HP’s CEO Mark Hurd Resigns

The big news today is that Mark Hurd, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, has resigned after he was accused of sexual harassment. While cleared of the harassment charges, apparently the company decided that he had violated their standards of conduct. The New York Times has a report, as does the Los Angeles Times.

Mr. Hurd was known as a cost-cutting CEO; his Wikipedia entry has this to say:

Hurd has a reputation for cost-cutting. He laid off 15,200 workers—10% of the workforce—shortly after becoming CEO. Other cost-cutting moves include cutting the IT department from 19,000 to 8,000, reducing the number of software applications that HP uses from 6,000 to 1,500, and consolidating the HP’s 85 data centers to 6. During the recent recession Mark Hurd imposed a 5% pay cut on all employees, where legally permitted, and removed many benefits.

Put another way, this means that 11,000 IT professionals lost their livelihoods under Mark Hurd’s guidance – more employees than most companies. On Glassdoor.com, Mark Hurd received a 34% approval rating from current and former employees. This is amazing, considering that Michael Dell (at Dell) and Sam Palmisano (at IBM) both have 51% approval ratings. Yet, Wall Street loves him…

Interestingly enough, stock prices rose 10% when Carly Fiorina was removed as CEO, but when Mark Hurd resigned, stock prices plunged 10%.

HP has a recent history of sudden departures; Carly Fiorina (previous CEO) was forced out, and the HP spying scandal resulted in a flurry of resignations, including Patty Dunn (chairman), Dr. George Keyworth II (board member), Tom Perkins (board member), and Ann Baskins (General Counsel).

Cathie Lesjak (current HP CFO) was named interim CEO, and is on record declaring that she is not interested in a permanent position as CEO. Interestingly, she retains her post as CFO as well – double duty?

No immediate comments on if there will be any changes at HP, but I would not look for any – after all, an interim CEO isn’t about to restructure the entire company. Still, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

Update: CNet has a page that consolidates all of their coverage on Mark Hurd’s departure from HP. Some interesting articles include their take on who might be next as CEO, and CNet’s Charles Cooper also notes the company’s recent tendency toward scandal (and compares HP to Peyton Place).

Microsoft Joins Red Hat in Dropping Itanium Support

Red Hat announced at the end of 2009 that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 will not support Itanium, and now Microsoft has announced that Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the last version to support Itanium.

This is not good. HP is the largest vendor of Itanium systems – they should be, since Itanium was an HP-Intel joint venture. Intel just introduced the new Tukwila chip in January, and now Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux will not be found on the chip.

Most pertinently for HP, this means that Integrity Virtual Machines running Microsoft Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux will neither be available nor supported.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) is still available for Itanium, as is HP-UX, and OpenVMS is due soon. Time will tell if this bailout by Red Hat and Microsoft will affect HP’s bottom line; Intel should be relatively unscathed.

UPDATE: Fixed factual error.

Why I Don’t Want an iPhone – or iPad – or iPod Touch…

Recently, Cory Doctorow wrote about why he didn’t want an iPad (and why we shouldn’t either).

I don’t want one either – for many reasons. It’s the same reasons I don’t want an iPhone or iPod Touch as well.

On the iPhone specifically: I don’t want to be forced into a specific carrier. When will the iPhone be available for US Cellular customers? Probably never. When will the tying of the phone to the carrier be invalidated by the courts?

Also, will it ever be possible to take the iPhone and take it from one carrier to another? There should be no bundling of phones with cellular service; I should be able to choose whatever phone I want and use it with whichever service I want.

Secondly, you can only install applications that are approved by Apple – and these same applications can be pulled from your iPhone without notice (and without refund!). The approval process for new applications is slow and mysterious, and the secret developer’s agreement contains some very draconian measures.

Thirdly, the battery is sealed – so you can’t change the battery if it dies. If you need a new battery, you need a new phone.

The battery is not the only thing that is sealed; there is no way to put your own software on your iPhone or iPod Touch or iPad – no way to load Linux, no way to write your own software and load it up. If you write your own software with Apple’s Software Development Kit (SDK), then you are required to use the Apple Application Store, and no other – even if you are refused (which an application can be for any reason).

