Security firm Symantec reported revenue of $1.48 billion for its second fiscal quarter, beating out most analysts' expectations, but down 3 percent from the same quarter one year ago. Earnings were also better than expected, which checked in at $294 million, or $0.36 per share.
Symantec attributed the growth to its consumer business and increased IT spending, which bodes well for the company, considering a recent survey by Intuit Payroll suggested that the majority of SMBs have been spending less on security, even as cybercrime continues to rise.
"We're definitely seeing the U.S. market stabilize," Symantec CEO Enrique Salem noted in an interview on Wednesday. "We've seen China and parts of Asia continue to do well, and we're seeing some weakness in western Europe."
While consumer revenue was up 6 percent year-over-year, Symantec may have a tough time pushing its storage products. According to data from research firms IDC and Gartner, server sales were down roughly 30 percent last quarter.
SAP, the multinational software development and consulting firm headquartered in Germany, reported a bigger-than-expected drop in third quarter revenue in its earnings announcement today.
Somewhat offsetting the disappointing performance were lower tax rates and better profit margins, both of which led to a 12 percent rise in net income. But this came as little consolation to investors, as SAP also reported a 31 percent decline in software revenue. SAP adjusted its sales forecast for 2009 and now expects revenue to drop anywhere from 6 to 8 percent.
SAP also caught fire from Oracle last month after Oracle reported weaker-than-expected sales of new software licenses, which Oracle blamed on SAP's weakness as a reseller of its products.
Putting a positive spin on the sobering numbers, SAP chief executive Leo Apotheker pointed out gains in his company's volume business and multi-year agreements.
"Despite the continued tough spending environment, we are pleased to see further progress in the evolution of our volume business as a result of smaller deals," Apotheker said. "In addition, we are driving more multi-year agreements, where customers buy and consume software over many periods, which we believe is a positive transition for both SAP and our customers."
At nearly 10 percent, the unemployment rate is the highest it's been in 26 years, or a little over a quarter of a century. Nevertheless, SMBs are looking to the coming year with optimism and planning to hire rather than lay off more workers, suggests a new study.
Intuit Payroll pinged over 1,000 SMB owners and found that 44 percent have plans to hire in the next year, and 60 percent are expecting their businesses to grow. But there's also a bit of a quandary SMBs find themselves in.
Nearly 90 percent of the survey participants indicated health insurance benefits as key to attracting and retaining good employees, but 58 percent don't offer healthcare benefits, with nearly half saying they simply can't afford it.
"There's a wideing gap of expectations," said Nora Denzel, senior vice president of Intuit's Employee Management Solutions Division. "On one hand, we as a society assume that health and retirement benefits are part of every employee's compensation package. And yet even as these small businesses gear up to hire, according to our results, small businesses are leery about what those benefits will cost."
Intuit also found that only 1 percent of respondents reported receiving federal stimulus money, even though 74 percent admit that they are probably not taking advantage of all the benefits made available to them under the federal economic stimulus plan.
Mid-sized businesses are finding themselves in a precarious position as of late. Forced to cut back spending because of the ongoing recession, many firms are spending less on security, but at the same time, cyber attacks are on the rise, according to a McAfee report released today.
McAfee surveyed 900 mid-sized businesses around the globe with workforces ranging from 51 to 1,000 employees, and more than half of them reported an increase in security breaches over the past 12 months. The United States, along with India, ranked at the top of the charts with 63 percent of organizations noting an increase in attacks, and only China was higher at 68 percent.
But what's most frightening is how many of those same organizations think they're only a single serious security breach away from being put out of business. Of those surveyed in the U.S., 71 percent said it's a real possibility, yet IT budgets have either dropped or remained the same.
"An organization's level of worry and awareness about increasing threats has not overcome the downward pressure on budgets and resources," said Darrell Rodenbaugh, senior vice president of global midmarket for McAfee, in a statement. "But this creates a vicious cycle of breach and repair that costs far more than prevention."
While most companies note that a single attack could do them in, McAfee notes that most businesses may underestimate the risk. Over 90 percent of those surveyed felt they're protected from cybercriminals and aren't in as much danger as larger businesses.
Hot on the heels of Windows 7's recent release, VMware today has made available its Workstation 7 desktop virtualization software with a handful of new features for software development and testing.
The new version supports both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and works with features in the Windows 7 interface, such as Flip 3D and Aero Peek. And according to VMware, installing Windows 7 on a virtual machine is easier than on a physical PC.
Several improvements were made in the latest release, which VMware claims will help developers, QA engineers, sales professionals, and IT admins cut back on hardware costs, as well as save time and resources by streamlining tasks. This includes new IDE integrations for SpringSource Tools Suite and Eclipse IDE for Java & C/C++, the ability to run up to four virtual CPUs and 32GB of RAM dedicated to each virtual machine, and improved 3D graphics capabilities with DirectX 9.0c Shader Model 3 and OpenGL 2.1 support.
Workstation is available now direct from from VMware for $189, or $99 if upgrading from a previous version.
Amazon Web Services, a division of Amazon.com, unveiled its Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), which the company says will help streamline the process of setting up, operating, and scaling relational databases in the cloud.
