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News & Analysis (February 2002)

MAIT's first-half performance review
MAIT, the body representing the hardware, training and services sectors of the IT industry in India, announced its Industry Performance Review for the first half (H1) of 2001-2002. According to the report the server market declined by 6 percent in H1 2001-02 over H1 2000-01. The top four metros accounted for 85 percent of the total server sales. Consumption of servers in larger businesses grew by 42 percent and they accounted for 58 percent of the server sales. Server sales in SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) sharply declined by 29 percent and 40 percent respectively. As per the report, the networking market reflected poor consumption in the domestic market. The networking market had been one of the fastest growing segments in the industry. However in H1 2001-02 the NIC's (Network Interface Cards) market grew by only 12 percent, hubs grew by 6 percent while the modem market declined by 21 percent. In H1 2001-02 only 2.55 lakh modems were sold compared to 3.23 lakh in H1 2000-01. Modem consumption in businesses declined by 32 percent and in household by 10 percent. The UPS market has grown at a CAGR of 52 percent over the past five years. However, UPS sales witnessed a steep fall of 71 percent in the larger business segment and 61 percent decline in the medium business segment. The number of active Internet subscribers increased to 1.23 million in September 2001 indicating an increase of just 10 percent over March 2001. The penetration of Internet among businesses has remained stagnant at 36 percent and showed a marginal increase of one percent among households to reach 10 percent. The business segment now contributes 46 percent of the total active Internet subscribers, and households account for the remaining 54 percent. Dialup remains the most commonly used means of accessing the Internet among business accounting for 76 percent usage. Cable and DSL are yet to catch-up and they account for only five percent and two percent of access means. Access through leased lines dropped from 12 percent in March 2001 to four percent in September 2001. According to S. Devarajan, Vice President-MAIT, the slowdown in the IT market is of immense concern. He also said that it was time the government focused attention on the sector to make it competitive. According to Vinnie Mehta, Director-MAIT, although the entire country is witnessing an economic slowdown, the IT market is expected to bounce back in the later part 2001-02.


No Intel please, we're Sun
Sun's new Solaris 9 OS when released will not support Intel's chips. Most corporate Solaris users run servers based on Sun's 64-bit UltraSparc processors, and some of them have also worked with Solaris on servers that use Intel's 32-bit chips. However, with the new version of Solaris, users will not be able to do so. According to Sun, the cost of supporting Intel chips was too expensive. This is because the cost of support like bug tracking and software patches is very high. This prompted Sun to withdraw Solaris support for Intel's 64-bit Itanium chips. Current users of Solaris 8 on Intel-based servers will continue to receive support for the next seven years. As compared to desktop OS upgrades, the Solaris OS is upgraded at a much slower pace. Since most users will hold on to Solaris 8 for some time the decision on Solaris 9 may have little immediate impact. More than 1.2 million licenses have been distributed for Solaris 8 of which a vast majority run on Intel-based computers. This does not include the Solaris licenses that come with the purchase of new hardware from Sun. Sun can add in support for Intel's 32-bit chips on updates to Solaris 9 if that move seems appropriate later.


WEP fix
The standards committee responsible for the broken WLAN (Wireless LAN) encryption algorithm called WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) has approved a fix to the system that can be applied to existing equipment. The fix for the WEP encryption standard uses a technique called fast-packet keying to rapidly generate unique encryption keys for each data packet transmitted. A committee of the IEEE responsible for WEP and a clutch of other WLAN standards has approved the fix, according to RSA and Hifn—two companies involved in WEP development. Equipment vendors can distribute the fix as a software or firmware patch, letting users update existing vulnerable devices, according to RSA Security and Hifn. Since anyone with an appropriate radio receiver can overhear traffic on wireless LANs, the IEEE 802.11 standards committee adopted the WEP standard as a way of encrypting this traffic to make it as secure from eavesdroppers as traffic on wired LANs. However, flaws in the encryption algorithm meant it was relatively simple to guess the keys with which successive packets of data were encrypted on WEP wireless LANs, because the keys were too closely related. Current implementations of the WEP standard use RSA's RC4 algorithm for encryption. RSA defends its encryption algorithm, saying the successful attacks against WEP were not a result of any weakness in RC4, but rather in how WEP created encryption keys for each data packet, based on a secret code known only to the wireless LAN base station and the remote terminal. The keys for different packets were too similar, RSA says, meaning hackers could exploit the similarity to deduce the secret code, and with it, the content of all network traffic. The fast packet keying method can be used to reduce the similarity between keys used to encrypt successive data packets, making it harder for hackers to guess the secret code known to the network terminals, says RSA.


