Looking Back at 2005

If 1995 is considered the arrival of the browser and the rise of the Web,
then 2005 was the year to take stock of what those 10 years hath wrought —
the browser, the Web, the impact of the Internet across all walks of life.

But more than 10-year birthday parties for Java and the Web filled out the

Spyware, spam, virus writers for hire — the usual suspects were in great
supply throughout 2005. So was the rise of virtualization and 64-bit
computing and more storage needs to cope and comply with Sarbanes-Oxley.

Open source projects spread even farther into the IT ecosystem, and the
world’s largest software company gave us a peek at the next version of

From the Supreme Court on down to blogs and wikis, herewith, a list
of some of the biggest trends and stories that hit the IT world in 2005.

Virtualization Hits The Industry, Virtually

Virtualization, which usually includes running multiple operating systems or
applications on one machine, has run on IBM mainframes for 40 years or so.

But, as The 451 Group tells us, virtualization is one of the technologies
that is driving utility computing — still a nascent practice.

“Between IT vendors and early adopters, there is an area of consensus that
‘baby steps’ on the road to ‘utility’ models begin with server
consolidation, virtualization, examination of metering and charge-back
options,” the research firm said in a recent report.

Virtualization is also a factor in deciding how software vendors charge
their customers, thanks to the proliferation of multi-core machines from
IBM, Sun Microsystems, HP and Dell.

Intel and AMD have added virtualization features to their chips, and Vmware
may still be the server virtualization king, but open source companies like
Xen are challenging the throne. Xen recently released version 3.0 of its

IDC research indicates that spending on virtualization will rocket to nearly $15 billion worldwide by 2009.

To cut costs by consolidating servers, customers are partitioning smaller
two- and four-way x86 volume servers with special software that helps carve
up space on a server to run multiple operating systems or applications.

More Cores All Around

If the rise of dual- and multi-core didn’t top any “biggest news” lists in chips this year, then there is certainly enough material to make it big in 2006.

AMD caught Intel’s and the rest of the industry’s attention with the release of its dual-core Opteron processors, which found their way into
powerful servers from HP, IBM and Sun Microsystems, among others.

There was a lot of speculation about when Dell would join the AMD party, but
its competitors didn’t complain. They loved having something to market
that the king of direct computer sales didn’t.

Intel has been slow out the dual-core gate, but revved
as the year went on and has now committed to moving most of its
product line to dual- and multi-core.

Its newest line of consumer
processors for Viiv PCs, set for release in early 2006, will all be dual-core,
as will new “Yonah” notebook processors. Sun finished the year strong with
the December announcement of servers based on its new eight-core, UltraSparc T1 processor.

Sun also said it open sourced elements of the UltraSparc T1 processor’s design.

64-Bit, Multi-Core Computing Arrives

It’s been a hot discussion topic with the IT set ever since
AMD debuted its Opteron processor two years ago. But 64-bit computing is not
exactly a new hot topic.

DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) is widely
credited with breaking into the market with its Alpha 64-bit processor (for
RISC-based architecture), released in 1992.

But timing is always a key factor with adoption. Fast forward to 2005:
64-bit is gaining momentum, thanks to an old-fashioned horse race between
AMD and Intel.

Throughout the year, both companies ramped up their efforts to push the
envelope beyond their workhorse 32-bit processors. They also have multi-core
architecture strategies in their roadmaps, which gives x86 64-bit
architectures plenty of room to grow.

And while analysts suggest there is no “there, there” yet for 64-bit
applications, Microsoft is making sure 2005 set the stage for more 64-bit
applications in the coming year.

Two years after the launch of AMD’s Opteron processors and its 64-bit
extensions to classic x86 architecture, a robust computing ecosystem is
finally growing around dual-core, 64-bit computing.

With Microsoft’s long-awaited shipment of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Professional x64 Editions, as well as AMD’s growing list of satisfied customers
using its Opteron dual-core CPU for volume needs, the word is spreading
about its ability to deliver cheaper, more powerful computing.

