Launching Pad

The IT world is an unpredictable place; things change quickly and rarely go exactly as planned. Even so, good business planning requires a road map--even if only a tentative one--of both your own capabilities and your partners' offerings. With that in mind, we're looking out to the horizon at some of the major product releases planned for the second half of this year, to give you a sense of what's around the next corner.

All of the products listed here have expected official release dates between July and December of 2007. Microsoft's Longhorn Server didn't make the cut, for example, because while undoubtedly a major release, it's not expected to be officially available to the public by the end of the year.


'Barcelona' and 'Penryn'

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While Intel is set to release four additions to its Core 2 Duo Processor line on July 22, it's the debut much later in the year of the product code-named Penryn that has specialized systems builders abuzz. Penryn, the successor to the Merom core now used for the chip giant's Core 2 Duo T5000/T7000 series mobile processors, will mark the debut of Intel's version of the 45-nanometer process, the latest milestone in semiconductor fabrication.

Intel has timed Penryn's release--sometime in "the latter half of the second half" of 2007--to ensure that motherboards and Intel's 3 Series chipsets are in place to support the new processors, according to Steve Dallman, general manager of Intel's Worldwide Reseller Channel Organization.

AMD's quad-core Opteron chip, code-named Barcelona, will ship toward the end of summer with full systems coming out shortly thereafter, says John Fruehe, AMD's worldwide market development manager for server/workstation products.

According to Fruehe, Barcelona would be easy to install after removing dual cores, and would offer a "significant level of performance improvements" over Intel's quad-core Xeon 5300 processor for servers.

Systems builders have mixed feelings about the new products from the two chip giants. The latest and greatest in microprocessors simply doesn't matter much to Cheap Guys Computers customers, says Glen Coffield, president of the Longwood, Fla.-based systems builder.

"One thing about the CPU business is that nobody cares. It's the bottom end of the stack. The customers don't care. There's a fringe element that cares," he says.

"We've had Athlon 64s for going on five years. And do we have a viable 64-bit OS yet? No. We need a true multithreaded 64-bit OS and we need applications. And Microsoft needs to stop screwing around with Google and get back to their core business and say, 'Hey, we've already got 64-bit applications' like their very popular flight simulator, and build that into their office products," he adds.

But for a manufacturer of high-performance systems like Boxx Technologies, which specializes in systems for visual effects artists and architectural design firms, the quad-core releases can be huge.

"The real area where multicore processors are excellent for us is in rendering. The more individual processing units you can throw at the problem the better," says Francois Wolf, director of marketing for the Austin, Texas-based company. "And for that, multicore processors are a panacea, [like] the El Dorado."

Next: IBM/Lotus: Notes 8; Domino 8


N otes 8 ; Domino 8

Given Microsoft's dominant position in the e-mail software market, some might ask just how relevant IBM Lotus Notes and Domino are today. To the more than 5,000 VARs, VADs and independent software developers that work with Notes and other Lotus products, such as Sametime and Quickr, the upcoming releases of Notes 8 and Domino 8, for many, remains a very big deal.

In public beta since February, Notes 8 is due for general availability this summer. IBM Lotus executives say the new release emphasizes enhancements to the Notes client, which sports a user interface with a completely new look and feel. While the Domino 8 server has its share of improvements, more major enhancements to Domino are slated for the next revision due sometime next year or in 2009.

Notes and Domino are also important because they are the hub of IBM Lotus' line of collaboration and communications software, including the Quickr file-sharing software and the new Connections social networking tool. While those products can work with other platforms--Quickr supports the IBM WebSphere Portal and Microsoft Exchange repositories, for example--IBM sees them as complementary with Notes/Domino.

IBM has promised that existing applications written for Notes/Domino can run with the new releases without modification. The Notes 8 client will run on Windows (including Vista), Macintosh and Linux desktops while the Domino server will run on Windows, Linux, IBM AIX, Sun Solaris, and IBM iSeries and zSeries platforms. By year's end, it will support 64-bit platforms, but won't require them.

Next: Oracle Database 11g


Oracle Database 11g

While Oracle has expanded its business into enterprise applications, middleware and business intelligence tools, its database remains its flagship product and still accounts for the lion's share of its sales. Oracle's database software sales surged nearly 15 percent to $7.2 billion in 2006, giving the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based vendor almost half of the $15 billion relational database market, according to market-research firm Gartner.

Oracle Database 11g, the next generation of its relational database software, is due out in October. It's hard to say how much demand has pent up in the two years since the release of the current version, Oracle Database 10g Release 2. Database software tends to be deeply embedded within resellers' solutions and their customers' IT systems, and upgrades don't happen overnight.

"None of our clients are asking us to jump on [11g] or help them move to it," acknowledges Hal Hawisher, principal and COO at Baytree Associates, a Charlotte, N.C.-based solution provider that specializes in Oracle systems. Even Oracle's marketing efforts have been subdued, he says. "The noise level has been a little lower than products in the past."

With data volumes increasing exponentially for many businesses, however, there's no question that 11g's scalability and performance enhancements will be in demand.

Altogether, Oracle Database 11g will have 482 new features, according to a tally provided by executive vice president Chuck Rozwat last fall.

In the high-availability department, Oracle is promising new flashback archiving, snapshot standby and online application upgrade capabilities. Improvements to the database's Real Application Cluster technology, an input/output resource manager and a database partition adviser will boost scalability and performance.

New data compression technology could reduce data storage requirements. Binary XML data storage and enhanced XML indexing will enhance the database's content management abilities, while new online analytical processing (OLAP) tools will improve its business intelligence functionality. Oracle Database 11g will also sport new security features, including an audit vault and change assurance capabilities.


Endpoint Protection 11.0

Over the last two to three years, Symantec's security products have been the subject of a growing chorus of criticism from the channel, with complaints including poor performance, excessive resource demands, stability problems and security vulnerabilities within the antivirus code. The storage and security giant hopes to put an end to these issues in late September with the release of Endpoint Protection 11.0, the first major update to its endpoint security suite since the April 2005 release of its predecessor--Antivirus Corporate Edition 10.0.

The new release, previously code-named "Project Hamlet," will incorporate a wide range of different functions, including antivirus, antispyware, host-based firewall, application and device control, and network- and host-based intrusion prevention systems, drawing on technologies acquired from Sygate, Veritas and WholeSecurity. All of those functions have been bundled into a single centrally managed software agent, that according to Symantec, occupies less than one-third of the storage space and 84 percent active memory than its predecessor.

"The big news is the integration of all these technologies into a single agent, managed from a single console," according to Brian Foster, Symantec's senior director of project management for Endpoint Products. "We've taken the best-of-breed components from acquisitions like WholeSecurity and Sygate, torn them apart into their basic building blocks, and built them back up into a single solution," he says.

Adam Gray, CTO of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based solution provider Novacoast, also sees the single-agent model as the new release's primary strength. "A lot of resources go into managing multiple agents," he notes. "Features and functions are good to talk about, but that's not the main issue; we're looking to be able to cut operating expenses on AV by 20 percent to 25 percent for some clients."

Matt Hamilton, vice president of professional services at Herndon, Va.-based Symantec partner DLT Solutions, sees another benefit. "Well, the the timing is right. A lot of the changes under the hood are kind of inside baseball, but customers are coming to us with a ton of questions about endpoint security, so this gives us a chance to strike while the iron is hot."