A chink in the armour

A chink in the armour

It had to happen sooner or later, but it looks like IBM researchers have found a fl aw in products offered by the IT industry's latest golden child. There's no doubting that virtualization is the hottest ticket of the moment. In fact, it is the most disruptive business technology for a long time. I certainly can't remember hearing of any other channel seminars where resellers queued up for half an hour just to get in because the event was massively oversubscribed. It seems every customer is talking about virtualisation and wants to know what it can do to improve their business. As a result, every reseller wants to jump on the bandwagon for fear of leaving potential business on the table.

As iPod is to MP3 player; so VMware is to virtualisation - at least until Microsoft gets its act together. For a long time it has seemed like VMware could do no wrong but finally somebody has found a chink in the armour that's worth pausing for thought.

According to IBM, users that have not updated their virtualisation software could face serious security risks thanks to a trio of flaws in the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server that ships with VMware. The DHCP software assigns IP addresses to the various virtual machines but could be exploited to gain control of the computer.

That could obviously be very bad news for an organisation running lots of applications on the same box although, admittedly, the attacker would first need to gain access to the virtual machine's software and the DHCP server is not typically configured to be available via other machines.

Although the fl aw is a minor one, and has already been patched, it does raise concerns around putting so many eggs in one (virtual) basket. And I can't shake the mental image of IBM, which has been putting virtualization in its mainframes for about four decades without ever managing to make it sexy, locking a whole team of engineers in a lab until they come up with something to kick sand in VMware's face. How dare VMware make a wildly profitable business out of a technology that Big Blue has been integrating forever?

In other news this week, Dell announced an online recycling services for SMBs in the US that have fewer than 10 pieces of equipment to recycle.

The fee is $US25 per box for a service that is the latest example of the direct vendor spruiking its environmental credentials. The company claims it recovered 78 million pounds (35.45 million kg) of unwanted computer equipment from its customers for reuse or recycling in 2006.

I think we can expect to see Dell playing the green card rather heavily in the months and years ahead as it looks for a new way to stand out from the crowd. Price is no longer the differentiator that it was and, as we have seen, Dell has struggled to scale its business into the high-growth SMB market where most potential customers want to touch and feel before they buy.

Only time will tell if environmental responsibility can help Dell reinvent itself as a green crusader of the IT industry and shift focus away from being the price leader. However, being greener than thou is likely to be fiercely contested by the market leaders until it becomes the norm.

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