information obtained by IDG News Service.

Written by Paul Roberts17 Nov. 03 08:03

The guardian

Although Allan Sainsbury’s three adult children have left home, he is far from free of responsibility. As chief information officer for the Department of Child, Youth and Family (CYF), Sainsbury and his 45-person IT team feel the pressure of ensuring the data in CYF systems is secure, well-maintained and has integrity.

Written by Vikki Bland30 Oct. 03 22:00

Code, load and explode

Data integration is critical to all large systems projects, yet it is almost always grossly underestimated as a factor by even the most experienced IT and business professionals. Air New Zealand’s deputy chief information officer Andrew Care agrees. Despite having best practice documentation procedures in place for IT systems, the airline was surprised by its lack of understanding of source systems and data during its journey through an enterprise data warehouse (EDW) implementation. Clearly, even the best-prepared and managed companies endure the traumas of data integration, with application integration almost always being the easy bit.
Managing director of data management consultancy MIP, Steve Hitchman, says all large systems projects require a substantial investment in data integration. Customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other major business systems implementations will require data to be migrated and integrated in order for the new system to function properly.

Written by Craig Healy30 Oct. 03 22:00

ERP: Not dead, just extended

Few companies illustrate the potential of enterprise software better than Delta Air Lines. The company is in the process of rolling out supply chain software to manage spare parts inventory and schedule repair time for jet engines.
Walter Taylor, Delta’s managing director of operations technology, hopes the software will make the operation a profit centre, enabling Delta to take in jobs for other airlines.

Written by Sally Whittle, Jimmy Yap30 Oct. 03 22:00

SuSE Linux eyes middleware service market

In a move that could help enterprises more easily expand their use of open source software beyond the Linux operating system, SuSE Linux AG is proposing a new service program for middleware products based on open code.

Written by John Blau30 Oct. 03 08:05

The human firewall

A help desk worker at a large company fields the next in a never-ending rush of calls from another breathless, overwrought employee. The caller is desperate for his e-mail and network passwords, which he claims to have forgotten. The staffer gives in and hands over the goods - worn down by tales of the rotten day the employee is having.
Having tricked the help desk staffer, the intruder proceeds to waltz through the company's firewall and wreak havoc.

Written by Abby Christopher27 Oct. 03 22:00

Putting a new face on the helpdesk

Dictated by the expectations brought about by tightly knit systems management and business process serviceability, organizations are redefining the service desk.
Although vendors have not yet delivered final products to that end, Computer Associates International Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. / Tivoli, and BMC Software Inc. are eyeing Web services and open standards as a potential means to bolster the interoperability of their wares.

Written by Brian Fonseca27 Oct. 03 22:00

First help is best

It's one of the realities of his job, says David Harkett, that almost anyone can recognize the costs of a badly run help desk, but few people understand the value of a help desk that solves problems quickly, consistently and with the fewest possible resources.
"The costs of a help desk is a bottomless black hole -- problems never go away," says Harkett, the help desk practice technical solutions manager at London-based BT Group PLC's BT Global Services unit. "It's not so much the money but how you spend it, how you maximize support while not overstretching your resources."

Written by Kym Gilhooly27 Oct. 03 22:00

Data mining outside the firewall

How do your company's pricing models compare to that of competitors? Are customers making it to your site's deep links or leaving shortly after visiting the home page?
In-depth answers to these questions can be found through mining the Web -- that is, discovering and analyzing Web page content, descriptions found in Web documents, overall Web structure, and Web site usage and access patterns.

Written by Maggie Biggs20 Oct. 03 21:00