ACM TechNews is intended as an objective news digest for busy IT Professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of either Gateway Inc. or ACM.

To send comments, please write to [email protected].

Volume 2, Issue 17:  Friday, February 11, 2000

  • "Move to Windows 2000 May Not Be Smooth for All"
    CNet (02/11/00); Wilcox, Joe

    One fourth of midsize and large companies migrating to Microsoft's Windows 2000 will experience compatibility problems with business applications, according to Gartner Group. Businesses should consider waiting until after the first service pack for the OS is released in June to begin major upgrades, Gartner says. Microsoft will release three versions of Windows 2000 next week, including Windows 2000 Professional for PCs and workstations, Windows 2000 Server for file and print servers, and Windows 2000 Advanced Server for clustering. By the end of this year, Windows 2000 Professional will replace Windows 95, 98, or NT for only 15 to 20 percent of users, but the number will rise to 45 percent by the end of 2001, says Gartner. Y2K might be partly responsible for the slow adoption, since companies that bought new PCs last year in preparation for the rollover might not upgrade or replace those systems for some time, according to Gartner. Although companies that migrate from Windows 9x to Windows 2000 will benefit from improved performance and stability, firms moving from NT to Windows 2000 might not see significant improvements, Gartner says. In terms of server adoption, Gartner expects only 5 percent of the installed base for Windows NT Server to implement Windows 2000 Server this year. Enterprise customers should be especially careful about moving mission-critical applications to Windows 2000. Gartner expects that fixes will be necessary for up to 15 percent of existing Windows programs to run properly in Windows 2000.

  • "Redesigning the Internet: Can it Be Made Less Vulnerable?"
    Wall Street Journal (02/11/00) P. B1; Hamilton, David P.

    Computer experts say that increasing the security of the Internet will be the most difficult task the medium has ever had to face. The problem lies in the decentralized nature of the technology, which has no one governing authority, but rather a confederation of loosely connected, self-governing entities. Experts say technical solutions to ward off attacks such as the ones recently launched against Yahoo! and E*Trade would not be that hard to find. Technology already exists to make it nearly impossible to falsify the "return addresses" on packets of data, as do methods to verify that both users and servers on the Web are really who they claim to be. However, implementing these steps would severely limit the anonymity that Internet users enjoy. Analysts say that although individual sites can improve their own security, making the Internet more secure as a whole is much more difficult, as there is no one governing body to enforce homogenized standards. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is about the closest thing to a standards board, but the organization has no authority to enforce its ideas and recommendations. The IETF says that switching from the Internet protocol currently in use, IPv4, to one called IPv6, would make it difficult for hackers to conduct "denial of service" attacks, like the ones launched against Yahoo! However, moving to IPv6 would be expensive for the industry, and there is little support for doing so. Experts say the basic problem with the Internet is that all of its communication protocols were designed with the naive belief that no one would try to abuse them, meaning that there is no "worst case" scenario mechanism to stop such abuse from taking place. Security experts say that the Internet will most likely remain an insecure place well into the future, as efficiency, not security, is its top priority.

  • "Hackers Attack Top Web Sites for Third Day"
    Washington Post (02/10/00) P. A1; Schwartz, John; Cha, Ariana Eunjung; Vise, David A.

    The denial-of-service hacker attacks that began on Monday continued yesterday, adding ZDNet and E-Trade to the list of top Web sites that have been targeted. Attorney General Janet Reno announced a nationwide investigation, noting that law enforcement officials have not determined who is responsible or what the motive is for the attacks. Using the distributed denial-of-service approach, hackers program dozens or even hundreds of computers to swamp a site's systems with meaningless data, leaving the site unable to accommodate actual visitors. Yesterday's assaults brought down E-Trade for an hour and ZDNet, which had just installed software designed to prevent this type of attack, for over two hours. The recent attacks have also struck Yahoo!, Amazon, CNN.com, eBay, and Buy.com, raising security concerns about leading e-commerce sites. Security experts say the hackers used false addresses on the messages sent to targets, and disguised the origin of the malicious software through several layers of computers. Experts say the attacks are severe examples of common hacker techniques. The FBI says law enforcement has trouble keeping up with cybercrime, and is pushing for greater freedom to place wiretaps on phone and computer networks in order to track down hackers more easily.

