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Dispatches from the world of IT


Dell Goes Chillerless

Dell announced a new solution intended to support higher temperature operations in data centers. The goal is to avoid the need for expensive and power-hungry chiller units to maintain the data center in an operating condition. According to Dell, networking equipment designed with the new Dell Fresh Air technology "… are capable of short-term, excursion-based operation in temperatures up to 113°F (45°C)."

Dell's new technology follows the trend of recent data centers toward air-cooled, chillerless design; however, according to Dell, standard IT equipment is only capable of operating at around 95°F (35°C). By expanding the temperature range, data centers can economize on the design of the facility and increase the equipment density.

Dell states, "In some climates, the capital cost to build a chiller plant as part of the data center can be eliminated altogether. This can result in more that $100K of operational savings per megawatt (MW) of IT and eliminate capital expenditures of approximately $3M per MW of IT. In addition, IT systems that can tolerate higher temperatures can reduce the risk of IT failures during facility cooling outages."

Red Hat and SAP

Red Hat announced that it was broadening its agreement with German business app vendor SAP. One initiative calls for better SAP support on Red Hat Enterprise Linux systems running in the Amazon EC2 cloud. According to Red Hat VP Gus Robertson, the announcement "… fortifies Red Hat's continued effort to provide customers flexibility in software deployment options and innovations in cloud computing."

In a separate statement, Red Hat announced that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 has been certified by SAP to run SAP business applications. Helge Deller, head of SAP's LinuxLab, added, "Customers can now use this latest Red Hat operating system with their mission-critical SAP applications …The combination of SAP applications with the Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) databased on RHEL6 will offer global enterprises a new database option for running SAP applications along with harmonized customer services and support."

Red Hat and SAP have cooperated on various projects for years, but recent events in the IT industry, such as Oracle's purchase of Sun and the rise of cloud computing, have increased the emphasis on building strong relationships that will allow each vendor to provide a more complete and seamless application environment for enterprise customers.

Oracle Activities

Oracle has been busy with a number of initiatives in the past few months. The California-based enterprise IT heavyweight has always had many irons in the fire, but the company seems to be emerging from the re-organization period after its purchase of Sun Microsystems two years ago with an intensive focus on Sun's former flagship products, in addition to the usual line of Oracle favorites.

Among the Former Sun properties to receive a makeover are Solaris 10, with the latest release, Oracle Solaris 10 8/11, reaching the streets on September 15. According to the company, the new release features improved installation and enhanced support for the ZFS filesystem.

Oracle also recently announced the release of Java Standard Edition 7 (SE 7), the first major release of the Java platform since Oracle assumed ownership. On the server side, the company unveiled the latest version of the SPARC SuperCluster, which they call "… the first engineered system from a new generation of high-performance Oracle SPARC servers."

Perhaps the best example of Oracle's attempt to synthesize its own database and business app roots with Sun's server room hardware emphasis is the new Oracle Database appliance, which the company calls "… an engineered system of software, servers, storage, and networking" designed for enterprise database customers who are looking to consolidate database hardware. The new database appliance features built-in "… system monitoring, one-button software provisioning, full-stack integrated patching, and automatic phone home on hardware failures."

Boot Talk

Red Hat engineer Matthew Garrett made the news with a blog post indicating the possibility of a Linux lock-out with the new Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). According to Garrett, the new specification, which is designed to prevent so-called "bootkits" and other forms of BIOS-bollixing malware, associates the firmware with a signing key, which prohibits the user from installing a new operating system. (The majority of Linux desktop systems came from installing Linux over a previous OEM version of Windows.)

When the announcement appeared at Slashdot and other open source news sources, the Linux community immediately raised the alarm, challenging this as yet another unfair business practice designed to restrict user choice in favor of proprietary software. Microsoft soon jumped into the fray, stating that, if such a lock-out occurs, it will be because of the OEMs, not Microsoft. According to Redmond, UEFI will allow the user to turn off the secure boot feature in the BIOS setup, as long as the OEM doesn't eliminate this option from the BIOS menu.

HP Drama

News from HP has dominated the IT headlines in recent months. The company, which has been in the hands of CEO Leo Apotheker since November 2010, announced it was retiring the recently launched TouchPad tablet line. On September 22, 2011, the HP board of directors announced it was retiring Leo Apotheker. Plenty of controversy and commentary followed both announcements.

The failure of the TouchPad line could not be pinned entirely on Apotheker, who arrived only last November – after TouchPad plans were already well underway. However, the radical remedy, and the indications that HP might be leaving the consumer space entirely and selling or discontinuing WebOS (which they inherited when they purchased Palm in April 2010), sent the stock price downward and raised widespread calls for action by the board.

HP restlessness with the consumer market reflects the growing realization that profit margins are inversely proportional to the size of the CPU. Although consumer products represent a majority of HP's revenue, the server and data center markets produce much better margins. Largely unnoticed in the swirl of boardroom politics was HP's announcement of a beta launch for a new cloud computing program. HP Cloud Services is an on-demand cloud service based on the OpenStack cloud platform.

In the boardroom, HP named former eBay leader (and former California gubernatorial candidate) Meg Whitman as the new CEO. The announcement drew a mixed response, with many onlookers praising Whitman's past success in leading eBay from startup to world resale phenomenon. Others suggested the biggest threat to HP might be the defection of senior managers, who have now been passed over twice for the top job.

Windows 8 Developer Release

Visitors to the Windows-focused BUILD conference in Anaheim, California, got a first glimpse of what Microsoft has in mind for the upcoming Windows 8 release. Redmond rolled out a Developer Preview of Windows 8, so programmers can get started planning and building applications for the new system.

According to Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live divisions, Microsoft has "reimagined Windows." Like other OS vendors, Microsoft seems to be tooling up for the smartphone revolution, with a built-in app store, support for ARM chipsets, and more attention to touchscreen technologies.

Not all the changes are on the mobile and client end. Windows 8 Server features a reinvented Server Manager tool and, as you could probably guess, increased attention to cloud computing.

Unofficial indicators point to a final release in Fall 2012. Meanwhile, the company continues to build its cloud presence. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell announced that Microsoft will add an additional US$ 150 million to the new US$ 499 million data center planned for Mecklenburg County, Virginia, expanding the infrastructure and boosting the total power capacity for the facility by 21MW.

VMware View 5 and Horizon

On August 29 through September 1, virtualization vendors and users showed up in Las Vegas for the annual VMworld conference, sponsored and promoted by VMware. The conference featured 175 sessions and labs, with the focus on the technologies of VMware and its partners. Several companies announced new products at the show, including VMware, which used the occasion to roll out a pair of "… new products and services for the post-PC era."

VMware View 5 is the latest release in the company's line of desktop virtualization management tools. According to VMware, version 5 provides advanced 3D graphic support, improved scalability for voice and video services, and protocol improvements that provide "as much as 75% bandwidth improvements over LAN and WAN connections."

VMware Horizon application manager provides centralized console for managing and deploying virtual Windows applications across the network. The latest Horizon release includes Horizon mobile, a tool for integrating the VMware desktop virtualization environment with mobile systems.