February 2009 Archives

Load Unbalanced

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So, as the fall-out from Nortel's demise continues, we see that it agreed to sell the assets of its old Alteon division/technology to Radware for around £12m as part of its bankruptcy restructuring plan. Considering that it paid almost $8bn back in 2000, that's something of a drop. So if you bought a house in the UK two years ago, and are in sulk mode, then just thing how bad it could be...

The point is, this technology was pretty well redundant when I last tested it back in 2004. So getting anything for it - are the customers still there to buy into RADware replacement? - is a bonus. Which kinds of sums up Nortel's situation.

In which case, how much is proper, contemporary technology just tried and tested from the likes of jetNEXUS in the UK worth?

All bids in sealed envelopes c/o Computer Weekly, Sutton, please...

Canned No Show And Under-Performing Parents

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I should be reporting to you this week directly from the VMworld show in Cannes, but the organisers kindly decided they didn't want to hand out any more press passes so, not wanting to be a trespasser (and being from Yorkshire I don't pay to attend shows) I stayed home. I don't like Cannes anyway.

But a mate reports from the show that his mate, who was at MWC in Barca last week, reckons VMworld is a much better effort. It's all about focus these days of course. That said, there was a time - not so long ago - that MWC was called 3GSM, and that was in Cannes, and it was focused.

I'm interested to know how many true punters - AKA IT professionals, not vendors or media related - actually attend shows? Why would you when there's the 'net? Which brings us back to VMworld - the irony being a physical show hosted in the name of a virtual environment?

Maybe more of a worry to VMware is the news that Red Hat has launched an entire line of virtualization software aimed at VMware, giving customers an open-source option for virtualising their data centres.

I was discussing virtualization of data centres earlier this week with some of the ProCurve guys. Every vendor seems to have a software or hardware (or both) solution in the name of the "V" word at the moment, so I'm hoping to get my hands on this stuff too and see if there really is a new world out there or whether it's simply old but retold (and resold). Interesting aside on ProCurve, being HP's networking division. Last week Mark Hurd, wot runs HP, apologised for poor performance for HP as a whole, announcing lots of salary cuts (bet he's popular) to counter the slump. Yet, if you work for ProCurve, you must be thinking "what slump?" as the company grew around 35% last year. So, having effectively been run and flourished as an autonomous company, start-up almost, now it has been fully embraced by HP is this the beginning of the end? Let's hope not. After all, if you've been used to selling chassis-based Ethernet switches and managing the complexities of MPLS networks, you don't really want to end up selling printer cartridges. Do you? Oh, and another small point, EMEA, not the US, is ProCurve's biggest market. That surely says something to an American parent...




Virtual Virtualization

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Had a chat on Friday with Andrew Hillier, CTO of CiRBA (and nothing to do with the garden centre business as far as I know) - www.cirba.com.

Anyway, Andrew's company is in the world of modelling, no, not legs and stuff but capacity planning and suchlike. Interestingly, I was involved myself in the mid-late '90's doing a lot of testing with a start-up NetFusion, but I guess it was ahead of the game. Which is another way of saying it didn't exactly sell for billions to a big American company.

The one big driver here seems to be - again - virtualization. So, capacity planning for a data centre, for example, without virtualization is tough enough, but add in the virtual element and the complexities of analysis capacity and related requirements go through the roof (virtual or otherwise).

So, with the CiRBA software you can perform all kinds of what-if analysees before churning out the proposed solution. There are all kinds of dash board so you can visualize your, er, virtualized environment. At the heart of the product is an analysis engine that takes all your requirements and number crunches away.

How well does it work - well I hope to get my hands on it soon enough, so I'll let you know.

GSMA Mobile World Congress - the future's not orange its green

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So the mobile future's not orange after all, it's green and it's Philippino.

Yes, "greenness" has invaded the GSMA's Global Mobile Awards with a "Green Mobile Award" that honours new and innovative concepts that help the mobile communications industry operate in a more environmentally friendly manner and contribute to the reduction of the mobile eco-system's CO2-emissions. Apparently...

The winner was Philippines-based SMART Communications, noted as being outstanding for its alternative power for cell sites program. The company uses renewable energy sources to power cell sites in off-grid locations. Today, there are about 68 cell sites in different areas across the Philippines which are powered by renewable energy. Of this figure, 41 are run by wind energy while 27 are hybrid using both wind and solar energy. Some of us have been running off wind energy since our first curry, but that's another story.

However - shock, horror - it was found in a current study by consultants A.T. Kearney that consumers' demand for so-called green mobile phone products or mobile minutes is comparatively low. So maybe the future is orange after all.

Beyond green, the awards were something of a trophy-fest for Vodafone.  Why, we ask? Ask Jamie Cullum, the star turn; I mean, what doesn't he know about the mobile world?

Oh - and Microsoft has released Windows Phones. Don't ask...


GSMA Mobile World Congress - 42 Mbps network speeds announced on day 2

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Oz operator Telstra announced that its latest 3G+ network will support 42Mbps by the end of the year, just as the first 21Mbps peak-rated mobile broadband modem was unveiled. The reality however, is that if you get 8Mbps you're doing really well.

