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News & Analysis (February 2002)

Compaq cuts in with Blade servers, new tools
Taking its Adaptive Infrastructure blueprint forward, Compaq recently launched the first in a series of Blade servers and an umbrella of systems management tools.

Formerly code named QuickBlades, the ProLiant BL e-Class server Blades are Compaq's answer to a new breed of ultra-dense servers that address three key infrastructural requirements shortage of real-estate space, increasing power requirements and scarcity of skilled resources (manpower) to manage droves of servers.

"QuickBlades has been in the R&D stages for almost two years now," informs Compaq's Durgadutt Nedungadi, APAC Marketing Manager (ProLiant range). "We foresaw some typical changes will happen in the marketplace in the way customers need to run their data centers."

Compaq recently launched the ProLiant BL10e in the country. This Blade server has an ultra-dense design allowing up to 20 'Blades' to fit into a single 3U enclosure and 280 Blades to fit in a standard 42U rack. (For more details refer to Shelf Space on page 48).

Blade servers are usually targeted at data centers (IDCs) or server farms that host a stockpile of servers belonging to various Internet-centric businesses. Since more Internet companies are closing shop, Blade server vendors are turning their attention to enterprises.

"When our competitors launched Blade servers six months ago their target market was either the Telecom companies or the Service Providers," says Nedungadi. "But we believe that Blades are good for the enterprise market too for the corporate data center. That's why we decided to have a portfolio of Blades that addresses the needs of the enterprise. Our target market will be corporations which are doing consolidation, corporations which already have data centers, and banks who have to deploy large number of servers."

It may be recalled that startups such as RLX Technologies, Egenera, Scalant and Fiber Cycle had a first mover advantage when they produced Blade server designs about six months ago. So how does Compaq differentiate its Blade servers?

"Their focus is only on the front-end Blades. Our strategy is different. We believe that as enterprises consolidate, there will be a need not only for front-end Blades, but also for mid-tier performance Blades (for application servers), as well as for backend Blades (which are the number crunching powerhouses to run databases)," says Nedungadi. "We are today beginning with the front-end Blades and by the end of this year; we will have released the complete portfolio of Blades."

Front-end servers are the entry point into an organization's network and are typically used as firewalls, Web servers, messaging servers, etc.

For vendors, the market for Blade servers is potentially lucrative. IDC predicts two million Blade servers will ship worldwide by 2005, accounting for total revenue of $2.9 billion. Companies like HP (Powerbar), IBM (Excalibur), Sun (iChange) and Dell are also introducing ultra dense Blade servers or introducing server management software for the same.

Compaq has also launched a set of tools collectively called ProLiant Essentials software. Compaq officials say these tools enable an organization to quickly deploy and efficiently manage "hundreds of servers." Resource Partition Manager (RPM) for instance allows you to dynamically allocate all the server resources to a particular application, depending on rules you set.

By Brian Pereira


Digitally first
SafeScrypt Ltd. a company promoted by Satyam Infoway Limited an affiliate of VeriSign, Inc. has become India's first Certifying Authority (CA) for Digital Signatures.

At NASSCOM 2002, SafeScrypt issued India's first Digital Signature certificate to Mr. Pramod Mahajan, Minister of Communications and IT. The second Digital Signature certificate was issued to Mr. Bimal Jalan, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India.

A Digital Signature is an encryption and decryption process that allows identification of the author of an electronic message and verification of integrity of the message. A Digital Signature is based on the RSA public key encryption system.

The digital signature certificate is a computer generated record, which contains the identity of the subscriber, the public key and is digitally signed by the CA. It is a secure electronic digital identity of an individual on the Internet. Consumers or professionals can digitally sign e-mails, documents, any transaction, or any other electronic data or communication. This covers online banking and financial transactions, online retail shopping, and business transactions. The certificates issued by a CA are recognized in a court of law in India.

In another event ICICI Infotech joined hands with Sonera SmartTrust to provide secure Internet services to the Indian communications industry. ICICI Infotech has been given the National Root Certificate Authority contract by the Controller of Certification Authorities (CCA) of the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology for the supply and installation of the National Root Certification Authority.

The CCA's office will host the Root CA and a National Repository containing all the issued certificates by the licensed CA's and will act as the apex Certification Authority of India. The Root CA's prime responsibility is to license and supervise the commercial CA's operating in India. All the licensed CA's have to have their certificates signed by Root CA as stipulated by the law.


Sun embraces Linux
Sun has decided to adopt Linux for some of its network gear. The company will incorporate the OS as a low-end, edge-of-the-network strategy. Sun is planning to create its own version of Linux rather than use other Linux flavors like Red Hat, Caldera International, SuSE, MandrakeSoft, and Turbolinux.

Sun however doesn't see Linux used in its vertical products which are the large, expensive, and complicated servers like the new Sun Fire 15K. The company's plans for this year include shipping a full implementation of Linux, adding a new line of low-end x86-based servers running Linux and offering more components of its Solaris OS to the open-source community.

With Linux in the mix, Sun now has to worry about making sure the numerous components in its Sun One software strategy run on Linux as well as Java, a task Sun said it will accomplish. The company is partway there, with support for Java and some of the iPlanet e-commerce software.


Bangalore wakes up to IPv6
The second Global IPv6 summit concluded in Bangalore on January 25th. This three-day event was organized by the Bangalore based IPv6 Forum India. The summit was attended by participants from around the globe, including over 150 delegates from 55 leading IT companies and known experts from research institutions.

