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News & Analysis

New WLAN standard gets IEEE nod

The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) approved 802.11g which is a new standard for WLANs (Wireless Local Area Networks) operating in the 2.4 GHz band. This move can boost the speed of existing WLANs from 11 Mbps to a maximum of 54 Mbps. The new standard is backward-compatible with existing 802.11b WLANs which have an installed base of 11 million users worldwide.

Products based on the 802.11g standard will compete with WLAN products based on the 802.11a standard which are also set to enter the marketplace. The 802.11a standard operates in the 5-GHz

unlicensed spectrum band. 802.11g users may encounter interference in the 2.4 GHz band because it is also used by Bluetooth short-range wireless devices and products based on 802.11b.

The proliferation of wireless standards should mean price breaks for products operating under the 802.11b standard, which has already attained economies of scale. Chipset manufacturers have already formulated plans to produce chipsets that will operate at speeds of 54 Mbps.

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Cisco announces Mobile IP functionality

Cisco Systems announced the availability of a new mobile IP functionality called Cisco Mobile Networks in the Cisco IOS Software. The mobile IP specifications have been laid down by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). It enables an IP device to roam across networks and geographies and remain constantly connected to the network or the Internet. The IP address of the mobile user does not change in different locations. The connection speed can be so good that the user may feel like he/she is working from the home location.

Mobile IP allows a router along with its entire network of connected IP devices to roam across network boundaries and connection types. This provides potential revenue opportunities for wireless service providers. Mobile IP let providers expand services into markets like emergency management services, railroads and shipping systems, and automobiles.

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Vulnerable Unix GUI

Vulnerability in a component of a GUI (Graphical User Interface) that ships with several commercial Unix systems could let a malicious attacker take administrative control of an affected host system. This has been discovered by CERT, Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The affected software is included in several versions of HP's HP-UX, IBM's AIX, Sun Microsystems' Solaris, and Compaq's Tru64 Unix.

The vulnerability exists in a function used by the CDE (Common Desktop Environment) subprocess control service. The CDE is an integrated GUI that runs on Unix and Linux systems and is responsible for accepting requests from clients in order to execute commands and run applications remotely.

The vulnerability in the CDE allows an error in the way the requests from remote clients are validated. Crackers can manipulate data and cause a buffer overflow.

Patches that address the problem are available from some of the vendors. The other vendors have only acknowledged the problem and are investigating the vulnerability, according to the CERT advisory. CERT advises users to limit or block access to the subprocess control service from untrusted networks until patches are available.

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One Flavor NetWare

With previous versions of NetWare, licensing was based on the number of servers in which NetWare is installed. With the new scheme, NetWare 6 buyers can install as many servers as they want, since licensing is based on the number of users registered with Novell's NDS (Novell Directory Services) or eDirectory.

According to Rob Seely, NetWare Product Manager, Novell, the new licensing model could mean savings for companies, depending on the hardware configuration. In particular, it will make it cheaper for smaller organizations to get started with NetWare. Also, because licenses are no longer tagged to servers, it would make for easier software auditing, he said.

The list price for NetWare 6 is US$158 per new user license, and US$98 per user upgrade license. The new licensing model, however, applies only to NetWare 6 users. Users of older versions of NetWare cannot convert from server to user-based licensing. This means that organizations who are upgrading in part will have to juggle with both forms of licensing schemes during the transition period.

Windows crashing
Besides its friendlier licensing model, NetWare 6 has also been touted for its ease-of-use, rich features and scalability.

Inevitably, however, it will face torrid competition from Microsoft's Windows 2000, which Microsoft released last year in three overlapping flavors to cater for different-sized organizational implementation scales.

So will the one-sized only NetWare 6 be swamped by multi-flavored Windows 2000? Seely does not think so. "With one product-group only, Novell is making it easier for itself to stay focused," he said.

He added that NetWare 6 will line up well against even the largest network operating systems because it is scalable to the "largest" enterprises. He cited NetWare 6's enhanced client-interoperability, where organizations can use a variety of desktops as long as it supports a Web browser; and its scalability, where it supports up to 32 processors, 8 TB hard disk volumes and a billion directory objects, as key factors. "We have made NetWare 6 bigger, but at the same time, we have made it easier to implement and use," he said.

And at the very high-end enterprise segments targeted by Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, which requires hardware vendors to certify their hardware against a set of Microsoft-set criteria, he said Novell has adopted a similar certification approach for approved Novell hardware vendors.

