Tag: Networking

Activist wants to stop Juniper being nice to staff

Juniper Networks is known as the best payer of staff in Silicon Valley. As a result its staff tend to be happy and work rather well.

Now according to Quartz, a dumb arse activist hedge fund wants to put a stop to Juniper doing that and make engineers work for much less.

Elliot Management revealed it has built a 6.2 percent stake in the company and is now pressing for wage cuts to revive the company’s flagging share price.

Elliot also thinks that the company is spending too much on research and development. Everyone knows you do not need R&D in the tech industry –  you can rely on the same product making you money for hundreds of years.

In a presentation to investors, the fund cites Juniper’s generous salaries to support its claim that the company spends too much.

It wants the company to cut costs by $200 million a year as well as streamlining its disparate portfolio of products. The goal is not to make a better company, or better products, but to give $3.5 billion in cash to shareholders through buybacks and dividends.

It thinks that the share price could be worth up to $40, compared to $25.50 currently. However, no one will want to work at the company, and it will lose technology ground to Cisco, but hey, shareholders will get more money. 

Apple's iCloud breaks

Apple’s ability to run an effective cloud system has been questioned after the entire edifice crashed for hours yesterday.

Apple’s iCloud faced a huge outage early Thursday, with services like iMessage, Photo Stream and Backup & Restore down for some.

According to Apple’s iCloud system status webpage, the downtime started at around 12:30 a.m. EDT and has continued for nearly 12 hours.

Apple lost its iCloud Documents, Photo Stream, iPhoto Journals, and Backup & Restore services. iMessage users saw some trouble and were unable to send or download attachments. There was a brief period in which users were unable to create an Apple ID.

The tame Apple press  rushed to defend the company, parroting the usual line that only a small percentage of users were affected by the outage. Apple typically says that any problem only affects a small number of users even when there have been a large number of complaints.

In this case, Apple said that only one percent of users had noticed any difference, but given that there are supposed to be 300 million members on the iCloud you are still talking about three million users, even if you believe the one percent figure.

This is the second time that Apple’s iCloud has been broken. In June more than 20 percent of users suffered from downtime.

Given that the cloud is supposed to grant immunity from downtime, there is something wrong with the way that Apple is doing it, particularly since it took so long to get up and running again.

Amazon and Google both had cloud outages recently but in those cases the services were down for minutes. 

Nokia to buy Nokia Siemens Networks

Struggling Finnish mobile company Nokia has written a $2.2 billion cheque to buy Siemens out of its Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) partnership.

The move is surprising as many thought that Nokia would be sitting on all the cash it could, as its deal with Microsoft fails to take it to the heights it anticipated.

While Nokia is not doing that well, the network gear specialist NSN has been posting profits in the past few quarters.

Nokia said it expected to close the transaction, subject to regulatory approval, during the third quarter of this year.

Nokia Siemens Networks will become a fully owned subsidiary of Espoo, alhough Nokia hasn’t yet announced what the restructured entity will be called.

Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser told Dow Jones Newswires, a while ago, that 2013 was the year his company would help “NSN to move into a better place” although it is strange that this was the place he had in mind, although we’ve seen Nokia’s HQ and it is very nice.

Now he is saying Nokia’s new acquisition is “an attractive opportunity to actively shape the telecom equipment market for the future and create sustainable value.”

Nokia CEO and ex Microsoft man, Stephen Elop, spoke highly of NSN’s recent financial growth.

Apple's iCloud is another networking failure

When Apple announced that it was moving into cloud based computing, the Tame Apple Press enthused about it so loudly the more sceptical voices were shouted down.

The reason there were sceptics was because while Apple gear might look sexy, its networking capability was legendarily pants. Right from its early days, Apple’s networking solutions were incredibly unreliable.

Anyone who had to suffer through the 1990s on AppleTalk who had not been reduced to a gibbering wreck was unlikely to trust Jobs’ Mob networking technology ever again.

