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Dell, HP, IBM and Stratus Technologies won high praise from corporate users for their prompt and efficient after market technical service and support in the latest ITIC 2010-2011 Global Server Hardware and Server OS Reliability survey.

The results came from a broad based survey that polled organizations worldwide on the reliability, security and technical service and support from among 14 of the leading server hardware platforms and 18 of the most widely deployed server operating system distributions.

As we said in an earlier discussion, each poll elicits some surprising and unexpected revelations. In this survey, users reserved their highest encomiums and most critical barbs for the server hardware vendors – both in terms of product performance and reliability and the service and support they receive from their respective vendors.

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Memo to Larry Ellison: The Roman Coliseum halted gladiator combats around 435 A.D. SAP has thrown in the towel and has no interest in continuing a court battle. Hewlett-Packard executives are refusing to accept service on your lawsuits and HP’s newly named chief executive Leo Apotheker is laying low, presumably dodging your increasingly vituperative verbal assaults. You’ve got no takers for the bloody, bare knuckles brawl you crave. What does that tell you?

It should signal an end to the Circus Maximus sideshow but it won’t.

No one desires this much attention or sticks their chin out spoiling for a fight like Ellison. And in an industry like high tech that’s overflowing with giant egos, that’s saying something. It’s true that Ellison’s antics always make for reams and reams of good copy. Reporters calling for comments on the latest developments don’t even bother to suppress their mirth. Enough is enough, though. The Larry Ellison Show would be more amusing if corporate customers weren’t getting caught in the crossfire.

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“When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.”

— African proverb

Hewlett-Packard Co. and Oracle Corp.’s decision to settle the lawsuit over Oracle’s hiring of Mark Hurd as co-President after weeks of public wrangling is welcome news to everyone but the corporate attorneys.

But don’t expect the two vendors to just pick up and resume their former close partnership. It got very ugly, very fast. And the reverberations from Hurd’s hiring to HP’s recent appointment of Leo Apotheker, as the new CEO effective November 1, will be felt for a long time. HP’s decision to hire the German-born Apotheker, who is also the former CEO of SAP, is to put it politely a big “take that, Oracle!” Forget the surface smiles, behind the scenes Oracle and HP have their ears pinned back, teeth bared and swords sharpened as they gird for battle.

This was not the typical cross-competitive carping that vendors routinely spew to denigrate their rivals’ products and strategies. The issues between HP and Oracle are very personal and very deep. The verbal volleys Oracle CEO Larry Ellison lobbed at HP in recent weeks exposed the changing nature of this decades old alliance. It is morphing from a close, mutually beneficial collaboration to a head-on collision in several key product areas. Ellison’s words did more than just wound HP: they also opened up deep fissures in the relationship which are as big as the San Andreas Fault.

