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InfoWorld: Top News



Technology news for enterprise IT from InfoWorld



Last Build Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2006 12:28:03 +0000

 



SAP to add service management to on demand CRM

Wed, 27 Sep 2006 11:30:00 +0000

(InfoWorld) - SAP continued to ramp up its on-demand CRM offering this week, announcing that it will now include service-level capabilities, the third key component of CRM solutions.

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In February SAP kicked off its software as a service business with a sales force automation solution. In May the company added marketing, and in its third update within the year it is now announcing SAP Service.

Liz Herbert, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, said that the SAP CRM solution is now displaying the kind of depth SAP is known for.

"SAP added a component for managing products that many on-demand CRM vendors don't have. You can use it as the product master or bring in the product master which is typically found in the ERP system," said Herbert.

The new service component includes Service Ticket Management, Rule-based Service Ticket Distribution, and Service Level Monitoring.

Also included is a rules-base service-level determination calculator that automates the routing of service tickets based on a customer's service level agreement, said Angela Bandlow, vice president at CRM Solutions Marketing.

"It's a tiered service that tracks SLAs based on the customer and the required response time," said Bandlow.

One of the key differentiators for the SAP offering, according to both Bandlow and Forrester's Herbert, is its ability to integrate easily with MySAP ERP systems on the back end.

Using product information found in the ERP system, a sales person can pull up manufacturing availability and pricing information and deliver a quote in real time online.

Bandlow said while this completes the three major components of SAP CRM OnDemand, quarterly updates can be expected with the next update due in December.

To date, the solution, like almost all on-demand solutions, is not industry-specific. But Bandlow said the company is looking at that and will respond to customer demand.




Fugitive in stock-options backdating case found

Wed, 27 Sep 2006 10:19:50 +0000

(InfoWorld) - Law-enforcement officials in Namibia have arrested the former chief executive of Comverse Technology Inc., a fugitive after being charged in August with backdating millions of the company's stock options, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday.

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Jacob "Kobi" Alexander was arrested Wednesday on a Namibian warrant issued at the request of the U.S. government. He was one of three former executives at the software vendor charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud in August in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

The three, including former Chief Financial Officer David Kreinberg and former General Counsel William F. Sorin, were accused of operating a secret stock options slush fund, with issuing false and misleading financial statements, and with reaping millions of dollars in profits through a scheme to backdate stock options between 1998 and 2002, the DOJ said.

The DOJ will seek Alexander's extradition to the U.S. to face multiple charges, many of which were made public Wednesday: conspiracy, two counts of securities fraud, eight counts of making false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, four counts of mail fraud, 14 counts of wire fraud, and three counts of money laundering.

The indictment also seeks force Alexander to forfeit about US$138 million in assets, the DOJ said.

Alexander is scheduled to appear before a court in Windhoek, Namibia, within 48 hours.

The effort to find Alexander was an "international manhunt," U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf of the Eastern District of New York said in a statement.

If convicted of the most serious charge, securities fraud, Alexander faces a possible sentence of 25 years in prison.

The former Comverse executives were the second group to be charged in connection with options backdating. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been investigating several tech companies for irregularities in connection with granting employees stock options, a common practice in the IT industry in the late '90s.

In July, two former executives with storage networking vendor Brocade Communications Systems Inc. were charged with securities fraud.

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Dell preps 5 new servers for SMBs

Wed, 27 Sep 2006 10:16:49 +0000

(InfoWorld) - Dell Inc. is reaching out to small businesses worldwide with five new servers that it says perform better, consume less power and are easier to set up and manage than their predecessors.

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The new servers -- Dell PowerEdge 1900, 860, 840, SC1430 and SC440 -- feature dual-core Intel Corp. Xeon processors, which allow them to run multiple applications like file serving, e-mail and databases.

They also come pre-installed with software like Microsoft Corp.'s Small Business Server R2 and with management tools to simplify their operation and administration, Dell officials said during a conference call on Wednesday.

Small businesses typically lack the in-house IT resources of larger companies, so they prefer hardware that requires minimal tuning and maintenance.

"Small business owners want affordable technology products that are easy to deploy, manage and support," said Frank Muehleman, vice president of Dell's U.S. Small Business division.

