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Swiss government rethinking Microsoft no-bid contract?

By Sean Kerner   |    May 29, 2009

From the 'let's take another look' files:

According to Swiss newspaper  Neue Zuericher Zeitung, the Swiss government might be reconsidering its no-bid contract deal with Microsoft which has been opposed by a consortium of 18 open source vendors.

Microsoft told me the other day, that the Swiss Federal Bureau for Building and Logistics (BBL) has been a Microsoft customer for many years and that the new contract was a 'renewal'.

It's unclear at this point from my point of view how this situation will end. It is clear that the issue of a no-bid contract is an issue, as is the fact that (according to Red Hat at least) the Swiss claimed they went with Microsoft because they saw no alternatives.

What this whole situation does though, is highlight the fact that open source vendors are not going to standby idly, while governments simply renew their proprietary choices without giving open source vendors at least the opportunity to bid on contracts.

Carriers router sales down by 13 percent in 1Q09

By Sean Kerner   |    May 29, 2009


From the 'no surprise' files:

Infonetics Research is reporting that the global service provider market for routers and switches declined in the first quarter of 2009 by 13 percent on a year over year basis, and 17 percent sequentially. The first quarter numbers are in stark contrast with the figure Infonetics reported for the fourth quarter of 2008 with modest growth of 4 percent on a year over year basis.

Considering that two of the leading carrier router vendors, Juniper and Cisco both have been reporting challenges in their service provider businesses, the Infonetics numbers are hardly a surprise to me.

"Now in the first quarter of 2009, the market is down 13 percent year-over-year, indicating the full effect of operator protective behavior in the thick of the downturn," Michael Howard, Infonetics Research principal analyst said in a statement. "While the first quarter of every year is typically a down one for the carrier router and switch market, 1Q09 showed the deepest sequential decline in years."

It's not all doom and gloom though.

Infonetics reported that the Asia Pacific region actually grew by 11 percent on a year over year basis during 1Q09. As well Howard noted that demands on the carriers are continuing to grow and as such they will have to upgrade their networking gear at some point to satisfy customer demand.

The idea that even in a downturn service providers will eventually have to buy networking equipment is also something I've heard repeatedly from Cisco and Juniper. With Cisco's big CRS-1 recently hitting its fifth anniversary and Juniper ramping up its T1600 sales, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the 2009 shapes up and whether or not CAPEX limitations in fact further restrict routing equipment buys.

Image: Juniper T1600

Fedora 11 release date slips to June 9th

By Sean Kerner   |    May 28, 2009

From the 'better late than never' files:

Fedora Linux 11 was originally scheduled to be out this week (May 26th), but that got bumped to June 2nd and now is being pushed back another week to June 9th.

Fedora staffer Jesse Keating noted that there was a late bug discovered in anaconda storage that is triggering the push back.

"The change is important
but invasive enough to require re-validating our storage tests," Keating wrote in a mailing list posting. "We were
already late in producing the Release Candidate and there is not enough
time to produce another one and validate it in time for next Tuesday's
release date. Therefore we have decided to enact another week long slip
of the release."

In the meantime, Fedora will push out a second release candidate and make sure it is validated ahead of June 9th.

"As much as we regret
slipping, we also wish to avoid easily trigger-able bugs in our release,
particularly in software that cannot be fixed with a 0-day update," Keating wrote.

Personally, I think this is a very responsible move. I know that many times with Fedora (and other Linux distros too) there is often a huge list of updates within the same day of an official release, making new releases a very painful and unstable experience. Ensuring that the release is a solid as possible - especially in core elements - is good thing.

There are lots of new items in Fedora 11 to look forward too including full ext4 by default, faster boot times,  DeviceKit and other features that will make this new release something to look forward too (when finally released).

Google Chrome 3 adds HTML5 video

By Sean Kerner   |    May 28, 2009

From the 'didn't they just release version 2?' files:

Google Chrome is on a rather rapid release schedule. The browser first debuted last year, hit version 2 (stable) last week and is now at version 3. Google Chrome has three versions stable, beta and dev.

The big line item improvement in Chrome 3 is support for the HTML 5 <video> tag. Basically what this means is that instead of a developer or site using an <embed> to call up a proprietary/external video player (flash or otherwise), the video can be call directly from HTML. Apple Safari 4 and Firefox 3.5 both already have preliminary support for <video>.

The <video> tag could potentially revolutionize web video delivery -- then again it might not.

At this stage it is not clear to me that all the browser vendors support the <video> tag in a standardized way. For example, Firefox uses it to call Ogg Theora (an open source video format) that is not yet nearly as widely used as Adobe's Flash. YouTube, arguably the world's most popular video site uses <embed> and considering how long it takes users to shift browsers it could take years until the bulk of the web's population is using <video> enabled browsers. By using an <embed> developers and sites likely will have a wider video audience for a few years to come.

That said the promise of <video> is large. As a standard HTML tag is is subject to more granular inline control than an <embed> object can provide.

It will be interesting to see where the HTML5 standards on <video> settle, but in the meantime it is great that Chrome is now embracing <video>.

Considering that Google updates its users more frequently than others and the fact that Google own YouTube, Google is in a unique position to actually make the <video> tag a very pracitical reality for millions of users sooner rather than later.

Snort open source IDS turns 10

By Sean Kerner   |    May 28, 2009


From the 'well aged hog' files:

When it comes to open source Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS) one name stands alone -- Snort. Yup the hog is still protecting lots of networks and today Sourcefire (Nasdaq:FIRE) --the lead commercial vendor behind Snort) issued a release celebrating Snorts 10th anniversary (technically the anniversary was December but hey...). SNORT claims 3.7 million downloads (a few of those might be mine) and over the last ten years it has continued to evolve with new IDS/IPS features.

Currently Snort is gearing up its 2.8.5 release which will add new VLAN policy functionality, which will provide new network control granularity. The new release is also set to include improved SSH traffic handling as well. Rate-based attack prevention is another key feature which will be in the upcoming release.

The big new release which I'm personally looking forward too is the Snort 3.0 release which is now an early Beta. Snort 3.0.0 is likely to be faster and is set to include native IPv6 and MPLS capabilities.

So happy (belated) birthday Snort and good luck for the next 10 years!

