Briefs: December 11, 2006


In July, SurfControl acquired managed security service provider BlackSpider Technologies for $37 million, which enabled SurfControl to offer its security technology via software, appliances and as on-demand services. That deal, and the fact that SurfControl CEO Patricia Sueltz and CIO Max Rayner joined the company from, led many channel partners to expect the vendor to adopt a managed services model. "Everyone predicted there would be continued movement toward a managed outsourced model," said Peter Bybee, president and CEO of Network Vigilance, a San Diego-based solution provider. However, many partners also believed that SurfControl would continue to acquire other vendors, rather than be acquired itself, Bybee added.

Ecma International has approved Microsoft's proposed Office Open XML file format as a standard. The Swiss standards body will now submit the format to the International Standards Organization for consideration as an ISO standard.

Voting Ecma members—except IBM—approved the move, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman. Members include Adobe Systems, Avaya, Barclays' Capital, Canon, Intel, Microsoft, Toshiba and other companies.

Office Open XML has gained some traction of late. The format has been pushed by Microsoft to assuage concerns that its traditional Office file formats weren't very portable between applications or generations of applications.

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Novell recently said its version of OpenOffice would support the Office Open XML specification. That led to fear that OpenOffice, an open-source analog of Microsoft Office, would be forked. OpenOffice is backed by the open-source community and can be downloaded from

Novell continues to endorse the rival OpenDocument Format (ODF) as the default save-to-file format for OpenOffice, according to a statement by Novell CTO Nat Friedman, who cited a desire to provide customers choice and flexibility.

Corel, the maker of WordPerfect Office, also recently pledged to support Office Open XML.

Some government accounts, most notably the state of Massachusetts, have pushed back against the use of what they call closed file formats. Massachusetts backs the use of ODF and is looking into translators that would move documents from Microsoft formats to ODF and vice versa.

Cisco Systems last week continued the expansion of its popular Integrated Services Router line by adding new security and WAN optimization capabilities. The updates came as Cisco marked a milestone, selling more than 2 million ISRs worldwide since launching the family of branch office access routers about two years ago.

The ISR line combines routing and switching capabilities with advanced services such as security and VoIP.

The new rollout includes the launch of integrated tunnel-less VPN technology and a Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) module that adds WAN optimization and acceleration capabilities. Cisco also is expanding voice and video services on the routers.

Cisco's new VPN capabilities are based on its Group Encrypted Transport (GET) technology, an addition to the security software load for its routers. Traditional VPN technology includes point-to-point tunnels that carry packets that have their headers and payloads encrypted, but those headers carry critical multicasting and quality-of-service data that essentially are lost when they are encrypted, said John Growdon, director of routers and switches for worldwide channels at Cisco. Cisco's new technology leaves the header alone.

The tunnel-less VPN technology is expected to ease complex deployments and support implementations that would be too expensive with traditional VPN technology.

Besides the new security capabilities, Cisco also is launching its new WAAS module, which brings integrated WAN optimization and application acceleration capabilities to the router line.

D&H Distributing is now offering Panasonic's Toughbook line of ruggedized, wireless notebooks to the SMB market.

The Toughbook product line is engineered to resist shock, pressure and environmental conditions and is targeted at mobile users who work in industries such as construction, utilities or environmental agencies.

"Our relationship with Panasonic is predicated on focusing on the SMB market space, which is our strength," said Dan Schwab, vice president of marketing at D&H.

Several partners new to Panasonic have already bought Toughbooks from D&H, Schwab said. The addition of new vendors like Panasonic, Lenovo and Cisco Systems has helped expand D&H's base of VAR partners, he said.

Mike Shay, owner of solution provider Affordable Computers, said the Toughbook might be a hard sell in the SMB space because of its higher price tag.

Solution provider FusionStorm acquired yet another of its peers and plans to acquire three more solution providers early next year, the latest in a wave of consolidation in the channel.

John Varel, CEO of FusionStorm, said last week that his company has acquired Technology Deployment Research. TDR, founded three years ago, focuses on the storage space, and includes EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, Network Appliance and Symantec on its vendor list.

Varel estimated the acquisition of TDR will increase FusionStorm's storage business by about 25 percent.

TDR brings a strong sales and engineering team, along with a list of customers including Apple and Sony International, Varel said. It was on track to have revenue of about $20 million this year and is "very profitable," he said.

David Gottesman, founder and CEO of TDR, is not joining FusionStorm.

Instead, he has signed on to a six-month consulting contract with FusionStorm, and will then form a new company focusing on small business VPNs, Varel said.

FusionStorm, which has a very active acquisition strategy, currently has three letters of intent to acquire other solution providers, which Varel said he hopes to close early next year, including an application development and hosting firm, a government professional services firm and a maintenance and asset management firm.

The solution provider has been on a shopping spree in the past couple years. The company in October acquired Jeskell, a large IBM government solution provider. It also has acquired a number of services-oriented solution providers.