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 19:  Wednesday, February 16, 2000

  • "Counterattack to Curb Hackers"
    Washington Times (02/16/00) P. A4; Hedges, Michael

    President Clinton met with Internet executives yesterday in a hastily-called meeting designed to address technology-security issues in the wake of the "denial of service" attacks launched last week against major commercial Web sites. Clinton said that he wanted the Internet to remain "open and free," but also expressed the need to secure the medium. After the meeting, Clinton announced a $9 million federal investment in a program that would give college grants to students who would train in Internet security, and who would then be required to work for a specific amount of time for the government. The money would also be used to create a federal Internet security institute. The FBI recently announced that it has seized a computer in Oregon that appears to have been used as a starting point for the recent denial of service attacks unbeknownst to its owner. The FBI is also in the process of questioning three people in the U.S. and Canada who may know something about the attacks, including hackers going by the names of "coolio," "nachoman," and "mafiaboy."

  • "Microsoft May Agree to Some Restrictions"
    Wall Street Journal (02/16/00) P. B6; Wilke, John R.

    As Microsoft and the government prepare to deliver closing arguments in the antitrust trial next week, the software giant has softened its earlier stance in the settlement talks, suggesting that it might consider some "common sense" restrictions on its conduct. Microsoft's statement marks a significant departure from its adamant refusal to negotiate on restrictions in the past, when the company argued that it was not a monopoly and should not be subject to restrictions. Still, the company told lawmakers that a breakup solution would be a "regulatory death sentence." In an email to Congress members on Friday, Microsoft said, "Microsoft is quite seriously trying to settle this case, and we believe a common-sense settlement should be possible." Insiders say significant concessions would need to be made by either side in order to reach a settlement before the two parties return to court. In response to Microsoft's latest move, the government says the company is trying to improve its image without making any substantial proposals.

  • "Internet Firms Neglect Logistics, Study Concludes"
    Journal of Commerce (02/15/00) P. 3; Zarocostas, John

    Many e-commerce companies are not providing adequate delivery and customer service, and logistical issues will determine the success or failure of online firms as the volume of online transactions rises, according to the DHL Global E-Commerce Report 2000. Online customers now receive 20 percent of their orders late, and the report predicts that consumers will become less tolerant in the future. Within a year, customers will expect delivery times to be reduced from the current four-day average to two days. Many online companies might not be able to handle rising volume and increasing customer expectations because they are not taking e-business projects as seriously as other business ventures, the report says. According to the report, 40 percent of e-commerce directors have never made an online purchase, 74 percent of companies globally lack a dedicated e-commerce unit, and 86 percent of firms do not consider e-commerce one of their top three priorities.

  • "UCITA Passes Virginia Legislature"
    Washtech.com (02/15/00); Bruno, Michael P.

    Virginia State Del. Joe T. May (R) says the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) will likely become a state law on July 1 of next year. The Virginia Senate gave its unanimous approval to the act yesterday, and now UCITA awaits only Gov. James Gilmore's signature, according to May. The House of Delegates approved an identical bill on Monday. The act "provides rules of the road for the information superhighway" and will create coherence among software licensing regulations, May says. Opponents of the bill are concerned that it allows software manufacturers to disable software inside the computers of customers who disregard the licensing agreements. The bill's implementation as law is being delayed until next year to give a technical advisory committee a chance to hear complaints about the bill and tweak its wording, according to May.

  • "Web Security, Privacy Are Goals of CIA Effort"
    Washington Post (02/16/00) P. A21; Loeb, Vernon

    The Central Intelligence Agency recently announced that its new venture capital fund In-Q-Tel has contracted with Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) to develop computer security software for the agency. The $3 million project will help develop software that fends off "denial of service" attacks, such as the ones that were launched last week against Yahoo! and eBay, as well as inoculating computer addresses against "sniffer" programs. The investment in SAIC's netEraser technology gives the CIA testing rights, development input, and eventually exclusive use of the software, and marks a new stage in the partnership between the CIA and private high-tech entrepreneurs. NetEraser will be used in conjunction with operating systems such as Windows that will allow it to turn away packets of information coming at rapid speeds, and also constantly changes the user's Internet protocol address.

  • "Looking for a New Life in Linux"
    New York Times (02/14/00) P. C4; Fisher, Lawrence M.

