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Oracle should heed warnings from the trends in enterprise

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The findings from Forrester's latest research on Oracle point to a worrying trend in the enterprise software landscape. Businesses are not generally doing large, transformational IT projects built around traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP).

The key suppliers are adapting their enterprise software portfolios in a bid to drive more sales. But the CIOs Forrester spoke to are not convinced it is a strategy that is working for Oracle.

In Forrester's Oracle's Dilemma: Applications Unlimited report, many people are happy with the software they are running and have no real plans to migrate onto Oracle's future enterprise platform.Since Oracle is a strategic supplier to many, there is little interest among CIOs for migrating away. There are concerns that Oracle may turn some of the products they have deployed into cash cows, potentially with high, annual maintenance fees and licensing costs.

Members of the IT director's group, the Corporate IT Forum, are angered by the changes to Oracle licensing. Head of research Ollie Ross told Computer Weekly that members were being pushed into taking certain technical directions like OVM (Oracle VM), rather than VMware. The forum's executive director, David Roberts, believes many CIOs are reacting negatively to Oracle's exceptionally high-pressured sales techniques. This is reflected in the supplier's poor software licence revenue when compared with its nearest rival, SAP. If businesses are not upgrading at a rate that looks good on the company's balance sheet, Oracle will need to take a different approach.

Newham Borough CIO Geoff Connell is concerned that Oracle (and other top tier vendors) will increase licensing, because their customers are "locked into" their products due to historical investments.He argues that many software suppliers appear to be ignoring the financial climate and are attempting to make up for reduced sales volumes with higher unit costs.

Coercing customers to buy more software is not the right way to go. But Oracle executives have not shown much willing to go wholeheartedly down the software as a service (SaaS) route, or even offer a roadmap for integrating SaaS and on-premise enterprise IT. Nor has Oracle been willing to adapt software licensing to make it more virtual machine friendly. The research shows customers are unhappy and the time for Oracle to make some tough decisions is long overdue.

Connell believes if Oracle and other leading suppliers continue to hike prices, users will abandon commercial enterprise software for open source alternatives.

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Software licence audits: Confidence in Your Choices

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Over the last few weeks Computer Weekly has written about software licensing and how suppliers are demanding IT departments run costly software audits. At the same time, we have started looking at the complexities of licensing, such as in a virtualised environment.

In this guest blog post, Martin Thompson, a SAM consultant and founder of The ITAM Review and The ITSM Review, provides some top tips on what to do when you receive an audit letter:

martin-thompson.jpg

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) spam is in vogue.

You may have received one or two of these recently:

"You are entitled to £2,648 in compensation from mis-sold PPI on credit cards or loans."

PPI claims and other spam solicitations are the bane of our inboxes. The vast majority of us know to simply ignore them. Unfortunately the handful of those who do respond justifies the exercise to the spammers. 

This mass-marketing technique is used in exactly the same fashion by trade bodies such as BSA and FAST to force their agenda and start software audit activity.

Supplier audits are a fact of life, some software audit requests are serious and expensive, some are merely spoof marketing campaigns - how can IT professionals decipher between the two?

Whilst I'm not a legal expert, fifteen years in this industry has taught me that there instances when you should respond to an audit request and instances when you should simply walk away.

When to Take Software Audit Requests Seriously

In my opinion there are two instances when you should take software audits seriously:

  1. When you are approached by a software publisher directly with reference to a signed contract
  2. When you are approached by an organisation with real proof of a breach of intellectual property law.

Contracts with software publishers have 'Audit Clauses', the right to come and audit you periodically at your own cost. Your company either signed this and agreed to it or will need to fight against it. Smart companies negotiate it out of the contract by demonstrating maturity in their internal processes.

Breaches of intellectual property supported by evidence are a legal dispute and should be treated as such - by passing the issue over to your legal team in the first instance.

When to Ignore Software Audit Requests

Requests for 'Self-Audit' or other direct mail fishing exercises can be ignored.

Trade bodies such as BSA and FAST commonly write letters to companies requesting them to 'Self-Audit' or declare a 'Software Amnesty'.

These organizations are masters at crafting well-written legal sounding letters but have no legal authority whatsoever. Nor do they have the resources to follow up to every letter sent.

Just like any other complaint made to your business it should only be taken seriously if there is firm evidence or the organisation issuing the dispute is supported by the appropriate government agency. For example the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has no teeth whatsoever unless accompanied by HM Customs and Excise.

Confidence in Your Choices

IT departments with the appropriate Software Asset Management (SAM) processes in place have both the confidence and the supporting data to discriminate between bogus claims and genuine supplier audit requests.

