martedì 2 settembre 2014

Sometimes we need to look back - An old post from TheITGuys

A funny old post I had on TheITGuys... it was still 2010

I happened to look at Google Books, lately, and found something really amazing: a trip back to the past. An old issue of CIO magazine, July 1994
Let us go through the issue together, it is an amazing trip into the various crises, mergers, acquisitions, technologies, buzzwords of our time.
BAM! Page 1, first dead. The first company cited in the magazine is DEC, which would die only 4 years after this issue and was sold to Compaq. The words “We wanted a global partner to help us set world records in client/server” shows one of the buzzwords in the computing middleage: Not that it’s outdated, because we can hide the C/S model in clouds, middlewares, grids, but it still is a C/S paradigm, no matter how evolved or hidden. The amazing fact is that SAP wanted to set records for C/S. This was the real beginning of the networking era.
Page 2, a second dead. This time not a company (who can kill IBM?), but an operating evironment. OS/2, advertised in 1994. One year later, the main competitor of OS/2 for the IBM PC platform was no longer Windows 3.1, but Windows 95. We know the story from that point on.
Nothing to say about Unisys, on page 4&5. They still are in the business. They never even changed the logo! Even Information Builders on page 7. Fascinating they were relying on technologies that still exist, like Focus Reports. This means having a good eye on who to partner with. EDA/SQL is now part of Sybase.
Everybody know SAP on page 8&9.
On page 11 we find Comdisco, a company that had grown at an incredible speed for nearly 20 years but due to many legal problems with IBM, had undergone a huge restructuring and failed only few years after this issue. The leasing company had developed a very intersting services division, which became important after the attacks of 9/11. SunGard, which had already a very structured team, bought the services division for US$825 million, topping the $610 million bid made by Hewlett-Packard. The company emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in August 2002 and is still alive and trying to sell all the assets.
On page 12&13 we find the big acquisition of last year! [Note: we are in 2010] Sun Microsystems (at that time called simply Sun) sponsoring the 1994 world cup.
Page 15 shows us BMC software with an intersting title “Control your world from your desktop”. Thinking of Mom Google, today, we can say, how cute… But in the end they are still around, no longer with distributed systems management, but with business management and IT management. But the good thing in big companies is to see them change, isn’t it?
On page 18 we have a conference agenda. As usual the list of sponsors can give us hints:
The first is Acxiom, the 2005 Big Brother Award nominee for Worst Corporate Invader for a tradition of data brokering. Yet they are still alive.

Amdahl Corporation, founded by the Gene Amdahl of Amdahl’s Law (the law which make multi-processors useless in certain cases), was created in 1970. 9 years later the founder left the company, for a new venture. In 1994, the company was 5 years away from being acquired by Fujitsu. Fascinating thing is that Amdahl was no longer in the company, having created Trilogy systems, which failed around 1989. And then again Amdahl was already in his new venture, Andor International, which in turn in 1994 was 1 year away fom bankruptcy. 

Ok, like SAP, everybody knows Computer Associates, with its 4,271 billion $ revenue… :O
Data General was one of the first minicomputer firms from the late 1960s. Three of the four founders were former employees of Digital Equipment Corporation. Intersting is that DG was way ahead of its time: Data General’s introduction of the Data General-One in 1984 is an interesting story. The DG One was a nine-pound battery-powered MS-DOS machine equipped with dual 3½” diskettes (it’s 1994, the big trend was 5¼” diskettes readable with an external drive), a 79-key full-stroke keyboard, 128K to 512K of RAM, and a monochrome LCD screen capable of either the standard 80×25 characters or full CGA graphics (640×200). Bad choices (ususally the worst choices are the ones ahead of time) brought the company to a huge crisis and in 1999 the Cambridge, MA based EMC took over the company, eliminating the production of the DG computers at first, then selling to a third party the maintainence and spare parts, keeping only the storage solution, which is still sold with its original name, the CLARiiON

EDS stood for Eletronic Data Systems. It was founded by Ross Perot in 1962 in Plano, Texas, inventing something the world had never seen: outsourcing. The company was acquired in 1984 by General Motors, spun off again in 1996 and bought by HP in 2008, becoming HP Enterprise Services.
Gupta Technologies, LLC was a software development company whose main products were SQLBase, and a RAD called Team Developer aka SQLWindows. SQLWindows was one of the first GUI development tools for Microsoft Windows. The name of the company was changed to Centura Software in the late 1990s. In 2001 the company filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Some assets were bought by Unify Corp, which makes .NET based development/integration/archiving solutions.