AMD Takes on Intel

AMD got plenty of publicity with its controversial antitrust lawsuit against Intel. One case in Japan was decided in AMD’s favor, but the U.S. case isn’t expected to go to trial until 2007.

Intel vigorously denied AMD’s charge that it’s an abusive monopoly. A new controversy arose over how much should be revealed during what’s expected to be a lengthy discovery process. AMD has to walk a delicate balance of wanting to publicize Intel’s business dealings, while at the same time not alienating its customers by dragging them into the case.

Whither Itanium?

Intel’s highest end processor, Itanium, lumbered on in 2005 despite constant barbs by competitors and the embarrassing news that Montecito, the first dual-core version, would be delayed until mid-2006.

Intel’s allies formed the Itanium Solutions Alliance group late in 2005 to pump up developer support.

Microsoft’s New Openness

With thousands of developer bloggers spilling the beans, and with more
community technology preview (CTP) releases that show the warts in evolving
products — and with Bill Gates actually committing to ship dates — Microsoft revealed itself as a major software provider in the midst of
changing the way it produces products.

Some of the company’s major moves this year included its big hug of Software
as a Service and when it announced ad-supported online versions of its Office productivity suite and Windows
operating systems.

The tech world got its first peek at Microsoft’s next-generation operating
system, Vista, back in July. With all kinds of new graphical features, the
Vista beta promised to focus on the fundamentals of security, deployment,
manageability, reliability and diagnostics.

According to Microsoft, image-based setup is less error-prone than scripted

The Windows Pre-installation Environment lets administrators configure
Windows offline to diagnose and troubleshoot the hardware before launching
the setup process.

They can use the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) to identify,
analyze and resolve issues with non-standard applications being migrated to
Windows Vista.

Web Services for Management (WS-Management) makes it easier to run scripts
remotely and to perform other management tasks. Microsoft Management Console
3.0 (MMC 3.0) provides a common framework for management tools, making them
easier to find and use, with richer graphical user interfaces that let
admins run multiple tasks in parallel.

It also got a little more comfy with the concept of open source, such as
taking dramatic steps to simplify
its open source-style shared source licenses by paring the number it offers
down to three.

Microsoft Settles Up

Microsoft settled its
last big anti-competition suit, inking a deal with Real Networks with a $761 million cash payment and vows to cooperate.

Real sued
Microsoft in December 2003, charging that Redmond violated state and federal
antitrust laws when it used its Windows monopoly to limit choice in digital
media players.

Meanwhile, Microsoft slogged ahead with its defense of the 2004 ruling by
the European Competition Commission that it had abused its monopoly power,
a version of Windows sans media player as ordered.

But in December, the company got slammed by a similar ruling by the Korea Fair Trade Commission.

Open Source Linux Trends 2005

Linux and other open source technologies continued their upward growth
and adoption curves in 2005. IBM was perhaps the biggest winner in the Linux
sweepstakes reported the third quarter of the year it had hit $1 billion in
revenues from Linux.

Version 2.6.14 was the latest of four major Linux kernels released to see the light this year. Novell opened up its SUSE Linux development and Red Hat released its Enterprise Linux version 4, which introduced SE Linux (Security Enhanced) to enterprise customers.

Debian picked up steam this year with the long-awaited release of Sarge, as well as some big wins by way of Sun Wah Linux in China and Ubuntu earning IBM certification status.

IBM had other open source news, including the announcement that it opened up its IP coffers with a huge patent grant.

Sun is another vendor that had its share of open source news this year. In perhaps
the most noteworthy open source release of the year, Sun’s Solaris, which for
years has been synonymous with “proprietary” Unix, opened under the OpenSolaris project.

Contributing Writers: Clint Boulton, Tim Gray, Colin Haley, Erin Joyce, Sean Michael Kerner, Susan Kuchinskas, Roy Mark, David Needle, Catherine Pickavet, Jim Wagner.

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Is Your Data Safe?

ChoicePoint’s admission in February that it was duped into turning customer data over to thieves was only the start.

