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Revenue CIO faces an uphill struggle
The challenges facing Steve Lamey, CIO at HM Revenue & Customs, will be of no surprise to anyone who has worked in the private sector and then in the public sector.
As mentioned by Dennis Keeling (Letters, 21 June), there is a "culture of denial" in the civil service. But can we blame civil servants for this? The old adage that pets look like their owners comes to mind. How often do we hear of a government minister being sacked or disciplined?
If there are any problems they either resign to "spend more time with their family", or move to a job in the EU or some large quango, only to come back into politics after a couple of years when they think everyone has forgotten what they did.
We see a similar scenario in the civil service: how many high-ranking civil servants are ever disciplined? Be they mid-grade civil servants in a government department, top-ranking police officers or judges, we see the same old tricks pulled: they retire on ill health grounds or are moved to another department. In the civil service and politics the default state seems to be to deny everything.
Lamey will find things very difficult. He will face opposition at nearly every turn, especially from middle-rank civil servants. He may get some support from a few at the very top and probably more from those at the bottom, but it will be a battle. I hope he succeeds, but I think he will fail.
Kerry Hoskin, PC network manager, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Changing from AC to DC power can cool blades
Correspondents Iain Davie (Letters, 7 June) and Ian Jenkins (Letters, 28 June) have pointed out the salient facts about blade servers producing too much heat for a confined space.
A typical 42U cabinet, fully populated with such servers, could pump out 14 kilowatts, and two rows of 10 cabinets would need 280 kilowatts of cooling. The proposition that we resurrect liquid cooling, similar to that used by IBM mainframes in the 1970s and 1980s, would require a considerable investment in the equipment to supply chilled water.
However, if the blade servers were to produce less heat, the datacentre's normal air conditioning would probably cope. This nirvana could be achieved if the servers used low-voltage DC power instead of 240 volt AC.
When you consider that the most inefficient part of computer equipment is the transformer/ rectifier, eliminating these components will result in better power and heat efficiency.
One company, Rackable Systems, has already taken this approach and promises high-density blade computing without the environmental problems. I suspect that other manufacturers will follow in due course.
Gareth Williams, senior infrastructure analyst, Alliance & Leicester
Figures stand up for cutting software piracy
Following Terry Billany's query (Letters, 21 June), I would like to clarify the source of the statistics that I quoted in my letter (7 June).
The figures in question - that a reduction in illegal software use by 10 percentage points would create 40,000 additional jobs and contribute £2bn to UK tax revenue - were the findings of the largest ever study into software piracy, conducted by the Business Software Alliance and research group IDC in 2003, and would be achieved over a four-year period. The research spanned 57 countries and can be found in the archive section of IDC's website.
John Lovelock, director general, Federation Against Software Theft
The real meaning of ITIL and better practice
Jason D'Silva's answer to the Next Move question "How can I get back into the private sector?" (Computer Weekly, 21 June) made some good points, but I would like to clarify the comment on ITIL. He wrote, "It would be wise to train in the ITIL project management methodology."
ITIL is not a project management methodology, but the IT Infrastructure Library, which is a framework of best practices that helps an IT organisation to develop process over the various disciplines.
With better-defined and efficient processes, the IT organisation is able to meet governance requirements, show defined and documented procedures, and better align IT with the business.
Azard Omardeen, principal consultant, Consulting-Portal
Retaining girls' interest in IT is right way forward
In response to Mel Richardson's letter about the girls' clubs website, www.cc4g.net, sending out the wrong message (Letters, 28 June), I mention the following extract from the website FAQ:
"This project attempts to tackle this gender imbalance through retaining girls' interest in IT at the age at which it is usually lost." That says it all. If this project attracts some young women into IT, of which only a few stay because the rest find it not what was expected, it will have done its job.
I worked in structural engineering before moving to IT, and I have friends or associates who have worked in more "interesting" industries like publishing, music and even modelling. These industries have an image that is often glamorous and yet, like IT, have a full complement of dull, boring jobs as well as the interesting ones.
Nobody has complained that they are attracting people under false pretences. You join, and if you don't like it, you move on.
Neil Haughton, Reading
Web can provide the mobile answer for SMEs
Deploying mobile technology across the workforce can revolutionise the way a smaller business operates (Computer Weekly, 14 June).
However, your article fails to mention "zero-client" technology, where mobile devices use a built-in client: the web browser. Connecting to the back office live across the internet means real-time data, no client software installation during deployment and upgrade, and no data stored on the device.
Martin Taylor, Impact Applications
Government advice to beat Trojan attacks
It was with disappointment that I read your article on the government's latest proposals to beat the recent wave of Trojan attacks (Computer Weekly, 21 June). While direction from the government is welcomed, its suggestion that companies need to patch and patch again to defeat Trojan threats only scratches the surface of the problem that organisations face.
The more fundamental issue is the software industry's attitude to the products it designs and sells. Why should companies be forced to take remedial action every time a new security threat emerges based on flaws in rush-released software? This would not be tolerated in any other industry. Telling companies that they need to institute a patching regime adds insult to injury - it is like sticking a plaster over a gaping wound.
The software industry needs to take a long, hard look at the way applications are created - it does not have to be like this. New methodologies such as agile programming exist to help developers overcome the problem of creating insecure, buggy software. Unless the software industry mends its ways, it will begin to lose both business credibility and customers - this is the message the government should be giving.
Sean Hanly, director, Exoftware
Using 'unreliable' IT to boost efficiency
Although products that intentionally incorporate "unreliability" may not exist yet, the principles underlying Gartner Dataquest's notion that "unreliable" technologies deliver better computing performance (Computer Weekly, 28 June) have in fact been in operation in many businesses for years, not least because they allow organisations to avoid a great deal of expense and ill-affordable downtime.
The Google model, whereby large quantities of cheap technology are able to provide an effective service with the added safety net of high redundancy, certainly applies to the systems I work with.
My fellow geeks may understand the comparison with Star Trek's Borg, but real-world examples can be viewed in many a street-corner cybercafe, in which a room full of people are able to do everything they need using obsolete 400MHz desktop PCs that are available in such profusion that individual reliability becomes irrelevant.
Roger Thomas, Words About Media
Pushing up cost of data storage
Despite the falling prices for storage hardware, the cost of managing storage has gone up, thanks to complexity, volume of data and regulations.
Companies are not willing to bear the high costs, excessive business risks and regulatory penalties associated with chronic back-up failures and poor system performance. Crucially, spending on software driven by compliance also focuses on the primary culprit behind data storage costs - the high cost of managing systems.
The focus of the storage industry has shifted to providing controls and tools that reduce the cost and improve the effectiveness of data management. In a sense, the traditional category of "storage" does not encapsulate the breadth of the storage industry.
In April, Gartner released an industry segmentation and definitions report for the storage management software market. It categorised data protection management as a new, fast-growing segment of the storage industry. The advent of global regulations, such as Basel 2 and Sarbanes-Oxley, have brought regulatory concerns about operating risk to the top of the corporate agenda. Organisations need to manage complex, distributed data in order to be compliant.
Drake Pruitt, Bocada
This was first published in July 2005