Informix was one of the steps of the life of Relational Database Systems created in 1980. In 1981 the market was turning to the emerging RDBMS market, and the released Informix. In 1985 the Informix software integrated a SQL-based query language. One year later the company was renamed to Informix Software. The growth of the company pushed to interesting acquisitions in the areas of office systems for both DOS/Unix (SmartWare) and Apple Macintosh (WingZ). The first software was in 1990 the #2 spreadsheet after Excel, while the second, suffering lack of development, was sold in 1995 to Claris, company whch later would become Filemaker Inc. Informix, meanwhile, went on growing, entering markets like OLTP/Datawarehousing in 1994 and later Object-relational Databases (1995). After some huge internal problems between 1996 and 1998, the company retook air in 2000 doing many major acquisitions. Informix’ story ends one year later, when IBM, promped by Informix’s largest customer Wal-Mart, bought the database management part of th company, leaving the rest under the name of “Ascential Sowftware”. The reunion if Informix’s assets under IBM’s protective wing ends in 2005, when even Ascential Software is bougth.

We all know Intel, so no words on that

Oh, lotus… Now IBM!
Picturetel, since 2001 Polycom
RACAL-DATACOM has a more curious and intercontinental story. Racal was created in 1950 in Isleworth, West London. Yes, UK. in 1979 Racal bought Decca Radar forming Raca-Decca. Racal-Datacom conducted business in the US. in 1983 Racal entered cellular networks with Racal-Telecom. In 1991 Racal Telecom was demerged from Racal creating a company called Vodafone. This can be used as a unit of measure for the Mega-Fail… The rest of the story of this british success goes on until 2000 when the French (oh my god, the French!!) from Thomson acquire the company ending some time later in the Aerospace and Defese company Thales Group.

The other companies are famous and don’t need a real explanation. 
For some pages we encounter SAS, IBM, HP, the already met ACXIOM.
A previously ignored company is QMS, they made network printig systems. Amazing the total lack of information about the company, but the presence of drivers for the old printers. Anyway the company is now part od Konica Minolta Global.

On page 29 we find Tandem, a computer manufacturer, and a comparison between Tandem computers and some HP 9000 series. Fate is cruel: three years after this ad, Tandem was acquired by Compaq, which was acqiured later by the nemesis HP. 

On page 31 we have Fujitsu, acquisitor of Amdahl.

There was someone missing in the picture. On page 34 we have a good old friend: SCO! Ok, I sincerely don’t understand the status of SCO today, but at that time he story was pretty amazing. The Santa Cruz Operation was a Software Company based in Santa Cruz. They sold a Unix system called Xenix written by the most unsuspectable company: Microsoft. Until 1993 Xenix was used internally at MS. SCO was the first Unix company. In 1993 they started developing a product line called Tarantella. The big problems would have come later, when the Unix division was sold to Caldera, whic then became the new SCO and the previous SCO was to be called the Santa Cruz. After the name switch things went down a steep hill: the legal battles between SCO and Linux, SCO and Novell, SCO and Red Hat, SCO and IBM, SCO and DaimlerChrysler. At the moment, as far as I can understand the situation is very critical.
Page 41 shows us how a company can grow old even as times change. Exide was founded by W.W. Gibbs in 1888 and was then called Electric Storage Battery Company. In 1900, the company developed a product of greater capacity and less weight for elecric taxicabs. This battery was the first to bear the name Exide, short for “Excellent Oxide”. At the moment Exide Technologies is the world’s second-largest producer of automotive lead acid batteries for automotive and industrial applications.
Page 49 presents ETI Evolutionary Technologies Inc. If they don’t evolve who does? And indeed they did! Today the company does data integration and Business Intelligence.
Page 51 presents the company that invented MS SQL Server, Sybase. Around 1994 MS and Sybase had already gone through a troublesome relationship, ending with both companies having a DBMS. Magic of code! 
TI is always TI! (page 53)

