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News about SPARC systems and related companies

2002, September 12 - 17

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article:- A Better Linux than Linux? - Sun's flawed x86 strategy.
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Sun Microsystems Sun Microsystems Introduces Web-based Enterprise Management Dynamic Reconfiguration for Midframe and High-end Servers

SANTA CLARA, CA - September 17, 2002 - Sun Microsystems, Inc. introduces Web-based Enterprise Management Dynamic Reconfiguration (WDR) on its Sun Fire Midframe and high-end 3800-15K servers. With the help of workload monitoring and measurement tools developed by BMC Software, Inc., such as PATROL for Sun Automated Dynamic Reconfiguration, WDR will allow customers to automate the changing of hardware resources to coincide with shifts in user demand.

Sun's Dynamic Reconfiguration (DR) technology, which allows customers to add, remove and reallocate resources on-the-fly is unmatched in the industry. With today's announcement, Sun further improves on DR by introducing an application programming interface that takes advantage of Internet technologies to manage systems and networks throughout the enterprise. ...Sun Microsystems profile

Editor's comments:- in some ways this is similar to the hotSPARC technology described by HotServer Technologies in their press release April 1st. In that earlier announcement SPARC processors were dynamically speeded up at busy times of the day when there was peak server load. The increased heat output from the faster clock operation was piped out through the users' coffee machines, with a Java connected feedback mechanism. It'll be interesting to see if Sun decides to support hotSPARC technology in a later version of its WBEM.
Sun Microsystems Introduces Web-based Enterprise Management Dynamic Reconfiguration for Midframe and High-end Servers

Kirchman Corporation Innovates With Tadpole's Laptops Launching Industry's First "Bank-In-A-Box," Cost-Effective Disaster Recovery Solution

Let's Have Less "Vision" and More Execution on Sun's Traditional Values This Week at SunNetwork Conference

Kaspersky Labs Warns Linux Users about Slapper Worm

eMag Solutions Helps Customers Import Data to Sun Servers from IBM Legacy Tapes

Is Sun Going to Lose Out as Peripheral Makers Rush to Adopt Serial ATA?

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STORAGE Security
Storage Security
Megabyte used one of Gunnar's goblin hammers to stop pesky goblin minions and other pests from interfering with his bits and bytes.

Nibble:- Re: STORAGE Security

We've recently added a new feature to our sister publication, - about storage security... Security is probably one of the reasons that you run Solaris or Linux on your servers instead of the more popular CrashWare and HackerWare operating systems.

These non Unix alternatives, while cheap to buy, are often expensive to run on account of the need to have a vast array of 3rd party band aid plug ins and add ons to stop leaks and holes and an inclination towards self destruction...

As a systems administrator running a CrashWare server, you soon become a very popular person, on first name terms with all your users. The care and management of such a system needs tender loving care, and appeals to those people who like to think of themselves less as a SysAdmin, and more of an IT Therapist.

Sadly, when you've got thousands of users and processes running on your servers, that personal touch is no longer sustainable. In the interests of personal survival and more hours sleep, the only cure is to suggest to management that next time round they buy a more reliable system.

STORAGE Security covers a wide area of products, services and applications and has meant different things at different times.

In the late 1980's I noticed that my defense and intelligence customers would, whenever they left their offices, unplug the removable disk shuttles from their workstations and lock them in solid filing cabinets which were built like safes with two heavy duty padlocks. Since there were armed guards on the gates going into those establishments, and electrified fences I knew they weren't worried about burglars. I remember joking once to a customer at GCHQ that my insurance company insisted on having window locks on all the ground floor windows of my house and that they didn't seem to have any... surely a weak point since anyone could just hop in.

I too, took physical security seriously, but I wasn't worried that anyone would be interested in stealing our obscure software and schematics. As a Sun oem and VAR I decided that we wouldn't use the low cost pizza box disk storage which became fashionable at that time. Sun's ads used to claim that you could now store all your company data and run your applications on these little boxes. This exaggeration was designed to show the contrast between the speedy little SPARCstation 2 servers which were three times faster than the older VAX minicomputers which cost ten times as much and needed air conditioned computer rooms.