There are about 6.2 million small businesses in the U.S. and they are expected to spend about US$98 billion in IT products and services this year, said Laurie McCabe, an analyst with AMI Research who participated in the call. "They are increasingly relying on IT and the Internet to help them run and manage their businesses," she said.

Megan Duckett, owner of theatrical drapery manufacturer Sew What Inc. in Los Angeles, beta tested the PowerEdge 860 and found it to be "impressive in performance" and "very reliable" in supporting the company's 11-PC network, she said during the call. She plans to use it to host her company's Web site in house.

The new servers, which are available worldwide, are also aimed at remote offices of large companies.

The PowerEdge 1900 is a dual-socket tower server featuring dual-core Intel Xeon 5100 series processors, and is optimized for database, messaging, file and print sharing and remote location deployments, said Jay Parker, director of Dell's PowerEdge servers. It starts at US$1,399.

He described the PowerEdge 840 as a "general-purpose tower server" with Intel Xeon 3000 series processors. It is designed for remote offices, retail stores and small businesses, and starts at $749. The PowerEdge 860 is a 1U rack-mountable server with dual-core Intel Xeon 3000 series processors. Starting at $949, it is intended for edge-of-the-network, infrastructure or Web applications.

The PowerEdge SC440 is an entry-level tower server with dual-core Intel Xeon 3000 series processors, and can be used for file and print sharing in a small business setting or in a small workgroup, as well as for e-mail, Web or standard applications. It starts at $599. Finally, the PowerEdge SC1430, starting at $1,049, features dual-core Intel Xeon 5100 series processors and is ideal for file and print sharing, e-mail messaging and small Web server applications.

Every server ships with the Dell Server Assistant, a CD-ROM for setting up and configuring the PowerEdge system components and software.

Dell has been in a slump for months. Its financial results for the first six months of the year have been disappointing. It had to recall millions of defective laptop batteries because they can overheat and catch fire. Moreover, it is being investigated by both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for possible accounting and financial reporting irregularities.

 




IBM opens venture-capital center in Dublin

Wed, 27 Sep 2006 09:53:47 +0000

(InfoWorld) - IBM launched its European Venture Capital Center in Dublin, the first such center outside of the company's corporate offices in Menlo Park, California.

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The center will be a place where IBM helps unite European startup companies with venture-capital firms and also where IBM can share some of its experiences with startups.

Often small companies have found investors but lack the expertise to globalize and scale their offerings, said Nick Donofrio, IBM's executive vice president for innovation and technology, speaking during a press conference in Dublin. "We have those skills," he said.

IBM will share such expertise with startups that participate in the center through events including subject-specific round tables or large conferences, such as one that IBM held in New York last week. Encouraging the success of emerging businesses ensures that IBM has strong partners to add to its ecosystem into the future, he said.

IBM does not intend to invest in any of the participating companies directly but could in rare cases consider buying a company that might be developing technology fundamental to IBM's business, Donofrio said.

IBM chose to place the center in Ireland in part due to its 50 year history in the country but also because of other factors that make it an ideal location. Ireland has a strong academic environment, government support for emerging technology companies, a culture of entrepreneurship and a presence of many global companies, said Deborah Magid, director of strategic alliances, software strategy for IBM Venture Capital Group.

She couldn't say how many people the new center might employ but added that existing IBM staff would likely contribute to the center's efforts.

IBM is also opening an Innovation Center in Dublin, aimed at helping local software developers test and build products.

In July, IBM said it was investing â‚¬46 million ($59 million) and hiring 300 workers in Dublin. The new Venture Capital Center and Innovation Center are part of that ongoing investment.

 