    Corel last week announced plans to acquire Inprise/Borland that will combine the productivity applications of the former with the software development tools of the latter. With the merger, valued at $1.07 billion, Corel seeks to significantly expand its operations with the introduction of a second Corel Linux program aimed not at desktop computers, but instead at servers. Corel already offers a Linux version of its WordPerfect word processor and in April is planning to release an entire WordPerfect suite of Linux applications intended to rival Sun Microsystems' Star Office, the only other existing productivity suite for Linux. Star Office has yet to gain widespread corporate acceptance, and Softletter editor Jeffrey Tarter notes that "Certainly Microsoft is never going to develop credible applications for Linux," thus providing a wide open market for Corel. However, what remains to be seen is whether or not the Linux desktop productivity suite applications and server markets will be profitable ones for Corel and whether Corel will commit entirely to an "open source" strategy whereby a program's source code is made available to the public, thereby subjecting Corel to the market implications of program enhancements designed and offered by individual programmers.

  • "Corning to Buy NetOptix in Stock Deal"
    Wall Street Journal (02/15/00) P. B6; Aeppel, Timothy

    Corning has formed a $2.15 billion stock agreement to purchase NetOptix, a manufacturer of advanced fiber-optic equipment. NetOptix provides "thin-film filters," which divide light into a range of colors in fiber-optic systems. Such technology has become popular as carriers increase their use of optical fiber for high-speed transmissions. Corning also formed a partnership with Samsung Electronics to bundle such filters for placement in components. These components are essential to the DWDM technology that expands the capacity of fiber-optic networks. Terms of the purchase call for Corning to provide 0.9 Corning shares for every share outstanding in NetOptix. Although Warburg Dillon Read analyst Nikos Theodosopoulos says the acquisition is practical for Corning, he believes the price is steep for a company that is virtually unknown.

  • "XML Puts Tag on Communications"
    Associated Press (02/16/00)

    By providing a common vocabulary for Internet transactions, XML may be the key to simplifying e-business. Though it is still in development, XML is already being adopted by industries eager to ramp up their e-business activities. Sabre airline reservation service is now developing an XML-based system with IBM and Nokia to allow reservation bookings online using handheld devices, while Swedish banking giant Handelsbanken already supports online transactions using XML-enabled mobile devices. Although some have expressed privacy concerns toward XML, analysts nevertheless predict rapid acceptance of the technology in the course of this year.

  • "Improve Internet Security or Face the Music"
    E-Commerce Times (02/11/00); Dembeck, Chet; Caswell, Stephen

    The FBI recently announced that it would search worldwide for whoever launched the spate of denial-of-service attacks on major commercial Web sites last week. Although analysts admit that the attacks were not severe in terms of stolen data or damaged systems, they did scare Wall Street and shake consumer confidence in e-commerce. Some security experts say those who shrug off the attacks as mere annoyances are not seeing the larger picture, meaning that the attacks could have been launched by real terrorists who are trying to disrupt the U.S. economy. Computer security professionals contend that the Internet is inherently insecure because of the computer operating systems that juice Internet servers. Experts say firewalls and encryption can often be easily circumvented, and real protection can only be obtained by bolstering the security of operating systems. Although firms that sell security software are proliferating, until recently it did not make financial sense for most companies to invest in expensive security systems. However, analysts say corporate minds are quickly changing, and will be spurred-on further by the possibility of lawsuits charging negligence when a company is attacked and has made no attempts to protect its systems.

  • "IT Proceeds With Caution"
    InfoWorld (02/07/00) Vol. 22, No. 6, P. 62; Trott, Bob

    Most IT managers will eventually migrate to Microsoft's Windows 2000, but are carefully considering the issues involved before adopting the OS. A large majority of enterprises use Windows as a main platform for the desktop, Web servers, and application servers, leaving a large market for Windows 2000. IT managers evaluating Windows 2000 are looking at issues such as security and stability for online initiatives, as well as the possibility of using Linux as an alternative. The success of Windows 2000 will be largely determined by its adoption on servers. Active Directory makes Windows 2000 a complete directory solution, and although Microsoft lags companies such as Novell in the directory segment, a Windows-based directory will benefit from the widespread use of Windows. However, one challenge for Windows 2000 is that users will need to learn a new technology in order to use Active Directory on networked servers and PCs. Companies such as Dell, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard are now beginning to offer Windows 2000 services to help ease migration. Microsoft will focus on attracting e-commerce firms with Windows 2000's Web technologies and security features. ASPs are another important market for Windows 2000. In terms of the desktop market, early adopters of Windows 2000 Professional say Microsoft delivers on its promise to provide a stable, reliable, and secure OS.

  • "Deciding Factors"
    CIO (02/01/00) Vol. 13, No. 8, P. 124; Slater, Derek

    There is no clear winner in the battle between Windows and Unix for market space, leaving companies to evaluate the operating systems based on enterprise needs and priorities. Before choosing between Windows and one of the variants of Unix--IBM's AIX, Sun's Solaris, and Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX are the most prominent--companies should weigh a variety of issues, writes Derek Slater. Scalability and reliability are major concerns in evaluating Unix and Windows, says Slater. Unix has long dominated Windows in terms of both scalability and reliability. Currently, the biggest Unix installations run up to 2,500 concurrent users and boast 99.8 percent reliability, while Windows 2000 can support a maximum of 850 concurrent users and feature 99.2 percent scalability, which equals seven hours of downtime or more per month. Companies should also take into account the new integrated features provided by Windows 2000, says Slater. Windows' greatest assets, according to DH Brown Associates senior analyst Tony Iams, include Kerberos security, active directory technology, and the Microsoft Transaction Server, each of which are attractive to corporate and third party application developers. Although Unix users can access these services, Windows provides much greater levels of integration and ease of use, says Slater. The last issues involved in the decision between Unix and Windows are staffing and cost, says Slater. There is no clear winner in these debates; companies should determine whether the existing staff can support their operating system of choice, and what the entire solution--including staffing and extras--will cost.

  • "'International' in Internet Closes U.S. Lead"
    Marketing News (02/14/00) Vol. 34, No. 4, P. 7; Heckman, James; Schmidt, Kathleen V.

    The Internet is expanding worldwide, and companies should develop their Web sites and e-commerce initiatives with a global audience in mind rather than focusing only on the U.S. market. Internet access will be higher in Europe than in the U.S. by 2003, and Asian and Latin American Web users will rise significantly in coming years. Also by 2003, about 46 percent of worldwide e-commerce will originate outside of the U.S., up from the current 30 percent. In order to attract international consumers, businesses need to provide native-language Web sites. The chances of a consumer buying a product from a native-language site are three times greater than from a foreign-language site, according to Forrester Research. Rather than simply translating a site from English into another language, companies should design an entire site specifically for their target audience, says Jorden Woods, CEO and cofounder of multilingual Web site designer Global Sight. Using the Internet, marketers can form personal ties to global consumers by learning to define their audiences and communicate with consumers around the globe. Marketers can build international customer loyalty by personalizing the shopping experience using technology, marketing data, and retail experience.

  • "An Eagle Eye on Customers"
    Business Week (02/21/00) No. 3669, P. 67; Hamm, Steve; Hof, Robert D.

    A new industry is emerging for customer management software, which helps companies understand their customers in order to provide better service and retain customers. Customer management software encompasses a broad range of products, from traditional CRM software to new Web-based programs. Using new software products, companies can gather information about customers, which can be used to hone marketing efforts. Customer information can now be stored in a single database, allowing employees at remote locations to easily access the data using Web browsers. The market for customer management software will reach an estimated $21.8 billion by 2003, compared with $4.45 billion last year, according to AMR Research. Companies are eager to invest in customer management software because it allows them to determine the needs of their customers in advance as opposed to releasing a product and seeing how customers react. In addition, the software allows companies to focus their efforts on the most profitable customers and to significantly reduce costs. Software vendors moving into the customer management market include established firms such as Siebel, SAP, and Oracle, as well as startups such as Vignette, Broadvision, and Kana Communications. The market is likely to consolidate, with the vendors that offer the best end-to-end packages succeeding. Oracle and SAP now bundle customer software along with suites for managing finances, employees, logistics, and manufacturing. By comparison, customers have to add Siebel's suite to existing systems manually. However, some software users, particularly dot-coms, do not want a single package that handles all of their needs. Complex packages require lengthy installations, while more focused programs can yield results more quickly. Startup vendors in the customer management market need to expand their offerings in order to compete with larger players. However, startups have designed products around the idea of Web delivery, which means they can often provide faster online service than established firms that have simply modified programs for the Internet.