Whilst much noise is made in the industry of senior management being sent to prison or the company name being dragged through the gutter - the real and compelling downside to a lack of software management is UNBUDGETED cost and DISRUPTION. Surprise license costs and massive disruption whilst IT staff are diverted from key projects to attend to an audit or hunt down the appropriate data.

Unexpected software audits can be good for your health in the longer term if it allows the organisation to realize it is out of control.

SAM is so much more than compliance and counting licenses. Organisations with a solid SAM practice are more nimble, competitive and dynamic. No more stalling on that virtualisation project because we're unsure of the licensing costs, no more uncertainty about moving to the cloud because we don't know how that leaves us contractually. SAM provides the business intelligence to innovate and take action.

Martin is an independent software industry analyst, SAM consultant and founder of The ITAM Review and The ITSM Review. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.


Oracle hardware support rip-off

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The Service Industry Association has filed a complaint against Oracle in Europe and the US concerning the limitations Oracle puts on its hardware support.

 

SIA executive director Claudia Betzner says that  if a business selects an independent hardware support provider for hardware maintenance of current Sun/Oracle hardware:

  1. Oracle will refuse to support any Sun/StorageTek hardware in the Enterprise.
  2. Oracle will refuse to repair equipment on a "time and materials" basis.

She says Oracle wil charge businesses 150% of the cost of hardware support to recertify their equipment and refuse access to formerly freely available security patches and firmware updates, even if those updates are related to embedded chip sets or micro-code.

 

The Oracle hardware and systems support policies document states:

In the event that technical support lapses for more than 90 days or was not purchased at the time you acquired your hardware system, then your hardware system must be qualified as service-ready before technical support can be reinstated. To qualify as service-ready you must acquire the Premier Support Qualification Service (at the then current fees) and meet all requirements set forth by the service team to obtain a qualification certificate for your hardware system.


Upon the commencement of technical support a reinstatement fee will be assessed. The reinstatement fee is equal to 150% of the last-paid technical support fee, or, if technical support was never acquired, 150% of the applicable technical support fee for the covered hardware system, prorated from the date technical support is being ordered back to the date technical support lapsed (or the hardware order date if technical support was never purchased).

From the SIA's complaint it looks like Oracle's support policy does not help customers. Oracle can charge what it likes for hardware support and customers will have to pay. If the SIA is right , Oracle is preventing access to free patches, unless the customer uses Oracle's own support.

IE 8 and IE 9 incompatibility: Thousands of sites are failing

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Last month Microsoft warned developers they "may" experience problems with IE8 and IE9 incompatibility:

 

"Some Web sites may not be displayed correctly or work correctly in Windows Internet Explorer 8 or in Windows Internet Explorer 9 Beta. This problem does not occur in earlier versions of Internet Explorer, and the affected Web sites continue to be displayed correctly and to work correctly in Windows Internet Explorer 7."

According to Microsoft: 

  1. Menus, images, or text are in the wrong positions on some Web sites.
  2. Some Web site features do not work.
  3. You receive script error messages on some Web sites.
  4. Internet Explorer stops working or crashes on some Web sites.

Even Microsoft's own site has a fudge to workaround the IE8/9 incomatibility issues. It uses the following tag to force IE7 compatibilty:

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=EmulateIE7" /><meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=EmulateIE7" />

According to some expert, there are literally thousands of web-based applications and web sites, that will fail to render correctly in IE8 and IE9. Microsoft's own list for IE9 lists over 1111 sites including:

youtube.com
yell.com
wsj.com
vodafone.co.uk
ups.com
ulsterbankanytimebanking.co.uk
tomtom.com
theaa.com
national-lottery.co.uk
garmin.com
fujitsu.com
etrade.com
dailymail.co.uk
citibank.com
britishairways.com
bbc.co.uk

For more info please look at: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ie/archive/2008/06/10/introducing-ie-emulateie7.aspx and http://blogs.msdn.com/b/askie/archive/2009/03/23/understanding-compatibility-modes-in-internet-explorer-8.aspx.

 

HP fails to tell customers which PCs are affected by Sandy Bridge flaw

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People on the HP desktop hardware support forum have waited days for the company to do the honourable thing and list the PC models affected by the Sandy Bridge flaw. The best the leading PC company could do was send out instructions on how users can check their PC's configuration using Windows Control Panel:

Detecting Sandy Bridge chipset flaw on HP

Surely HP cannot expect a busy IT department or reseller to check every single installed PC?

Tele-working is far better than delays on Southern Trains

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Having endured another Southern Trains disaster today, I reckon it's time people boycott the daily commute. The trains are rubbish, the road system is useless and we are made to pay more and more for third-rate services, just so we can do a day's work.

