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October 31, 2005

The Supremes won’t review Eolas case

Posted by David Hunter at 11:41 AM ET.


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider an appeal by Microsoft Corp. in a case involving claims by a privately held California software firm and the University of California that Microsoft infringed their patents with its Internet Explorer browser.

Without comment, the high court rejected an appeal by Microsoft that it said involved more than 64 percent of the $521 million patent infringement ruling against the software giant.

I previously mentioned this case in September. More details on today’s decision here.

Filed under Legal, Patents

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Microsoft’s Universal Distributed Storage vision draws some open source competition

Posted by David Hunter at 11:31 AM ET.

Microsoft last week provided a press release touting it’s Universal Distributed Storage vision. Details aren’t exactly copious, but when last heard from (at the launch of Data Protection Manager in September) it was “delivering distributed storage solutions built on industry standard hardware.” We’ve mentioned previously that hardware vendors are finding that difficult. In this latest iteration:

Responding to customer needs, Microsoft has outlined its Universal Distributed Storage vision, which is about mainstreaming high-end functionality to deliver storage solutions that are built on industry-standard hardware and offered via a multitude of partners in order to lower TCO. Microsoft is working to ensure that Windows manages distributed data storage more cost-effectively than any other platform, irrespective of where the data is – on a server or remote worker’s desktop, centralized or spread across branch offices, on Storage Area Networks (SANs) or Network Attached Storage (NAS).

It’s still trying to sell commodity hardware with Microsoft software which has well known difficulties, but there were two specifics that occasioned the release:

Two announcements on milestones in Microsoft’s progress in storage technology, pertaining to the Microsoft Simple SAN for Windows Server Program and a joint marketing effort between Microsoft and PolyServe, are being made this week at the Storage Networking World conference, a gathering of IT managers, storage architects and infrastructure professionals in Orlando, Fla., October 24-26.

Microsoft is making SANs simpler by leading the industry in shipping technology designed to make it easier to configure and manage this storage option. The forthcoming Windows Server 2003 R2, for example will include a SAN-provisioning application called Storage Manager for SANs. Through its industry-wide Microsoft Simple SAN for Windows Server Program, Microsoft is working with its storage partners to help drive the creation of simple SAN solutions for Windows Server 2003 users for all levels of companies.

We’ve been doing SANs for six, seven years now,” says Baldwin. “Back in the early days it seemed like no two deployments were alike. You could never get the same results. It’s gotten so much easier in just the last year. Now it’s almost like SAN-in-a-box – plug it in and go to work. This is big step in the right direction. It’s going to make SANs the standard way people do storage in any kind of computer environment.”

Industry partners who have just received the Microsoft Simple SAN for Windows Server designation are Brocade, Emulex, EqualLogic, Hitachi Data Systems and String Bean Software, while QLogic’s designation was announced last month.

Also new on the storage technology front is Microsoft’s joint marketing effort with PolyServe to bring highly scalable Windows-based Network Attached Storage clustered file solutions to market. This effort is aimed at simplifying file server consolidation, which remains a key area where cost reductions can be achieved in today’s IT environments.

PolyServe Matrix Server is leading shared-data-clustering software for Windows Storage Server 2003, which enables multiple Windows-based NAS and servers to function as a single, easy-to-use, highly available system. It comprises a true symmetric cluster file system (CFS) that enables scalable data sharing, high availability services that increase system uptime and cluster and storage management capabilities for managing servers and storage as one.

So PolyServe has grabbed a niche by extending the capabilities of Storage Server while other folks are all building plug compatible “SAN-in-a-box” units based on vanilla Storage Server R2 (due before the end of the year). I’m pretty sure which will be most lucrative.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the same day there was an announcement that IBM leads group to create open-source storage software:

IBM and eight other storage vendors are teaming up to form an open-source organization initially called Aperi, Big Blue announced Tuesday. The companies intend to work together to develop common storage software to manage different vendors’ systems, making it easier for users dealing with disparate storage systems. The software will be made available free of charge.

Aperi will be modeled after the Eclipse consortium set up by IBM in conjunction with other vendors to handle open-source projects to create development tools and frameworks for building software. Eclipse was spun out from IBM in early 2004 to become an independent, nonprofit organization called the Eclipse Foundation.