After seeing how our office cleaners used to move around the stuff on people's desks when they were dusting, I got worried that one night all our data might just end up falling off a desk, and crashing the disks. One of my engineers used to have about seven monitors connected to the different systems he was working on, and his desks used to get wobbly enough without any external help. So I decided that my form of physical security would be to use one of our production VME based SPARC servers as the R & D data store. This sat on the floor and was a two man lift. You could hit it with a hammer without doing any harm. Our VME crates had been type tested for RFI and physical vibration immunity by the electricity generating company who used them as high speed dataloggers when testing large electrical spikes across the national grid. So although it cost more than the pizza boxes, I didn't have to worry about minor physical accidents.

We even found, one morning, that the system had protected our data against a small fire which filled our offices with smoke, luckily when no one was there. That was an added bonus.

In today's computing environment, every company is under threat every second of every day. Not only do you have to block out malicious viruses which come down the wires in your email, but terrorists and criminals probe and attack every internet connected server so they can steal computing resources for sending out junk email, or steal your credit card data or shut down your web site. Recently a company that my wife consults for as a marketer, was upgrading their database and operating system. In the ten minutes or so that their system was running without a new firewall, every PC and server was trashed by viruses in both their sites. It took days to restore operation. The upgrade was being done by an IT services company.

The role of data security products is to protect against external and internal threats to your data integrity, while not impeding the smooth flow of legitimate information flows throughout your organization. Managing storage security is very complicated task because it involves actions at so many different levels. Some security service companies can audit your current networks and recommend how you can fix vulnerabilities. A marketing manager in one of those storage security companies told me recently that no one likes to admit that they have security problems, but even security conscious companies like banks are vulnerable. There have been several well publicised occasions when online banks and other major financial institutions have had security lapses which exposed all their customer details to anyone who wanted to take a look.

No single product can fix all the problems and hazards created by networked storage.

A good approach is to go back and look at what works for physical security like my old customers in the defense world. Outside you have the signs warning unauthorized people to keep away. On the approach road you have the concrete pillars to deter suicide ram raids by trucks laden with explosive. At the perimeter you have the barbed wire fences and the armed guards at the gate. Overhead you have constant helicopter patrols, and inside the perimeter you have surveillance by cameras, listening devices and foot patrols. And if an intruder gets that far, he may still be deterred when he discovers that what he wants is in a locked room. Inside that room is a locked steel case. And the data is inside the case. And just to make sure it's all encrypted. Inside that data there are fake entries (just as in commercial mailing lists) so that if the data is ever used, there's a chance that the use can be detected and the user traced. That's the kind of security you need. And just to be sure, you have a real time off site backup which can restore your data in case of fire or flood.

Not much to ask really, is it?

See also:- STORAGE Security

Continuous Computing
Continuous Computing Corporation, established in 1998 with headquarters in San Diego, is the leading provider of high-availability platform solutions for telecom equipment manufacturers and service providers.

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. "Banking today calls for financial networks to extend beyond the corporate wall," comments Mark Benner, senior vice president of Kirchman Corporation. "With Tadpole appliances, banks will be equipped with the first truly portable solution for disaster recovery and business continuity from any location and at anytime." Benner continues, "Banks are acutely aware of the need to provide 24x7 business continuity and to minimize downtime in the event of system failure and data loss. This appliance answers the call and provides banks with the first truly independent, cost-effective solution to owning and managing their business networks."

According to Fred Mirzian, president and CEO of Financial Data Solutions, Inc., "We purchased the Kirchman/Tadpole appliance because it presented a versatile and robust solution that complemented our currently installed Kirchman software and Sun Fire V880 server. We also looked at several disaster recovery solutions and felt this one offered the best cost, portability, and overall value of any other option we evaluated. We are delighted with the product these two leaders have presented to the banking industry."

Graham Brown, president of Tadpole's hardware businesses, adds: "The fundamental role of Tadpole's plug-in notebooks is to enable businesses to work faster and smarter beyond physical and geographical boundaries. This groundbreaking alliance with Kirchman Corporation extends that role deeply into the world-wide banking communities."
Kirchman Corporation Innovates With Tadpole's Laptops Launching Industry's First "Bank-In-A-Box," Cost-Effective Disaster Recovery Solution

Orlando (FL) and Carlsbad (CA) - September 17, 2002 - Kirchman Corporation, the leader in banking software, and Tadpole, the leading builder of specialized UNIX® laptops, servers and appliances, today announced a strategic business and technology alliance providing financial institutions with the first low cost, disaster recovery alternative to large mainframe systems. The companies have created a new slimline "bank-in-a-box" SPARC® Solaris™-based appliance for simple plug and play deployment across a network infrastructure with complete compatibility to Sun Microsystems' full range of servers.