This three-day event was designed to deliver information, ideas and strategies required for understanding as well as implementation of the latest version of IP (IPv6). Speaking on the benefits of the summit, Hemanth Dattatreya, President, IPv6 Forum India said, "The main advantage of conducting the IPv6 summit is to raise awareness levels on IPv6 technology and give an opportunity for the community to interact first hand with experts in the industry. The summit also provides a chance for the experts to review progress on IPv6 awareness and deployment in different parts of the world." The summit mainly comprised of a one-day tutorial on IPv6, a corporate technology brief and a set of technical talks from academia and industry. An exposition of prevailing IPv6 implementations by various vendors with a live demonstration was another great attraction.

Day one started off with an intensive tutorial and a workshop, detailing the nuts and bolts of IPv6 by Dr. Steve Deering of Cisco and Charles Perkins from Nokia. Commenting on the addressing issues of IP, Deering says "IPv4 has its limitations in terms of address space. It slowly became apparent that more address space was going to be needed, and that forced the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) to work on IPv6 as the next standard Internet Protocol. IPv6 carries 128-bit addressing, which is enough for stable, unique addresses for all devices." While Dr. Deering spoke on various issues related with IPv6 addressing and routing, Charles spoke on how closely mobile companies like Motorola, Nokia and Ericsson are committed to introduce IPv6 in all its products and the impact of IPv6 on mobility.

Day two started of with a global perspective of the Internet for the New Millennium. Latif Ladid, President of IPv6 Forum talked about the enhanced security features of IPv6, the impact of IPv6 on the next generation Internet and how devices like refrigerators and microwave will have an IP address and how these devices will be hooked to the Internet. He also said that IPv6 will be completely operational by 2004. The second day also witnessed various initiative and deployment issues of IPv6. Speaking on one of the earliest IPv6 deployment in the country, Prof. Rahul Banerjee, Asst. Dean CS&E, BITS Pilani, said "the IPv6 6bone pTLA was one of the earliest successful international projects in this field, commenced in a structured format in 1998. Currently, this project has collaborations with over 17 international organizations spread over seven countries. We at BITS, believe the Next Generation Networks will retain characteristics of multi-technology framework with IPv6 as the cornerstone. We consider IPv6 as the factor that will bind multiple technologies fixed and mobile together."

Jordi Palet Martniez, Director, Consulintel, spoke on how countries like China, Korea & Japan and the European Commission have committed to move to IPv6 by 2005. He also talked about the 6NET and Euro6IX test networks being started in Europe to achieve that goal.

The concluding day started with discussions on the role IPv6 will play on mobile communications industry and the impact on the corporate users. The speakers included Prof. S. Sadagopan, Director, IIIT-B and Jim Bound, Network Technical Director, Compaq. Mobile IPv6 case studies were also presented by Amlan Saha, Technical Manager, Siemens. In the exhibitions area there were "IPv6 ready" products on display from leading vendors like Microsoft, Compaq, HP, Cisco and 6WIND.

The summit ended with the official launch of the Indian IPv6 task force that will help kick start regional IPv6 deployment efforts to help reach Internet to the common man. It was concluded that a joint initiative and effort will be needed to create a receptive environment for the development, delivery and use of IPv6 in the global Internet.

By Mahesh Rathod


What is IPv6 Forum?
IPv6 Forum is worldwide consortium of leading Internet vendors, research and education networks, with a clear mission to promote IPv6 by dramatically improving the market and user awareness of IPv6, creating a quality and secure Next Generation Internet and allowing world-wide equitable access to knowledge and technology.

The international IPv6 Forum aims to:

  • Establish an open, international Forum of IPv6 expertise
  • Share IPv6 knowledge and experience among members
  • Promote new IPv6-based applications and global solutions
  • Promote interoperable implementations of IPv6
  • Resolve issues that create barriers to IPv6 deployment standards
  • Co-operate to achieve end-to-end quality of service

SNMP vulnerable
The CERT/CC (Computer Emergency Response Team/Coordination Center) issued an advisory to all network administrators of a flaw in SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) which is widely used to remotely administer routers, switches, and network management systems.

The security breach encountered with SNMP is common with most other vulnerabilities: buffer overflow and format string errors. The breach can allow hackers to create a 'back door' to devices using SNMP. It gives hackers the leisure of breaking into the network and returning at a more leisurely pace later. Disabling SNMP is one of the workarounds for protecting against this vulnerability. This should give administrators enough time to install a patch. But this may not be an option for many enterprises who conduct e-business, since core functions like billing and ordering will be interrupted.

CERT/CC recommends another workaround, a temporary stopgap of ingress filtering to prevent outside machines from logging into corporate servers. The organization recommends filtering ports 161/udp and 162/udp. If this measure is not feasible CERT/CC suggests restricting SNMP traffic to VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) or to separate isolated management networks not available to the public.

In a statement CERT/CC said vendors were contacted last year about the vulnerability. This would have given them a chance to create a security patch to address the problem before the rest of the world (read hackers) found out. More than 240 vendors were contacted after conducting test runs on networks that use SNMP as its protocol; this is a clear indicator of the enormity of the problem.

As per the CERT/CC list, the following vendors have vulnerable systems: Nokia, Lucent Technologies, Caldera, HP, Multinet, Lotus, Juniper Networks, 3Com, Novell, Cisco, Microsoft, NET-SNMP, Lantronix, Novell, Marconi, Computer Associates, Red Hat Linux, AdventNet, COMTEK Services Inc., Innerdive Solutions LLC, CacheFlow Inc., Hirschmann Electronics GmbH & Co., FreeBSD, SNMP Research, Redback Networks Inc., and Netscape.

You can get more information on this vulnerability as well as download patches from some of the companies mentioned above at http://www.cert.org/advisories/CA-2002-03.html

 
     
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Copyright 2001: Indian Express Group (Mumbai, India). All rights reserved throughout the world. This entire site is compiled in Mumbai by The Business Publications Division of the Indian Express Group of Newspapers. Site managed by BPD