Unlocking the Grid

In our upcoming March issue of Redmond magazine, Sun CEO Scott McNealy talks about the glory of grid computing. Earlier this month, Sun expanded its grid, which is now up to 10,000 processors, and is becoming increasingly commercialized. Customers can now rent time for $1 per hour per CPU and $1 a month for each gigabyte of storage.

Right now the grid is primarily aimed at compute-intensive tasks, but ultimately McNealy wants the average Joe to use the grid for run-of-the-mill productivity apps. To my mind, being tethered to a grid over a network just to pound out an article doesn't make much sense, but then again, I don't run an $11 billion computer company.

Meanwhile, Sun has now released Solaris 10 open source. I'm dying to see if free Solaris 10 can take a bite out of Linux or Windows Server.

Exchange Grid Style?
Microsoft isn't afraid of a little grid action either. The software giant recently upgraded its Hosted Messaging and Collaboration Service, which is based on Exchange and aimed at small to medium- size businesses. The service now includes SharePoint and Office Live Communications 2005.

Exchange Is Living in the Past, Man
Microsoft has long planned to replace the Jet Exchange data store with the heartier data store from SQL Server. That ain't gonna happen anytime soon, as Exchange 12, due out in 2006 or 2007, will stick with good old Jet. Microsoft says the move would be too disruptive for users, and so Jet will live on. My guess is that the same kinks that plagued Longhorn's WinFS unified store are in play here with Exchange -- only worse.

I doubt IT will mind -- that is if security, support for consolidation and stability are all improved, but the goal of reshaping the core of Microsoft's server OSes and applications has taken a major step back.

Spy vs. Spyware (and a Little Sybari)
For years Microsoft let third parties patch holes in its software, whether it be anti-spam, anti-virus, anti-hacker or anti-spyware. In fact, every time Redmond tried to add new protective features, critics started railing about bundling and antitrust violations. To me that's silly, a little like criticizing Ford for bundling seatbelts, air bags, door locks and horns! (Of course, driving a Bronco feels a lot safer than operating most of the Windows boxes I've owned.)

Now with a few acquisitions under its belt, Microsoft seems poised to roll out new anti-virus and anti-spyware tools, much the way it released the Intelligent Message Filter to block spam. In fact, some of these tools are already in beta.

To beef up these efforts, Microsoft is buying Sybari, whose software fights off worms, viruses and spam, and offers content filtering -- all aimed at collaboration and messaging software.

So what does this mean for third parties? The news is good and bad. Microsoft is clearly late to the game -- its internally built technology was lagging worse than Rosie O'Donnell at the Boston Marathon.

But by buying state-of-the-art tools, Microsoft puts pressure on third parties to improve their wares. My guess is that the best third parties will include anti-this and anti-that as part of larger suites that offer new features and better ways to manage the applications IT is trying to protect. The game has clearly changed.

Bill G. vs. George W.
In 2001 President George W. Bush gave back $38 billion in tax relief, in a somewhat futile attempt to boost our sagging economy. Late last year Bill Gates gave shareholders $32.6 billion, a move that actually made a marked improvement to the economy. Personal income last December rose 4.7 percent -- and would have only gone up 0.6 percent without the Redmond windfall. Maybe Bill should take over our nation's economic policy -- after all, Microsoft somehow always seems to run a healthy surplus!

Desktop Linux Dreams Dashed?
IBM has never gotten over the fact that it lost the desktop OS (and apps) war to Microsoft. It should be embarrassed: A company 10 times smaller spanked it repeatedly. In another vain attempt at vengeance, IBM chief Sam Palmisano vowed to move his firm's desktops to Linux by the end of this year. Since then, Big Blue has backed down a bit and is far short of a total open source migration. However, there are thousands of Linux desktop currently in place, and more are on the way at an undisclosed pace.

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I'm not surprised at the slowdown really, as Linux desktop environments make even Windows seem simple to operate. In fact, I'm writing this column on a 10-year-old Compaq Armada that is still more stable and easier to use than the latest Linux desktop, I'd wager. (Of course, I'm working on the old Compaq because my Dell XP laptop up and died, and still doesn't feel well after a full motherboard and CPU transplant.)

But moves such as IBM's may work wonders in beefing up and simplifying Linux desktops. This is great news for Windows shops. A true alternative puts the pressure on Redmond to boost quality, and can put some real meat behind your negotiating position. Now if they can only make a bulletproof version of Linux for laptops -- at this point I'll try anything.

I'm Not Fired, I Quit
Microsoft employee Verna Felton turned the tables on "The Donald" by walking off "The Apprentice" earlier this month. Felton claimed she was exhausted, while Trump grumbled that she "couldn't hack it."

Interesting. Apparently Felton had no problem doing real work in the Redmond pressure cooker laboring under "The Bill," but for some reason couldn't handle doing stupid, made-up TV stunts with a bunch of camera-hogging, obnoxious Trumpster wannabees.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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