"For almost two years, many AWS customers have taken advantage of the simplicity, reliability, and seamless scalability that Amazon SimpleDB provides; however, many customers have told us that their applications require a relational database. That’s why we built Amazon RDS, which combines a familiar relational database with automated management and the instant scalability of the AWS cloud," said Adam Selipsky, Vice President, Amazon Web Services.
Amazon added that the new service will include a fully featured MySQL database, and will automatically handle common database administration tasks like setup and provisioning, patch management, and backup duties. But perhaps the best part is that there will be no up-front investments required, and users will pay only for the resources they actually use.
Cisco today announced its intent to acquire ScanSafe, a privately held software-as-a-service (SaaS) Web security outfit based in London and San Francisco.
Under terms of the agreement, Cisco will pay $183 million in cash and retention-based incentives for the security firm. ScanSafe's services will be integrated with Cisco AnyConnect VPN client, but that's not all ScanSafe brings to the table. Cisco will also have access to the security firm's global network of carrier-grade data centers and multi-tenant architecture, both of which will help boost Cisco's presence in cloud security products.
"With the acquisition of ScanSafe, Cisco is executing on our vision to build a borderless network security architecture that combines network and cloud-based services for advanced security enforcement," said Tom Gillis, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Security Technology Business Unit (STBU). "Cisco will provide customers the flexibility to choose the deployment model that best suits their organization and deliver anytime, anywhere protection against Web-based threats."
Cisco added that it expects Web security to be a $2.3 billion market by 2012, which would explain the company's aggressive spending as of late. Earlier this month, Cisco bid a whoppng $3 billion for Norwegian video conference company Tandberg and agreed to pony up $2.9 billion to acquire wirless equipment maker Starent Networks.
One of the challenges facing Oracle in its $7.4 billion takeover bid of Sun Microsystems is in convincing the European Commission that it plans to devote just as much attention to the free, open-source MySQL database as it will on any of its own costlier parallel database products. So far Oracle has a hard time convincing the EC of that, so should Oracle drop MySQL altogether? Former MYSQL business adviser Florian Mueller seems to think so.
Mueller isn't alone, either. Members of the EC feel that owning MySQL through the acquisition of Sun presents a huge conflict of interest for Oracle, who is poised to become the owner of its biggest open-source competitor.
"Oracle is a high-priced cash cow in the parallel database business," Mueller said during a press conference on Monday. "Why then should it be the one entity that controls development, determines revenues, and controls an R&D budget of a competing product that it sells against directly in the database market?"
Naturally, Oracle has a different perspective. According to Oracle CEO and founder Larry Ellison, MySQL isn't a competitor at all, and he points out MySQL has its own market and following. Instead, Ellison says Microsoft SQL Server is Oracle's competition.
But no matter how Ellison feels, it's the EC who has the final word, at least in Europe. Without the EC's stamp of approval, Oracle won't be able to do business in Europe. As it stands, the EC has set a deadline of January 19, 2010 to make a final decision to sanction the deal or not, although it could decide even sooner.
With no clear winner in the cloud computing sector, some ITs feel it makes more sense to incorporate their own private clouds. Doing so allows businesses to offer its customers a range of customized virtual services, automated tools, and other advanced services at a lower cost than what might otherwise be possible, argues mark Everett Hall of ComputerWorld.
Anything that costs less is sure to be a hit with the bean counters honed in on the bottom line, but the push for private clouds isn't without certain pitfalls. They can be harder to manage and maintain, and then you have to convince end users that being locked into a vendor isn't necessarily a bad thing. And on top of it all, not many people are even aware of what a private cloud is, and that could stymie its adoption. Or could it?
According to Geir Ramleth, CIO at Bechtel Corp., the lack of an exact definition could work to its advantage and prevent some ITs from becoming fixated on too narrow a scope.
Moving forward, that could become a moot point anyway. Earlier this year Thomas Bittman, an analyst with research firm Gartner, predicted that enterprises would spend more money building private cloud computing services over than the next three years than outsourcing to third party providers. And more recently, Gartner said IT shops are likely to spend more than half of their cloud budget on private cloud services by 2012. And when you're talking about a multi-billion industry, those savings start to add up.
David Liu, a longtime exec at AOL and vice president in charge of Global Messaging, will make his exit from the company next month, according to an email. His departure comes just one month after the hiring of ex-Yahoo Brad Garlinghouse as president of Internet and Mobile Communications.
Liu, who was in charge of overseeing AOL's AIM, ICQ, and more recent Lifestream social aggregator, said he was leaving to "pursue outside opportunities," but his desire to suddenly look elsewhere was most likely fueled when AOL decided to go in a different direction with Grarlinghouse.
So what's next for Liu? According to TechCrunch, Liu has a few things going on, including becoming an angel investor in startup SimpleGeo, as well as talking to private equity firms about joining as a partner in search of realtime startups. And considering Liu's history (earlier in the decade he launched and grew AOL.com's free portal to 50 million users), he shouldn't have too much trouble setting up meetings with investors.