Update or be a 'Goner'
Computer Associates assigned a medium-to-high risk status to Goner, a malicious computer worm also known as W32/Goner.A and W32.Goner.A@mm. The worm propagates through e-mail disguised as a Microsoft Windows screensaver. Goner arrives as an e-mail with the subject line: "Hi" and a message body text: "How are you? When I saw this screensaver, I immediately thought about you. I am in a harry, I promise you will love it!" The attachment: "GONE.SCR". When the attachment is executed, Goner searches for security products, including antivirus and personal firewalls, running on the computer. It shuts down and erases the security applications. Its mode of transport is e-mail addresses in the infected computer user's Microsoft Outlook address book. It also has the potential to spread via ICQ and IRC networks. As a detection and removal tool Trend Micro has created updated virus pattern files No.177 and 977 to detect and remove this worm. The pattern file can be downloaded from Trend Micros' website www.antivirus.com. To scan their systems for this virus, desktop users can use a free online virus scanner called Housecall.


Java-based tools preferred over .NET
An informal survey of IT decision-makers whose companies are early birds at building Web services, suggests that most developers are choosing Java-based tools over Microsoft's .NET. Polling 120 IT executives in early December, the Giga Information Group found that 78 percent of the group viewed Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) server software as the most effective platform for building and deploying Web services. Microsoft's .NET, which enables users to build Web services for Windows server OSs, accounted for 22 percent of the votes. The survey points out that the perception among those polled, regarding which software platform will be best suited for Web services, indicates a shift in how software vendors are marketing their products, as well as what tools are actually available to developers. It may be noted that support for the key technologies for developing Web services is just beginning to appear in final versions of developer kits—first, in J2EE kits. Microsoft offers test versions of its Visual Studio.Net that support these standards, but not the final version.


Switch makers remain committed to Fiber Channel
The iSCSI storage interface may have lots of potential, but some players in the SAN market may choose to stick with Fiber Channel for now. Two major players say they will continue to invest heavily in the development of products for Fiber Channel networking technology. Tony Canova, chief financial officer for Brocade Communications and H. K. Desai, president and chief executive officer for QLogic Corp said ready-to-ship products based on iSCSI technology are a long way off, and Fiber Channel will outpace other competing technologies—particularly in the short-term. Canova said that though his customers were thinking more about iSCSI, they say it is too far out. He said there were limitations with this technology. Desai said that Fiber Channel SANs are just being deployed and suggested that iSCSI supporters may have missed the boat. "It is now too late for iSCSI and InfiniBand to come in," he said. However, Desai feels that iSCSI will have its day in the sun. "It's not like one technology is taking away from another. They'll all find a place but in different markets.". Desai added that the cost of Fiber Channel SANs is still cost prohibitive and said his company is working aggressively to get prices down. "It's still way too expensive," he said. "The only way for (Fiber Channel) SANs to grow is to make them less expensive. If it doesn't, iSCSI will come in.". Their views are natural, considering that both companies have flagship products based on Fiber Channel. But many companies support similar views about the short-term future of iSCSI. Brocade is the largest provider of Fiber Channel switches and related software used to build SANs. The majority of the company's revenues come from its SilkWorm 8- and 16-port switches. The company recently announced a 2 GB fabric switch and is expected to roll out another 2 GB switch in early 2002. QLogic develops high performance I/O solutions for SANs. QLogic's product line includes I/O controllers, host bus adapters and Fiber Channel switches. IDC estimates the combined market for Fiber Channel switches will grow to $4.2 billion in 2003 from $423 million in 2000. IDC predicts the market for Fiber Channel fabric switches will grow to $1.02 billion in 2003 from $101 million in 1999.

 
     
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