5 Companies That Came To Win This Week

This week's roundup of companies that came to win include a strategic move by Cisco in the competitive software-defined networking arena, gutsy marketing moves by IBM and Microsoft against Amazon in the cloud IaaS market, and a smart hire by BlackBerry that could help with the mobile device maker's turnaround. Also making the list are big gains in tablet and smartphone sales by a leading PC maker, and a move by a leading software vendor to reduce the number of security vulnerabilities in its products.

Cisco's announcement that it's acquiring its Insieme Networks software-defined networking "spin-in" is really no surprise. But the move, along with a road map of Cisco's SDN strategy outlined this week, makes it clear the networking equipment manufacturer intends to be a serious contender in the SDN market, which is projected to reach $3.7 billion by 2016.

Insieme is developing application-centric infrastructure (ACI) technology that will anchor Cisco's SDN strategy. (Cisco already owned an 85 percent stake in Insieme and it is buying up the rest for a maximum of $863 million.) Cisco is supporting ACI, a new fabric-based data center architecture, with its new Application Policy Infrastructure Controller and new Nexus 9000 switches. Cisco is touting those products as an evolutionary step beyond current SDN products. Until now the company has been seen as lagging behind VMware and other rivals. But channel partners said Cisco's moves this week are a game-changer.

With its $2 billion acquisition of cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider SoftLayer under its belt, IBM is starting to wield its new market strength to challenge Amazon Web Services.

SoftLayer is the centerpiece of IBM's new marketing campaign that seeks to change the market perception that AWS is the dominant player in the cloud arena. The first advertisements debuted this week touting IBM's cloud technology and expertise versus AWS.

SoftLayer has signed up more than 1,000 new customers since IBM bought it in July, and Ric Telford, vice president of IBM Cloud services, told CRN that many of those customers would have otherwise gone to AWS.

Microsoft also took some competitive steps against AWS this week by offering discounts on its Windows Azure IaaS cloud service.

BlackBerry this week hired former Sybase CEO John Chen (pictured) as chairman and interim CEO as the struggling smartphone manufacturer's efforts to turn itself around continue. He replaces CEO Thorsten Heins, who stepped down. BlackBerry also abandoned its plans to go private, taking on $1 billion in convertible debt financing instead.

Hiring Chen is a smart move. He became Sybase's CEO in 1998 and turned around the struggling database software company, in part by overseeing the company's expansion into mobile computing and mobile infrastructure systems. The company became a strong financial performer, with 55 consecutive quarters of profitability, before being acquired by SAP for $5.8 billion in 2010.

Chen has expertise in turning around a sinking company. And he understands mobile computing. As BlackBerry tries to get back on track, observers are pointing to such assets as its messenger applications and BlackBerry Enterprise Server software.

While Acer and other PC makers are hurting from the slowdown in PC sales, Lenovo is weathering the shifting market thanks to the company's surging sales of smartphones and tablets.

For the company's second fiscal quarter ended Sept. 30 Lenovo reported that sales of smartphones grew 78 percent year-over-year while tablet computer sales increased 421 percent. Those products combined accounted for 15.1 percent of Lenovo's sales in the quarter.

Notebook computers still account for 51.1 percent of Lenovo's revenue while desktop computers account for another 27.7 percent. Lenovo reported net income of $220 million in the quarter, up from $162 million a year earlier, while revenue grew 13 percent to $9.8 billion.

Microsoft, sometimes criticized for having buggy software, is opening its bug bounty program to include incident responders who submit ways to bypass the built-in security restrictions in Windows. The move expands on the bug bounty initiative the company launched in June.

Microsoft this week said incident responders and forensics experts who pre-register and sign a non-disclosure agreement could submit mitigation bypass techniques they develop or uncover. The submissions could earn up to $100,000.

Such submissions are helpful to Microsoft, and ultimately to resellers and users of the company's software, because it allows Microsoft developers to create measures that block new bypass techniques. That can prevent entire classes of attacks, as opposed to single software vulnerabilities.