Besides its new-found muscle, NetWare 6 also comes with several snazzy networking components.

This includes iFolder, which lets users access their files remotely from any Internet-enabled device; iPrint, which lets users print documents on any Internet-connected printer; and NetWare WebAccess, which provides access to files, printers, e-mail, calendar, and address books via a browser and a customisable portal.

Also new is its ability to run the software in a corporate network without installing the software on client PCs.

Ong Boon Kiat is the Senior Sub-editor, Network Computing-Asian Edition, and can be reached at ong_boon_kiat@cmpasia.com.sg

What's new with NetWare 6

  • iPrint, IPP (Internet printing protocol) support
  • iFolder, a file-synchronisation program
  • iManage, a framework to manage NetWare from the Web and wireless devices
  • NFAP (native file access pack), gives Windows, Mac and NFS clients access to the NetWare file system using native protocols
  • A two-node clustering license
  • eDirectory
  • Multiprocessor enhancements
  • NetWare Web Access, a mini-version of the NetWare Portal services that allows easy access to iFolder, iPrint, address book and e-mail
  • Apache and Netscape Web servers
  • Tomcat Java servlet engine

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Patch that security hole in IE

Microsoft has provided a patch for a security hole in Internet Explorer (IE) versions 5.5 and 6. The hole can expose cookie data to malicious hackers. The vulnerability was first publicized by Online Solutions Ltd, a Finnish security firm. The firm alerted Microsoft about the vulnerability but released the existence and details of the exploit before Microsoft could issue a patch. Microsoft posted an advisory and recommended that users disable active scripts in IE to prevent their cookie data from being stolen. However, disabling active scripts also renders some websites unusable.

The vulnerability lies in the ability of a malicious hacker to write an intentionally malformed URL in a Web page address. The action allows a hacker to see the cookies deposited by other websites on the user's hard drive. While proper security practice wouldn't allow sensitive information to be stored in those cookies, some websites place credit card and other personal information in the cookies. A malformed Web address link in a HTML e-mail will also expose cookie data.

Microsoft has now issued a patch that shuts the ability of one website to grab information left by another website. The patch also addresses three previously undisclosed problems. The first two involve how IE handles cookies across domains. The third vulnerability is a new variant of a vulnerability discussed in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS01-051 that affects how IE handles URLs that include dotless IP addresses. IE would treat the site as an intranet site, and open pages on the site in the Intranet Zone rather than the correct zone. This would allow the site to run with fewer security restrictions than appropriate. This vulnerability does not affect IE 6.

The patch for this vulnerability can be downloaded from www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/security/bulletin/ms01-055.asp

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Ethernet switch market down 8 percent

The worldwide Ethernet switch market dropped in the third quarter but its decline slowed from previous quarters. This data was published in a survey by market research company Dell'Oro Group. Revenue from Ethernet switch sales was just over $2.5 billion, down 8 percent from about $2.75 billion in the second quarter. The latest figure shows a 22 percent decline from the third quarter of 2000, when sales totaled almost $3.24 billion. The figure includes revenue for all types of Ethernet switches like 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps LAN devices, and 1 Gbps switches that may be used in corporate campuses or metropolitan service-provider networks. It also includes switches with routing capability and content-aware functions for optimal packet forwarding.

Since the Ethernet switch market is spread across companies in various business verticals, the demand has fallen less dramatically than some other network equipment sectors. However, Dell'Oro does not expect steady growth in Ethernet switch sales until late 2002.

Cisco remains dominant in the market, maintaining its 58 percent market share, but its revenue took a 10 percent hit. Second place Enterasys Networks gained one percentage point in market share to take 7 percent of the market to match Nortel Networks' market share.

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Hitachi Commands

Hitachi Data Systems announced HiCommand, a software framework for simplifying tasks performed by storage-system administrators. HiCommand provides a single, integrated, Web-based user interface for

controlling all Hitachi Freedom Storage systems. It also includes APIs (Application Program Interfaces) designed to simplify the integration of storage management functions with products developed by ISVs (Independent Software Vendors).

The software has graphical displays to show logical groups of storage resources in customer installation and tools for controlling the connectivity of physical and logical storage components. Administrators can use the HiCommand interface to control Hitachi Freedom Storage software products like Hitachi TrueCopy and ShadowImage.

Hitachi Data Systems make the HiCommand APIs widely available. The open APIs enable ISVs to tightly integrate their applications with HiCommand. This leads to an increase in customer operations for deploying storage virtualization tools and other software to reduce management costs.

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