IBM’s partners in Aperi are Brocade Communications Systems, Cisco Systems, Computer Associates, International, Engenio Information Technologies, Fujitsu, McData, Network Appliance, and Sun Microsystems. This is a roll call of some but not all of the leading storage vendors. Missing are EMC, Hewlett-Packard, and Symantec.

Aperi intends to use existing open-storage standards, including the Storage Network Industry Association’s (SNIA’s) Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), according to the IBM release.

“One of the last pillars of proprietary technology is about to fall,” Jim Stallings, vice president of intellectual property and standards at IBM, said on a Tuesday afternoon conference call. He pointed out that unlike many other areas of software, storage management has held off from embracing open-source technology. “You’re now witnessing the convergence of open source and storage,” he added.

Stallings said Aperi will release its first reference model some time next year, with all members contributing code to the effort, but he wouldn’t be drawn into specifics.

It’s still sounds like vendors shipping commodity hardware with the same software, but now the software is “free.” That’s probably not any easier for the vendors, but it’s definitely worse for Microsoft. Note that were hard feelings from some of the vendors not in the group.

Update: Symantec has declined to join Aperi.

Filed under Alliances, Cisco, Coopetition, Data Protection Manager, EMC, HP, IBM, Open Source, Servers, Storage Server, Sun, Symantec

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Microsoft Korea Kerfuffle

Posted by David Hunter at 9:34 AM ET.

In last week’s Microsoft 10-Q report to the SEC reporting 1st (fiscal) quarter results there was the following note:

The Korean Fair Trade Commission (“KFTC”) has been investigating whether our inclusion of streaming media technology or instant messenger technology in Windows, or the inclusion of Windows Media Services as an optional component of Windows Server, violates the Korean Fair Trade Law. The KFTC has been conducting hearings periodically since July 2005. The KFTC could enter a remedial order that could bar us from offering a version of Windows in Korea that included media or messenger technologies or bar us from offering Windows Server with Windows Media Services as an optional component. If the KFTC enters an order requiring Microsoft to remove code or redesign Windows uniquely for the Korean market, it might be necessary to withdraw Windows from the Korean market or delay offering new versions in Korea unless the remedial order is stayed or overturned on appeal.

While for established companies, there are meager benefits to being less than apocalyptic in financial report notes, this was unexpected and created a predictable furor:

The KFTC began its probe in 2001 when South Korean Internet portal Daum Communications Corp. alleged Microsoft’s bundling of the operating system with other services broke antitrust rules. It widened the probe following a similar complaint from RealNetworks in 2004.

A ruling could come as soon as Wednesday, a KFTC spokesman said.

“No matter what Microsoft does, we will proceed with our deliberation and discuss it again at a plenary session on Wednesday,” Lee Tae-hwi said by telephone. “There is no change in our stance to fight unfair business practices.”

Korea reportedly accounts for less than 1% of Microsoft revenue.

Filed under Antitrust, Financial, General Business, Governmental Relations, Legal

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October 29, 2005

Reminder on Exchange Obsolesence

Posted by David Hunter at 10:42 AM ET.

Elizabeth Montalbano at InfoWorld:

Microsoft Corp. will be retiring Exchange Server 5.5 and support for the product at the end of the year and is recommending users upgrade to the latest version, the company said Wednesday.

Microsoft is urging customers who are still running Exchange 5.5 to upgrade to Exchange Server 2003…

According to Microsoft, the number of Exchange Server 5.5 users dropped by about 40 percent over the past year, evidence that customers have been upgrading in anticipation of the product phase-out.

Microsoft also reminded customers Wednesday that Exchange Server 2000 will move out of mainstream support into extended support at the end of 2005. Mainstream support includes free incident support, security updates and nonsecurity hotfixes. Once Exchange Server 2000 moves into extended support, customers will have to pay for support and nonsecurity related hot fixes, according to Microsoft.

That’s a good capsule description of mainstream and extended support. Full details at the Microsoft Support Lifecycle home page.

Filed under Exchange, Servers

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