Legent, on pages 56&57, was acquired one year later by Computer Associates. 
On page 61 we find Sequent Computer Systems, a computer company that designed and manufactured multiprocessing computer systems. They were among the pioneers in high-performance computing. In 1994 Sequent introduced the Symmetry 5000 series models SE20, SE60 and SE90, which used 66 MHz Pentium CPUs in systems from 2 to 30 processors. In 1996 they released the first of a new series of machines based on NUMA (non-uniform memory access) architecture. IBM then started Project Monterey with Santa Cruz Operation, intending to produce a NUMA-capable standardized Unix running on IA-32, IA-64 and POWER and PowerPC platforms. This project later fell through as both IBM and SCO turned to the Linux market, but is the basis for “the new SCO”‘s SCO v. IBM Linux lawsuit. Sequent was purchased by IBM in 1999.
Page 69 presents GTE, the largest of the “independent” US telephone companies during the days of the Bell System. GTE’s heritage can be traced to 1918, when three Wisconsin public utility accountants (John F. O’Connell, Sigurd L. Odegard, and John A. Pratt) pooled $33,500 to purchase the Richland Center Telephone Company. One acquisition after the other, the company grew up and in the late 1990s it was a huge multi-national telecommunication company. In 2000 the company merged with Bell Atlantic creating Verizon.
Page 77 tells us about a modern technology: AS/400 (ok, we use it today, too, but I’m not proud of that). SSA was a huge operator at the times of the ad. It took fate 12 years to have the company acuired by Infor.
Page 85 presents ROLM, and the company was already rolling downhill. A failed partnership and then acquisition by IBM, the loss of market to Nortel, the resale to Siemens AG. a few years later after this ad nobody would remember the company.
SoftAudit by Isogon on page 89 was acquired by IBM in 2005, consolidating the offer of software analysis and management applications.
Another amazing story is the one of Martin Marietta. Martin Marietta Corporation was an American company founded in 1961 through the merger of The Martin Company and American-Marietta Corporation. The Martin Company was an early U.S. aircraft company that now exists as Lockheed Martin. In 1982 Martin Marietta was subject to a hostile takeover bid by the Bendix Corporation. Bendix bought the majority of Martin Marietta shares and in effect owned the company. However, Martin Marietta’s management used the short time separating ownership and control to sell non-core businesses and launch its own hostile takeover of Bendix (known as the Pac-Man defense). The end of this extraordinarily bitter battle saw Martin Marietta survive; Bendix was bought by Allied Corporation and through later mergers and acquisitions is now part of Honeywell International brands. One year after this ad Martin Marietta merged with Lockheed Corporation to form Lockheed Martin, and the last drops of Martin Marietta are separated from the original company just one more year later, when Lockheed Martin splits off Martin Marietta Materials as a separate and independent entity. The company is still alive and working, as is Lockheed Martin.
Page 95 presents us a company founded in Cupertino, CA, but with a worse ending than the one of Apple. StrataCom was founded by 26 former employees of the failing Packet Technologies, Inc. Paul Baran was an employee and provided a spark of invention at the initiation of the Integrated Packet Exchange (IPX) project.
A rich collection of inventions were contained in the IPX, and many were provided by the other members of the development team. StrataCom’s implementation of ATM was pre-standard and used 24 byte cells instead of standards-based ATM’s 53 byte cells. However, many of concepts and details found in the ATM set of standards were derived directly from StrataCom’s technology. Two years after the ad on CIO the company was acquired by Cisco Systems forming the core of Cisco’s Multi-Service Switching Business Unit and helping to move Cisco more into the carrier equipment space.
The next page tells us that fate is funny and it simply takes time but everything converges. D&B Software was the software development part of the consultancy agency D&B giving Business Ingormation Reports. Acquired in 1995 by Geac compute, it was soon divided into two parts. Fate brought a company we already met, Infor, to acquire Geac in 2006, bringing both SSA and into the same infrastructure.
Curious trip, this voyage into the past. Amazing the connections between the companies and between people inside the various companies. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

domenica 19 gennaio 2014

Tre Soldi

La settimana passata è andato in onda su Radio3 (Tre Soldi) un documentario sul mondo hacker. E sono molto onorato di dire che oltre ai celebri Carlo Gubitosa (@carlogubi), Michael Schrenk (@mgschrenk), Alessio Pennasilico aka "Mayhem" (@mayhem), Marco Calamari (, Arturo Filastò aka "Hellais"(@hellais), l'amica Elisabetta ha intervistato anche me. Grazie mille! Gli argomenti sono i più vari, ovvero da cosa sono gli hacker oggi, da dove vengono, che cosa fanno, da dove vengono i classici stereotipi sugli hacker. 
Qui trovate la scheda del documentario, qui le puntate: 1, 2, 3, 4
Buon ascolto! 

Qui le puntate su SoundCloud: