But Wait, There's More
Virtual Server 2005 R2 Released to Manufacturing
Virtual Server 2005 Release 2 (R2) was released to manufacturing (or RTM'ed in Microsoft's parlance), and will be available for purchase the first week in December, the software behemoth announced yesterday. Virtual Server 2005 R2 features a bevy of enhancements, including support for Linux as a guest operating system, support for X64 processors from Intel and AMD, better support for HyperThreading to boost performance, support for clustering across hosts for better high availability, and support for network installations of guest operating systems. In August, you will remember, Microsoft decided there was too much good stuff in Virtual Server Service Pack 1 (SP1) to give it away to existing users for free, so it decided to rev it up as a full R2 release. This means that Virtual Server 2005 R2 is not a free upgrade to current users, and getting an upgrade will require users to either be under a current Software Assurance contract, or to buy a new license of the product. For more information, see "Microsoft Updates Server Virtualization Roadmap" in a previous issue of this newsletter.
Great Plains, er, Dynamics GP, Updated to Version 9
Microsoft this week unveiled a new version of its Great Plains ERP system, which it is now calling Microsoft Dynamics GP. With version 9.0 of this product, which was announced yesterday, the company has made a number of enhancements, including new role-based desktops, a new user interface that looks like Microsoft Office, new "Business Analysis Cubes" (BACs) for Excel, expanded reach and functionality around the SharePoint Services portal offering, "deeper integration" with the upcoming release of Microsoft's customer relationship management software, called Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and a new "development experience" for extending Dynamics GP 9.0 with Visual Studio 2005, which is just now becoming available. The new ERP system is available in select countries and regions, and ranges in starting price from $3,500 for the "personal edition" to $7,500 for Microsoft Dynamics GP Professional Edition.
Softricity Partners with Tacit Networks to Boost Remote Windows Apps
Windows application virtualization experts Softricity and Tacit Networks, a provider of bandwidth compression and optimization devices, announced a sales and marketing partnership this week to jointly pursue the market for solutions that speed the delivery and access of Windows applications in remote branch offices. The partnership is primarily geared toward cross-selling products and ensuring compatibility, although there is the potential for Softricity's SoftGrid software, which enables users to "stream" whole Windows applications from servers down to desktops, to be installed on Tacit's Windows-based network devices. Softricity's customers will benefit from the partnership by getting faster downloads of their virtualized Windows applications using Tacit's devices, while Tacit's customers in far-flung offices will be able to benefit from the local caching and access of Windows apps.
Unisys and EMC Re-Commit Through Pact for Software, Hardware, Services
Unisys and EMC announced an expansion of their 13-year relationship yesterday that will see the two technology giants working together in new areas, including new offerings that bundle EMC software and Unisys services in the areas of real-time infrastructure, public-sector organization solutions, and security. EMC's systems management software involved in the deal includes EMC Smarts, EMC Documentum, and EMC VisualSRM, while Unisys will contribute its "real-time infrastructure," or RTI, services. In terms of security, the companies said that EMC "expects to play a key role" at the Unisys Government Transformation Center in Reston, Virginia, a facility where Unisys works with alliance partners to build solutions for governments. The companies plan to use EMC's Surveillance, Analysis and Management, or "SAMS," offering to enable the storage, archiving, fast searching, and analysis of petabytes of video and other data culled from physical security devices such as surveillance cameras and access control systems. It's all a part of Unisys' "3D Visible Enterprise," or 3DVE, initiative, the Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, company said.
Zend Studio 5 Ships with Commercial PHP 5
Zend Technologies, the commercial support company that is behind the open source PHP language and runtime engine, announced this week that the long-awaited commercial implementation of PHP 5, which is called Zend Studio 5, is ready for public consumption. The new PHP 5 has better integration with databases, including IBM DB2 and Cloudscape, Oracle 9i and 10g, Microsoft SQL Server, as well as PostgreSQL, Derby, and SQLite. (Oddly, MySQL was not mentioned in the announcement, but PHP 5 clearly supports the MySQL database and this is the most popular database behind PHP.) Zend Studio also does FTP over SSL, has integrated support for the Subversion version control system. Zend Studio Standard Edition, which is aimed at single developers and which includes an internal Internet Explorer browser, costs $99. (I am a bit mystified about how IE is running on a Linux or Unix box, but once we figure out how to get it installed on our SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 development server, I'll let you know what the deal is.) The Professional Edition, which adds the Subversion integration, costs $299, and the Enterprise Edition, which adds a code quality control and test environment, costs $1,495 for a perpetual license or $499 for an annual license. All versions include one year of tech support. Zend Studio 5 runs on Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, Windows, and Mac OS X.
Aberdeen Report Pegs Growth in Midmarket ERP
Now that they have gone through an extended belt-tightening exercise, medium-sized enterprises are beginning to focus their attention on building revenue and are willing to turn to technology to accomplish these goals. That's what the latest research from Aberdeen Group reveals. According to "ERP in the Mid-Market Enterprise: The 2005 Benchmark Report," a significant portion of the mid-market is relying on core business applications to provide competitive advantages. For the purposes of this research, Aberdeen Group surveyed primarily manufacturers that assemble components from parts and distribute those products. Epicor Software. Aberdeen also conducted a similar report in 2004, which provides a basis for comparison in its trend analysis.
Based on its survey results, Aberdeen concludes that 77 percent of mid-market firms have made revenue growth their top priority. Lowering costs, which one year ago was gaining the most attention, remains a major factor in these shops, but only slightly more than half of the respondents rated it as their major concern. Expanding the revenue and customer base have become the most powerful drivers for many medium-sized companies, where an emphasis on customer satisfaction, staying competitive, and controlling costs continue to dominate conversations between IT and business executives. Katherine Jones, author of the report, says these firms are ready for a technology overhaul, which could include newly installed software, hosted solutions, or outsourced services. "The mid-market is beginning to invest in technology to get ahead. Prime examples of that investment in the next 12 months are in supplier relationship management, customer acquisition and retention tools, and technology to help companies hire better talent--and then retain that talent," Jones says. "Chief technology directions are toward implementing ERP suites, integrating existing business applications where they aren't already, and moving toward enterprise-wide consolidation on applications and infrastructure."
One of the indicators identified by this survey is that ROI on current ERP systems is less than 50 percent. This leads to two conclusions: Either companies are not taking full advantage of what they have or the solutions aren't providing it. Much of the blame, according to the report, relates to the length of time ERP applications have been deployed. The survey shows that 21 percent of those responding have applications older than five years and 29 percent have applications that are three to five years old.