Car tax, fuel duties and rail fares are on the rise. It doesn't make sense just to given staff a pay rise, which immediately fills the pockets of the government and rail companies. How can that boost the economy?

I propose we sell the second car, don't renew the annual season ticket and work from home at least two days a week

For businesses to get by in these tough economic conditions they have to do things differently. Given that most people have more sophisticated computer systems at home than the utterly inappropriate IT they use at work - why bother with a big HQ with corporate IT systems at all. Instead, downsize the office space and give staff the freedom to buy the equipment and software they feel most happy using.

Corporate IT's role is then to provide guidelines and standards, which allows staff to interface with the corporate systems. For instance,  the company accepts Word and Excel docs - so if you prefer OpenOffice  or use Android or iOS, then you need an Office suite that allows you to save in .doc and .xls format.

On the corporate front, get rid of the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement for desktop software, offer hot-desking and use Citrix to provide users secure, audited access to back-end systems, based on their job roles. Finally negotiate new contracts for software based on acual usage.

I interviewed Bill Jensen and Josh Klein, co-athours of Hacking Work, last week about how staff are already working round the restrictions of traditional corporate culture. Businesses are hampered by legacy ways of working that date back to the industrial revolution.

It's time for change. I've already got rid of the car and I hope by next year I won't be enduring Southern Trains any more!

Why Microsoft should make cars

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Microsoft often gets slated for breaking the rules of industrial standardisation. A few years ago General Motors issued a press release which stated:

If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.

2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.

3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull over to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.

4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive, but would run on only five percent of the roads.

6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single "This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation" warning light.

7. The airbag system would ask "Are you sure?" before deploying.

8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

9. Every time a new car was introduced, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again, because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

10. You would have to press the "Start" button to turn the engine off

Now I hired my first StreetCar yesterday. Car clubs are a great idea for people who only need to drive occasionally but there's a catch. You end up driving a variety of cars and,unfortunately  modern cars are all different, so getting into an unfamiliar car for the first time is a nightmare:

They may or may not have an ignition key

Thanks to computer control, you may have to depress the clutch, put the hand brake on, or some other combination of events to get the engine started.

Central locking never works the same way

All the knobs and switches are in different places

The important dials like fuel and speed never look the same

Some cars deliberately switch the engine off when you're at the lights so you think you've stalled it

Each car has its own unique way of getting into reverse (on a manual gearbox

There's a start button to switch off the engine

While MS gets its fair share of bad publicity, it has, by and large, built a massive standardisation effort around the PC Windows platform.

Funny how the car makers have actually copied the IT industry and quite telling that GM is owned by the US Treasury Department, and Microsoft isn't?

The problem with Apple

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The media seems to love the iPhone and iPad. TV gadget shows, celebrities and  journalists feed the hype over a new Apple product. An iPhone or iPad launch is a big event, which drives more and more people to  buy products on Day One of launch, before anyone has even reviewed the product.

 

This means that products are not properly beta tested, such as the left-handed problem on the iPhone 4. It is entirely Apple's fault - for not running extensive quality assurance and product tests. If Apple is such a great brand, the it should offer customers the very highest quality products. Unfortunately, this is not hw the Apple marketing machine currently works. Let's hope that today its execs have to admit they were wrong, and agree to recall millions of products to fix the ridiculous iPhone 4 problem, which could have been spotted by any beta tester.

PayPal glitch holds up legit payments

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I received this statement from PayPal today:

Unfortunately, due to a technical issue, we mistakenly held some of the funds for your payments, which showed up as a "Pending" balance in your account. Rest assured, you're not currently subject to this policy and the issue has been corrected. We know this may have been frustrating and apologise for any inconvenience.

Every payment I have received via PayPal in the last 15 months has been subject to this "technical issue". I think it is about time PayPal compensated those people affected.

 

Thanks so much for your atttachment

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Why do people send large unsolicited attachments? I have just deleted 7 Mbytes in two attachments from Sony's PR agency - Borkowski. People really need to go on a training course on email dos and don'ts. Storage costs money and sending large email attachments means that someone will have to store that 7 Mbyte of attachments for several years, on discs and tapes, which consume electricity, need constant upgrading and require greater amounts of storage space. There is an environmental impact.
Also, let's not forget that I probably wasn't the only person to get the info on the 24 megapixel Sony Alpha α850. If 1000 people were cc:ed on the email and received the same attachment, over 7 Gbytes of data would have been sent across the internet this morning - just for a single press release from one company. What a waste.
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