That said, it compares well with the 9.6Kbps GSM speeds I was getting a few years ago on the train journey to the CeBIT show, where some bright individual was trying to send me a 73MB attachment. I didn't even try to do the arithmetic to work out how long the transfer would have taken, before I dropped it. Forever was going to be close enough.

The Telstra network is using the turbo version of this modem to get its double-speed, a la 802.11g turbo at 108Mbps etc. As a Subaru driver I know the benefits of turbo's - why not just make this the standard version in the first place?

So, our move from analogue to digital TV isn't simply resulting in more channels and new forms of RSI through obsessive channel-hopping. The mobile industry is calling for part of the frequency range that has been made available through the release of analogue TV broadcasting to be made available for mobile networks.

The UK would appear to be definitely in line for making use of this airspace, but in exactly what form yet we don't know.

GSMA Mobile World Congress: Day 1

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So Mobile World Congress - MWC - comes around again; this time on the back of the latest Netevents symposium, where, among other things it was felt that WiMAX was dead and the there is simply no way to calculate total IT "greeness"; more on that topic in the near future.

So - here at MWC, we see that Alcatel-Lucent announced that it has received the WiMAX Forum Certified seal of approval for the 3.5GHz band version of its WiMAX base station.

"We're pleased to certify Alcatel-Lucent's equipment in the 3.5GHz band, particularly given that breadth of the company's presence in WiMAX deployments worldwide in this frequency," said Ron Resnick, the president and chairman of the WiMAX Forum.

But then he would. Perhaps he should become a medical examiner, then he can certify the dead. And WiMAX can simply be renamed "Wi?"

Instead, all talk is of femtocells. Which is kind of like replacing the Space Shuttle technology with rocket-equipped hang-gliders but at least they are affordable and readily usable by the individual. More on femtocells as the week progresses.

So, no space shuttles, but there is Kevin Spacey. And Jamie Cullum. Wonder if they were at the Cisco Networkers event last month?

In terms of pure mobile data there doesn't seem to be anything that has moved the game on from where I've been testing recently - Netmotion etc - but if I spot something you will be informed.

Virtualization Blowing Into The Data Centre, Or Is It Data Center, Or Dated Centre (for some)?

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This time last year I did some extensive testing with Gigabit/10Gig switch vendor, Force 10 Networks and I was truly impressed with the technology.

So when said company launches something that sounds as flaky as a "virtualization framework", whereas normally I would summarily dismiss it as marketing gone mad, in this instance it's worthy of serious analysis. In a nutshell (nut species not specified) this is a set of tools that is designed to hand-hold in the deployment of a virtualized environment from day one build to ongoing performance monitoring and analysis thereof.

There are three basic elements:

VirtualControl which partitions physical network assets to virtualize logical boundaries, enabling one device, i.e. a switch/router, to act as many devices.

VirtualScale which enables network managers to consolidate physical network fabrics to virtualize physical boundaries, enabling many devices, i.e. switch/routers, to perform as one device.

VirtualView which allows administrators to see what is happening on the network, and to automate network responses according to precise, dynamic resource needs and demands.

So it kind of sounds like an extension of VLANs combined with network management. It has some specific "nice things" though, such as the ability to get rid of the horrible Spanning Tree protocol, by enabling you to create a resilient architecture without the need to waste half the bandwidth, as well as application-based network segmentation.

The VirtualView element of this framework also looks pretty handy (despite the naff name) providing intelligent control of network devices, such as automatically powering down under-utilized resources to save power, policy-based managed by business process (sounds interesting) and dynamic allocation of VLANs for defining and re-allocation resource pools.

In other words, it kinds of provides the elements you'd like to have seen on switched networks from day one but that have been bolt-ons to date. So, given Force 10's recent merger with the Carrier Ethernet guys, Turin Networks, does this make the company hot property, even in the current financial climate (don't mention the weather)? I would say absolutely, so I'm about to getting digging. Watch this space...

Networking Derailed...

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So Cisco is the latest of the networking giants to start shedding jobs; 6,700 to go, starting with 2,000.

Cisco's points to the change in networking and the emergence of cloud computing as a primary reason for the slow-down; less folks want to own and run their own network, so there are less customers to sell to. And economies of scale should ensure that those fewer, but larger, customers, need to buy less to deliver more.

Of course, this is precisely what tried to happen a few years ago, when good old mainframe time-sharing was reinvented as Application Service Provision. It didn't work then, but it might now. Enterprise apps aren't too happy working over a 56K modem link, but do rather better across broadband, especially with the assistance of the type of optimisation products I repeatedly talk about in this blog.

Does this mean that Cisco and the likes will invest in all this wonderful optimisation technology "the best of British" that I invest my time in testing? Watch this space...

One such technology that is undeniably 'more than useful' in the cloudy computing world is the 'always on' client that lets me stay connected whether on LAN, WLAN, WWAN, or mobile data. And string is coming soon. Just finished some testing with NetMotion, wot provides this kind of technology. As well as maintaining the connection, it too optimised those links. So much so that, where Cisco VPN client failed to deliver completely, the NetMotion Mobility XE client was not only three times faster but actually finished the transfer. Cisco has a bit of buying to do...