Then came the deluge of data-breach admissions: Bank of America’s data loss; then LexisNexis’s own admission that it lost some customer data; and several educational institutions, including the University of California at Berkeley, Boston College and Harvard University.

Congress got stirred up about it, and several bills built momentum for a national law requiring data-breach disclosure by companies that lose their customer’s data.

As it stands now, only California has a law in place requiring such measures, though other states are pursuing similar legislation.

For example, Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, was pushing a bill to fine companies up to $50,000 a day for every day they don’t notify customers about data breaches.

Most companies, however, are behind a national disclosure law. Indeed, the savvy ones scrambled to get ahead of the law by notifying customers before any law tells them to.

But will it be overkill?

Storage Stays Hot

For 2005, the storage market experienced an explosion in NAND Flash memory as an alternative to small form factor disk drives.

Shane Rau, program manager at PC and Storage Semiconductors, said that while NAND gizmos may not store as much as a small form factor hard drive, they can be attractive, more cost-effective forms of storage.

After all, there has to be something to NAND devices if Apple is using them in its iPod Nano.

If there is any question as to the stakes in this emerging market for NAND technologies, the hostile Toshiba-Lexar suit over NAND Flash trade secrets is a harsh reminder.

That legal war, in which Lexar is suing Toshiba for misusing trade secrets, is a nasty one that may decide either vendor’s fate in the Flash memory space.

VoIP Gets More Respect

Voice over IP was once the Rodney Dangerfield of telecom — it got no respect.

Consumers and business leaders, if they thought of VoIP at all, thought that it was unreliable. Communications providers, especially telecom carriers, saw a threat rather than an opportunity. That changed in 2005, thanks largely to two companies.

Vonage, with its ubiquitous TV, radio and online ads, continued to rack up subscribers, passing the 1 million mark this fall. The Edison, N.J., company is also thought to be prepping for an IPO that could fetch $600 million or shopping itself as an acquisition target.

Then there’s Skype. The European-based VoIP phenomenon with more than 50 million users proved that there are buyers for VoIP firms — even ones that offer their basic service for free.

The company, which raised eyebrows when it agreed to be bought by eBay for more than $2 billion, has amassed 50 million registered users for its free service.

The auction giant’s decision to buy Luxembourg-based Skype to increase communication between its community members started industry-watchers thinking about the potential of the technology to other non-traditional buyers.

There were still some issues to work out on the VoIP front. Ensuring that e911 and wire-tapping features are in place continue to concern regulators, but it’s clear that VoIP is no longer a laughing matter.

Searching for the next search

Everyone wants to be the next Google. The search technology sector splintered into verticals, metas, locals, wannabes and also-rans. InterActiveCorp’s March acquisition of Ask Jeeves showed that mainstream businesses think search technology should be in-house.

At the same time, Google made what seemed like shocking concessions to extend its partnership with AOL: Google will give AOL preferred placement throughout its properties, let AOL white-label Google search for AOL.com and sell its own ads against it, and weave AOL content throughout its search.

The search providers engaged in a dizzying feature war, rolling out new flavors and functions almost daily. We now have specialized search for music, books, video, multimedia, travel and shopping in various configurations from the Big Three.

MSN made no headway in its battle to wrest search share from Google, tops in terms of total searches, and from Yahoo, the most-trafficked site on the Web. Neither did it launch adCenter, its competitor to Yahoo’s and Google’s pay-per-click ad platforms that will roll in advanced targeting capabilities.

It is ads on search results, of course, that’s driving the frenzy. In December, Jupiter Research (which, like internetnews.com, is owned by Jupitermedia) forecast that online display and search advertising spending will grow at an average annual rate of 10 percent between 2005 and 2010, reaching $18.9 billion by 2010. (In 2002, the researchers said the total online spend would reach $14 billion by 2007.)

Marketers are hoping that increased competition to Google and Yahoo, not only from MSN but also from second-tier search players and ad platforms, will bring price pressure to bear on the cost per click.

Contributing Writers: Clint Boulton, Tim Gray, Colin Haley, Erin Joyce, Sean Michael Kerner, Susan Kuchinskas, Roy Mark, David Needle, Catherine Pickavet, Jim Wagner.

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The security space was once again this year bombarded by worms, viruses and other malicious code that kept corporate IT officers busy trying to stay one step ahead of the sea of malcontents and thieves exploiting the Internet.

That helped explain why spending was up in this sector in 2005.

One particular new vulnerability threat was the targeting of instant messaging and P2P networks that exploded this year, as reports of attacks jumped nearly 400 percent in one month alone.

“Virus writers are becoming more advanced in their approach to vulnerable IM clients, distributing not only new viruses, but altering current worms to produce more dangerous variants,” Francis Costello, CTO at Akonix Systems, said at the time.

If some crooks were enamored with targeting less exploited vulnerabilities, others remained obsessed with kicking the same old can of worms.

Farid Essebar, 18, of Morocco, and Atilla Ekici, 21, of Turkey, were arrested in August in their respective countries and charged in connection with writing and releasing the Zotob and Mytob worms, according to the FBI.

Zotob, a fast-moving virus, surfaced in August shortly after Microsoft warned of a security vulnerability affecting its Windows Plug-and-Play. The worm, which exploited the Windows flaw, hit several media outlets hard, including ABC, CNN, the Associated Press and The New York Times, among others.

The duo is said to have been responsible for at least 20 other worms, according to SophosLabs.

While Microsoft, America Online and others were trying to find ways to keep spammers and scammers out of their consumers’ machines — AOL raffled $100,000 worth of gold bars, cash and a fully loaded sport utility vehicle seized from a major spammer — e-retailers where discovering ways to ramp up online sales.

And, like each successive year, they weren’t disappointed with the fruits of their labors.

Saw it Online, Bought It There, Too

While the holiday shopping season was expected to net online sales of nearly $20 billion this year, up 24 percent from $15.8 billion during the same period last year, analysts were discovering a host of new terms and days, which signaled good times ahead.

First came the traditional “Black Friday,” which is now followed by “Cyber Monday,” the first opportunity for consumers to get back to their fast Internet connections at the office after the holiday weekend.

And finally e-tailers were told to forget about Cyber Monday, and stop fretting over Black Friday shopping invoices. Now, the most important date on their calendars this holiday season is “Super Tuesday” — the last day when online shoppers have enough time to receive their holiday purchases before Christmas at regular shipping rates, forcing many to make those last-minute purchases.

The Might of Ajax and XML

In the software development space, the biggest news (or biggest hype, depending on your viewpoint) this year surrounded a years-old Web development technology: Ajax, or Asynchronous JavaScript and XML.

The technology is the aggregation of XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, XML and XMLHttpRequest to create Web pages that allow users to do seemingly simple actions such as dragging-and-dropping items among folders in a Web mail application.

While Microsoft has been doing it for years with Outlook Web Access, it wasn’t until Google came out with its maps and Web mail applications that the technology started turning heads with end users.

Unlike most of today’s Web pages, which don’t “remember” the previous page and are completely re-rendered every time a link is clicked, Web apps using the Ajax programming technique keep the original Web page intact and request only the bits of information asked for by the end user through an XMLHttpRequest.

In effect, it turns a Web page into something that looks a lot like a desktop application.

Just months after Adaptive’s Jesse James Garrett coined the “Ajax” term, companies that had been quietly using the Web programming technique for years were coming to the forefront with their Ajax-based applications.

Microsoft unleashed plans for Atlas, it’s Ajax-like tool for use with ASP.NET 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005, one of several companies that came out with a developer tool to make it easier to create apps using the complicated brew of technologies.

Contributing Writers: Clint Boulton, Tim Gray, Colin Haley, Erin Joyce, Sean Michael Kerner, Susan Kuchinskas, Roy Mark, David Needle, Catherine Pickavet, Jim Wagner.

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Networking Disaster Relief

The power of the Internet to help respond to disaster relief is certainly not a new story to readers of internetnews.com. But given the magnitude of disasters the world was coping with in 2005, it’s worth noting as well the magnitude of the online response.