When configured as a hub of business continuity processes, the appliance offers banks and financial institutions a convenient way to test networks. It also provides a cost-effective disaster recovery system that can be easily moved and quickly deployed from remote locations. Under terms of the alliance, Kirchman Corporation will pre-configure its core banking automation software, Kirchman Bankway™, into Tadpole's plug-in Sun SPARC notebook. Kirchman Corporation will then market the resulting disaster recovery appliance to its customer base of over 1,000 banks and financial institutions. These include super regional Union Planters, Commerce Bank and community banks, Traditional Bank, and First Security Bank.

Tadpole's laptops are legendary in the business-critical world of Sun Solaris computing and form the mobile computing hub of Fortune 500 customers and federal agencies alike. Designed around the UltraSPARC microprocessor technology, they are compatible with the complete range of SPARC Solaris systems from Sun Microsystems, but in a notebook format. The plug-in appliances have remarkable DRAM memory and removable disk capacity to 2GB and 120GB respectively, feature ports for extensive I/O expansion and peripheral connectivity, and are capable of running the full 12,000 plus inventory of Solaris applications. Pre-configured with Kirchman Bankway software, they require no expensive bundling and testing and are simply deployable out-of-the-box. ...Kirchman, ...Tadpole profile

Editor's comments:- I have a lot of empathy with this concept, because, to borrow Tapole's phraseology I have a kind of "publisher in a box" as part of my own disaster recovery scenario, with a ready to run portable located in a fireproof safe. I guess that banks already have enough iron mongery on site so they don't need to buy that part. But offsite or web based backup is also a must for comprehensive disaster recovery planning
SunNetwork Conference Let's Have Less "Vision" and More Execution on Sun's Traditional Values This Week at SunNetwork Conference

Editor:- September 16, 2002 - The "Dot in dotcom" company has taken a beating in the marketplace in the past year, and at one stage seemed to heading towards becoming a Microdot.
  • Its reputation for reliability? - Badly dented by its cache memory problems.
  • Its reputation for making the fastest servers? Now just a folk memory as its production UltraSPARC processors have been overtaken by much faster processors from Intel, IBM and HP.
  • Its reputation for being an leader in the Unix operating system world? Lost, as it struggles hard to play catch up with me-too Linux products.
  • Only in the area of its low share price and dwindling revenue can it claim some comfort from knowing that, apart from Dell, it is not alone. Other giants too have fallen during the last 18 months. And as employees would agree "stock options options ain't what they used to be."
This week Sun is going to show its users and partners how it's going to pick itself up and get back into the ring again as a serious contender. Sun users aren't looking for a new vision. They want execution on the old one with which they were mostly quite content. If Sun can just get back to doing the things it used to do so well before the millenium, buyers will vote with their checkbooks. This week we'll see the shape of things to come. ...SunNetwork Conference
Kaspersky Labs Kaspersky Labs Warns Linux Users about Slapper Worm

September 14, 2002 - Kaspersky Labs, an international data-security software-development company, warns about the detection of a new dangerous Internet-worm called "Slapper", which infects computers running Linux operating system and uses the source code spreading technology that was used in the notorious Morris Worm in 1988.

Up to date, Kaspersky Labs has received no user reports that this malicious program has been detected "in-the-wild". However a detailed analysis of the worm confirms its high potential to cause a global virus outbreak and therefore poses a threat to Linux users.