Microsoft responds on Swiss no-bid deal

By Sean Kerner   |    May 28, 2009

From the 'late comments' files:

A few days ago I wrote about the group of 18 open source vendors that were protesting a Government of Switzerland no-bid contract. At the time, Microsoft didn't get back to me immediately but they said they would -- and now they have -- with a 'Microsoft spokesperson statement.

"The Swiss Federal Bureau for Building and Logistics (BBL) has been a Microsoft customer for many years," Microsoft's email to me stated. "The recent contract between Microsoft and the BBL is a renewal of an existing contract between the two organizations. If you have additional questions, please contact the Swiss Government's Department of Purchasing and Logistics."

For the record I also directly contacted Red Hat which is one of the lead vendors opposing the Swiss deal. Red Hat also was only able to send me a brief statement and did not respond directly to the questions that I asked. Following is the statement I got from Red Hat.

"Free competition is a good thing. Lock in is not," Rob Tiller, assistant general counsel and vice president, IP for Red Hat said in an emailed statement. "Red Hat has long been a proponent of choice and we will continue to work to further free choice and competition."

So what does this all mean?

Well for one, it raises the question of whether or not a contract renewal should have an open bid (I think that a government likely should, but then again there are likely costs involved with change).

It also highlights the huge role that an incumbent vendor has in any organization. While choice and freedom are always good things, if an organization is already using software that works for them, the challenge of making a change is a large one.

Adobe Acrobat Presentations a no go on Google Chrome

By Sean Kerner   |    May 27, 2009

From the 'not quite able to run everywhere' files:

I just read a story from my colleague Alex Goldman about the launch of Adobe's new Acrobat.com Presentations service. The idea sounds pretty cool to me, it extends the Acrobat Connect service (a Web presentation service) to enable users to actually build presentation.  The only problem (for me) is that I couldn't get the site to load on Google Chrome (stable

This shocked me somewhat. Flash is Flash (and I've got Flash installed), Chrome isn't all that different from Safari (which is supported) but Adobe doesn't have support for Chrome (yet). 

Is this an issue for Adobe?  I sure think it is.  Adobe (in my humble opinion) should include support for all major browsers that support Flash (IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera). To exclude Chrome (sure Chrome is new and all) is not a good idea for a vendor trying to claim broad platform support.

On the other hand, there was an issue a few months back with Microsoft Hotmail not working with Chrome. At the time there was a workaround (making Chrome look like Safari with headers) which is a 'trick' that might well work with Chrome for Acrobat.com Presentations too.

Screenshot: Acrobat.com Presentations running on Google Chrome Credit: Sean M Kerner

Nortel seeking to sell LG-Nortel stake

By Sean Kerner   |    May 27, 2009


From the 'finally selling stuff off' files:

Nortel Networks, currently under the shadow of creditor protection, is seeking to sell off it's majority stake in its LG-Nortel joint venture. LG-Nortel is a joint venture launched in 2005 between Nortel and LG Electronics in Korea and apparently it's reasonably profitable too.

Nortel stated that the LG-Nortel group had a Management Operating Margin( Management Operating Margin is defined as revenues less cost of revenues, SG&A and R&D expense) of $341 million, or 27 percent in 2008. Considering that Nortel as a whole lost $507 million last quarter alone, the LG-Nortel performance isn't too shabby.

"LG-Nortel is a successful business with an accomplished leadership team, a culture of innovation, a dedicated employee base and a drive to succeed," said Mike Zafirovski, President and CEO, Nortel in a statement. "As we work to evaluate the ultimate path forward for all of our businesses, this decision will allow LG-Nortel to embark on the next phase of its journey and realize its full potential."

How much the sale of Nortel's stake in LG-Nortel might be worth
will be interesting to see. Clearly I would expect that the sale will
yield more than the $18 million Nortel received for it's sale of its Alteon products earlier this year.

Linpus gears up Moblin v2 for Linux netbooks

By Sean Kerner   |    May 27, 2009

From the 'smaller, faster' files:

When netbooks first came out from Acer and Asus, they came with a Linux operating system from a (then unknown) small Linux vendor called Linpus. Linux on netbooks is now more common and there are other Linux distribution choices (and Windows too), but Linpus remains and is now gearing up for a new release based on the Moblin v2 standard for Intel Atom processors.

Among the new enhancements that Moblin v2 will bring to Linpus is a 26 percent speed boost for the boot time, according to Linpus. There is also a new user interface based on the Clutter framework. The goal of Clutter is to make it easier to build and deliver better graphics and user interfaces to Moblin users.

Linpus will be showing off its new Moblin v2 based Linpus distribution at the Computex trade show in Taiwan next week. It's not yet clear when the first netbooks with the new operating system will be shipped. The new distro (when available) may well also be a big boost to existing netbook users too. Linpus Lite is a freely available and downloadable system, so I strongly suspect that existing Acer and Asus Linpus users will be able to upgrade.

Certainly, Ubuntu with its netbook remix has made a lot of noise in the marketplace, and Dell offers Ubuntu to its customers too. Linpus did however have the early head start and it will be interesting to see if the new Moblin v2 features give it any new early edge over other Linux distributions for netbooks.

Ubuntu running Google Android. Does it matter?

By Sean Kerner   |    May 27, 2009

From the 'robotic koala' files:

Ubuntu developers are in Spain this week for the Ubuntu Developer Summit ahead of the Karmic Koala release later this year. One of the big new developments discussed is a new capability to run Google Android apps natively on an Ubuntu desktop. Ubuntu developer Michael Frey blogged about his own effort to get Android running on Ubuntu this week.

"I know that others have built Android for x86," Frey wrote. " After digging deeper I realized that this is not enough to make it "run" under Ubuntu. It turns out that Android uses it own version of libc and all binaries get linked against that.
This causes a problem when a libc already exists on your system."

Yes Android has a Linux base so it's not a crazy stretch (though it is some work) to get it to run on Linux. But does it really matter?

Remember that Android is a mobile operating system and it is geared for low power, low screen size handheld devices. Sure you can run little Android widgets on a Linux desktop and that might be kinda interesting, though if you've got full desktop power, or even full netbook power screen size (8 inches plus) an Android app isn't necessarily as interesting as it is on a handheld device. But hey don't get me wrong widgets are cool, but they have their place.