  • "Non-PC Information Devices Seen Gaining"
    American Banker (02/10/00) P. 12

    Information appliances will outsell consumer PCs by 2002 in the U.S., according to a recent International Data study. By 2004, the global market for information appliances will surpass $17.8 billion, or 80 million units, compared with last year's $2.4 billion, or 11 million units. Among the information appliances included in the study are Internet gaming consoles, Net-TVs, Web terminals, email terminals, and screen phones. "Current online users want access to services in more locations and situations, while many other consumers desire Internet access without the inherent complexities of personal computers," says International Data analyst Bryan Ma. "It is clear the PC will not be the only enabling device as both groups find information appliances a solution that can improve their lifestyle and work style."

  • "Security Firm Says It Has Web Defense, But It Won't Be Available
    Right Away"
    Wall Street Journal (02/11/00) P. B5; Bulkeley, William M.

    RSA Security recently announced that it has created software to fight "denial of service" attacks, such as the ones that afflicted Yahoo! and eBay this week. However, the company says the software will not be on the market until at least the second half of 2000. RSA says the program works by sending a cryptographic puzzle to a computer every time that it makes a request. Although a typical computer can solve this puzzle in less than 0.25 seconds, PCs that are attempting to launch a denial of service attack make thousands of requests a minute. Therefore, with thousands of puzzles that it must solve, RSA says the hacker's computer will be overwhelmed and would shut down before it can damage a company's Web site. However, RSA is concerned that Web sites may not want to implement any security mechanisms that slow down their systems.

  • "Companies Won't Say if They Were Insured for Net Attacks"
    New York Times (02/10/00) P. C6; Treaster, Joseph B.

    Whether or not Yahoo, eBay, and the other companies that were attacked by cyberhackers have insurance remains unknown. Often the insurers of these companies tell them not to discuss their insurance out of fears that any information might provoke an attack. Usually the policies for Internet companies protect against losses endured by customers, as well as systems and data losses. But many of the biggest Internet companies do not carry any coverage. Emily Freeman, who heads cybercoverage at Marsh & McLennan Cos., says, "The hot shots of the Internet are focused on their business models--getting venture capital money, getting their brand and their product out there. They're not thinking about insurance--risk management." Marsh offers up to $250 million worth of coverage.

  • "EU Questions Legality of Windows 2000"
    Los Angeles Times (02/10/00) P. C3; Hillis, Scott

    The European Union is investigating whether Microsoft's new Windows 2000 operating system violates its competition law by attempting to dominate the market for servers. The EU probe follows in the wake of an antitrust lawsuit brought against Microsoft by the U.S. Justice Department. EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti says small computer businesses and Microsoft rivals in Europe are questioning the legality of the company's bundling of its operating system with other Microsoft software, making its software more interoperable with Windows 2000 than rival software. Microsoft plans to send Monti's commission information on its business practices within the next few weeks. Microsoft believes the EU will find that the company has done nothing wrong. Microsoft's Brad Smith says Windows 2000 functions with other server operating systems and that the company "shared a wide array of technical information about Windows 2000...with software developers, customers, and competitors long before the product was ever released." If the EU rules against Microsoft then the company will have to make changes to its software or face a fine of 10 percent of the system's global revenue. Microsoft grossed $6.1 billion in one quarter last year. Microsoft's Erin Brewer says the EU's action "will not have any impact on the launch of Windows 2000." The company is expected to make its new system available to the public on February 17.

  • "Nations Ponder Globalization as Corporations Run Away With It"
    Associated Press (02/11/00); McDowell, Patrick

    In the wake of the tumultuous World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is gathering in Bangkok this week to determine public policy on economic globalization. Events such as the riots during the WTO summit have created a sense of urgency among global legislators to create a legal structure for globalization, yet they are finding that businesses are already leveraging the Internet and increased corporate power to drive a global economy. For example, IBM is partnering with Internet service providers in Asia to develop e-business tools for Asian companies, top U.S. firms are pressuring legislators not to bar China's entry into the WTO, and British telecom Vodafone-Airtouch successfully took over Mannesmann of Germany, possibly launching an era of hostile takeovers within the European Union. Global policymakers maintain that corporate influence is a detriment to world order, and intend to reopen the world trade treaty negotiations abandoned after the Seattle summit.

  • "Technology Drives Manufacturing's Growth"
    Detroit News (02/07/00) P. A7; Keyes, James H.

