2008 IT industry graveyard

Cisco firewalls, Windows XP on new computers and the Microsoft-Yahoo deal have been among this year’s casualties. And one author even suggested the IT department would meet its maker. Our review of network technologies, companies and ideas that have died in 2008.

  • Windows XP: In June Microsoft kept to its vow to make June its last month for shipping boxes of XP to retailers and for allowing computer makers to sell PCs with the OS.

  • Cisco Pix Firewalls: Cisco in July stopped selling its long-standing PIX firewalls in favor of its newer ASA 5500 appliances that perform the same functions as the discontinued devices plus more. While Cisco has made its name selling routers and switches, the company quietly turned the firewall technology obtained via its Network Translations acquisition turned into a multibillion dollar business, much to the chagrin of more focused firewall vendors such as Check Point.

  • Identity Engines: Customers of the identity management appliance company started in 2004 started getting legal notices in September that the San Francisco company was trying to sell its assets. The company had won US$26 million in backing from a trio of Silicon Valley funds: Horizon Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Trinity Ventures.

  • HP's Voodoo PC business unit: HP announced in July that it had merged its Voodoo PC business unit with its consumer business. Voodoo's laptops and desktops will now be sold alongside HP's consumer Compaq Presario and Pavilion PC lines, an HP spokeswoman said. HP in 2006 paid an undisclosed amount to acquire Voodoo, which was then known for its cutting-edge gaming PCs.

  • Tech IPOs: OK, we probably include this on the list every year, but what can you say when industry watchers like PricewaterhouseCoopers point out facts like this: Q2 was the first quarter since 1978 in which no venture capital-backed IPOs took place.

  • Complex wireless phone bills: The big US wireless carriers, including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, all offered customers a chance to kill off their complicated wireless billing plans in favor of simpler flat rate plans that would allow for unlimited calling. Of course, you need to pay through the nose for these plans, which might offer a lot more minutes than you really need.

  • The IT Department: It is a shift to utility computing that will kill this corporate career path, predicts Nicholas Carr in his new book, 'The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google.' "In the long run, the IT department is unlikely to survive, at least not in its familiar form," Carr writes. "It will have little left to do once the bulk of business computing shifts out of private data centers and into the cloud. Business units and even individual employees will be able to control the processing of information directly, without the need for legions of technical people." Carr's rationale is that utility computing companies will replace corporate IT departments much as electric utilities replaced company-run power plants in the early 1900s.

  • Frontline Wireless: This start-up had planned to bid in the FCC's 700MHz spectrum auction, but in January said it had closed for business. Frontline, backed by veterans of the wireless industry and US government, was one of the major advocates of a plan for the FCC to pair about 10MHz of spectrum set aside for emergency response agency communications to another 10MHz to be sold in the auction starting January 24. The auction winner would then be required to build a wireless network that emergency responders such as police and fire departments could share with commercial interests.

  • HD DVD: Betamax of the 2000s: Toshiba's HD DVD format earned its place alongside the Betamax after Toshiba announced it would no longer build systems to play the advanced movie format, ceding the market to the Blu-ray format. For a while there, it looked like the porn industry might actually save HD DVD from the grave.

  • Juniper's DX application accelerators: Customers looking to replace Juniper DX load balancers/application accelerators will have to look to other qualified vendors, Juniper says. Juniper says it decided to get out of the load-balancer business because DX wasn't the top seller in the market and that it would be tough to move up. "One of these things is just like the other," said Mark Bauhaus, executive vice president of the company's service-layer technologies division.

  • While there has been no shortage of new technologies in 2008, from Google's Chrome Web browser to Apple's iPhone 3G to Cisco's huge Nexus switch, we regret to say that this year has also marked the end, sometimes bitter, for other technologies and parts of the IT and network industry.

  • SAP's TomorrowNow software maintenance subsidiary: SAP said in July that it planned to shutter its TomorrowNow software maintenance subsidiary by October 31, having failed to find a buyer for the company. SAP said it will help TomorrowNow's 225 customers to find new support providers before the company closes its doors. TomorrowNow built a business selling third-party support for PeopleSoft and JD Edwards applications at around half the price charged by the original software vendors, later adding support for Siebel and Baan software to its range. Oracle wound up suing SAP and TomorrowNow, accusing TomorrowNow of illegally accessing intellectual property.

  • Lockdown Networks: Network access control start-up Lockdown Networks shut down operations, becoming another in what has become a string of vendors floundering in the network access arena. The company blamed its failure on economic trends and slower than predicted adoption of NAC. As a result of these problems, the company was unable to raise the venture capital it needed to continue. It had raised more than US$14 million last fall from Ignition Partners, Intel Capital, Integral Capital Partners and Cargill.

  • BitTorrent search engine: Expensive legal battles caused TorrentSpy, the search engine for the BitTorrent file-sharing service, to shut down. A note on the home page of TorrentSpy's Web site in March said it was shutting down "not due to any court order or agreement," but because of a team decision.

  • Comcast P2P traffic throttling: Comcast announced in March that it had decided to stop targeting such P2P protocols as BitTorrent when managing network traffic. In a reversal of its previous practices, Comcast says its traffic-management practices will not target individual protocols for traffic-shaping.The FCC seconded that notion, ruling that Comcast's practice was invasive. Now Comcast is getting beaten up over its broadband caps put on residential customers.

  • Microsoft's Yahoo buyout: The on again, off again, on again, off again, on again, off again affair that started in February and came to a close in July when Yahoo rejected Microsoft's latest offer, had the whole industry in a tizzy. After a quick rejection by Yahoo, Microsoft eventually pulled its bid in May, only to continue talks with Yahoo on a possible alternative deal that also wound up fizzling out. Meanwhile, Google kept chugging along, grabbing more search market share, as Microsoft and Yahoo's shares slipped.

  • What do you think? Did we overlook any obvious candidates that also deserve a proper burial here?

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