Human error briefly brought the Internet to a virtual standstill last week in many places when the InterNIC database - effectively the Internet's address book - was wiped clean by its keeper, Network Solutions Inc (NSI). Anything with a .com or .net address was affected to some degree; it meant that e-mail could not be delivered and Web sites were not accessible.
A database at NSI crashed, corrupting the zone files holding the domain name information. The crash triggered NSI's own quality assurance software to kick in and alert the administrator to the problem, but the administrator ignored the warnings and sent the files out to the Internet anyway. NSI claimed the problem had been rectified within hours. But that was obviously too late for Europe. While most of the US was still in bed, e-mail that Europeans sent to these two network domain names was being returned because it did not know where to be delivered, or "bounced back", as it's called in Netspeak. NSI currently runs the Internet's domain name system, although there's a movement afoot to open the name registration process up to other organisations.
The accident happened when the servers were updated with new names, which happens at least once a day. The update contained no information about the two top-level domains, meaning all the previous data was overwritten with blank entries. The servers had to wait until the next update to receive data about new domain names as well as the old data from a back-up. Virginia- based NSI has the exclusive contract to manage the .com, .org and .net top-level domain names. It is supposed to administer the InterNIC jointly with AT&T and the National Science Foundation (NSF), though in practice the InterNIC is NSI. NSI was granted a five-year contract by the NSF in April 1993, and is confident that it can carry on registering and maintaining the names after the contract expires in March. But the NSF says it will neither renew the contract nor give such monopolistic control to any other company.
Sun's JavaStation desktops behind schedule
Sun Microsystems' JavaStation desktops won't begin to ship in volume until 1998. Scott McNealy, Sun's chief executive officer, said it plans to install 10,000 of the devices internally "by this time next year". It was supposed to have installed 3,000 of them for its own use by now, but won't meet that target until October, when initial deliveries of the full-function devices are now set to begin. Sun has been drawing a lot of flak for the pickle it's got itself in over the JavaStation network computers (NC) it announced last October with such fanfare and has pinned so much hope on.
"It's not if, but when," said McNealy. Companies that are already acting upon cost of ownership studies that Sun and others are waving under Microsoft's nose, claiming NCs are going to be cheaper to maintain than PCs, still have few choices of supplier. NCs built to Oracle designs, such as DEC's Shark, are only just coming to market while Tektronix ships its new NC200 NetStation this month. On the other hand NeoWare Systems has been shipping full-function NCs for a year or more.
Intel expected to slash Pentium II prices
Intel will neither confirm nor deny reports that it is ready to slash prices on its Pentium II processors by as much as half at the beginning of next month. The company says it will be announcing price cuts around that time but will not give any indication as to what they may be. But it has confirmed that it will stop producing the original, standard Pentium processors within the next few months because there simply isn't the demand for them that there was. Speculation suggests that the company wants the market to be completely Pentium II-based by the middle of next year, and follows its announcement last week of the new Pentium II with Error Correction Code for the server market.
Intel said the industry can expect a series of Pentium II releases over the coming 12 to 18 months as the processor family expands. It is thought that the company is set to embark on a new strategy commencing on 1 August, which will start with a big promotional campaign, and Intel is likely to begin phasing out its standard Pentium processors.