Things did not get better either. From Apple server to AirPort, Jobs’ Mob seemed to be light years behind networking on other computing. When Steve Jobs returned, the inconsistency was made it even more unpleasant by the fact that every bit of networking gear was peddled with the same smugness as its consumer gear.

When we heard that the iCloud was coming out we expected there to be huge problems. Cloud technology is supposed to be cutting edge networking and it is exactly the sort of thing that Apple has done badly.

Yet, out trotted the usually marketing. Apple smugly told us that it was a “convenient and centralised way to manage data on Macs and iOS devices: sync contacts and bookmarks, re-download music and apps, back up iOS devices, and sync documents and data for third-party apps as MobileMe did.”

Hang on, MobileMe? That was launched to negative reviews and even Jobs could not work out what the product was supposed to do. When someone explained to him what it was supposed o be doing Jobs reportedly shot back, “So why doesn’t it do that?”

In an internal email sent to Apple employees in 2008, Jobs admitted that MobileMe was “not up to Apple’s standards”.

Jobs was expecting trouble when he announced iCloud in 2011 and it was supposed to entirely replace the still troubled MobileMe. According to CNN,  he asked why should people believe Apple when they were the ones who brought MobileMe to the cosmos.

Only a year later cracks are starting to appear in the iCloud distortion field. Third-party developers have begun to speak out about the difficulty involved in working with Apple’s cloud service.

The Verge said that people are moaning about data loss and corruption to unexpected Apple ID use cases. They are also unable to ship products with working iCloud support.

It is starting to look like Apple’s inability to understand networking is coming to fore again.

Bare Bones Software’s Rich Siegel told Ars Technica  that the iCloud is made up of too many bits, each with a role to play.

He said that there were many different ways in which the iCloud enables the syncing of data and users and developers are kept in the dark when things go wrong.

Apple’s iCloud simply declares that a file upload has timed out which is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, because it does not say what has gone wrong.

Jobs’ Mob also forgot to put in an option to recover, which means the user has to try again until it finally works, if it ever does.

Developers fume how iCloud handles a user’s data if the user chooses to turn off document and data syncing. For some reason this completely removes a user’s locally stored iCloud data.

This is all basic stuff for cutting edge cloud tech and the question was why Apple thought it was qualified to do it in the first place. If there were not a lot of people wanting to play with Apple’s Walled Garden of Delights, it is unlikely that developers would be following it at all.

Recently an outfit called Black Pixel wrote that iCloud and Core Data syncing had problems that it could not fix.

Since Apple has not been able to fix the problems, Black Pixel created its own syncing services  and moved to Dropbox instead.

iCloud’s failure represents a philosophical problem Apple just does not get. The cloud is networking and networking is allowing the free flow of communications between users. Apple’s philosophy is totally alien to that idea. The cloud is about things being interconnected and seamless. But to Jobs’ Mob each seam is another layer of protection, another thing to control and as a result it has built a controlled cloud which does not really work. 

Cisco sees off patent troll

Networking giant Cisco has managed to see off the patent troll, er, patent licensing firm, VirnetX.

According to Ars TechnicaVirnetX, which has 14 employees, has seen its stock price plummet after it lost a major patent trial in Texas.

A jury there ruled that Cisco did not infringe VirnetX’s patents on virtual private networks (VPNs), and that the networking giant didn’t have to pay $258 million in damages.

Seconds afterwards the company’s stock quickly fell by 40 percent and has since fallen another seven percent.

VirnetX had a lot riding on the Cisco case, losing nearly $27 million in 2012.

Patent trolls love having cases in Texas because the juries there are a little more sympathetic to patent holders.

Cisco general counsel Mark Chandler was, of course, over the moon. He was happy that a jury in Tyler, Texas, agreed with Cisco and added that Cisco will continue to do the “right thing” for its customers and shareholders by defending against patent infringement lawsuits that lack merit.

It is unlikely that the outfit will go away anytime soon and it has had a lot of success in the past. So far VirnetX has sued Cisco, Apple, and NEC. It won over $368 million from Apple earlier this year. It still has some separate litigation pending against Apple and Mitel.