As 2005 dawned, the world was trying to respond to the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Southeast Asia that hit on Dec. 26, 2004. By the first of the year, more relief was mobilizing. While President Bush ramped up the United States’ official efforts to help survivors by calling on Americans to go online to help survivors, former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton announced plans to support relief operations in Sri Lanka, Thailand and India. They also urged Americans to visit the USA Freedom Corps Web site for a list of reliable relief organizations to make donations.

Sure, the scam artists moved in to try to exploit the giving spirit that pervaded the Web, as the FBI warned altruistic cyber citizens to be on the lookout for scams trying to gain from the tsunami disaster.

But the power of the Internet to give rather than to steal trumped all.

Almost as soon as the waters began to recede, financial relief began pouring in. Just 10 days after the tsunami, American organizations had raised more than $245 million, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Slightly more than half of all those donations came from online sources, as people tried to do even some small part to assist a region that lost more than 150,000 people to the disaster.

Then came hurricane Katrina and the utter devastation that hit New Orleans and the Gulf region in the flooding that followed last summer. And once again, every major technology company stepped up to help. Verizon allowed its subscribers to text ‘2HELP’ to send donations to the American Red Cross. Intel donated $1 million to the Red Cross for Katrina relief, and Microsoft had a matching program.

As powerful as the imagery was from that event, such as the before and after satellite shots on CNN.com’s Web site, or even at Google’s Earth Beta, the stories, the words from citizen journalists and bloggers, underscored the scope of the disaster.

According to CNN, as of Sept. 1, it had received more than 10,000 e-mails from citizen journalists with first-hand accounts of their experiences.

Video Rules the Net

Back in January 2005, we asked, “Will video search pay off?”

The answer seems to be, “absolutely!”

With U.S. broadband penetration finally past the magic 50 percent mark, video on the Internet took off. AOL led the way with an ambitious deal to simultaneously Webcast Live 8 concerts held around the world. The technical success was matched by the show’s popularity, with more than 5 million viewers.

CBS News reinvented itself as a multi-platform digital network with the Web as its primary delivery point.

By December, comScore Networks and StreamingMedia.com said that 25- to 50-year-olds were the best market for online video.

The major search engines and several startups all solicited uploads of original video content, as they cut deals with commercial content providers such as Reuters, CNN and ABC. (“Desperate Housewives” on your iPod, anyone?)

In December, “The Young Turks,” a Sirius satellite radio show, began simulcasting a live Internet TV version of the political talk show.

Meanwhile, video-on-demand over IP continued to evolve, with Comcast and DirectTV offering popular television shows via digital cable.

Supreme Court Smacks Down P2P, Open Access

The tangled technology legal landscape got some clarity in 2005 from the Supreme Court, evoking whoops of victory from copyright owners and cable companies and cries of despair from peer-to-peer (P2P) operators and independent broadband providers.

In MGM v. Grokster, the court ruled P2P companies are legally responsible for the illegal acts, i.e., stealing copyrighted material, of their users. By actively encouraging P2P users to swap copyrighted music and movies, the court ruled Grokster was an illegal business model.

The decision cleared the way for Hollywood movie studios and music publishers to pursue litigation against P2P developers for actively inducing copyright infringement. By the end of the year, Grokster was out of business and other P2P companies were scrambling to devise legal business models.

In FCC v. Brand X, the justices decided cable broadband providers do not have to share their lines with independent Internet service providers. In a 6-3 decision, the court said the Federal Communications Commission was correct in classifying broadband cable modem as a deregulated information service.

Since the FCC does not regulate information services, the decision allowed cable companies to continue to be the exclusive Internet provider for their customers.

The FCC responded to the decision by ruling Baby Bell DSL broadband service also does not have to engage in line sharing.

Contributing Writers: Clint Boulton, Tim Gray, Colin Haley, Erin Joyce, Sean Michael Kerner, Susan Kuchinskas, Roy Mark, David Needle, Catherine Pickavet, Jim Wagner.

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