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In the mid-to-late 1980s colleagues and friends were surprised when I transitioned from working as an on camera investigative TV reporter to cover the then-fledgling high technology industry for specialized trade magazines.
After all they reasoned, how could I be content covering semiconductors, memory boards, server hardware, software and computer networks after working as a mainstream journalist covering stories such as lurid political and law enforcement corruption scandals ; drug trafficking; prostitution; dumping tainted substances on unsuspecting third world nations and cover-ups by big business when their planes, trains and automobiles malfunctioned? How could I trade in “murder and mayhem” for the staid, sterile world of high technology?
They needn’t have worried.
Admittedly, mastering the technology was a challenge. For the first few weeks every time I did story on PALs and had to spell out the acronym I wrote “Police Athletic League” instead of Programmable Array Logic. And then there was my first work-related trip to Las Vegas to cover the mammoth spectacle that was Comdex circa 1988. In the dark ages before wireless, laptops and decent broadband, it was nearly impossible to file stories from your hotel room because the trunk lines were overwhelmed. A colleague and I were forced to trek down to a bank of pay phones to transmit our news articles at 2:30 a.m. and were mistaken for hookers. The pay was arguably better than a journalist’s salary but we passed. Incidents like this made me feel close to my cops and crimes, murder and mayhem investigative TV roots.
I felt at home covering technology right away. Within a month, I was chronicling tales of high tech companies sending their top executives off to rehab for drug and alcohol addiction; there was a rash of top executives leaving established powerhouses like and taking top engineers and sales executives with them, which in turn precipitated a slew of theft of trade secrets and patent infringement lawsuits. Things really got interesting when Robert Morris, Jr. launched his now infamous Internet Worm; there were myriad other tales of sex scandals, involving corporate executives, board of director fights and coups, price fixing, hostile takeovers, corporate espionage and fiscal chicanery that entailed everything from embezzlement and theft to cooking the books .
Reality TV and the tabloids have nothing on high technology industry hijinks.
Fast forward to what’s making headlines during these “Dog Days” of summer 2010. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that the dog days of summer (named after the constellation Sirius or Dog Star) lasted from late July to early September and hot weather foreshadowed evil doings. John Brady’s “Clavis Calendarium of 1813 describes it as “an evil time when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” The recent spate of high tech headlines seems to bear that out. Here’s a sampling:
• The Hewlett-Packard board of directors abruptly fired CEO Mark Hurd, after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced.
• Oracle CEO Larry Ellison publicly blasted the HP board for firing Mark Hurd.
• Oracle sued Google for alleged patent and copyright infringement involving the use of Java intellectual property in Google’s mobile Android operating system.
• Google StreetView maps prompts privacy lawsuits and raids in several countries including South Korea
• Google releases version 6 of its Chrome web browser and vows to issue a stable new release every six weeks.
The headlines provide an accurate assessment of both the current state and the direction of the high tech industry. Four words say it all: sex, money, power and posturing. Let’s examine some of the stories in more detail.
The HP board of directors’ decision to fire CEO Mark Hurd after five years of stewardship remains cloaked in mystery. Hurd may or may not have been guilty of fudging expense reports and engaging in conduct not up to HP’s standards with Jodie Fisher, a contract HP “adviser” and sometime actress. In addition to being an adviser, Fisher also received $5,000 to attend HP events acting as a “meet and greet” hostess. Fisher, who retained the services of celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, may or may not have been a victim of harassment. We don’t know for sure because all of the principals in this tableau are mum. Rumors are rife that the “real reason” the HP’s board may have shown Hurd the door is because: 1) he may have been more involved than was previously thought in the 2006 HP board of directors “pretexting” scandal. At that time, HP board members illegally spied on other board members to learn the source of news leaks and 2) Hurd was exceedingly unpopular with rank and file HP employees.
By all monetary measures, Hurd’s five year stint at HP was a resounding success. And for that, Hurd will walk away with a $40 to $50 million severance package. No one knows how much Fisher received, because Hurd and Fisher settled whatever transpired between them, privately. But it must be a pretty good sum, because Fisher issued a very upbeat and conciliatory statement saying she did not intend for Hurd to lose his job and wishes Hurd, his family and HP all the best. Thankfully, I read this on an empty stomach!
