the Pipeline

Microsoft Office 2003 offers solutions, not features

Microsoft Corp. finishes 2003 strong with the release of Office 2003. The suite features extensive use of Extensible Markup Language to facilitate integration with legacy systems, an emphasis on collaboration and new programs to augment the familiar applications such as Word, Outlook and PowerPoint.

Microsoft developers went for "solutions, not features," said Lisa Ruff, a Microsoft business product technology specialist. Catchphrases aside, the company has significantly bumped up the power of the venerable suite.

Office 2003 integrates the company's SharePoint Services collaboration engine so that employees at an organization can use various products in the suite to modify documents.

Ruff said the suite is ideal for federal agencies currently in the throes of various modernization, integration and standardization projects.

"The key power with regard to XML is being able to exchange data through a lot of disparate systems," she said. "The information is no longer locked into proprietary formats."

There may be a certain irony in such words coming from a Microsoft rep, but Office 2003 looks to deliver on the promise.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Microsoft release if there were not other companies tagging along. Miramar Systems Inc. is one of those. The company has released Version 4.7 of its Desktop DNA Enterprise Edition software. The software manages a computer's "DNA," which includes settings, data and preferences, during Windows upgrades and system recoveries. The new version includes an XML-based manifest log that delivers increased migration control and supports migration to Office 2003 and Microsoft's Active Directory.

Desktop DNA can save as much as $900 per computer in large-scale upgrades, according to Miramar officials.

The company plans to reach federal customers through its partners, including Dell Inc., and directly, said Greg Goodman, Miramar's vice president of product management. "The more avenues that people can hear about you, the better," he said. Microsoft has also released a free version of its SQL Server Desktop Engine 2000, primarily for developers. The product can be embedded into applications and then distributed as part of the application, under the Microsoft license. It can also be used for some database applications on Web sites.

Big switches and other heavy iron

SMC Networks Inc. has added two new Gigabit switches to its arsenal. Part of the EZ Switch 10/100/1000 Gigabit switch product line, the new 16-port and 24-port versions expand a line that already includes five- and eight-port switches and a 32-bit PCI Ethernet card.

SMC's mission is to bring affordable Gigabit Ethernet capability to the desktop. The new 16-port switch sells for about $700, and the higher capacity version is about $1,000.

SMC also has released the newest addition to its TigerSwitch family of high-performance switches, the TigerSwitch 1000 standalone Layer 3 managed switch with 12 small form-factor pluggable ports and four fixed Gigabit uplinks. It is intended for connecting and routing between distant networks or virtual local-area networks (LANs) over many miles.

Paracel Inc., a business unit of the Celera Genomics Group of Applera Corp., has released the Paracel Cyclone, a turnkey Linux cluster system. Cyclone comes preconfigured with everything needed to deploy the system.

Look Ma, no wires!

Ember Corp. and RAE Systems Inc. have developed a prototype wireless security monitoring system to help cargo carriers comply with pending homeland security regulations. The rules are intended to prevent terrorists from smuggling nuclear and other weapons through U.S. ports in shipping containers.

RAE contributed hazardous environment sensors to the system, and Ember added wireless embedded radio frequency chips and networking software. The prototype wraps cargo containers in a mesh network web that detects weapons materials and details when containers have been opened and sealed or when contents have been removed or added.

Homeland Security Department officials do not plan to mandate the sensors, but they will give preferential treatment to smart containers. Containers without the electronic enhancements will have to go through slow, costly manual inspections to clear customs, according to company officials.

Colubris Networks Inc. and RSA Security Inc. have joined forces to deliver a secure wireless LAN for large organizations. The systems join Colubris' wireless fidelity access devices (pictured at left), which include embedded virtual private network data encryption technology, with RSA's SecurID authentication and Keon digital certificate management software.

Koolspan LLC released SecurEdge, a USB security device for Wi-Fi communications. Users plug their client key into a USB port on their laptop computers. The key communicates with a lock inside the organizations' network. The lock authenticates the user and grants access to the network. It also provides 256-bit encryption.

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