It's also important to remember that having Android available on a desktop is not a 'nice-to-have' feature, but rather is a 'must-have' feature in my view. Apple's iPhone runs on an emulator for Mac OS X which is likely where the majority of all iPhone apps have been developed. The iPhone itself is not a development tool but the emulator running on a desktop is. Mobile Java developers have had similar emulator available to them for years as well.

Same approach will work for Android, with desktop emulator, or running on a Linux distro like Ubuntu - Android will get access to more developer desktops which might help out development efforts overall.

Some might argue that Android itself could be a netbook operating system -- while I don't disagree that it can server that purpose - the bottom line is that even an underpowered netbook still has more screen real estate and power than most smartphones. It's a different use case, but there are some cross-over points. It will be interesting to see how Android impacts Linux over time (and vice-versa).

Is Switzerland Neutral on Open Source?

By Sean Kerner   |    May 26, 2009

From the 'not so neutral' files:

Switzerland is a country well known for its historical position of political neutrality. That position of neutrality however may not necessarily extend to the debate over proprietary versus open source software.

18 open source vendors including Red Hat and OpenXchange are challenging a contract awarded by the Swiss Federal Bureau for Building and Logistics (BBL) to Microsoft. The contract is worth 42 million Swiss Francs (approximately - $39 million US) and includes applications, maintenance and support.

The issue according to the open source vendors is that the Swiss contract was a no-bid contract.

"The Swiss agency justified this no-bid procedure on the ground that there was no sufficient alternative to the Microsoft products," Red Hat stated.

Red Hat and Microsoft were not immediately available for comment (I emailed and called them, but neither got back to me on my questions by posting time).

Red Hat stated in blog post that other Swiss agencies are using Red Hat and other open source solutions.

The idea that alternatives do exist is also something that Microsoft Exchange competitor, Open-Xchange is keen to oppose.

"What we wanted to protest was the Swiss government's assertion that there was no alternative to whom they could bid out the contract," Frank Hoberg, Open-Xchange's founder and executive vice president of sales and marketing told InternetNews.com. "The fact is, there are very few technologies that do not have competition and certainly there are many alternatives to Microsoft - alternatives that help companies avoid lock-in and save money.

In this economy, doesn't it make even more sense for governments to shop around and explore lower cost alternatives? "

I am hoping to hear back from Microsoft at some point today/tomorrow and it will be interesting to get their official take on this situation.

There are a lot of different reasons why a no-bid contract may make sense in some cases, a lack of competitive alternatives, being one of many reasons. That said open source is a viable alternative and governments do need to consider all their options to ensure they are delivering value to their users and taxpayers.

ARIN fighting IPv6 FUD with Comics

By Sean Kerner   |    May 26, 2009

From the 'IPv4 sky is falling' files:

We've been warned that the Internet is running out of IPv4 address space and the end is near. Yet for some reason, IPv6, isn't something that is being broadly adopted -- in North America at least.  We need a hero, or maybe a few superheroes to save the day right?

That's where ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers) comes in -- they are the organization that is tasked with allocating IP address in the US and Canada for both IPv4 and IPv6. I recently met up with ARIN's Megan Kruse who explained to me what ARIN is doing to get IPv6 adoption in gear. Yes they're using comic books to literally fight the forces of agent FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) that may be limiting IPv6 adoption.
Kruse told me that ARIN estimates that IPv4 will be totally exhausted in less than two years and that's even with some un-used address blocks being returned.

ARIN is a critical organization and one that I personally think is often overlooked and not well understood. So I got Kruse to explain to me the mission and the goals of ARIN, and what the deal is with the comic books. Check out the full video below. You can download the comics from ARIN -- in my case Kruse had them on the table in her booth at Interop in Las Vegas.

Photo: Megan Kruse Credit: Sean Michael Kerner

Google Chrome 2.0 gets stable release

By Sean Kerner   |    May 22, 2009

From the 'dev channel version goes prime time' files:

Google Chrome stable is now at version 2.0. Forgive me if I don't sound too excited, I've been running Chrome 2.0 dev-channel (Google has three version of Chrome dev, beta and stable) for months without issue on a test box. But for those that aren't running the dev-channel Chrome 2.0 is a big step forward. It's faster, has fewer bugs and oh yeah more features too.

The biggest new feature highlighted by Google is support for full-screen mode, something dev-channel Chrome users have enjoyed since since Chrome dev which came out in February.

"We've made a lot of changes to stuff you never see, such as a newer version of WebKit for rendering web pages, a new network stack, and improvements to speed up the V8 Javascript engine," -Mark Larson
Google Chrome Program Manager said in a blog post.

The V8 engine is a critical component of Chrome and make JavaScript run faster, a whole lot faster in Chrome 2. Google has invested a lot of effort into making JavaScript execution a key feature and differentiator for their browser ever since the first Chrome release last September.

Open Source vs Proprietary Routing Rumble

By Sean Kerner   |    May 21, 2009


LAS VEGAS. Some Interop sessions have more drama than others. A session with open source routing vendor Vyatta squaring off against giants Cisco and Juniper, provided both drama and humor as the trio aggressively debated the merits of their respective technologies.

For Dave Roberts, VP strategy and marketing at Vyatta, the session was all about calling out the proprietary vendors on price and choice. Both Cisco and Juniper responded in kind during often heated exchanges that had the audience laughing and gasping at the same time.

Jonathan Davidson, Director of marketing Edge routing business unit at Cisco explained that Cisco has high availability features that software only solutions like Vyatta cannot provide. Vyatta is an open source Linux based routing solution.

Roberts then challenged Davidson to say how much it cost to get the high availability features. Initially Davidson did not provide a price but eventually stated that the high availability features were available on a box costing $35,000.

"The networking market now is like the mainframe market of the 1960's with custom hardware," Roberts said. "We need a new world that is more flexible and low cost leveraging off the shelf components."

Cisco's Davidson responded that hardware is a differentiator and that off the shelf consumer hardware isn't good enough. He argued that it is important to talk about how hardware is made as it affect the quality and reliability of a product.

"You can buy a 10 cent part that will last 18 monts or the 40 cent part that will last years, at Cisco we choose the 40 cent part," Davidson said.

Roberts responded that he's just trying to offer choice.

"Vyatta is all about flexibility, you can run it on the cheapest Taiwanese whitebox you can find but also on the highest quality IBM or HP chassis that has all the expensive components," Roberts said. "You will pay more for the high end chassis but the choice is yours. It is incorrect for Juniper and Cisco to call us the big bogeyman and that it's all just a PC. It's about what you're willing to pay to get."