What’s wrong with this picture? Plenty.
The real victims here are HP’s rank and file employees, the American worker and sexual harassment victims – both men and women – who lack the clout to hire a Gloria Allred to rattle her saber for another 15 minutes of fame and a quick, inglorious settlement.
The average Joe and Jane worker have seen their ranks decimated with each new acquisition and round of layoffs. HP currently ranks number 9 on Fortune 500 list. In the past several years it has acquired Compaq, EDS, 3Com and Palm. Those mergers and acquisitions helped HP become the first high tech company to have annual revenues that exceed the $100 billion threshold. HP is also first in another category – albeit an unwelcome one: despite its stellar financial performance, over the last decade HP has cut more jobs (most of them here in the U.S.) than any other high tech firm. The head count stands at approximately 85,000.
So Mark Hurd gets $40 to $50 million and tens of thousands of HP’s American employees get shown the door.
Then there’s Ms. Fisher. I know nothing about the woman. One must presume if Hurd was willing to settle with her that her claim had some merit. However, as soon as I heard she was represented by Allred, I cringed. Allred has turned into a modern day Carrie Nation for the tabloid TV generation. In an age of instant and continual information via the Tabloids and the Web, publicity is the chief currency – the more salacious and lurid, the bigger the settlement. I phoned Allred’s office to inquire how many pro bono and non-celebrity sexual harassment cases she handles. I haven’t heard back yet and I’m not too hopeful.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 12,696 complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace – 16% of them by men. The EEOC says it recovered $51.5 million in monetary benefits for those nearly 13,000 workers. That’s probably just about what Mark Hurd, Jodie Fisher and Gloria Allred pocketed among the three of them. Nice work if you can get it.
That brings me to another prominent headline of the past couple of weeks: Oracle chief Larry Ellison, in an interview with the New York Times blasted the HP board for firing his longtime friend Mark Hurd. Ellison’s comments have all the credence of a professional athlete convicted of using steroids writing an editorial extolling the virtues of doping. Oracle, which completed its acquisition of Sun Microsystems earlier this year, is gearing up to axe up to one-third to one-half of Sun’s workforce of over 25,000. No one is sure exactly how many Oracle employees will be pink slipped but estimates range from 5,000 to as high as 10,000. Oracle disclosed in a recent government finding that it will take write off $825,000 in restructuring charges.
The question is will Larry Ellison make room for Mark Hurd at Oracle? He might. Hurd has a proven record of cutting costs, cutting people and thus delivering value to shareholders.
The real measure of a company’s success should not be measured by how many jobs it cuts by how many jobs it creates for the American worker.
Oracle also made headlines and flexed its muscles last week with the announcement that it is suing Internet search engine giant Google for allegedly infringing on the Java patents Oracle now owns as part of the Sun acquisition, that are used in Google’s mobile Android operating system. This is all about Oracle making a preemptive strike to try and contain Google in what’s shaping up to be a battle of high tech titans. Google’s Android OS runs on many of the major mobile phone platforms including Motorola and HTC Corp. The implications are enormous. Don’t expect this one will ever get to court. Neither firm wants to spend millions or expend precious corporate resources in a protracted legal battle, which would be detrimental to both sides. Expect them to settle. But we can also expect the acrimony between these two rivals to rise commensurately along with the stakes in the mobile market.
Google meanwhile engaged in some posturing of its own. The company released beta version 6 of its Google Chrome web browser. Google also says it will issue a stable new release of the browser every six weeks. This move is clearly designed as a challenge to Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari. While I applaud Google’s initiative and desire to retain its competitive edge, releasing a new version of its browser every six weeks is overkill. No matter how fast Google or any vendor makes its browser, the actual speeds are still determined by the user’s broadband. And frankly, the constant application upgrades to everyday packages like Adobe, WordPress and the various browsers are a nuisance. One can barely log on to an application without being hounded to upgrade to the latest version. It’s a major nuisance.
But these days, companies feel compelled to make an announcement just to keep their names in the headlines at all costs. There’s never a dull moment in the high tech industry, especially during the dog days of summer. I can’t wait to see what fall brings. If you have any ideas, Email me at: ldidio@itic-corp.com.