UK gov't security expert: Balance cybersecurity risks

Wed, 27 Sep 2006 09:46:18 +0000

(InfoWorld) - Governments and businesses face a variety of cybersecurity threats, but they also need to allow for increasing demands from computer users across the globe, the former information security advisor for the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Wednesday. David Longhurst, who retired this week, called for businesses and governments to take a risk-based approach to cybersecurity by balancing the advantages of new applications and capabilities with the security risks. Too often, Longhurst found himself between the U.K. military, which wanted new networked capabilities, and in-house cybersecurity experts, who wanted no new networking functionality, he said during Microsoft Corp.'s Security Summit East in Washington, D.C. "IT security folks don't want to connect anything," he said. "They believe safe sex is no sex." Longhurst didn't downplay cybersecurity risks as he spoke to a crowd of developers and network security administrators. Protecting the global information infrastructure is one of the top -- if not the top -- challenges for governments, developers and infrastructure providers, he said. It's difficult to fully assess the magnitude of the threat, he said, with IT security experts often saying, "We just have to tell you, it's bad." But as security threats continue to be a large problem, IT users are demanding increased functionality that supports their business, is easy to use, is reliable and safe, and "makes the coffee in the morning," he said. Maybe users don't want their computers to make coffee, but IT security professionals can face demands from users who want to access sensitive data from Internet cafes in Beijing, he said. "They say, 'I'd like to connect to anybody, anywhere, access anything for practically any purpose, at any time,'" Longhurst said. "You could do all this ... if we didn't have a Wild West out there." Longhurst called on everyone in the IT chain, including developers, integrators and users, to give cybersecurity a higher priority. But he also advised companies and government agencies to weigh the risks of new technology with the benefits to themselves or their customers. "This is a risk-based business," he said. "There are no absolutes in this." To fully access risk, businesses and government agencies need to hear from IT security experts, from those wanting the new functionality and from engineers who estimate how long any identified problems will take to fix. In some cases, the U.K. government has rolled out new technology even with security concerns, but set a deadline for fixing any problems, he said. Earlier, George Stathakopoulos, Microsoft's general manager for product security, said the company continues to push security in its upcoming Windows Vista OS. Vista will include several security features, including support for smart-card access to computers, and the Windows Defender scanning tool, he said. Stathakopoulos called on governments and courts to increase penalties against attackers who are caught. "Right now, you write a Sasser [worm] and get a two-year suspended sentence," he said, referring to a 2005 conviction in Germany. "You may even get a security job."ADVERTISEMENTMAKE SOA REAL WITH IBM WEBSPHERE PODCASTStreamline processes and maximize efficiency within a proven service oriented architecture. Take back control of your business processes with IBM WebSphere.[...]



Kodak zooms in on camera phones

Wed, 27 Sep 2006 09:32:39 +0000

(InfoWorld) - Don't be surprised to see the Kodak brand name appear on more mobile phones than cameras in the not-too-distant future. The U.S. imaging icon aims to put as much of its technology as possible inside what it expects to become the dominant consumer picture-taking device -- the camera phone, according to a senior executive from Eastman Kodak.

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"The compact digital camera is a short-term phenomena; it's going to be eclipsed by the camera phone," Fred Seibl, general manager at Kodak GmbH in Stuttgart, said Wednesday in an interview on the sidelines of the Photokina imaging show in Cologne, Germany. "We would like to see a lot of our technology in those phones, and we are already taking steps to achieve that goal."

Seibl pointed to the deal Kodak struck in January with mobile-phone maker Motorola to collaborate in the area of mobile imaging. Under the deal, Kodak is supplying its CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) sensors and other components as well as its image science and system integration expertise, he said.

That deal, which is nonexclusive, is to be followed by others, according to Seibl. "We're speaking with other handset manufacturers," he said, but declined to mention any names.

Nokia is a likely candidate, considering that the Finnish mobile phone maker already has been collaborating with Kodak in the area of storing and printing digital images.

In addition to handset manufacturers, Kodak is targeting mobile-phone operators for its online service, EasyShare Gallery, which allows customers to upload, organize and store multimedia content from their mobile phones or the Internet, as well as share and print images taken with their camera phones. The company is already partnering with T-Mobile International to provide the service.

Kodak has no intentions to enter the market with its own camera phones, according to Seibl. But the company will continue to look at ways of using wireless technology to transport photos, he said.

Last year, Kodak announced the world's first camera with Wi-Fi technology, the EasyShare-One.

At Photokina, the Rochester, New York, imaging company introduced the EasyShare Photo Printer 350, a 4 inch x 6 inch thermal printer specifically designed to make prints from Bluetooth-enabled camera phones.




CEO: AOL, peers have staying power in media market

Wed, 27 Sep 2006 09:26:17 +0000

(InfoWorld) - With all the huge changes under way in the online media industry, one thing is staying the same: the identities of the companies making money out of the shift, according to the head of AOL LLC.