To find a victim, "Slapper" scans computers connected to the Internet and chooses those that are running the Linux operating system and have an Apache Web-server installed. After detecting such a computer, the worm stealthily uploads its copy by exploiting the OpenSSL security breach (buffer overflow). The main distinctive feature of "Slapper" is that the uploaded worm copy is in the source code, not in an already compiled executable package. After the uploading is competed, the worm uses the locally installed C compiler (gcc) to produce an executable copy of the worm and then launches it. Such an original method provides "Slapper" compatibility with all Linux types regardless of the distribution manufacturer and version of the kernel. This method was invented in November 1988 and was applied for the first time in notorious Morris Worm that succeeded to infect more than 6000 companies worldwide (including NASA Research Institute) resulting in $96 million loss. Until now, this method of spreading source code has never been used. ...Kaspersky Labs
eMag Solutions eMag Solutions Helps Customers Import Data to Sun Servers from IBM Legacy Tapes

Atlanta - September 13, 2002 - Since its release less than one year ago, eMag Solutions' MediaMerge/UNIX has quickly become the product of choice for Unix users looking to restore, convert and duplicate data via a SCSI attached device totally from within the Unix environment. Designed for seamless data interchange between legacy, incompatible and current SCSI storage technology, MM/UNIX is compatible with most leading SCSI tape drives. It can automatically detect, process and restore hundreds of different tape formats. Data can be Bit converted from ASCII to EBCDIC or visa-versa, and can optionally have Packed Decimal Fields decoded as well as other types of record based data manipulation. Other benefits include: Forensic Tape Logging, tape-to-tape duplication, tape initialization and media testing. Two recent installs have won eMag accolades from our customers.

CompuCredit Alan Borchers, the Data Operations Manager writes: "CompuCredit receives a variety of computer media tapes and uses both Microsoft NT and Unix operating systems for processing data received on these tapes. Recently our company purchased a new IBM 3590 tape reader, which was to be connected to a Sun server in the Unix operating system.

While we could read fixed length files using Unix commands from the new tape drive, our largest and most important file, a multi-gigabytes file, was formatted with variable record lengths. As such, the file could not be read into our system! The solution to our problem came from eMag Solutions and one of their products called, MM/UNIX. eMag allowed CompuCredit to use a trial version of the product and MMUnix worked. eMag's technical team was able to answer all our questions on setting up and using the program. Once connections were established, an operator was able to use the product with very little help. Reading in our large, variable length file was very easy. Without this program, operations would have moved the tape drive to a NT server causing delays in our daily processing. MMUnix is easy to use and eMag provided timely and effective advice through their technical help personnel." ...eMag Solutions profile
Serial ATA Is Sun Going to Lose Out as Peripheral Makers Rush to Adopt Serial ATA?

Editor:- September 12, 2002 - the big buzz in the computer industry this week, which you won't have heard about on Sun's web site, was at the Intel Developers Forum in San Jose. There's a new gold rush as peripheral manufacturers race to bring out real storage products using the Serial ATA standard. That will be the new default standard for low cost high performance disk drives, DVD drives, tape drives etc.

Like many new computer standards, nothing much happens for a few years, and then you blink, and suddenly you start seeing these products sitting on someone's desk.

The original ATA standard was pretty useless for SPARC systems, because it was too slow. And until about a year ago ATA didn't even support a large enough address space to work with a big disk like the ones you use in a real server. By the time those problems got fixed the Sun market had largely passed ATA storage by. The fact that the standard was rooted in the original IBM PC-AT bus specification, and Intel 286 processor speeds, didn't endear it much to Sun designers either.

The new Serial ATA standard is quite different. It supports speeds faster than most of the disks in your current server, will be very low cost, and even includes Native Command Queuing which, according to Seagate, enables a hard drive to take multiple requests for data from the processor and rearrange the order of those requests to maximize throughput. (Just like good old SCSI.) If Sun is serious about its x86 Linux strategy then Serial ATA should start to appear in those servers soon.

Serial ATA will start shipping on Intel motherboards in a few weeks' time.

The legacy low cost storage device interface for Sun systems is SCSI which at 21 years old is even older than Sun. If you're wondering what's been happening there recently, here's a quick update.

iSCSI, which emulates SCSI over gigabit IP networks already has dozens of suppliers. You can buy real products which implement this in software, and a number of companies supply hardware accelerators which provide wireline speeds. That, along with its counterpart FCIP, is one of the hottest things happening in server style storage. It's useful because you can do simple offsite disk to disk backup without a degree in computer science. And if you haven't yet installed a Fibre-channel network, iSCSI gives you most of the functionality of a SAN, without the high cost.

Although we never expect to see Serial ATA in a SPARC system this side of hell freezing over, its analog - Serial Attached SCSI may start to appear in SPARC systems in about the third quarter of 2003 in low cost workstations and blade servers.

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