Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Borland's Future?

Borland has named Tod Nilsen as its new leader. He will serve as the president and CEO, moving into his position a full four months after the previous chief executive left.

Nilsen comes to Borland with a wealth of experience at Oracle, Microsoft and BEA systems. At Microsoft, where he spent 12 years, he was the executive heading up development. It will be interesting to see what Nielsen has to say when he delivers the keynote speech this week at Borland's developers conference in San Francisco.

Borland offers a set of products focused on the development space with products for modeling, testing and writing code. A tough market to say the least, competition is coming from big players like Microsoft and IBM.

Earlier in the year, Borland purchased TeraQuest, a company specializing on CMMI, CMM and PMO. Last year we engaged TeraQuest to do an appraisal of our department process reviews. The appraisal included a full understanding of product development, IT, organizational change management, and improvement implementation. The purpose of the appraisal was to put in place the processes and best practices to help us execute on the business need(s).

(I will not go into the details of the assessment, but I will say that the outcome focused on CMMI and a much heavier approach than what we have implemented to date.)

I think the process improvement tools market is a tough arena. Microsoft is clearly entering this space with the introduction of Visual Team Systems where they offer Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) and Agile MSF. IBM is offering Rational Unified Process (RUP) and Agile Unified Process (AUP), a simplified version of RUP.

Well, I can go on and on about this, but will spare you the discomfort – at least for today.

Sales of JBuilder--Borland’s standalone development tool--are being threatened by Eclipse, an open-source product.

I personally think this is going to be a difficult job, yet an opportunity for Nilsen. Borland and Nilsen have an uphill battle ahead of themselves, with weak product offerings and internal resource struggles. Can they overcome these obstacles in order to succeed? We'll see...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ballmer licking his chops?

Yesterday, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive officer, unveiled the long awaited SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk Server during a press event in San Francisco.

In his message to the crowd, Ballmer communicated the key business differences separating Microsoft from the competition—including the growth of the open-source community. During an interview with CNET, Ballmer said that Microsoft’s ambition was to become the “grand consolidator of everything else” and not just to focus on Fortune 500 customer like Oracle and SAP do. Statistics show that Microsoft accounts for less than 1.5 percent of total IT expenditures in large enterprises, something the company wants to change.

Ballmer was blunt: “Well, the question is, how do we get higher price points? We'll have some people in those 'mission critical' applications choosing our enterprise editions. As people move into more mission-critical applications they will naturally choose some of our higher-priced items. We are the high-volume, low-priced guys in every space in which we play--with some small exceptions around open source, if you will.".

With this release Microsoft will offer Express--a stripped-down version of SQL Server--and Visual Studio at a lower price point (but neither offering is available in the US.

It would appear to me that with current and future products, Microsoft is trying to use flexible pricing to capture more of the market. I think at times this makes it more difficult for the consumer; after all, license fees are not the biggest expense for us—it is the operating cost of the software. Microsoft has not been able to bottle their own operational efficiency and extend it beyond Redmond. This is something they try to address with the new features within Visual Studio, but still have a long way to go.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The European Acquisition

Wednesday, Microsoft announced its intent to acquire is a 23-person firm with a set of business applications offering VoIP. Just like Skype, this company is also in Europe, with the headquarters Zurich, Switzerland.

The applications offered by have been designed to target business; Microsoft plans to link the software to its corporate instant message system and Office productivity applications. This feature set will be available in Communicator and Office 12.

On Tuesday, Microsoft showed off the ability to make VoIP calls from Windows Live Messenger, an application going into beta in December.

It is great to see that Microsoft is focusing on bringing VoIP to their products. I have used VoIP at home for a long time and love it. The quality is good and you can't beat the price. This acquisition is also in line with Microsoft’s investment practices...a small company with great potential to extend existing product offerings.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sony has gone way too far!

Sony is trying to protect its intellectual property by preventing people from coping music CDs. In this quest, I think they have gone way too far.

In a recent discovery made by Mark Russinovich a rootkit (see definition below) was found on his system after playing a music CD with copy protection. If you are interested in the details of Mark’s findings click here.

After purchasing a music CD on Amazon, Mark was playing it on his computer. At the same time he was using the latest version of RootkitRevealer (RKR) and discovered something intercept kernel-mode application APIs by patching the kernel’s system service table. He traces it to a device driver by the name of Aries.sys, whose cloaking code hides any file, directory, Registry key or process whose name begins with “$sys$".