There’s no hotter market in high tech this year than Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and you don’t need sales and unit shipment statistics to prove it. No, the best measurement of VDI’s hotness is the sudden flurry of vendor announcements accompanied by a concomitant rise in vitriol.
The main players in the VDI market are actually two sets of pairs. It’s Citrix and Microsoft lining up against VMware and EMC for Round 2 in the ongoing virtualization wars. On March 18, Citrix and Microsoft came out swinging, landing the first potent, preemptive punches right where they hope will hurt VMware the most: in its pocketbook.
Citrix and Microsoft unveiled a series of VDI initiatives that include aggressive promotional pricing deals and more simplified licensing models. To demonstrate just how solid and committed they are to their alliance and taking on and taking down VMware and EMC, the two firms even went so far as to combine their respective VDI graphics technologies.
At stake is the leadership position in the nascent, but rapidly expanding global VDI market. The results of the ITIC 2010 Global Virtualization Deployment and Trends Survey which polled 800+ businesses worldwide in the December/January timeframe indicate that 31% of respondents plan to implement VDI in 2010; that’s more than double the 13% that said they would undertake a VDI deployment in 2009. Application virtualization is also on the rise. The same ITIC survey found that 37% of participants plan application virtualization upgrades this year, up from 15% who responded affirmatively to the same question in the 2009.
The current installed base of VDI deployments is still relatively small; hence the statistics that show the number of deployments doubling year over year must be considered in that context. Nonetheless, double digit deployment figures are evidence of strengthening demand and a market that is robustly transitioning from niche to mainstream. The spate of announcements from Microsoft and Citrix were clearly intended to capitalize on the growth spurt in VDI. At the same time, the companies threw down the gauntlet with initiatives aimed at solidifying and expanding their base of current VDI customers while serving the dual purpose of luring VMware customers away from that company’s VDI platform. They include:
• “VDI Kick Start” This wide ranging sales promotion, which runs from March 18 through December 31, 2010, seeks to jump start VDI deployments by lowering the entry level pricing for customers purchasing Microsoft and Citrix technologies. As part of this deal, existing Microsoft client access licensing (CAL) customers will pay $28 per desktop for up to 250 users to purchase the Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Suite, Standard edition, and Citrix’s XenDesktop VDI Edition for one year. That’s roughly a 50% discount off the list prices that corporations have paid up until now for their annual CALs. This is crucial for cost conscious businesses. Client access licenses typically represent the lion’s share of their licensing deals since desktops outnumber servers in mid-sized and large enterprises. In addition to merging Microsoft’s 3-D graphics technology for virtual desktops, called RemoteFX, with Citrix’s high-definition HDX technology.

