A vision of technology to come - January to March

Danny Bradbury looks at the IT roadmap for the first three months of 2003.

With the first month of 2003 out of the way, the IT industry is gearing for another year of tighter IT budgets among users. HP kicked off the year with the launch of a new family of AlphaServers based on the Alpha EV7 processor.

Ultimately designed as a stepping stone to servers using the Itanium range of CPUs that HP originally designed with Intel, these 64-bit boxes are more scalable than their predecessors, thanks to new inter-processor communications technology within the redesigned Alpha architecture. HP says that it had tweaked the EV6 design as much as possible for internal performance.

From a business perspective, customers can expect better application performance than the previous AlphaServer boxes. HP cites between 30 and 50% increases in performance on the GS1280-based Tru64 Unix environment compared with the existing 16-processor AlphaServer GS160, and between 50 and 100% when running OpenVMS on the same boxes.

The new systems, which are backwards compatible with the EV6, pave the way for more scalable servers – a 32-way GS1280 will arrive in the summer, with a 64-chip system towards the end of the year

Other news from January included SAP's NetWeaver, an architecture for creating systems that integrate SAP and non-SAP technology. Borland became the first licensee of Microsoft's .net Framework and Cisco added a function that provides automated network quality of service in IOS operating system used within its routers and switches






Feb:  WiFi Protected Access

In February, the WiFi industry will start testing a security protocol for wireless LANs called WiFi Protected Access. The original 802.11b standard (commonly known as WiFi today) used on today's wireless LANs was notoriously insecure because of a weakness in its encryption mechanism, called the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol.

A flaw in the algorithm for WEP made it possible to break the protocol’s encryption in a relatively short timeframe (depending on the level of network activity) using free software available over the Internet. A security standard called 802.1x was developed to help solve the problem, but it is not directly tied to the 802.11 b standard.

To overcome this limitation, the WiFi Protected Access uses a specification called the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) to scramble encryption keys, making them much harder to crack. WiFi Protected Access will also implement 802.1x and the associated Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) to provide a framework for strong user authentication.

Both TKIP and 802.1x will also be implemented in the 802.11i specification. This is likely to supersede WiFi Protected Access when it appears. It will give vendors more features including secure authentication, and enhanced encryption protocols.



March: UML 2.0

March will see the ratification vote for the second version of the Universal Modeling Language (UML). Originally developed by software development tools company Rational and subsequently standardised by middleware consortium the Object Management Group, UML is a graphical notation language designed to help companies model their businesses and the software applications underlying them. Version 2 of the language will add a number of enhancements that will make it easier for companies to build these models, leading to more accurate, functional software applications.

When it initially invited submissions for the second major version of the standard last year, the OMG issued four requests for proposals (RFPs). The first focuses on UML infrastructure. The OMG is looking to simplify modelling standards. It is also looking for ways to make the architecture of the UML more understandable, and easier to support within software development tools.

In the second RFP, the OMG has invited industry experts to modify the language so that it supported the modelling of structural patterns to support component-based development.

The third RFP solicited proposals to define a framework for the Object Constraint Language (OCL) - which is used to create graphical models of software.

Finally, proposals for exchanging UML-based diagrams were requested. One outcome of the new UML version is that it will be better positioned to support the Model Driven Architecture (MDA). This is, arguably, the most significant initiative from the OMG to date. MDA is a development architecture that will allow developers to build specifications for IT systems independent of the underlying computer platform.



Look out for articles on the rest of the technology year, coming soon.

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