VirnetX squeezed $200 million in a related patent case with Microsoft in 2010. In fact Vole was VirnetX’s first patent licensee. 

DARPA concerned over supply chain malware threat

US government agency Darpa has raised concerns over malicious software entering the supply chain of IT equipment procured by government departments.

IT equipment is made up of components produced in a wide range of countries, so there are potential security risks for hardware that is connected to secure or sensitive networks. This could mean a large amount of compromised mobile phones, network routers or PC workstations –  allowing for data extraction, or even the sabotage of critical operations.

There are many difficulties in adequately protecting against such attacks, with the large volume of commercially procured equipment making spotting security problems a tough job.

DARPA said that the ability to do this on a large scale for the Department of Defense is hampered by the time constraints of checking so many devices.  Developing a method to enable non-specialist technicians to determine that a device is one potential way to reduce risk, but it is by no means easy.

DARPA has proposed a Vetting Commodity IT Software and Firmware programme to look at ways to mitigate the risks posed by backdoors, malware and other vulnerabilities.   

Tim Fraser, DARPA program manager, said that the problems facing government departments is bigger than ever.

“DoD relies on millions of devices to bring network access and functionality to its users,” Fraser said. “Rigorously vetting software and firmware in each and every one of them is beyond our present capabilities, and the perception that this problem is simply unapproachable is widespread.” 

The goal of a vetting programme will be to develop a set of techniques, tools and demonstrations to help make some of these aims more achievable.

Malicious software entering supply chains is an increasing problem. In September, Microsoft claimed that its own investigations had uncovered that hardware sold directly to consumers was, in some cases, pre-loaded with malware. Though Microsoft was able to disrupt some of the attempts to infect computers in this fashion, it highlighted the ease with which supposedly secure supply chains can be compromised.  

David Emm, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky Labs, told TechEye that there are many ways malicious software can be hidden on hardware.

“Concern about the dangers of malicious software entering the supply chain of IT equipment is clearly growing, with network devices such as routers, access points and DSL modems providing a perfect hiding place for malware,” Emm said. 

“A recent example of this is a Brazilian attack that focused on just a single firmware vulnerability,” he said. “The Brazilian government confirmed that an estimated 4.5 million modems were compromised in the attack and were being used for different kinds of fraudulent activity.”

With IT equipment spending continuing to rise throughout most of the world there are increasing opportunities for those intent on spying or sabotaging systems to wreak havoc.

“The increasing dependence of individuals and organisations on devices of this sort is likely to mean that they attract more attention in the future,” Emm continued.  

“Unfortunately, while the risks from malicious software are becoming widely known, device security is often overlooked,” he said.

Cisco buys Meraki for $1.2 billion

Networking giant Cisco has been snuffling through the catalogues and come up with a new cloud company which caught its eye.

Cisco is to buy networking company Meraki for $1.2 billion in cash as part of its cloud and networking strategy.

According to the BBCMeraki has been around since 2006 when it was created by members of MIT’s Laboratory for Computer Science. It is expected to be hanging in Cisco’s wardrobe by January if the regulators and other moths like the concept.

Meraki is not a normal cloud company. It sells wi-fi technology, switching, security and mobile device management from the cloud with a focus on mid-sized businesses. Meraki has a $100 million bookings run rate, grown to 330 employees and a positive cash flow.

The deal means that Cisco can provide alternatives to traditional wi-fi deployment models like smaller competitors. The likes of Aruba Networks and Ruckus Wireless should be a little worried to suddenly have a big shark like Cisco swimming around in their small pond.

In a letter posted on the company’s website, Meraki’s Chief Executive Sanjit Biswas said Cisco had approached the company several weeks ago.

Initially the company told Cisco to go forth and multiply, partly because the networking giant had bad breath, but mostly because the company wanted an IPO.

After several weeks of arm twisting, Meraki changed its mind. 