The iPhone is a locked-down environment like no other; why be locked in?

Elliott Associates to Buy Novell?

Elliott Associates made an offer for Novell today at almost US$2 billion ($5.75 per share). GigaOM reported on this, as did the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal.

There is as yet no response from Novell; company officials are expected to announce their response on Wednesday, 3 March 2010.

Any takeover would affect a large number of things, including open source projects and current Linux offerings. Some of these include:

  • Novell v. SCO. This court case is over the copyrights to the UNIX name and code; it remains open and active, in spite of SCO’s bankruptcy filing.
  • SUSE. Novell’s acquisition of SUSE brought SUSE under the Novell umbrella, and there are several products available, including the open source OpenSUSE.
  • Ximian. Ximian was acquired by Novell years ago, which brought Linux GNOME expertise in-house and led to the development of Mono for Linux.
  • Groupwise. Groupwise is Novell’s competition to Microsoft’s Exchange.

This should be interesting; let’s see what Novell says tomorrow.

Managing Olympic Servers

The Olympics is this week – and we’ll ignore the copyright shenanigans of the Olympics – but there has been some interesting articles about the massive requirements that the Olympics requires of its IT equipment and staff.

The company providing the IT services is Atos Origin, and Magnus Alvarsson is their leader on the spot. CNET’s Ina Fried interviewed Magnus on February 8, and followed up with details of the IT infrastructure required on February 10.

There are a number of unique problems they face. One is that certain media outlets required old equipment (such as ISDN lines) to send their data back home. Another is that voice, data, and video will all traverse over the network using IP – the first time the Olympics has done this.

I always enjoy reading about other’s IT challenges and how they met them.

IBM Introduces Power7

On Monday, IBM introduced the Power7 processor to go up against the new Itanium Tukwila officially introduced by Intel the same day. The general consensus among those reviewing (such as CNET’s Brooke Crothers) these chips is that the Power7 is much better than the Itanium chip. Indeed, the Tukwila chip was delayed for two years.

This new Power chip will provide twice the processing power of its predecessor but with four times the energy efficiency, according to IBM. The Power7 offers eight cores with four threads each, giving 32 processing cores.

However, one notable absence is Sun: no new UltraSparc processor was announced. Of course, with Sun’s recent financial difficulties plus the buyout of Sun by Oracle, there may just be too much going on at the moment. Yet, will a new UltraSparc come too late?

In the meantime, analysts are noting the fact that Unix servers (such as those running Power7, UltraSparc, and Itanium) are declining, and that the x86 servers are increasing in power and capabilities, with the Nehalem-EX (otherwise known as Beckton) due out soon.

What this means for system administrators is that Linux on x86 could be the biggest growing career, in contrast to Unix (such as HP-UX, Solaris, and AIX).

Sun and Oracle Deal Final (at last!)

The huge cloud that has been hanging over the Sun-Oracle deal has finally been swept away and the deal consumated with blessings from regulators.

Oracle discussed their plans for Sun on 27 January, stating that they would cut Sun’s server line by 50% while increasing commitment to Sparc processors. They also restated a commitment to Java and called Java “the crown jewel” from Sun.

The press has been mum on Sun’s other products, including StarOffice, Solaris, the Modular Data Center, and VirtualBox for just a few. Oracle’s commitment has been stated towards these products in the past; whether that commitment will translate into action is yet to be seen.

Also not mentioned is Sun’s participation in open source projects such as NetBeans, OpenSPARC, and OpenSolaris. However, all three of these projects now show Oracle branding. This at least suggests that Oracle is aware of these projects (if it wasn’t just a case of switching out an Oracle logo instead of a Sun logo).

Google v. China: More Updates

Microsoft, as was mentioned before, is not going to pull out of China and has actually spoken up against Google’s stance. Ballmer called their stand against censorship an irrational business decision.

In fact, Google founder Sergei Brin (born in Moscow in the USSR) has long championed against working in China, encountering resistance from Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The Independent details some of Brin’s history and his difficulties with Google’s work in China.

