Monday, February 21, 2011

Intel talks Poulson architecture for Itanium servers

Intel has revealed its Poulson micro-architecture for its upcoming refresh of Itanium server processors.

Without giving a release date, Intel said the chips will be fabbed at 32nm scale and have an eight-core design for what Chipzilla claims is improved throughput and greater efficiency.

The Poulson micro-architecture has 3.1 billion transistors per chip and 54MB of onchip memory, a 33 per cent increase in bandwidth speeds and maximum execution width doubled to 12 threads.

Itanium is for mission-critical server applications and Intel pitches it as a platform for mainframe and Unix applications but it has struggled to get consistent vendor support. Poulson will be backwards compatible for sockets and systems based on the Itanium 9300 series processors.

According to, Rory McInerney, microprocessor development group director at Intel, said, "We believe that we will be able to continue the momentum in Itanium through this decade."

Michael McNerney, director of server planning and marketing for HP business critical systems, told, "We don't see customers saying: 'I'm an all Itanium or all [Intel] Xeon shop.' We see them breaking it down by workload."

McNerney saw Itanium as much as a legacy support system as something for new server set-ups. ยต

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ken Olsen, Midrange Giant, Dies at 84

Ken Olsen, the co-founder and long-time leader of minicomputer originator Digital Equipment Corporation died last week at 84. Perhaps more than any other man, all of us in the midrange owe Olsen for our paychecks and for the innovation that his engineering mind brought into being.

I was born the week before the first true minicomputer, the PDP-8, was brought into the world. At the time, the PDP-8 was noteworthy because a base configuration cost only about $18,000 with 4 kilowatts of 12-bit core memory and a teletype for input and output. After a bunch of DECies defected in 1968 to create Data General (which was eaten by EMC in the 1990s), arguably one of the best systems to come out of DEC, the 16-bit PDP-11 mini, and in 1976 DEC made the jump to 32-bits and virtual memory addressing with the VAX line, and 1978's VAX-11/780 and its VT smart terminals quickly became the king of the midrange. By the mid-1980s, DEC had added 10 Mbit/sec Ethernet and VAXcluster clustering software to the VAXes, allowing for clusters to be created and to run applications in a shared mode.

When Compaq was busy going broke in the wake of its 1998 acquisition of Digital, one of the secret sauces that Compaq sold off to Oracle was the VAXcluster and TruCluster microcode that was implemented in these VAXes; you know it today as Oracle's Real Application Clusters (RAC) extensions to the Oracle database, and it was in Digital's homegrown Rdb database way before Oracle got its hands on it. So, given all of this engineering excellence, driven by Olsen and some of the smartest people in data processing at the time, it was no surprise at all that Digital grew to over 120,000 employees, had stolen huge chunks of business away from IBM, and was the second largest computer company in the world in the late 1980s, peaking at $14 billion in annual sales.

That pressure from DEC, more than anything else, made IBM focus and create a little thing they called the Application System/400 in 1988. Digital went on to make plenty of mistakes--not taking the threat of open systems and application portability seriously enough until it was too late and ditto for PCs--but its VAX and Alpha processors were second to none and its systems software was also second to none. DEC was an old-school, engineering-driven IT company and it did not see the threat that volume PCs and their processors would have on all systems. Just like Intel, in public at least, is in denial about ARM processors.

My wife went to MIT, where Olsen got his degrees in electrical engineering, and I have walked the halls of the Lincoln Lab where Olsen and his peers, working for the U.S. Department of Defense, did their work in defining what a computer was in the wake of World War II. It must have been a lot of fun to be Ken Olsen most days.

Say what you will about Olsen, but he thought that PCs were toys and that Unix was a bunch of "snake oil" and that Digital's own proprietary operating system, VMS, was superior to Unix and then Windows. His company's vision of clustered minicomputers with smart terminals is not all that different from the cloudy future we all seem to be unavoidably moving toward. Olsen, no doubt, would have said that a graphical user interface was for sissies and that there wasn't anything you couldn't have done with a properly configured VT terminal.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lieberman Exposes Super-User Activity to SIEMs

Organizations can feel a little more secure that their IT workers aren't abusing powerful user profiles as a result of integration work done by Lieberman Software and Q1 Labs. The two security software companies teamed up to ensure that every use of Lieberman's Enterprise Random Password Manager is tracked by Q1 Labs' security information and event management (SIEM) software.

Lieberman's ERPM is designed to streamline and secure the process of granting IT workers elevated authority on a server or application. ERPM controls access to powerful user profiles, such as ALLOBJ on the IBM i OS or ROOT on Unix, through the passwords that are associated with these user profiles. IT workers can get the authority they need by logging into EPRM, which randomly generates a password for the user profiles in question. The software, which runs on SQL Server or Oracle database, supports most popular platforms, including IBM i, z/OS, Windows, Linux, Unix, Cisco networking gear, major user directory servers, and others.