Photo: (left to right) Amir Khan, Senior Director Product Line Management, Juniper,Dave Roberts, Vice President Strategy and Marketing, Vyatta, Jonathan Davidson, Director of Marketing, Edge Routing Business Unit, Cisco. Credit: Sean Michael Kerner

Cisco settles GPL lawsuit with FSF

By Sean Kerner   |    May 21, 2009

From the 'finally settled' files:

The FSF has announced that its legal lawsuit against Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) has been dismissed and they have come to an agreement.

This is a case that dates back to December of 2008 and involves Cisco's Linksys networking gear and alleged violation of the GPL open source licensing terms. The settlement from what I've seen is nearly identical to settlements that the FSF has achieved with at least four other vendors that are publicly known.

In a nutshell the settlement spells out that Cisco appoints a Free Software Director for Linksys,to ensure compliance with the GPL. Additionally, the FSF in its release states that:

"Cisco has further agreed to take certain steps to notify previous recipients of Linksys products containing FSF programs of their rights under the GPL and other applicable licenses, to publish a licensing notice on the Linksys website, and to provide additional notices in a separate publication."

And last (but not least), Cisco is making an unknown financial 'contribution' to the FSF.

Frankly I don't understand why it took five months to reach this point. At one point, there were some thoughts that this case might represent a test for the GPL, which I suppose in the end is what it was. The GPL is about openness and ensuring that users rights to code are strictly maintained. I know from my previous conversations with Cisco, that they respect the open source model, and wanted to come to an amicable agreement.

Bottom line from my point of view, is the FSF doesn't seem to lose in these GPL cases. The license is the license and if you're not following it strictly then the FSF will take steps to remediate.

Nortel choses Linux for $250 million routing platform

By Sean Kerner   |    May 21, 2009

From the 'I did not know that' files:

LAS VEGAS. I met up with Nortel Networks enterprise business chief John McHugh at Interop to talk about their big new routing platform the VSP9000. It's a platform capable of up to 27 terabits per second (Tbps) of switching capacity and McHugh told me it represents a $250 million investment in research and development from Nortel -- and its powered by Linux.

"We believe Linux is the right OS for the entire architecture," McHugh said

Now, I don't know all the specifics of Nortel's involvement in core kernel contributions and precisely how they source the elements of their Linux. I asked McHugh and he indicated that it was a partnership. In any event, it's an interesting platform and McHugh has some interesting and encouraging things to say about Linux in the last bit of the video I shot on site that you can view below.

Interop: Skype for business stats

By Sean Kerner   |    May 20, 2009

From the 'interesting stats' files:

LAS VEGAS. Though Skype as a business might not have worked out for eBay, Skype for business apparently is doing well.

That's the message delivered in a keynote session at Interop today by

Stephan Oberg, 
GM and VP of Skype for business.

Oberg said that Skype is not just a consumer tool, bur rather  as employees get more tech saavy and they bring the tools they use at home into the workplace. It's all about the  consumerization of IT.

The most interesting part of Oberg's presentation from my point of view was not the business case for Skype but rather some of the stats from Skype's own research on how people are using their service.

According to Oberg:

  • 35 percent of Skype users say they use Skype in a business setting.
  • 20 percent use Skype video for business purposes.
  • 70 percent say they use Skype for business while traveling.

Interesting stats for sure, though I'm not sure how those stats will translate into additional revenue growth for Skype, though the business usage numbers are encouraging.

Photo: Stephan Oberg Credit: Sean Michael Kerner

Interop: Is Twitter making us less secure?

By Sean Kerner   |    May 20, 2009

From the 'indirect effects of Twitter' files:

LAS VEGAS. Twitter is a great tool for microblogging and conversation. It might also be a platform that is teaching us bad habits that might be making us all less secure.

In a session titled 'Ready, Set, Attack, at Interop, Roel Schouwenberg

Senior anti-virus researcher

at Kaspersky talked about how users are being exploited today.

In his view, Twitter is making us all a little less secure.

"On Twitter you are expected to trust everything that comes your way, with TinyURLs and links," Schouwenberg said. "You
just click on something. and you don't know what's on the other end, it could be real or it could be a malicious website."

He added that Twitter is changing user behaviour and users are unlearning the lesson of not clicking on every link they see which is how the first generation of Internet email worms grew in the late 1990's.

"Twitter is teaching people to trust things that come there way," Schouwenberg said.

In terms of malware growth, Schouwenberg said Kasperksy is seeing on average 30,000 new samples a day of malware.

I personally click on my fair share of links on Twitter (follow me @TechJournalist), and I can see the potential risk. But it is also important in my personal view to remember that local anti-virus and network anti-virus tools can still protect users. Yes Twitter might be making us forget some well learned lessons, but that's not Twitter's fault is it?

Photo:Roel Schouwenberg  credit Sean M. Kerner

Interop: NAC authentication is where we screw up

By Sean Kerner   |    May 20, 2009


From the 'truth hurts' files:

LAS VEGAS. The promise of NAC has been around for years and users want to know when it will finally be ready. That's the message that audience members of a panel event on NAC (network access control) delivered to vendors including HP ProCurve, Cisco, Microsoft and Juniper Networks.  The panel also includes a system consultant who frankly told the audience that to date the industry has left a gaping hole when it comes to figuring out how to do NAC authentication.

"Authentication is where we screw up as an industry," Jennifer Jabbusch, CISO, Network Security Specialist, CAD, Inc said. "We haven't made it easy enough. We have 802.1x but it's hard then we have MAC auth but nothing in between."

802.1x is a port based security mechanism while Mac is an identification mechanism for hardware. Mauricio Sanchez, Chief Security Architect, HP ProCurve Networking said that many organizations are simply not ready for 802.1x so they use MAC address authentication.

Stephen Hanna from Juniper argued that MAC is not authentication it's identification, it is just the identifier the device presents, it's very easy to clone and it also doesn't tie thing in to user identity or provide accountability.

Khaja Ahmed, Windows Networking Security at Microsoft agreed with Hanna but added that the practical reality is that  MAC addresses are thought of as authentication mechanisms by many organizations.

The panel also responded to a member of the audience that asked when would NAC finally be ready.

Alok Agrawal, Manager Product Marketing at Cisco noted that they have customer with 30,000 plus end point under NAC. He added that Cisco is also working in IETF to help standardize NAC specification across vendors.

"When will NAC be here?" Microsoft's Ahmed said."Don't think of this as a thing that isn't here then it is. 
You have NAC today companies are using it today, how much can be protected depends on you, the more complex your infrastructure the harder it is, but that's the nature of all IT complexity."

Photo: Sean Michael Kerner (from left to right:Jennifer Jabbusch, Mauricio Sanchez, Alok Agrawal, Khaja Ahmed, Stephen Hanna) 

Is Google Chrome your default browser?

By Sean Kerner   |    May 13, 2009

From the 'which browser do you want to be locked into' files:

Google has updated its dev-channel branch of the Chrome browser to version, fixing bugs, laying the groundwork for extension, oh and trying to grow its share.

The most noticeable user-visible feature in this new release is the 'make Chrome the default browser' option. That's right you can now from inside of Chrome choose to have Chrome as your default.

Firefox and IE have had that option for many years and now Google is jumping on the default bandwagon too. I don't have a problem with this choice, it's a one time run thing when you start up the new install. It's a good idea for Google and likely will help them to gain a little bit of market share as users choose to make Chrome the default. Considering that Chrome has been publicly available for six months at this point, I'm surprised that it has taken Google this long to include the default browser option.

There is also a new behavior that will enable Chrome users to allow pop-ups from a site (similar to Firefox and IE also).

Perhaps the most interesting element in this new release is the foundation it is laying for Google Chrome's extension framework. No Chrome doesn't have real extensions yet, but it will very soon. It looks to me like there are some API changes including one that will specify where the extension will actually be on the user interface.

Digging into the Google Chrome dev tree, I found the following entry:

Create a separate UI surface for extensions (bottom shelf) and remove them from the bookmarks bar (for now)

It'll be interesting to see how the Chrome extension system gets finalized and how it is different and/or the same as Firefox's add-on setup. As a desktop Linux user though I'm still waiting for a native Linux implementation (Mac users are still waiting too).

MySQL Founder starts Open Database Alliance

By Sean Kerner   |    May 13, 2009


From the 'I wonder what Oracle will do now?' files:

MySQL Founder Monty Widenius left Sun back in February to pursue his own vision for MySQL. We now have more insight into what that vision is all about.

Widenius today launched the "Open Database Alliance" which is intended to be a vendor-neutral consortium for the MySQL open source database and derivative code.

One such derivative is Widenius' MariaDB which is a fork of MySQL run by Widenius.

"Our goal with the Open Database Alliance is to provide a central clearinghouse for MySQL development, to encourage a true open development environment with community participation, and to ensure that MySQL code remains extremely high quality," Widenius said in a statement.

This could prove to be a very big deal in my opinion.

If the Open Database Alliance grows to include all those that feel dis-enfranchised by Oracle's management of MySQL (when they take over), Widenius has now given them a safe haven. As a commerical enterprise the new Alliance could also end up being a new home for the MySQL ecosystem, essentially stripping Oracle of a billion dollar asset.

Then again, it might not.

Sun makes its money from MySQL by way of commercial support that its organization can provide. Widenuis organization at present does not compare to the size, scale and scope of Sun's support (and soon Oracle) operations or sales operations.

What this move does prove though is that the open source model does work. Code can be forked, it can be supported by more than one company and if users want a choice they have one to make. You can't do that with proprietary software.

Ubuntu Linux expands with new sync service

By Sean Kerner   |    May 13, 2009

From the 'Linux monetization strategy' files:

is well known as a freely available Linux distribution. It could also
one day be your personal data synchronization system too. That's right
Ubuntu is expanding its business model with a new data sync/backup
service now in beta, called UbuntuOne.

first 2 GB of storage are free (which is kinda of like EMC's Mozy
service), and then a 10 GB monthly storage plan is $10 US per month.

the idea of online storage sync is hardly a new one, it is a great idea
to have this available under the Ubuntu brand and as a fully
integratable Ubuntu LInux application (PPA)
for backup sync. I've used a basic rsync across machines myself, but
UbuntuOne promises a web based interface to access files as well as
being able to provide syncronization across machines. I haven't
actually tried out the service yet (it's invitation only and my invite hasn't arrived yet).

some Ubuntu users (moreso on the server side) will pay canonical for
support, I suspect that Ubuntu's path to profit on the desktop side
will come in part by way of UbuntuOne. It's a service that everyone
needs, the only question is whether or not Ubuntu users go with
UbuntuOne or do it themselves.

I have not seen any other Linux
distribution with a similar effort, though I would expect that Mozilla
will eventually do something similiar with its Weave services backend.
UbuntuOne isn't just about browser data though it's about whatever
data�� a user wants to backup/sync.

Linux.com goes live looking for Linux gurus

By Sean Kerner   |    May 13, 2009

From the  'yet another Linux news site?' files:

Linux.com has been relaunched under the direction of the Linux Foundation. The Linux.com site was acquired by the Linux Foundation earlier this year from SourceForge for an an undisclosed sum.

The goal of the site is supposed to be a community hub that lets the Linux community participate and contribute their knowledge. User contributions help users to hit guru status (I'm not clear on the point system myself).

At the end of the year, the Linux Foundation will award the top Linux Guru a fully loaded  Linux notebook signed by none other than the father of Linux himself,  Linus Torvalds.

While at a high level I understand, admire and respect the goal of being a community site, an initial look as the site is today makes it look like a news site. More than half of the screen real estate is made up of links to Linux news and tutorials, meaning that the new Linux.com is (from a front page point of view) is yet another aggregation of Linux news.

When I spoke with Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin in March about Linux.com he assured me that the plan wasn't for Linux.com to be a breaking news organization but rather as a resource for the Linux community as a whole.

While I don't disagree with the breaking news part, there is little doubt in my mind that this site is going to be competitive against numerous Linux sites out there today that collect Linux news, as well those that write tutorials and reviews. Certainly Linux.com will also drive traffic to other sites (maybe I'll even benefit, but so far, I've not been linked) but as the 'brand name' for Linux its choice of news links will also carry a certain weight of authority.

Yes the site has forums, distribution specific areas for downloads (called Distribution Central) and a collection of Linux documentation (man pages) that are extremely valuable. But even though you should never judge a book by its cover -- many do -- and the cover of Linux.com is heavy on news.