Microsoft’s take appears to resonate with Google’s CEO. It appears to also echo the political stand that favors “engagement” with oppressive regimes over the principled rejection of any oppression. Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates, CEO Steve Ballmer, and Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie have all rejected pulling out of China.

In contrast, Twitter cofounder and CEO Evan Williams elaborated at the World Economic Forum on Twitter’s plans to make the service less prone to censorship such as has been attempted in China and Iran. In fact, on 9 December 2009, a Chinese lawyer was jailed briefly for teaching about Twitter and how to use it.

What makes this interesting is the far-reaching impact that Google’s hack and response is having. Politicians are talking about stands against China; diplomats are reconsidering US-Chinese relations; companies are reconsidering their Chinese operations; security specialists are considering new computer security implications; and some are worrying about their Chinese jobs. Censorship is being discussed like never before.

One organization dedicated to freedom of the press around the world is Reporters Sans Frontieres (www.rsf.org). RSF has an extensive section about China, as well as other countries. They have also published a guide for cyber-dissidents as well.

Google v. China: the Saga Continues

Last Thursday, 21 January 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out against Internet censorship and stated that the United States would take a stronger stance against Internet censorship; Chinese censorship was referenced several times in the speech. Both ComputerWorld and CNet had articles covering her speech.

During the speech, Secretary Clinton urged US companies to push back against censorship.

What is interesting is this: while the focus is currently on China, they are not the only one; in particular, Australia seems to be favoring censorship. A lot of European countries have censorship as well.

For its part, China responded angrily against Clinton’s comments. China said that the US position elaborated by Clinton could harm US-China relations. China also denied having anything to do with the attack on Google or other companies.

Computer security specialist Bruce Schneier published an essay on CNN.com talking about the security weaknesses inherent in backdoor access systems, using the Google hack as an example. John Mark Walker contests Bruce’s facts in an article on OStatic, stating that it was not a backdoor at all, but rather something much less sinister – a product used by Google to assist in responding to warrants.

Earlier, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer announced that Microsoft would remain in China, and would not pull out of that market.

Google has also delayed the release of their new phone, the Nexus One, into the Chinese market.

Google’s research into the hack now suggests that Google China insiders may have assisted. Attackers also used instant messaging to try to get Google employees to click on links to malware. After compromising one account, the attackers would send a link to all buddies from that account, hoping that someone would click.

Chinese human rights web sites reported this week that they had been attacked; while unproven, they suspect the Chinese authorities. One of the organizations stated that attacks come during “sensitive times” in China, such as the current Google-China flap.

UPDATE: There is also some suspicion (though no proof) that the Chinese were responsible for attacking three US oil companies in 2008 according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor discussed in an article in ComputerWorld.

UPDATE: Over at the Register, an article points out that the attack (which had been suggested as uniquely Chinese in origin) appears to be much older and more widely known than previously acknowledged. This means that the proof that China was the actual culprit becomes weaker.

Whither Sun Microsystems?

The recent fourth quarter reports from server manufacturers was dim, and Sun Microsystems was by far the worst (with a 35% loss compared to the same period last year). On top of this, Sun just announced in October (within their 8K filing for the SEC) intentions to lay off 3000 employees in the next 12 months. Infoworld also had a nice piece on this; according to Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, the company is losing $100 million each month the European Union regulators put off accepting the merger.

With the Oracle acquisition in progress, there are a lot of questions about the future viability of Sun Microsystems, and of some of its products.

I don’t think people realize just how important the Sun group of products are, and what an impact it would have if most – or even some – of the products were cancelled. Consider this list of Sun products:

Most of the most popular products were mentioned by Oracle in their Sun Acquisition FAQ (PDF), stating that they will increase money spent on each over what Sun spent. These products include: Java, Solaris, SPARC, StarOffice, NetBeans, virtualization products, Glassfish, and MySQL. Other products were not mentioned – such as Lustre, the Modular Data Center, and others.

The list above also does not list the technologies that were spearheaded by Sun – and some still are: ZFS, NFS, NIS (and NIS+), dtrace, containers, and smc.

It would be unfortunate – and materially significant – if Sun were to go under or if any of the majority of their products were to be cancelled. One can only hope this does not happen…

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