    Manufacturing grew more than 5 percent a year between 1992 and 1997, as opposed to a little over 3 percent for the economy overall. This boom in the economy, and in manufacturing specifically, can be credited to technological advancement, especially EDI, supply chain automation, and computer-aided manufacturing, writes Johnson Controls CEO James H. Keyes. The improved speed and scale of production, the application of computers, strong commitment to research and development, and a highly skilled labor pool are responsible for productivity in manufacturing increasing 4.7 percent a year since the mid 1990s, Keyes says. Surveyed companies indicated that investing 4 percent of their plant budgets in IT produced a 99 percent productivity increase over 5 years. Manufacturing and other industries involved with developing technologies, such as e-commerce, account for over 40 percent of long-term economic growth. E-commerce is booming, Keyes says, as companies recognize its ability to enhance all aspects of production. Keyes says that at Johnson Controls, factory floor workers get immediate access to information on machine maintenance and other issues through mobile computer terminals, connecting to the company intranet through touch screens.

  • "U.S. Commerce Department Targets $175M E-Commerce Budget"
    E-Commerce Times (02/08/00); Hillebrand, Mary

    The Republican-led Congress is certain to oppose the $175 million the U.S. Department of Commerce has set aside for e-commerce initiatives in the 2001 budget. One of the top priorities for the department as well as the White House is to close the digital divide between families that have access to the Internet and those who do not. For that reason, $50 million of the budget will be used to offer training, computer equipment, and Internet access to low-income families in the U.S., and $23 million will be used to get high-speed Internet access to rural and poor urban areas. The Technology Opportunities Program, which encourages innovative use of technology in under-served communities, will receive $45 million in funding from the budget. Small businesses will be helped with e-commerce operations by $19 million included in the proposal for this purpose. Five million dollars has been proposed for the department to work with industry leaders to develop interoperable e-commerce standards. Small and midsize companies will receive $10 million to help improve exports over the Internet and keep up with larger businesses. The proposed budget sets aside $9 million for thousands of manufacturers to receive e-commerce tool kits. The Minority Business Development Agency will increase its e-commerce matching opportunities for minority businesses with a proposed $500,000 from the budget. The proposed budget also includes $13 million to help track the growth of e-commerce in the U.S., since traditional categories and measures in the U.S. do not properly measure e-commerce activity.

  • "Electronic Hit and Run"
    USA Today (02/10/00) P. 1A; Solomon, Deborah

    Computer security experts say that companies should get used to the attacks recently perpetrated on major dot-com companies such as Yahoo!, as there is little anyone can do to prevent them. Experts contend that the next few days could bring a slew of "copycat" attacks, and that the next possible evolution in hacking could be threats and extortion--demanding money from a company in return for not shutting down its Web site. Cyber attacks do not just affect a company's bottom line, but also consumer confidence in e-commerce, a burgeoning phenomenon that has helped spur the economy to record growth. A recent Forrester Research poll reveals that 58 percent of first-time customers said that they would not go back to a site that had crashed. As an example of the financial devastation that an attack can cause a company, Forrester says that Amazon.com would lose $4.5 million in sales revenue if its site was disabled for 24 hours. In addition, stocks of companies that have been the victims of hacker attacks or have otherwise been shut down usually decline an average of 3.9 percent the next day, according to a USA Today study. Although ISPs could theoretically prevent "denial of service" attacks by using filters to determine which traffic is legitimate and which is not, most are extremely hesitant to do so, as the software could cause their networks to slow down by 20 percent.

  • "Why the Productivity Revolution Will Spread"
    Business Week (02/14/00) No. 3668, P. 112; Reingold, Jennifer;
    Stepanek, Marcia; Brady, Diane