  • "Europe Surges Onto the Net"
    Industry Standard (02/14/00) Vol. 3, No. 5, P. 208; Lawrence, Stacy

    European Internet use and e-commerce spending will increase remarkably by 2003, predicts Forrester Research, driven by heavy interest in Germany and the United Kingdom, which are expected to move past early leaders in Scandinavian countries. Within three years one-third of Europe's adults will have Internet access and will spend more than $1 trillion online within one additional year, says Forrester. In addition, high mobile phone usage in Europe will lead to more than 25 percent of European adults logging on to the Internet through a non-PC appliance. By 2004, German e-commerce sales will account for 26.2 percent of European e-commerce, and U.K. sales will command 18.2 percent, making these countries the leaders in this area, according to Forrester projections. German Internet users also will stay online the longest, followed by their British then French counterparts. Forrester also reported that the top Web sites in those three countries were local, but that among the top 10 in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom were U.S. sites such as Yahoo!, AOL, MSN, and Amazon.

  • "APS/ERP Integration: The World Is Flat"
    ID Systems (02/00) Vol. 20, No. 2, P. 41; Gerber, Cheryl

    Advanced planning and scheduling (APS) software arose from an erroneous assumption in enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs that all materials are needed on the same starting date. APS was created in 1992 to indicate the dates when various materials are needed--a critical requirement among most business and plant floor operations. In the past two years APS and ERP vendors have undergone vigorous partnering, merging, and acquiring to offer complete solutions. APS vendor Manugistics uses a process it calls "open application integration" (OAI) to integrate APS with ERP solutions. OAI functions as a collection of building blocks that encompass transactions technologies such as IBM's MQSeries, forming connectors. The most basic, but most popular method to complete APS and ERP integration is to use flat files. Flat files identify the systems in the factory that impede output, then reconfigure the business to run around them. Although flat files provide limited functionality, they are often employed to conduct APS integration. "More than 60 percent of the applications that Manugistics integrates are to legacy systems, such as IBM mainframes or AS/400s," said Manugistics' Steve Promisel. "Often we don't have any method of working with those systems other than flat files."

  • "Enterprises Opening Up to Wireless Networks"
    Electronic News (02/07/00) Vol. 46, No. 6, P. 14; Paulo, Gemma

    Wireless LANs (WLANs) have experienced a booming market largely due to increased demand for wireless network access for laptops. To offer increased mobility, WLANs operate via NICs, access points, and outdoor bridges. Prior to 1999, three data delivery technologies competed with each other: FHSS (frequency hopping spread spectrum), DSSS (direct sequence spread spectrum), and infrared. These individual standards went as high as 2 Kbps. However, last fall the IEEE 802.11b high-rate standard was adopted, thereby lifting the standard delivery rate to 11 Mbps for DSSS systems that use 2.4 GHz bandwidth. As a result, this year is expected to be one of rapid growth for WLAN, as products near speeds almost as fast as Ethernet, according to a study by Cahners In-Stat. The WLAN market may get another boost if the FCC ratifies wide band frequency hopping, which would operate at a rate of 10 Mbps. Proxim intends to offer products for this system, but it is unlikely Proxim will be able to gain market share as it competes against Cisco/Aironet, Lucent, Nortel, 3Com, Ericsson, and Nokia, all of whom support the 802.11b standard. Proxim lately purchased Microlor, a maker of 11 Mbps DSSS products. Cahners In-Stat predicts the DSSS standard will rule the WLAN market for the next two to three years.

  • "Web 'Bots' Enhance Self-Serve Experience"
    InfoWorld (02/07/00) Vol. 22, No. 6, P. 28; Schwartz, Ephraim

    E-businesses can improve customer service while saving money by using "bots," or autonomous agents, to find answers to customer queries rather than hiring employees to do it, says Daniel Sapir, COO of bot maker Artificial Life. One Web site using bots is mySimon.com, where customers seeking certain products are given the lowest prices, shipping information, and other product information from shopping sites all over the Net. Some companies are going further, giving bots on-screen identities called avatars and enabling them to converse with customers. Liechtenstein Global Trust's "high net worth" customers can receive information from financial Web sites from Artificial Life bots that spot trends and recommend ways for the customer to respond to the data. The Swiss site Net-tissimo.com has a "virtual butler" bot that can learn as it goes, answering complex customer queries in coherent sentences; it has raised the site's average look-to-buy ratio to 10 percent from between 2 percent and 4 percent.

[ Archives ] [ Home ]