GCN INSIDER: Big fish, little fish; Beauty and the beast; Peanut butter, meet chocolate

The Motorola i355 in test mode

Chester Hawkins

Big fish, little fish

Why one IT company buys another is always a mystery, at least at first. For instance, why did Sun Microsystems Inc., which has been heavily touting futuristic grid networking, gobble up StorageTek, a stalwart of tape, the most traditional of physical storage media?

So our interest piqued when we heard that BEA Systems Inc. announced it would acquire Plum-tree Software Inc. of San Francisco. Plumtree's Portal Platform provides the front end of many an agency Web site, while BEA's application servers provide the Java 2 Enterprise Edition guts for network programs. What was the appeal for BEA?

The collaboration features, said Mark Carges, chief technology officer of BEA. The company's own portal, BEA WebLogic Portal, is more suited for transactional sites. Also, Plumtree has Microsoft .Net expertise, something that J2EE-focused BEA has neglected'at its own peril in this age of cross-platform, service-oriented architectures.

No word yet on whether BEA will keep the Plumtree brand, but the company does want to keep the portal product line itself intact, Carges told GCN. It would also like to hold onto the company's customer base. About 20 percent of Plumtree's customers are feds, said John Kunze, CEO of Plumtree.

Beauty and the beast

When a public relations representative from Sprint Nextel Corp. touted the release of that company's new 'rugged' phone, it sounded like a challenge to us. So we subjected our Motorola i355demo unit to all manner of hardships.

We started small. The first test was performed at the behest of an associate who wanted to know what a rugged phone was, exactly. So from one GCN writer's barstool, we threw the unit to the ground, where it thudded resoundingly. Later that night, we kicked the unit down the street. From there, the abuse grew more severe: The unit was flung from the balcony of a two-story building; chucked from a moving automobile; and abandoned in the frozen tundra of the company refrigerator.

Though scuffed and chilled, the phone still performed as advertised. Not surprisingly, the i355 ($80 government pricing for individual units) was built to Military Standard 810 specifications. The phone also offers such features as TeleNav, a voice-activated navigation service, and Nextel's Direct Connect two-way radio service. (Nextel was recently purchased by Sprint Corp.)
One downside: The phone is bulky, encased as it is mostly in rubber. For those who want style with their ruggedness, Sprint Nextel also recently introduced the i836 ($152), which not only is Standard 810-ready, but quite sleek as well. Flip this baby open and you'll find faux-mesh and wooden paneling. At 3.6 ounces, this Motorola unit is dainty and curvy and will look darn good hanging from your belt, or so Nextel hopes. We'll leave it to readers to sell that benefit to their procurement managers.

Peanut butter, meet chocolate

These days, several agencies use some form of storage virtualization software to pool storage resources. And more than a few offices also use server virtualization software to run one operating system on top of another. Now a storage product-testing lab has shown that the two technologies can work together.

'There has been some talk that this has been difficult to do,' said Jeremy Evans CEO of TPI Technologies of Clearwater, Fla. In the name of science, TPI set up one disk drive-packed server with storage virtualization software (SANmelody 2.0 from DataCore Software) and connected it to a second server with virtual server software (GSX Server 3.0 from VMware). VMware al- lowed this server to also run a 'virtual server' (a copy of Microsoft Windows 2000) on top of the server's own OS, Windows Server 2003.

When the two servers were connected through a standard Ethernet network, Evans found he was able to access the virtualized storage from within the Windows 2000 virtual server. 'I didn't have any problem at all,' he said.

Beyond sating geek curiosity, the test has practical value, Evans said. A virtualized setting can allow small organizations to divvy up computer resources more efficiently. Two lightly used applications that require different operating systems can be run on a single box and have their pick of storage resources, too.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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