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"Amidst all the fragmentation, there's staying power," said Jonathan Miller, chairman and chief executive officer of AOL. He named AOL, Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. as companies that are making money by aggregating rich online content such as video, noting that Microsoft Corp. is also making moves into that business.

"The big companies will stay big companies," Miller said during a keynote address at the Emerging Technologies Conference on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Cambridge campus Wednesday.

Those same companies -- AOL, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft -- are seeing their own Web sites attracting less traffic than in the past, losing out to the likes of YouTube and MySpace, Miller said. However, he doesn't expect the newer entrants to escape consolidation by the more established players. "I'm a big user of YouTube, but does anyone believe it'll be an independent company in five years? No," he said.

All the previous boundaries around entertainment are blurring as consumers become more involved in both the distribution and even creation of online content, Miller said. "This is the Golden Age of entertainment," Miller said. "If you love entertainment, this is the best time ever and it's just at the start."

Consumers have much more control over their general viewing habits, choosing where and when they watch the content of their choice. He expects that on-demand viewing for television will become the dominant pattern for users within the next four to five years, with scheduled programming taking a secondary place.

"We're becoming a nation of snackers and samplers of all-round media consumption," he added.

One area that needs work is video search, a market where AOL already has an offering. "To date, video search has not been as good as text search," Miller said. "In the next few years, it will be as good." One major technological advance that's required is how to give a search engine the ability to look at the pixels of an image and tell people what it is, instead of today's approach of relying on how a video clip is tagged.

As to how the "new" AOL is progressing, Miller's estimation is "So far, so good." Last month, the company announced it would stop charging for its range of software and services as part of a planned move away from a subscription-based model toward operations supported by advertising sales.

"We have a different future," Miller said. "In our past, we got people online, our future is about what they do online. It's a leap."

So far, AOL users are continuing to use the company's services at least as much they used to, Miller said. In terms of whether the company has successfully transitioned its business model, the earliest AOL should be able to make a call either way is "realistically the middle of next year," he added.

 




Bezos gives a look at 'hidden Amazon'

Wed, 27 Sep 2006 09:20:25 +0000

(InfoWorld) - Best known as an online retailer, Amazon.com has been gradually building up the number of Web services it offers to developers, with the ultimate aim of turning that operation into a profitable business. Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Amazon.com, dubbed the company's growing move into developer Web services as "the hidden Amazon" during a keynote address at the Emerging Technologies Conference on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Cambridge campus Wednesday. About 200,000 developers have registered to use the 10 different Web services Amazon.com is providing so far, including three that Bezos highlighted in his talk -- Mechanical Turk, Simple Storage Service (S3) and Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Mechanical Turk is a Web service that allows developers to post questions to a large group of people to gain their insight on a particular issue. S3 and EC2 are Web services that let Amazon sell excess storage and excess compute capacity respectively to third-party developers. "These are all pay-by-drink services," Bezos said. "You can use and experiment." The S3 and EC2 Web services are proving particularly popular with developers at companies that can't afford to invest in huge amounts of hardware and storage that they only require on an occasional basis, to test out the scalability of their software. With EC2, a developer could pay Amazon.com $70 for continual access for one month to the computing power of one of the company's high-level servers or alternatively, pay the same amount of money to have access to 700 servers for a single hour, Bezos said. "It completely changes what's possible," Bezos said. "Everyone who's started a company wants to go directly from their idea to a successful product." Instead, the inventor faces a host of obstacles, such as lengthy purchasing decisions on what computer hardware to invest in and how to manage heterogenous environments. Bezos terms those IT obstacles as "muck" and is hoping that Amazon.com's Web services can help alleviate some of those issues. "We're working on a Web service to get rid of tax lawyers, but it's not working yet," he quipped. Amazon.com plans to make its Web services operation into "a very profitable business," Bezos said. The company intends to keep its focus on developers with the hope that third-party companies will then use Amazon.com Web services to create consumer-facing applications, he added. All of the services are work that Amazon.com has already done internally to run its own vast online operations. "The last few years, we've been exposing those things that we have to do anyway," Bezos said. "It's a relatively small step to say we're eating this dog food, we should share it with others." One area Amazon.com has had to figure out is what business model to use in selling the services. "It tickles me that we routinely send people bills for 18 cents," Bezos said. He added that such a process isn't cost effective at present, but is more about experimenting with a potential new business model.ADVERTISEMENTMAKE SOA REAL WITH IBM WEBSPHERE PODCASTStreamline processes and maximize efficiency within a proven service oriented architecture. Take back control of your business processes with IBM WebSphere.[...]