    The Internet was initially perceived as a threat to old-line companies, but now many traditional firms see that they can cut costs and boost efficiency by moving online. For example, Ford is organizing an online trading site called AutoXchange that is expected to increase supplier productivity by up to 10 percent and save the company up to $8 billion in the first several years alone. Although Ford is no Web startup, the auto maker stands to benefit greatly from the Internet with its annual purchasing budget of $83 billion and its 30,000 suppliers. Ford CEO Jacques Nasser compares the Internet's impact on business to the revolution caused by Henry Ford's assembly line. In other industries, companies such as Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Honeywell International, and General Electric are also proving that old-line companies can capitalize on the Internet. GE Power Systems uses Web-based collaboration technology to enable customers and designers to work together to build a power plant, says GE's Jose Lopez. The technology allows blueprints to be exchanged and modified in real time and enables virtual meetings. Customers can watch the construction of a turbine online, requesting changes along the way. GE expects to shorten the time it takes to build a turbine by 20 percent to 30 percent with its new technology. The Internet allows companies to gather customer data, which can be used to provide the best service to the best customers, or to drop unprofitable customers. Although the Internet offers many advantages, companies need to make significant changes to succeed online. Speed and cultural issues, such as the sharing of proprietary information, are among the difficulties companies face as they transition onto the Internet.

  • "Speedier Supply Chains"
    Traffic World (02/07/00) Vol. 261, No. 4, P. 16; Cottrill, Ken

    E-commerce will usher in spontaneous build-to-order supply chains, eclipsing the current just-in-time model of supply-chain management and making warehousing and other support services obsolete, says management consultant Dr. David M. Anderson. This will lead to high demand for express distribution, he predicts. Anderson, working on a book about the issue, says the coming spontaneous build-to-order model is more advanced than the techniques used now by companies such as Dell Computer. The new companies, especially business-to-business e-commerce firms, are abandoning the traditional inventory-based system and making demand forecasting futile. Rather than go with warehouse-based fulfillment services, online firms should find manufacturers that can build on demand in order to meet online consumers' desire for next-day delivery. A genuine spontaneous build-to-order supply chain will make parts and raw materials enter the chain at the same rate that finished products exit the chain. The first companies to reach this model will be "those already vertically integrated enough to do it," Anderson says. The supply chain can get faster with increased standardization of parts and materials, as well as with automatic replenishment of parts and materials when supply drops to a certain level. Manufacturers need to create parts to order for customers rather than getting parts from inventory. Two companies making strides toward the spontaneous build-to-order goal are Hoffman Engineering and the Georgia hydraulic cylinder maker Vickers.

  • "Combining E-Commerce and EAI"
    EAI Journal (01/00) Vol. 2, No. 1,; Eck, Jeffery R.; Marchetti, Nick

    Companies are finding that the best method for achieving the goals of enterprise application integration (EAI), for internal organization, and e-commerce, for external data flow, is a fusion of the two applications. Even in internal applications, integration is difficult, with the average Fortune 500 company using as many as 50 business applications or more, giving rise to hundreds of interfaces between each application. External integration can be hard as well, as firms using EDI or other e-commerce programs must deal with routing obstacles. But new interfaces allow a link between applications and the EAI/EC message broker system, creating one solution for both problems, routing information from application to application. In effect, the EAI/EC message broker is a central system, acting as a hub between applications, both internal and external, as well as between applications in other companies doing business with the firm. A good EAI/EC message broker system allows flexibility to add new ERP systems with legacy applications, as well as new EC/EDI gateway requirements. A Java platform allows for development and evolution of an EAI/EC system as EDI/Internet gateway and EAI systems come closer together. The benefits of such a system, aside from the obvious decrease in network complications, include reduced operating costs and more straightforward training, easing the burden on personnel in addition to relieving confusion to the internal and external systems.

  • "Government Eyes Auction System for Infotech Purchases"
    Washington Technology (01/24/00) Vol. 14, No. 20, P. 10; Wakeman, Nick

    The General Services Administration is considering allowing federal agencies to use online auctions to buy everything from computers to office supplies. "We are looking at auctions as another form of negotiation strategy," said Manny DeVera, director of GSA IT Solutions Regional Services Center. "They have been doing these kinds of auctions in the commercial world." DeVera said that the GSA is still negotiating the structure of the auction with several issues in mind, including whether procurement laws allow an auction and whether agencies are interested in auctions. To ensure a fair auction, sales and purchases must be defined very specifically. Freemarkets.com, which has had inquiries from several federal agencies, ensures that bidders are prequalified and have demonstrated that they can deliver before they are allowed to bid. Government Technology Services (GTSI), a $600 million reseller of IT products and services anticipates significant revenues if given the chance to run the auction. "Someone has to watch over the auction, make sure the right products are being offered, and make sure the products get delivered," said GTSI President Dendy Young.

[ Archives ] [ Home ]