March 2009 Archives

The Wonders Of Wireless...

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Folks who work in IT - like myself - often tend to take technology somewhat for granted.

It's only when you get on a train at King's Cross, en route to Leeds and the mighty Elland Road, and find free WiFi all the way up the line - and it works - so you can write blogs like this one, that you start to really appreciate where we've come in the last 15 years.

I've been doing some WLAN testing with ProCurve's recently acquired Colubris technology, focusing on .11n and here we have a genuine wired replacement technology in the right environment, with 200Mbps+ of genuinely available bandwidth and far better coverage options that with the old a/b/g options, especially at 5GHz.

Combining this with 3G data gives a true broadband user experience on the move; something I've personally wanted for years. Combine this again with the kind of "always on" technology that the recently tested NetMotion product gives us (spoofed connectivity at the app layer, so you're always connected to your apps on the move) and you can truly be mobile and connected at a workable level.

Ironic then, that, due to the state of the economy, many companies are cutting down on staff travelling... Except no one seems to have told me!



The B****y Mobile Network... Or Is It?

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Just started testing on mobile handsets, c/o one of our test equipment partners, Spirent.

And already we're seeing some interesting results - handsets dropping calls unexpectedly in relatively ok operating conditions. A cool half-million quid's worth of test rig is enabling us to recreate all kinds of different test factors, so we can simulate any network and state/condition.

All very interesting - more to follow...


Cisco Serves It Up To Competition

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Remember the days when IBM tried to rule the world?

Now, everyone seems to be trying to get in on the act, with Cisco being the latest this week to decide that networking alone is not enough. With the launch of its its Unified Computing System, comprising virtualisation technology, services and blade servers, it threatens to put an end to long term relationships of wonderment and beauty with the likes of HP and, well, IBM. Of course, HP has recently decided to embrace its own network child, ProCurve, in favour of Cisco, so it's a case of which came first I guess... HP finding out what Cisco was about to do (some secret) or Cisco... well, know it's obviously the former.

Meantime, IBM and Juniper are going out together to shake up the town, so who marries Dell? And who needs choice anyway? Over-rated concept...

Of course, there are no guarantees that Cisco will convert traditional storage lovers to believe that data is networking. I remember a campaign many years ago by said king of San José where it claimed that "voice is data" and not too many believed them. Then again, what is illogical about Cisco embracing the blade server? Or new for that matter.

And watch out for a veritable white water raft of virtualisation announcements by networking companies. Just when you thought you'd seen it all...

Lies, Damn Lies and Green-Washing

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Interesting to see a little Cisco video up on its website:

CISCO video

It talks about "green" networking being basically a load of b******s - "just paint a switch green and you have green switching" - but has it got something to hide? Intriguingly, Marie Hattar, Cisco VP of Marketing, states that "the 6500 series (data centre, chassis-based) has the most power efficient power supplies on the market. Well, excuse me but I have evidence to the contrary, however you interpret it. Don't you just love marketeers...

So, on a very different note I see that John McHugh who was General Manager of ProCurve for a gazillion years then mysteriously left the company is now at Nortel as VP of Enterprise Products. Not only does the plot thicken, but is this the definitive case of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire? At least he left before Mark Hurd decided that everyone's salaries should be cut...

But then, at least at ProCurve he was guaranteed a salary. Meantime, I'm trying to contact him to find out how he's going to rescue Nortel. Good luck John - I'm here if you need me...

Mobile Phones - How Good Are They Really?

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By one of those excellent fates of timing, I had a comment sent in by Paul Fennemore of Businesszone UK about mobile phone testing and a technology his company has, called m-Test.

The same day as he sent the email I was sat in Spirent's test labs in Crawley, going through how half a million quid's worth of test kit would hammer a few mobile phone handsets in a forthcoming report I'm about to start (so watch this space on that one).

So, sorry Paul, not this time with respect to your software (which focuses on mobile apps testing I believe) but - is there a requirement for mobile handset testing? Absolutely. The basic conformance testing that each vendor has to pass in order to flog their phones legally on the market is exactly that - basic! When it comes, therefore, to genuine call reliability, even with just voice there are several questions to be asked and answered. Throw in data and video and the situation is even more demanding of true analysis - that is scientific, repeatable analysis, not simply giving the kids a few phones and asking for a report on how good they were a week later.

The reality is that, every time you blame the network for poor performance it could easily be the handset itself. Broadband-Testing, then, is coming to the rescue again, to sort the iPhone's from the Storm's, from the E whatever's and the... well, you get the picture (probably in 5mega-pixels). And then you'll know whether to blame it on the operator or the handset vendor. Or the operator again for making a bad choice of which phones they sell in the first place...