It will be interesting to see how this site evolves over time and if it will actually truly grow to become the broad based community resource that it aspires to become.

Juniper's cloud switch delivers 12.4 terabits

By Sean Kerner   |    May 12, 2009

From the 'big switches for big business' files:

Juniper Networks (NASDAQ:JNPR) today officially announced the availability of their EX8216 switch.

This is no small switch (click the thumbnail at the left side of this post to see it). It's a 16 slot tower, that can deliver up to 12.4 terabits. That's a lot of capacity and it's geared toward cloud computing deployments that demand high bandwidth and availability.

From a competitive point of view, it looks to me like this is an attempt to line up against Cisco's Nexus 7000 core switching platform, which can deliver up to 15 terabits of switching capacity.

Considering that Juniper just entered the switch market itself in January of 2008, it's no small feat to have a such a dense switching platform at this point.

The EX series overall is a key element of Juniper's continued growth. During Juniper's recent Q1 2009 investor conference call, CEO Kevin Johnson noted that enterprise sales were growing at a faster rate than carrier sales -- with the EX switch growth being a key component. During the call, Johnson claimed that over 50 percent of EX customers also bought Juniper routing and security gear as well.

With this new flagship switch in the market, it will be interesting to see how it will impact Juniper financial results moving forward. It will be also interesting to see if Juniper tries to more deeply integrate the EX series with an application serving platform, similar to how Cisco integrates its Nexus with the Cisco Unified Computing System blade server.

The other interesting business element to watch will be how the EX 8216 is embraced by IBM, which is a key partner for Juniper's switch business and overall cloud initiatives. Interesting times for big iron in the networking world.

Nortel loses another $507 million

By Sean Kerner   |    May 11, 2009

From the 'how much money can one company loose?' files:

Nortel Networks issued its first quarter 2009 financial report this morning and it's not a pretty sight. The company is still losing money -- lots of money -- though there are (surprisingly) a few bright spots.

Nortel reported that it lost $507 million ($1.02 per share) for the first quarter of 2009, up dramatically from the loss of $138 million for the first quarter of 2008. Revenues were reported to be $1.73 billion, which is a 37 percent decline on a year over year basis.

The once high flying Nortel entered into creditor protection in the US and in Canada in January. It has been trying to restructure its business ever since. While Nortel is still losing on the net income and revenue sides of its balance sheet it actually grew its cash balance to $2.48 billion up from $2.4 billion at year end 2008.

Nortel  is also claiming growth for its carrier networking initiativies, in particular its 40G equipment. In its earnings release Nortel claimed that it had a record quarter for 40G shipments with over 500 40G line ports shipped. Nortel is also contining to make its play in the emerging 100G space as well.

In order to further boost its Carrier networking efforts, Nortel is planning on giving that business unit a bit more autonomy. The place is to 'decentralize' the  Carrier Sales and Global Operations functions over the coming weeks. The idea being that it will help this growing unit at Nortel to better serve customers and be more responsive.

Normally when I write about a company's earnings there is a conference call -- but that's not the case with Nortel. They've decided against having a call and potentially facing questions from analysts (and others) that perhaps they would rather not answer.

Blue Coat's network reporter gets some Flex

By Sean Kerner   |    May 11, 2009

From the 'how to make faster GUIs' files:

Networking vendor Blue Coat (Nasdaq:BCSI) is out today with version 9 of their Reporter application, which 'reports' on web activity generated by way of their Blue Coat appliances.

The new software boasts new role based controls, but the real bit that caught my eye during the demo I received last week was the slick and speedy user interface that Reporter 9 employs.

Blue Coat product manager Bob Hansmann explained to me that they shifted to Adobe's Flex as the backend for rolling out Reporter 9. Additionally Blue Coat developed their own database, to store the reporter data (moving away from a third party database). All told, with Flex and the new database Reporter 9 is a whole lot faster than Reporter 8.

Hansmann told me that in a test case he ran with Reporter 8, it took him 18 minutes to run a report, while in version 9 the same report took only 11 seconds.

That's pretty impressive in my view. Network reporting is a key application in the networking world. While the hardware side of networking is easy to quantify with known speeds and performance metrics, in my view it is often very difficult to measure the relative effectiveness and speed of the reporting platforms.

I think other hardware vendors should take note, and remember that speed of hardware alone is not the total user experience, software speed is critical too.

Mozilla Prism hits 1.0 Beta

By Sean Kerner   |    May 08, 2009

From the 'who needs a browser when you have a desktop' files:

I've been following and using  Mozilla Prism since 2007 when it first appeared as a Mozilla Labs project.The idea is simple: bring online applications to the desktop.

With Prism you can take any online site and create an desktop version that will run without being in a browser. Mozilla is now out with Prism 1.0 beta which builds in new API support, update notifications, control over fonts and settings to make Prism truly behave more like a desktop platform.

"Tens of thousands of end users have installed Prism-enabled sites. Based on their feedback, as well as the experience of website creators, we've added new features to bring the user experience of web apps even closer to that of their desktop counterparts," Mozilla developer Matthew Gertner blogged.

Prism is definitely a good idea, but the market has changed since Mozilla first started on this effort.

Google Chrome wins browser updating race

By Sean Kerner   |    May 08, 2009

From the 'manual updates don't work' files:

Browser vendors all update their software often to patch for security issues. The problem is that not all browser users update to the latest versions quickly, if at all.

A new study from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's Stefan Frei and Google's Thomas Duebendorfer looked at how quickly users were updating their browsers based on an analysis of the user-agent string that Google sees.

Google's log files show that after 21 days of a Google Chrome release, 97 percent of users were updated to the latest version. Mozilla Firefox had 85 percent of users updated within 21 days. Apple's Safari only had 53 percent of users updated.

The study did not include Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which I found to be very surprising, but they do have a good explanation. It's just not all that easy to see if IE is actually updated.

"Microsoft Internet Explorer only reports the major version number and
omits the minor version number in the user agent string," the study states. "The often
stated reason for this omission is to reduce information leakage and
make it harder for an attacker to select a working exploit for the
actual browser version in use...Therefore, based
solely on our Web server logs, we cannot determine the update speed of
minor versions within the Microsoft Internet Explorer population."

So why did Google win in the update race?