• The Microsoft Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) License Plan. Organizations that use Thin Client devices which are not included or covered under Microsoft’s SA maintenance plan, can now purchase the VDA licenses at a retail price of $100 per device per annum. This targets end users who travel or telecommute and need to use personal devices or public networks to access their corporate data. Microsoft also made another move towards simplifying its virtualization licensing plan. Starting July 1, Microsoft SA customers will no longer be required to purchase a separate license to access Windows via a VDI.
• The “Rescue for VMware VDI” (the name says it all) this promotion is a direct attack on VMware. Like the VDI Kick Start program it runs from March 18 through December 31, 2010. Under the terms of this deal, any Microsoft Software Assurance licensing/maintenance customer can replace their existing VMware View licenses for free. VMware View users who opt out of that platform in favor of the Citrix and Microsoft offerings will receive up to 500 XenDesktop VDI Edition device licenses and up to 500 Microsoft VDI Standard Suite device licenses free for an entire year once they trade in their VMware View licenses.
Dai Vu, Microsoft’s director of virtualization marketing said the announcements were all about delivering more value to desktop customers and simplifying and extending organizations’ licensing rights.
The Citrix/Microsoft announcements also cement the close working partnership and the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship the firms have enjoyed for many years. By bundling their respective VDI offerings together, the two companies should also ensure integration and interoperability which are crucial components for each and every layer in a virtualized data center environment.
VMware and EMC: Not Standing Still
VMware and EMC executives have yet to publicly respond to the Microsoft/Citrix initiatives. However, it’s almost certain that VMware will have to offer its current and prospective VDI accounts incentives to counter the Microsoft/Citrix alliance. Cash strapped corporations and IT departments are all on the lookout for top notch products at bargain basement prices. And it doesn’t get much better for customers than the free Rescue for VMware VDI program.
VMware built up a commanding lead in the server virtualization arena over the last five years by virtue of being first to market and delivering leading edge features and performance in its signature ESX Server product. VMware’s competitors have spent the last several years playing catch up in server virtualization. This allowed VMware to charge a premium price for its premier offerings. Depending on the size and scope of the individual organization’s server virtualization deployment, customers paid on average 35% to as much as 75% higher for VMware server-based offerings. There were surprisingly few complaints.
The emerging VDI and application virtualization markets are a different story. Only about 5% to 8% of organizations worldwide have fully virtualized their desktop infrastructure. So it’s too soon to declare a clear market winner. It’s safe to say that Citrix, Microsoft and VMware are all market leaders in this segment. This time around though, Microsoft and Citrix are determined not to let VMware and EMC run away with the race by building an insurmountable lead.
Meanwhile, VMware and EMC have not been idle. Former Microsoft executive Paul Maritz succeeded VMware founder Diane Greene following her 2008 departure as the company’s president and chief executive officer. Since then he has made tangible moves to bolster VMware’s position in the VDI and application virtualization arenas. Maritz and EMC CEO Joe Tucci make a formidable combination, as do EMC and VMware. EMC purchased VMware in 2004 for $635 million and it owns an 86% majority stake in the server virtualization market leader. In the past several years, VMware’s fortunes and revenues have risen faster than EMC’s. VMware’s year-over-year (YoY) quarterly revenue growth stands at 18.20% compared with EMC’s modest 2.10% Y0Y quarterly sales. Another key indicator is net earnings and in this regard, VMware experienced negative YoY quarterly earnings growth of -49.4 0% . By contrast its parent EMC recorded a very robust and positive 44.70% jump in YoY quarterly earnings. It is also worth noting that VMware’s annual revenues of $2.02 billion represent only 15% of EMC’s annual sales of $14.03 billion. And to date, EMC’s solutions have only been related tangentially to VMware’s VDI products. For practical purposes, this may continue to be the case. From a PR standpoint though, EMC and VMware are presenting themselves as a sort of virtualization “dynamic duo.”
At an EMC Analyst event at the company’s Hopkinton, MA headquarters on March 11, Pat Gelsinger, president of EMC’s Information Infrastructure Products group described the combination of EMC and VMware – specifically with respect to storage virtualization, virtualization management and private cloud infrastructures — as the “Wild West” of the virtualization market, saying “we want to be disruptive and change the way people fundamentally think of IT.” Though Gelsinger mainly confined his comments to EMC’s core bailiwick in the storage arena, it is clear that EMC and VMware are pro-actively presenting a united front.
In February, the two firms moved to reposition some of their assets; EMC and VMware inked a deal for VMware to acquire certain software products and expertise from EMC’s Ionix IT management business in an all cash deal for $200 million. EMC does retain the Ionix brand and gets full reseller rights to continue to offer customers the products acquired by VMware. Maritz said VMware’s acquisition of the Ionix products and expertise promises to further establish VMware vCenter as the next generation management platform for private cloud infrastructures.
The agreement also calls for VMware to take control of all the technology and intellectual property of FastScale, which EMC acquired in 2009. The FastScale Composer Suite incorporates integrated software management tools to enable organizations to maintain peak performance in a virtualized environment.
Also, recently, VMware introduced ThinApp 4.5, a new version of its application virtualization package designed to simplify enterprises’ migration to Windows 7.
End Users are the Biggest Winners
What makes the latest competition for VDI market dominance noteworthy is the extreme actions the combatants are willing to take in order to retain and gain customers’ at their rivals expense. With last week’s joint announcements and deepening partnership, Citrix and Microsoft have signaled their intention to lead but it’s still too early to call the race.
The joint Microsoft/Citrix initiatives to cut costs and simplify virtualization licensing plans remove two of the more significant barriers to VDI adoption. The largest looming challenge remains the willingness of corporations to embrace a new technology model as their organizations and IT departments continue to grapple with the lingering effects of the ongoing economic crunch. In this regard, all of the virtualization vendors in concert with OEM hardware vendors like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Stratus Technologies and Wyse who partner with them must convince customers that transitioning to VDI will provide tangible Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Return on Investment (ROI) benefits. This entails providing organizations with the necessary guidance – including tools, training, documentation, Best Practices and solid technical service and support – to ensure that a conversion to VDI can be accomplished with minimal disruption. Admittedly, this is a tall order.
Hardware vendors like Dell, HP, IBM et al all have a stake in the future success of the VDI market. Organizations that migrate to VDI will seek to upgrade to newer, more powerful desktops (PCs, notebooks) and servers, which in turn, potentially boosts the hardware vendors’ individual and collective bottom lines. Additionally, both HP and IBM boast huge service and support organizations, which also stand to benefit from an uptick in VDI adoptions. So the hardware vendors have every reason to partner with Citrix, Microsoft and VMware to promote and expand the VDI market segment. Regardless of which vendor(s) prevails, the biggest winners will be the customers. When several big name vendors vie for the hearts, minds and wallets of customers, it usually means that feature-rich, reliable products get to market sooner at more competitive prices. Let’s hope the VDI race is a long one.