Microsoft releases beta of file-server backup

Wed, 27 Sep 2006 09:05:06 +0000

(InfoWorld) - In a continuing bid to capture some of the tape-backup market, Microsoft on Wednesday released a beta version of the upgrade to its file-and-application server recovery software, which includes support for a wider range of the company's server products.

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The product, System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2006 version 2, builds upon a previous version of DPM released last year that marked the company's first move into the data-protection software market.

Version 2 employs a patent-pending technology that constantly monitors data changes and can recover the data with zero loss, Microsoft said. During recovery, the new version can also draw data from tape, a new capability, as well as from disks, Microsoft said.

DPM version 2 now supports Microsoft's Exchange Server, SQL Server and Office SharePoint Portal Server, plus the already-supported Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 servers.

DPM is a candidate to replace low-end tape products with centralized disk-to-disk backup, the research analyst company Gartner wrote in a November 2005 report.

Gartner wrote that Microsoft is expected to make gains in the field because of the wide use of Windows file servers and typically low use of file-protection software among small- to medium-size businesses.

DPM Version 2 also employs new replication technology that reduces the input and output necessary to keep large data sets synchronized, Microsoft said.

The beta can be downloaded here.




Court dismisses part of AMD's case against Intel

Wed, 27 Sep 2006 04:20:10 +0000

(InfoWorld) - A district court judge in the U.S. state of Delaware has dismissed part of Advanced Micro Devices' lawsuit against Intel.

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The dismissed claims relate to alleged business practices of Intel that AMD claims affected sales of its own microprocessors.

Intel petitioned the court to have the claims dismissed because it said that while AMD is headquartered in the U.S. it manufactures its processors in Germany and assembles them in Malaysia, Singapore and China. AMD is already seeking damages through the Japanese courts, European Commission and Korea Fair Trade Commission for the same business practices that are alleged in the U.S. lawsuit. Because the alleged harm was suffered outside the U.S. and because AMD is seeking redress overseas, Intel argued that the allegations fall outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts, according to a memorandum opinion from the court.

AMD contended that it is not seeking such "foreign commerce claims" and that the x86 microprocessor market is a global market and that Intel's conduct in overseas markets had an effect on its business in the U.S.

"AMD has not demonstrated that the alleged foreign conduct of Intel has direct, substantial and foreseeable effects in the U.S. which gives rise to its claim. AMD's allegations, taken in the light of the most favorable to AMD, describe a foreign effect and a foreign harm that have had ripple effects for the domestic market, but have not had any direct, substantial or reasonable effect which would give rise to an antitrust claim within the jurisdictional reach of the Sherman Act. Accordingly, the court will dismiss AMD's claims based on alleged lost sales of AMD's microprocessors to foreign customers," U.S. District Judge Joseph Farnan wrote in his conclusion.

Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesman, said, "We are pleased that the judge appears to have agreed with out legal argument to remove those aspects of the case outside U.S. jurisdiction." He declined further comment until a conference with the judge takes place on Wednesday.

AMD could not immediately be reached for comment.

AMD, the long-time No. 2 player in the microprocessor market, jolted the IT industry in June last year when it filed its broad lawsuit against rival Intel. The suit alleged Intel had managed to maintain a monopoly in the PC processor market by illegally coercing customers around the world into using its products.

The 48-page court filing identified 38 companies that, AMD alleged, had been coerced into using Intel processors at the expense of competing chips from AMD. Included are almost all of the large companies in the PC and server market, such as Dell, Sony, Gateway, and IBM.

Among the allegation, AMD said Fujitsu Siemens Computers was offered a "special discount" on Celeron processors in return for hiding AMD-based computers on its Web site and removing references from its retail catalog. Also, at the 2004 Super Computing Show, an annual conference devoted to high performance computing, Intel offered computer makers money to remove AMD systems from their booths.