Stardate: [-28] 01210.00 Google schedules the future

By Sean Kerner   |    May 08, 2009

From the 'ahead warp factor five Mr. Sulu' files:

Google is an innovative kind of company known for keeping an eye on the future. They're taking that mission very literally now with the inclusion of Stardate notations for the Google Calendar.

Stardate is the calendar system in Star Trek (which hit the big screen last night,).

"After yet another discussion of starships, phasers, and warp drives, we decided to put our enthusiasm to work and give Calendar a little boost," Google blogged.

"The result was the creation of a new calendar, pre-loaded with stardates to help you keep track of time in this universe and beyond."

Getting stardate into your own Google calendar isn't too hard, all you need to do is include the term "Star Trek" as a calendar entry (but a future calendar entry, not say yesterday) and then auto-magically, stardates will be in your calendar too.

I wonder though if there is any practical utility to having stardates in my own calendar. Will I start getting meeting requests for a particular stardate? While Spock might think it to be illogical, it is kinda fun.

SugarCRM loses its CEO John Roberts

By Sean Kerner   |    May 07, 2009

From the 'open source leadership changes' files:

Open source vendor SugarCRM's founder and CEO John Roberts has resigned his post. Roberts founded SugarCRM in 2004 and I've had the good fortune of speaking with him on numerous occasions over the last five years.

Roberts will be replaced by interim CEO Larry Augustin (of SourceForge fame).

"I have an immense amount of respect for the founding CEO, John Roberts," Augustin blogged. "Few people have taken a company from concept to major growth the way John did at Sugar."

I don't disagree. In 2004 when I first tried out SugarCRM, I was impressed with his vision and his application. His goal was to create in open source a CRM system that rivalled those of his commercial proprietary peers.

In the beginning, SugarCRM had a Mozilla plus attribution license that some argued wasn't really open source. I remember well talking with Roberts about that issue at numerous points. In 2007, Roberts made the bold decision of being among the first to formally adopt the GPLv3 license.

From my point of view, Roberts was the point man, the leader, the visionary behind the early growth of SugarCRM. How Augustin will be able to carry that forward remains to be seen.

Will Open Source 'Kill' Vignette?

By Sean Kerner   |    May 07, 2009

From the 'not dead yet' files:

Vignette, a company well known for its web content management systems is being acquired by Open Text for $310 million. It's a news flash I saw late yesterday and it really got me to thinking about the state of CMS today.

Ten years ago, Vignette was the brand name for web content management in many respects, plenty of sites (including more than a few that I was associated with) were users and customers. Though Vignette with a valuation of some $310 million is hardly 'dead', I also suspect that at many levels of the CMS space, open source solutions, be it Mambo/Joomla, Drupal, Zope or higher up the stack with an Alfresco have displaced Vignette over the years.

Today I spend most of my time writing about technology as opposed to building it, but I've also seen more than my fair share of home grown (usually basic LAMP) solutions displace Vignette as well.

The Content management market has undergone a huge transformation at the entry to mid-tiers over the last decade. The ability to update web content easily (remember when you used to have to do it manually? I do) is a given, it's a feature on free blogs and enterprise software as well.

Thanks to freely available open source solutions, users can literally be up and running with a content management solution easily and without up front costs - that was something that just wasn't do-able ten years ago.

No Vignette is not dead, not by a long shot. They have customers and will continue to have them under their new Open Text ownership.To be fair Vignette started off its public life with an IPO in 1998 for $30 million and a decade later is now worth 10 times that, which isn't too shabby.

But considering how dramatically the market has changed in the areas where Vignette once totally dominated, it's likely a very good thing for Vignette that it is now being acquired by a bigger player.

Nagios forked by Icinga for open source monitoring

By Sean Kerner   |    May 06, 2009

From the 'forking open source' files:

Nagios is critical open source application providing monitoring capabilities that are widely used (by millions?) by many including myself. Yet apparently the pace of Nagios evolution wasn't fast enough or inclusive enough for all, so a group of contributors is now forking Nagios and making their own Nagios-based open source systems monitoring solution called 'icinga.'

According to icinga's website, their goal is to,"be more responsive to user
requests and faster in software development through the support of a
broader developer community."

Initially (at least), icinga is set to be compatible with Nagios, which is how forks typically start out. Over time though it is rare in my experience that forks remain compatable.

Take Nessus for example (no longer open source but it was), it's open source fork OpenVAS is no longer compatible with the leading edge of Nessus development. That's a bit of a different case though as Tenable (the commerical sponsor of Nessus) claimed back in 2005 that the open source development model wasn't working for Nessus.

With Nagios, the claim is a little different. The claim is that there are governance and development issues that current organization structure of the Nagios project are not addressing, so the Icinga people are the option of forking and starting their own project.

Icinga claims that its members have attempted to clear the development bottleneck but have been unsuccessful.

"Long awaited improvements
such as the regular integration of community patches, the connection to
databases or the web interface were hoped to be accelerated," Icinga claims. "Unfortunately, these attempts came to little success and effective
community commitment has gradually deflated."

So who is Icinga?

Novell Moonlight 2.0 previews Silverlight on Linux

By Sean Kerner   |    May 06, 2009


From the 'Linux has it all' files:

It wasn't all that long ago that Moonlight 1.0 was released providing Linux users with a way to run Microsoft Silverlight media on their screens. Now Novell is out with the Moonlight 2.0 preview, including expanded functionality and compatibility with Microsoft's media framework.

While Moonlight 1.0 includes some Silverlight 2.0 functionality, Moonlight 2.0 is even more closely aligned with what Microsoft is currently providing and has a few new items too.

"The biggest single point I think is this - we're finally comfortable
releasing a browser plugin containing the Mono VM," Chris Toshok's Moonlight team lead blogged. "This is pretty huge,
and the runtime guys deserve a lot of credit for making it possible.
This means we've invested enough time and effort into fleshing out the
infrastructure (CoreCLR, as well as our metadata and IL verifier), and
getting it to a point where we're not totally embarrassed to share our

Having the VM inside of the browser plugin is a key step, but at this point it's also not secure (yet). Toshok noted that,".. a full security audit has not
happened, and that by visiting Silverlight sites you are downloading
code that will execute on your system."  However, on Linux of course, most users don't run as root (SUDO doesn't auto-execute either) so the damage would be limited to the access of the user.