Sony has licensed a "content protection scheme" from a company called First 4 Internet to try to "protect their investments." My suggestion to Sony is to start thinking about ways to use technology and not to spend time fighting against it. Something the music industry is not talking about is the fact that record sales increased during the time of Napster. I do not condone stealing of content, but Sony and the music industry need to wake up and take advantage of technology and not do malicious things to customer’s computers.

[Definition: A root kit is a set of tools frequently used by an intruder after cracking a computer system. These tools are intended to conceal running processes and files or system data, which helps an intruder maintain access to a system for malicious purposes. Root kits are known to exist for a variety of operating systems Root kits are known to exist for a variety of operating systems such as Linux, Solaris and versions of Microsoft Windows. *source WikipediA.]

Thank you, Sony, for pre-installing rootkits for the hackers to use to attack your customer’s computers. I think it is disgusting that companies like Sony think it is OK for them to use hacking techniques.

Hope we will see a backlash from customers.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Not just a fly, but also a Worm in the soup

An anonymous hacker just "published" an Oracle DB worm. The hacker published the code on the “Full-disclosure mailing list” with a subject line reading "Trick or treat, Larry."

Alexander Kornbrust, founder and CEO of Red-Database-Security, says, "this version of the worm is not dangerous but anyone can use this as a framework and inject a more malicious payload. At the moment, it just creates a table in the [remote] database if the attack is successful. But, it can be programmed to do much more than that. It's quite easy to replace this payload with a more dangerous payload."

In the interim, Kornbrust has a few protection recommendations for enterprise DB administrations:
  • Change your default passwords in every database test/development/education/production)
  • Revoke the privilege "CREATE DATABASE LINK" from the (default) CONNECT role (up to Oracle 10g Rel. 1)
  • Revoke the public grant from the package utl_tcp if not needed.
  • Revoke the public grant from utl_inaddr if not needed.
  • Protect your TNS listener with a strong password. On Oracle 10g, always disable local OS authentication and use a strong password instead.
  • Change the TNS listener default port from 1521 to a different port.

Looks like worms likes all brands of software, not just Microsoft's.

Need a job? Openings galore at Google

The market for IT professionals is strong and growing, and yet few companies are have an appetite for IT stars like Google.

Last quarter (which ended September 31), Google hired 800 people (!) bringing its total staff to 4989. This is more than triple the staff from two years ago. Currently Google is seeking 1100 people worldwide to fill its current job openings. (Most of these jobs are in the engineering field and are listed on the company’s web site.)

It is interesting to know that the company rarely has recruit to fill the openings—Google is in in the sights of many job seekers.

Of primary interest to prospective employees is whether Google has the revenue to support its growth. I think so, given their recent announcement that third-quarter revenue nearly doubled from a year ago to $1.58 billion, with a net income of $381.2 million.

The company is hiring everyone from the very experienced (like Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, who co-designed the TCP/IP) to fresh-scrubbed college graduates. According to their website, “Google engineers all have '20 percent time' in which they’re free to pursue projects they’re passionate about. This freedom has already produced Google News, Google Suggest, AdSense for Content, and Orkut – products which might otherwise have taken an entire start-up to launch." This is something that attracts creative and big thinkers to the company.

It is good to see that the IT job market is growing. Let’s watch to see if Google can sustain this great growth.

Windows and office live -- Live or let die?

At a press conference earlier today in San Francisco, Chairman Bill Gates kicks off Microsoft's "live software" push. He detailed the upcoming "Windows Live" and "Office Live" products (software and services that are delivered across the Internet rather than distributed via normal wholesale/retail channels).

Gates told the audience the new product offerings are based on the experience and findings the Microsoft has gained vis a vis MSN live (which will persist in spite of the new product lineup).

The new products are based on an advertising and subscription model, sort of like a modified Google approach. Let’s take a look at the products:

Windows live:
  • Internet-based personal services to bring together your digital world
  • Centered on the individual
  • Communication, information, protection
  • Separate from Windows
  • continues as programmed content portal
  • Primarily ad-supported

Office live:

  • Internet-based service for growing and managing your business online
  • Online presence, business automation, collaboration (Sharepoint-like)
  • Initial target is small business
  • Seamless integration with Microsoft Office, can also work independently
  • Extensible platform
  • Multiple subscription and ad-supported offerings
It is going to be interesting to see if this is something that is going to enhance the Microsoft customer experience or just cut their bottom-line revenue from traditional Office-like products.