All News Rundown

The Enterprise Response to COVID-19 | Gestalt IT Rundown: March 4, 2020

Google, Cisco, Zoom, and Microsoft offer free teleconferencing to help stop COVID-19 spread, 80 Arm cores come to the datacenter, bill passes to rip and replace Huawei equipment for rural ISPs, and things are looking bad for the commodity server market. Tom Hollingsworth and Rich Stroffolino discuss all the IT news of the week on the Gestalt IT Rundown!

This week on the Rundown:

Wi-Fi Dissassociation Bug

At RSA Conference, security researchers from Eset published details about a vulnerability in Wi-Fi chips made by Broadcom and Cypress Semiconductor called Kr00k that effects chips in iPhones, iPads, Macs, Amazon Echos and Kindles, Android devices, Raspberry Pi 3, and routers from Asus and Huawei. The exploit occurs when wireless devices disassociate from an access point, and can effect the end user or router. When disassociation occurs from something like switching access points or signal interference, devices put unsent data frames into a transmit buffer and then send them over the air, using an encryption key of all zeros. This includes several kilobytes, and researchers said hackers could trigger multiple intentional disassociations to increase the chances of capturing useful data. Apple and Amazon both said the vulnerability have been patched on affected devices.

Libra Lessons

The Information reports that Facebook is changing its plans for the Libra cryptocurrency, no longer planning on making it a token, instead focusing on processing government-backed currency and eventually integrating in a revised Libra token. The Calibra wallet will not support conventional currency as well as crypto, and will possibly only roll out as Facebook integrates supports for a nation’s currency.

MediaTek Rootkit 

The latest Android Security Bulletin showed a rootkit exploit for MediaTek chips has been patched in March. Pretty ordinary, until you consider that information of the bug has been on XDA developer forums since at least April 2019 , with evidence that it was being actively exploited. This exploit grants root access to devices without having to bypass the bootloader, and was originally discovered by a hobbyist trying to root an Amazon Fire tablet. Some devices where OEMs modified the kernel were not affected.

Honeywell Goes Quantum

IBM, D-Wave, or Google might be names that come to mind when you think of quantum computers, well you might need to add Honeywell to the list. The company says that in 3 months its new quatum computer will be generally available to customers, offering a quatum volume of at least 64, double that of IBM’s top end machine. This uses a trapped-ion quantum charge-coupled device architecture, which uses electrical fields to trap ions which are then manipulated and encoded using laser pulses. The copy expects to see a 10-fold increase in quantum volume every year for the next five years.

Teleconference vs COVID-19

With organizations increasingly encouraging remote work and limiting travel with the COVID-19 outbreak, Google and Microsoft both announced they will make their enterprise teleconferencing and collaboration tools available for free for a limited time. Google will rollout advanced features for Hangouts Meet to all G Suite and Education customers, allowing for meetings with up to 250 participants and 100,000 viewers. Meanwhile Microsoft is offering a free six-month trial globally for a premium tier of Microsoft Teams, after originally rolling it out to hospitals and schools in China, and will lift limits on the free tier of Teams to remove membership limits and schedule video calls. The move comes after Zoom and Cisco’s Webex lifted call limits on their free tier as well.

Ampere Brings 80-Cores to Arm

The chip startup Ampere announced they have begun sampling their new ARM-based Altra CPU, designed for servers with an impressive 80-core count. This comes in a 210W TDP package, meaning if offers significant Watt per core advantage than something like AMD’s Epyc platform. Impressively, ALtra also offers class leading IO, with 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes in a 1 socket config, and 192 with two sockets. This company is being led by former Intel president Renee James, and we’re now seeing ARM support across Kubernetes, Docker, VMware, and KBM. While Arm is not going to take over the DC any time soon, could this find use cases on the edge, in analytics, or by cloud providers?

Secure and Trusted Telecommunications Networks Act Passes

The US Senate unanimously passed the Secure and Trusted Telecommunications Networks Act, which bans the FCC from giving funds to telcos to purchase equipment from companies deemed threats to the US. The Act requires the FCC to establish a $1 billion fund to help smaller ISPs replace equipment, and for the FCC to establish a list of companies deemed “threats.” The Rural Wireless Association estimated in 2018 that about 25% of its members use equipment from Huawei and ZTE, likely to be affected by the legislation. The US House passed the bill in December. We’ve been wondering how the US would deal with the reality of rural ISPs with lots of installed Huawei gear. Is a big pool of money enough or will this still be a rough transition?

Commodity Server Troubles

HPE posted a rough Q1 earnings report, seeing server sales decrease 16% to just over $3 billion in revenue. This is partly due to supply chain disruption from COVID-19, but also due to overall weakened demand, and part of the shift as the company ramps up its services offering. Dell Technologies also posted decreasing infrastructure revenue, with revenue down for the unit 11% to $8.8 billion. Breaking it down, storage revenue decreased 3% while networking and server revenue fell 18%. Neither company is expecting revenue growth in the segment this year.

The Gestalt IT Rundown is a live weekly look at the IT news of the week. It broadcasts live on YouTube every Wednesday at 12:30pm ET. Be sure to subscribe to Gestalt IT on YouTube for the show each week.

About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

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