RIM Slides, HP Offers DC Architecture, Security Breaches
In the latest round of disappointing news from smartphone vendor Research in Motion, Ltd. , the company declared that it will miss quarterly projections and has solicited the advice of two banks to help it evaluate future revenue options. To improve the energy efficiency of data center operations, Hewlett-Packard, Co.’s new Net-Zero Energy Data Center architecture works to marry renewable energy supply with IT workloads. Lastly, several security breaches leaked passwords onto the Web.
- Things continue to decline for troubled smartphone vendor RIM as the company announced that it will miss previous estimates for its March-June quarter and that it has hired two banking firms to help it evaluate future opportunities. The company further declared that it intends to institute "significant" staff reductions this year as it aims to shave $1 billion out of its operating costs. Sales of BlackBerries in the U.S. have fallen more than 60 percent since 2009 while its stock has plummeted 93 percent since its high in 2008; reaching its lowest level since 2003. Hoping for a marked turnaround after the release of the highly-revised BlackBerry 10 later this year, new CEO Thorsten Heins has previously declared that the company will abandon the consumer market to focus on enterprise sales. The company now claims 78 million subscribers worldwide and accounts for approximately 6.5 percent of the global smartphone market. RIM's secure, managed network and robust patent portfolio could be worth north of $8 billion. Elsewhere, RIM also announced that it is discontinuing production of the 16 GB PlayBook tablet and will concentrate production on the larger 32 GB and 64 GB models.
- HP Labs has unveiled a new data center architecture, called the HP Net-Zero Energy Data Center, designed to cut total power usage by 30 percent and dependence on grid power by more than 80 percent. The model centers around a management architecture that marries IT workload planning and energy and cooling resources using four core HP modules. A prediction module forecasts costs and availability, a planning module balances workload with processing requirements, and an execution module allows for real-time management. Lastly, a verification and reporting module helps ensure gaps are closed between predictions and real-world behaviors. The paradigm calls for matching energy supply with energy usage required by the IT workload to maximize the usage of available energy. Non-essential, batch workloads that do not require immediate processing would be scheduled during daylight hours when power from solar arrays is most plentiful, for example.
- Several high-profile breaches were reported this week including one where 6.5 million LinkedIn passwords were leaked on the Internet. While it is unclear when the hack took place, a hacker possibly based out of Russia posted the hashed passwords sans usernames to a Russian forum over three days in the last week. One leading security firm surmises that about 60 percent of the SHA-1 passwords have already been cracked. LinkedIn has said that it is contacting users whose accounts have been compromised and instructing them as to how to reset their passwords. In an unrelated attack, dating site eHarmony has also admitted that an unknown quantity of member passwords has been stolen. Presidential nominee Mitt Romney had one of his personal e-mail accounts compromised this week by an anonymous prowler who was able to execute a password reset by correctly guessing the answers to password reset security questions. This follows the method employed to obtain access to one of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's personal accounts nearly four years ago.
Experton Group POV: RIM's prospects are getting grimmer for its future as an independent entity. The company is having issues selling its already-manufactured, old-style BlackBerry devices and is facing another write-down as it tries to unload them at severely discounted prices. While Heins is at least outwardly intent on restoring RIM to its former glory and keeping its independence, the market has moved so far beyond the BlackBerry and its closed-network paradigm. The company's two large assets consist of its patent stockpile and its secure, proprietary network; the sale or rental of either of which would potentially afford the company the cash to remain independent but would not further its position as a hardware vendor. Similarly, BlackBerry 10 is not enough of a game changer to win back converts or invite new users into the fold; thus, it will need to turn to adopting a licensing or sale of key assets. IT executives requiring the highest-levels of security should continue to use BlackBerry solutions for mobile users but should have exit strategies at the ready as changes are likely afoot. HP continues to cement its role as a leading provider of environmentally cost-effective solutions for new data center architectures and much can be learned from their latest architectural design. The demand for new computing, storage, and cooling resources along with the increasing rate of technology change are forcing enterprises globally to address operational resource constraints and cost concerns in new and innovative ways. The solutions chosen for new and upgraded data centers should incorporate the best practices demonstrated by leading technology firms that integrate concepts such as free cooling, renewable power, and resource optimization into their designs.
IT executives building new data centers are advised to invest in technologies that meld energy savings, modularity, and rapid hardware refresh capabilities to maximize investments and enable needed IT agility. The latest set of password leaks demonstrates how no entity is immune from attack and that prestigious targets are among the most desirable. The attack vector used to expose hashed passwords for LinkedIn is not known as yet; however, the use of SHA-1 is somewhat disconcerting though expected. Despite SHA-1 hashes having known weaknesses that were identified more than a half-decade ago, it remains the most widely used of the hash functions. SHA-2 hashes have not yet been compromised and a new SHA-3 hashing schema will be selected later this year. IT executives should have guidelines requiring the replacement of compromised technologies within timelines appropriate to the perceived exposure, and where they cannot be replaced rapidly, additional layers of physical, technology, and verification security should be enacted.