From Boise to Big Apple in Search of Tomorrows Winning Tech

Security, CRM, and CeBIT conferences highlight need to fuse PC cost-effectiveness with enterprise IT strength.

Few things get my fingers moving faster than having a flight to catch, and as I write this Im almost on my way to LAX. Ill be on the Sunday-night red-eye to JFK for this weeks CeBIT America trade show, the concurrent DCI CRM Conference, and the formal presentation of eWEEKs Fourth Annual Excellence Awards.

Ill be participating in the judging of the Best of CeBIT awards, conducted jointly by eWEEK and PC Magazine as we did last year. Well be looking around the show floor for any eligible products, not just confining ourselves to those that were formally entered before the deadline earlier this month, so please let me know if theres anything youd like to have us search out among the exhibits.

For that matter, if you have any comment on last years choices for the awards, Id be interested—especially if you have in-the-trenches experiences with the winners that youd like to share.

My talks at various CeBIT and CRM sessions will deal with real-time business intelligence demands, Web services opportunities, and the question of what Microsofts Longhorn portfolio will offer those pursuing either or both of those interests. Microsoft, regrettably, scheduled its TechEd conference at the same time, and I really do wish I could be in San Diego to get my crystal ball polished—but then again, with Longhorn now looking like a 2006 deliverable, perhaps the optical gear that I most need polished is my telescope instead.

Speaking of Microsofts visions for the future, I just returned from Boise, Idaho, where I spoke at the second annual InfoSec conference presented by that citys chapter of the Information Systems Security Association. While there, I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing fellow speaker John Wylder, who has the title of Strategic Security Advisor at Microsoft. John is the author of "Strategic Information Security," published last November, and was an IT security professional for roughly a decade before he joined Microsoft. He candidly informed the Boise audience that it wasnt easy to sell him on the idea of going to work for a company whose name was not, at the time he arrived there, a synonym for excellence in his field.

Today, though, John Wylder speaks with enthusiasm about the genuine culture of security in software design that is gaining momentum in Redmond. He shared a list of the companys action items, based on vigorous customer feedback: Customers want Microsoft to reduce the impact of malware, he said, and to simplify critical maintenance tasks and provide better guidance to IT professionals with many different priorities to balance.

The companys corresponding action items, he said, include improved security tools and update mechanisms, but he hastened to add that the company doesnt want to become the worlds leading example of good updating; rather, it wants to address customers desire not to have updating as a critical task at all.

For my own part, Id like to mention how much I appreciate the details that Microsofts update sites provide concerning workarounds for customers who prefer, for whatever reason, not to install a particular software update. When a particular vulnerability can be blocked by closing a port, instead of assuming the burden of testing and deploying a software patch, I know that I prefer to do it that way. I hope that the company will continue to make such information readily available, rather than moving its customers in the direction of automatic updates with no questions asked.

I owe you all a follow-up from last weeks letter, when I said that Id be talking with users of the ANTs Data Server from Burlingame, Calif.-based ANTs Software Inc.: a hybrid high-performance database product. Ive since spoken with Curt Miller, CTO at Wireless Services Inc. in Bellevue, Washington: He called himself "an ardent supporter" of the ANTs technology, saying that versions since 0.7 have "completely satisfied the dilemma" that he was having in seeking to combine the commodity pricing of SQL Server and PC-class hardware with the performance demands of his most critical applications.

"I go from ANTs to SQL Server and back again, the software doesnt care," Miller said. "SQL Server creaks on the same box where ANTs is going happily; I can take an application designed for SQL Server and move it, with minor code changes, to run on both without question."

That seems to me, after all these years, still to be the siren song of the industry: to retain the cost and productivity advantages of a well-focused skill set and a core portfolio of hardware and software standards, but to get the leverage of those skills and standards at all tiers of enterprise IT. Doing it securely is the latest major variation on the original PC theme, but it seems as if meaningful progress is finally being made.

Tell me where you see the most encouraging progress, or the most shocking stagnation, at


Check out eWEEK.coms Developer & Web Services Center at for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.


Be sure to add our developer and Web services news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page