Cisco boss, and former spook, makes finding leaker "a hobby"

A former CIA operations officer turned Cisco vice president of services, Mike Quinn, is reverting to his old skills to track down a corporate whistleblower.

According to Network World, a person inside Cisco leaked an internal company memo to a blogger and Quinn feels they have committed “corporate treason” and violated a “family” trust.  It sounds like he wants to take the bloke to some forest outside Berlin and deal with matters with a bullet to the back of the head.

The email, meant for salespeople, outlined Cisco’s internal response about a series of Network World stories examining a host of bidding and contract questions which was stuffing up the California higher education system and Cisco’s involvement.

Ironically, Quinn’s response, in an email sent to Cisco employees, was also leaked to the same blogger who published the original leak.

In the email Quinn invites the anonymous leaker to voluntarily step forward, concedes that such a confession is unlikely, and adds he will now make finding the leaker his hobby.

He warned that the leaker might want to ask around and he will find out that he likes to work on his hobbies.

Quinn said that the person or persons whom felt it was cool or correct to share this internal memo should now have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and admit that they did this, then resign.

He told the leaker that every two weeks Cisco puts the groceries on his or her table every two weeks and not the IT press.

Comments on the blog post describe Quinn’s email as “unprofessional,” “threatening,” “laughable,” “hilarious” and even a possible violation of whistleblower protection law. 

University exposes IT overcharging

It would appear that big companies like Cisco are losing lucrative government contacts because they want too much cash.

In a recent case, California State University found that Cisco’s proposals to refresh its 23-campus network were $100 million different to an offer from Alcatel-Lucent.

According to Computerworld, the difference was based on a project which required an identical number of switches and routers in various configurations.

Alcatel-Lucent won the project with a bid of $22 million. Cisco was the high bidder with a cost just under $123 million while HP wanted $41 million. Juniper offered $31.6 million, and Brocade offered $24 million. All of the prices included discounts and the price delta between Cisco and the other bidders widened after the discounts were applied, Davidoff said.

Cisco is the university’s current vendor and should have had a foot in the door. It isn’t clear why it put in a bid which was so high.

With the outfit not commenting, it does leave the field open to speculation. With the University being up front and saying that the spec was identical, one has to wonder why Cisco, with its knowledge of the technology, bid so high.

One scenario is that the bigger company names such as Cisco, Juniper and HP believed that they could slap in a bid to an education facility and charge what they liked. This might even have been true in the good old days when spec and corporate names mattered more.

It might just be that Alcatel-Lucent was quicker to respond to the market and discovered that it could pick up contracts by, er, offering lower prices.

Another scenario is that Cisco knew more of the true cost of the project because of its local knowledge. If this is the case then Alcatel-Lucent will have some explaining to do when its low bid faces huge cost overruns.

Of course it is also possible that the big networking companies have seen the government and education contracts as a gravy train for so long that they have been caught out when someone else breaks ranks and provides a contract for what it is worth.



Axe continues to fall at Cisco

Industry bellwether Cisco is continuing to cut jobs even after a wave of restructuring.

Cisco plans to cut about 1,300 jobs as part of “ongoing efforts to restructure the company”. These are more ongoing than the last ongoing efforts, which are clearly still, er going on.

In a press release the company said “it was performing a focused set of limited restructurings” that will “collectively impact approximately two percent” of our global employee population. The Techeye universal translator turned this phrase into “we have been watching our staff like hawks and think two percent of them should not have been hired in the first place and we plan to drop them.” By making it a global cull, it is hoped that no one will notice.

These actions are part of a continuous process to simplify the company and assess the economic environment in certain parts of the world, it said.  

Cisco had 65,223 employees at the end of its fiscal third quarter, according to its website. We guess it will have a few less by the end of the next quarter.

Cisco said that it had started a plan to cut expenses by $1 billion in an effort to make the company leaner and more efficient. We thought this just meant replacing all the chips in the staff cafe with a dollop of tofu. At the time it said it planned to cut 15 percent of its workforce and we expected these to have gone by now.