Liberman already offers its customers the option of requiring two forms of user authentication (including via RSA devices) before ERPM will grant access to powerful user profiles. But with such a treasure trove of corporate resources sitting on the other side of the ERPM wall (one shudders to imagine what a knowledgeable hacker could do if he were granted full access to an IBM i or System z server of a major public company), this is a situation where you almost can't have too many walls, or too much inter-connectedness among security systems.

While there's little question that Lieberman successfully maintains tight security over its customers' delegated domains via ERPM, larger enterprises with big IT security concerns clearly want to view ERPM activities via their SIEMs, those all-seeing, all-knowing eyes in the sky that are charged with detecting coordinated security attacks on corporate information systems.

To that end, Lieberman has embarked upon a concerted effort to get ERPM interfaced to, and certified with, other enterprise security systems. Last year, the Los Angeles company certified ERPM to work with the SIEM from ArcSight, which attracted so much positive attention that was snapped up by Hewlett-Packard last fall for $1.5 billion. It has also integrated ERPM with third-party incident reporting and tracking systems.
Last week, Lieberman announced that ERPM activities will be exposed to QRadar, the SIEM from Q1 Labs, which is another respected developer of enterprise security tools (and one that is now supporting IBM i). According to the vendors, the certification ensures that ERPM can effectively leverage Q1 Labs' LEEF and AXIS "open security intelligence protocols" to identify security threats and anomalies involving powerful user profiles and the passwords that authorize IT workers to use them.

This means that all password check-in and check-out activities, credentials changes, and successful and failed password verifications managed by ERPM are now visible in QRadar, where they can be correlated with other security events in real time. Reporting and auditing elements of ERPM are also now exposed to QRadar.

Lieberman Software president and CEO Philip Lieberman says the integration "closes the loop" on security event management. "With this 360-degree view of security events Lieberman Software and Q1 Labs can show not only what is happening, but also who is behind the activity--effectively ending anonymous access to privileged accounts."

Strong sales of EPRM fueled a strong fiscal 2010, with year-over-year revenues increasing nearly 40 percent, Lieberman said last month. The company attributes the increased sales to a boost in awareness, including the new integration points with SIEM vendors like Q1 Labs and ArcSight. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Berkeley Heights man wins Japan Prize for inventing UNIX operating system

Forty years after they invented the UNIX computer operating system at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, Berkeley Heights resident Dr. Dennis Ritchie and Dr. Kenneth Thompson will receive the Japan Prize.

“I was surprised. I was not expecting this,” Ritchie said in a telephone interview. “It was so far back.”

He explained the two aspects he and Thompson worked on were based on an earlier language. “It did not come out of the blue,” he said. They modified a language that was initially developed at MIT, he said, which later became the C language.

The $600,000 award will be presented on April 20 in Tokyo to both scientists, who will divide it. Ritchie said Thompson flew to Japan for the announcement, but Ritchie sent his response by video from Bell Labs.

He plans to use his part of the proceeds to fly his siblings and spouses to Japan for the event. None of his siblings pursued engineering or science, he said. One brother is a retired superintendent of schools in the Boston area, another brother and his wife run a toy company in the Washington, DC area and he has a sister who has lived in England for many years.

Ritchie, 69, has lived in Berkeley Heights for 15 years. He was born in Bronxville, NY, grew up in Summit and attended Summit High School before going to Harvard University. While there, he attended a lecture on the concept of computers and became intrigued. He shifted his focus from physics to computer programming. He recalled seeing his first computer, which he described as “a big square cubicle box.” He was a graduate student in Applied Mathematics, with a 1968 doctoral thesis on subrecrusive hierarchies of functions. “I like procedural languages better than functional ones,” he has said.

Ritchie joined Bell Labs in 1967, where his father, Alistair E. Ritchie, spent his career. The elder Ritchie was co--author of “The Design of Switching Circuits,” with W. Keister and S. Washburn, an influential book that came out just before the transistor era. Asked if he could have envisioned the rapid technological changes today, Dennis Ritchie said, “I’m not a futurologist.” Ritchie retired from Bell Labs in 2007, but continues as an emeritus staff member.

He met Thompson while working at Bell Labs, now Alcatel-Lucent, in Murray Hill. Thompson, 67, who grew up in New Orleans, had already experimented with a language for personal computers, emphasizing simplicity. Together they developed the UNIX system which became so popular in part because it was distributed to universities and research institutions and became known as “open source” computing. Thompson now works with Google in California.

Both men received the U.S. National Medal of Technology Award from President Bill Clinton as well as numerous commendations for their work.

“Dennis and Ken changed the way people used, thought and learned about computers and computer science,” Jeong Kim, president of Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, said in a press release. He added the UNIX system and the C programming language have revolutionized computing and communications, making open systems possible.

The Japan Prize was established in 1985 to honor achievements in science and technology.