Firefox hits 270 million users, without Linux

By Sean Kerner   |    May 05, 2009

From the 'more fun with numbers' files:

The open source Firefox web browser from Mozilla now has some 270 million users. That's the figure that Mozilla staffer Aza Dotzler is now claiming, and it's not an easy number to calculate.

How do you count users for an open source application that does not require registrations? Downloads aren't accurate, since downloads include the same users that could have updated and/or downloaded revisions.

What Mozilla does is they use their Application Update Service (AUS) -- the service whereby Firefox automatically calls home once a day looking for updates--  as a method. The number of users that hit AUS on a daily basis are called the Active Daily Users. Dotzler notes that there are now 90 million active daily users. As part of a mathematical computation, Mozilla multiplies the number of daily users by 3 (hence the 270 million) to try and gauge how many total users they have -- since not all user are active every day (or so the theorem goes).

Personally, I like the way that Fedora Linux tracks its user numbers which is a similiar approach. They also measure how manys servers 'call home' looking for updates, though Fedora adds in the measure of checking by unique IP address (which presents its own issues).

Talking about Linux, Mozilla's numbers for Firefox do not include the majority of Linux users. That's because Linux users typically do not get Firefox from Mozilla directly but rather by way of their own distributions update repositories (so they don't check Mozilla's AUS).

If we take Fedora's number of users to be 13 million, Ubuntu Linux's to be another 8 million, then roll in Debian, SUSE, Mandriva and Gentoo users, I don't think it would be unfair to say that Firefox easily has over 100 million active daily users and nearly 300 million users total (but that's my own calcuation).

No matter how you slice it, Firefox is likely the most popular open source application in history (in terms of usage) and it continues to grow.

Zend Server 4.0.2 updates PHP middleware for Macs

By Sean Kerner   |    May 05, 2009

From the 'that didn't take long' files:

Zend Server, the new PHP server that was just released last month, is now out with its new 4.0.2 release.  The new release is bug fix and feature update release. Zend claims to have fixed over 80 bugs with 4.0.2. It also marks the debut of the first generally available release of Zend Server Community Edition (CE)for Apple Macs.

To date, Zend Server CE has been only generally available for Linux and Windows but now Zend is aiming to include Mac (which had been in a longer release candidate stage) to be synchronized alongside the other operating system releases.

Another noteworthy update to Zend Server is the inclusion of Zend Framework 1.8 which was just released last week. Together with Zend Server the new Framework release takes advantage of the servers caching features which should help to improve PHP performance for users.

The open source stack ecosystem is not a slow moving one, so it's great to see that Zend is keep pace with regular and rapid updates to Zend Server.

Linux at 1 percent?! Ha! It's more like 45 percent

By Sean Kerner   |    May 05, 2009

From the 'statistics are flexible' files:

There has been a lot of noise this week about new numbers from NetApplications showing Linux at 1 percent. That's 1 percent on the desktop as measured by one firm's sampling of a very large market.

The number of 1 percent on the desktop however does not show the full Linux picture. On servers, and especially on web servers Linux is somewhere around 45 percent  if we take Netcraft's numbers (assuming that the majority of Apache deployments are on Linux).

Yes I know I'm comparing apples to oranges (no pun intended on the apple and penguins don't eat oranges). The 1 percent number is a reflection of a general web user base and it is interesting to see. On enthusiast sites (and tech news sites) the Linux users number are likely somewhat higher.

Looking into the future just a little, it's easy to see how the Linux desktop number will shift dramatically between now and 2011. 

Here are two reasons:

FreeBSD 7.2 delivers superpages in new release

By Sean Kerner   |    May 04, 2009

From the 'the little beastie is out' files:

FreeBSD 7.2 is now out and it includes a long list of updates and even a few new features. At the top of the list is improved memory management with superpages for memory allocation.

No superpages are not A 'yellow pages' type of printed directory, but rather an improved type of page file memory.

According to the FreeBSD 7.2 release notes, the FreeBSD virtual memory subsystem now supports fully transparent use of superpages for application memory.

"This change offers the benefit of large page sizes such as improved virtual memory efficiency and reduced TLB (translation lookaside buffer) misses without downsides like application changes and virtual memory inflexibility," the release notes state.

From a security perspective the FreeBSD 7.2 release includes 8 issues (no that's not many is it?) from the FreeBSD 7.1 release.

The desktop side has also been updated on Gnome to version 2.26 and on KDE up to 4.2.2, which is the first time FreeBSD has included KDE 4.x.  Though FreeBSD 7.2 is just being release now though, PC-BSD 7.1 which is a desktop variant of FreeBSD has been out for several weeks and was already using early versions of FreeBSD 7.2 including KDE 4.2.2.

Overall FreeBSD 7.2 looks to be a decent incremental update as FreeBSD developers continue to gear up for FreeBSD 8.

OpenBSD 4.5 rides the Tron Light Cycle

By Sean Kerner   |    May 01, 2009


From the 'BSD people with a great sense of humor' files:

There are a lot of things that can be said about OpenBSD releases. For one, they're always entertaining. Today, OpenBSD 4.5 is officially being released along with a new song to promote the open source operating system release. Yes this BSD has its own song, for the 4.4 release it was the 'Trial of the BDS Knights' (a Star Wars spoof).

From a technical point of view, the new release includeS updated hardware and driver support (including support of SDHC flash media now) and a whole lot of packages. The release notes claim, over 5500 ports and minor robustness improvements in package tools."

On the new hardware side the interesting thing to me is an initial port to  the ARM based OpenMoko
platform, which could mean we might see OpenBSD on handheld devices at some point soon.

Then of course there is OpenSSH, which is the flagship feature of OpenBSD in many ways (even though OpenSSH is now widely deployed on nearly all *nix systems). OpenSSH 5.2 is included in OpenBSD 4.5, providing new command line features and a number of key bug fixes.

All right enough of the details, back to the song. OpenBSD has no love of Microsoft and they are frequent targets of OpenBSD's songs. With the Tron theme of this release (good timing since TR2N is coming soon) , they've woven in that distate with the 'user' and 'motherboard' ideas.

Here's one of my favorite sections:

Yes I'm a user

And I'm not the only one
I'm not a loser

With help from Puffy Tron

It's a busy time in the BSD community for sure. Just yesterday, NetBSD 5.0 and a DragonFly BSD release came out and FreeBSD 7.2 is in the works too.

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