10 Biggest Tech Stories Of 2009 (So Far)11:41 AM EST Tue. Jun. 30, 2009
Six Months In
We're only half-way through 2009 and there have already been dozens of stories that have shaken the tech and IT industries to their knees. Here, we take a look at what we think are the top 10 stores in the first six months of 2009. If the first half of the year is any indication, 2009's second half is going to get exciting.
Oracle Moves To Buy Sun
Oracle has acquired more than 50 companies in less than five years. But it still came as a shock when the company announced in April that it would buy Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion -- just weeks after a similar bid by IBM to acquire Sun fell apart.
But those who understand Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's ambitions weren't so surprised. By acquiring Sun Oracle gains control of Java and the Solaris operating system, two critical technologies that underlie many of Oracle's products.
And while some were scratching their heads over the logic of Oracle buying a hardware vendor, Ellison & Co. actually entered the hardware market last fall when it debuted a database server it jointly developed with Hewlett-Packard. That's the hardware appliance blueprint you can expect Oracle to follow once it completes the Sun deal sometime this summer.
Cisco Takes The Data Center By Storm
Cisco Systems closed out 2008 at the center of the rumor mill, with the industry watching and speculating that the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant was soon to make a play in the server game.
In March, that rumor became reality with the revealing of the Unified Computing System (UCS), an architecture that chairman and CEO John Chambers said will "bring together the compute power, the storage access and the networking capabilities" of the next-generation data center and facilitate Cisco's vision of accessing information from any device, any network, any location at any time. UCS also wraps in virtualization, creating a single data center fabric.
UCS will roll out in a limited release through about 30 to 50 solution providers for the rest of 2009 and spread wider with time.
The Unified Computing System includes a host of new Cisco products, foremost two types of Cisco UCS B-Series Blade Servers, which are based on the Intel Nehalem processor.
Shown here is Cisco's UCS 5108 with eight Cisco UCS B-Series Blades.
Intel Unveils Nehalem
The Intel Xeon "Nehalem" 5500 and 3500 processors may be the workhorse of the coming technology refresh across the market. The new, high speed processors from Intel have already been adopted by computer makers such as Apple, Lenovo and Sun. The chips are already or will soon begin to pop up in workstations, notebooks and servers. In fact, at its launch, Intel called the Xeon processor "transformational."
The convergence of Intel's Nehalem processors and Windows 7 hitting the market could spur a technology refresh that has been put off by customers due to the economic climate around the world.
(Nehalem wafer shown here)
Conficker Wiggles Its Way In
Call it the tech world's equivalent of the H1N1 Swine Flu. The malicious worm known as Conficker exploited a critical Windows flaw and infected at least 9 million PCs, spreading rapidly across corporate networks worldwide. The malware maelstrom replicated at a blinding speed with a variety of attack vectors. And then if that wasn't enough, the industry braced for an April 1 update of the worm. That April Fools date came and went with no major meltdown. But security experts say that silence might end with a malicious attack down the road.
Dell Opens Up Distribution
Dell did something that may have been unthinkable just two years ago. In March, the long-time direct sales outfit inked a distribution deal with Ingram Micro and Tech Data. Currently Dell is offering a limited supply of notebooks and desktops through distribution, but one analyst called it a "significant change in psychology" for the vendor.
Some solution providers hailed the move as further commitment from Dell to the channel, while others weren't so optimistic about the move. The consistent pricing on preconfigured systems is appealing to solution providers, but they still wonder about the margins they may or may not be able to make on the products sold through Tech Data and Ingram Micro. Only more time will tell who really wins in this deal.
The Ups and Downs Of Apple
To this point Apple has been experiencing a turbulent but triumphant year. In January the company lost its leader, Steve Jobs, to illness which culminated in a liver transplant. Critics have attacked the iTunes App Store for a lack of clear leadership and policy for approving or rejecting iPhone apps. The Palm Pre was launched, posing a serious threat to Apple's smartphone dominance. A Microsoft advertising campaign appeared to inflict some damage, targeting the price the average consumer pays for Apple hardware.
But Apple has bounced back. Steve Jobs appears to have convalesced and has returned to Apple following his liver transplant. The Palm Pre is in the wild and selling, but the Apple iPhone 3G S (shown) sold 1 million units in its first weekend, maintaining its dominant position over the up and comer. At the World Wide Developer's Conference, Apple dropped prices on the MacBook Pros, firing back at Microsoft's ad campaign. The iTunes App Store situation does remain in flux, but the year is only half over.
Vista Out, Windows 7 In
All but conceding that its Windows Vista was a flop, Microsoft accelerated its effort to get its next-generation Windows 7 operating system out the door. Earlier this month, after hedging whether the software would debut late this year or in 2010, the company put a stake in the ground and said Windows 7 would begin shipping with PCs on Oct. 22.
And not a moment too soon. Microsoft has been losing market share as customers shunned Vista and turned to Linux and Apple's Macintosh computers as alternatives. But Windows 7 will be fighting a sales headwind as it's launched in the midst of a deep economic downturn.
Still, resellers will be happy to put Vista behind them and they are looking forward to selling Windows 7 which -- it's hoped -- eliminates Vista's well-publicized performance and compatibility issues and offers such advanced features as built-in virtualization capabilities.
IBM Recommits To The Channel
In March IBM sent its 100,000 channel partners an updated version of the IBM Business Partner Charter -- one of several steps the giant IT company has taken in the last year or so that demonstrated renewed commitment to solution providers.
IBM executives said the charter and its six guiding principles, accompanied by a letter from media-shy CEO Sam Palmisano, was more than just a piece of paper. And IBM channel partners agreed, saying the move was proof IBM was working with them in a tough economic climate.
In addition to the charter, other steps taken by IBM include offering channel partners new business and training opportunities under its Dynamic Infrastructure program. It's all part of the vendor's increased emphasis on relying on solution providers to expand sales in the mid-market.
The Federal Stimulus Windfall?
Never has so much been written about so much money flowing into technology coffers. President Barack Obama's bid to make like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and bring us out of the darkness and into the light has touched off a feeding frenzy in the technology community. Solution providers have put together a sales and marketing blitz aimed at public sector and healthcare opportunities springing from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's passage in 2009. But alas, when all is said and done the $787 billion stimulus package will yield only $28 billion for IT spending over the next two years, according to Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass. market research firm.
Cisco Vs. HP: It's On!
Cisco Systems drew a line in the sand at its annual Partner Summit, publicly proclaiming that the competition between it and rival Hewlett-Packard (HP) is heating up. The pair now compete in the networking space, with Cisco's bread-and-butter going against HP's darling ProCurve Networking line; the data center, with Cisco's UCS blade and rack server offerings butting heads with HP's server products; and a host of other segments like immersive high-definition video, Wi-Fi and unified communications.
No one was more vocal about the budding rivalry, which had been dormant for years but crescendoed in the first half of 2009, than Rob Lloyd, Cisco's new executive vice president of worldwide operations (shown here).
"I think we've been taking too many punches with regard to the competitive landscape and not punching back We'll keep it clean, but for you we need to help define the value proposition on why we're a better choice than [HP] ProCurve," Lloyd said, garnering applause from the audience during his Partner Summit keynote. "I'm encouraging all of us to punch back -- with a little bit of class -- and if we get it right, it will make a big difference in the market."