May 2009 Archives

VirginMedia 50Meg Home Service - 3 month Trial - Week One

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I was the lucky person in the team selected to test VirginMedia's new 50 meg cable broadband service. I am right at the start of a 3 month trial, and I thought I would start the ball rolling with setting the stage with my setup at home, information about the installation, and my initial thoughts.

Chez Heidi there are currently 4 computers - 3 Macs and 1 PC (not including one MacBook that is dual booting XP). They all currently connect wirelessly to the shiny and very sleek looking Virgin Box via an Apple Extreme Base unit. I am going to try wired later on, but at the moment lets finish the introductions.

Installation of said shiny box was carried out by a very nice and knowledgeable engineer called Delroy, who despite a terrible allergy attack due to my cats, soldiered on til the end, and answered all my questions, and was thoroughly professional.

The secret to the Virgin service is the fact that they use N router technology, the Apple Extreme handled that perfectly, and all the computers in the house (apart from the elderly PC) can access the N signals. Another plus for the N wireless is that I live in a street where everyone, it seems has wifi - but no-one else appears to be using a dual band wireless router apart from me, so whilst they spend their evenings changing wifi channels (kind of like that scene with the remote control from Poltergeist), I fly happily in the distance looking back and sniggering.

So the first test using  just after installation yesterday afternoon, on wireless gave me this:, some of my later tests were in fact faster, and I tipped onto about 49.2 meg a couple of times.

The evening bought a slightly different story, the iMac furthest from the wireless source went down to as low as 30meg peak time, which I attribute to people escaping from the football that was on last night, but more testing is needed. By 11.30pm, the download speed was back up to a respectible 45meg.

So all in all at first site I am impressed, with the installation, the ease of setup, how well my Macs were catered for (I am sure it may not have been the same for a Mac owner say 3 or 4 years ago), the consistency of the overall speed, even with the drop mid evening.

I plan on testing how to optimise the XP boot of my MacBook for the connection - XP doesn't automatically cope well with that speed, and I want to do some side by side testing with the Virgin service and my still connected BT Business Broadband.

As an aside, I am a heavy duty user, I use Virtual Worlds a lot, do machinima, and am constantly uploading vids to people all over the world. This is going to be a tough test for Virgin, I am very interested to see how they do, but so far? So good. 


Your Flexible (Software) Friend...

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I know I'm an old bore, in that I keep banging on about certain stuff, but I'll continue to do so until that stuff happens as I want to see it.

One such example is the software world and notably in the realms of network managment and Helpdesk or ITSM to use its modern moniker. I know that people's thought processes are changing and expanding to look beyond the obvious - two examples I've witnessed this year are with my mates at NewNetTechnologies who've kicked CiscoWorks out of two major customer sites - National Grid and Port of Felixstowe - in favour of their own far more adaptable (and miles cheaper) software and so I'm looking to continue this process in the ITSM world.

Old Helpdesk software is, frankly, rubbish, so I relished my latest voyage of discovery with Sunrise Software's Sostenuto ITSM product. I say product, but really it's a platform with an ITSM application sitting on top - in this guise at least. The reality is that companies can no longer deal in 5-10 year fixed business plans; 5-10 minutes is more like it. So how can they expect 10-year old (and then some) technology that was designed around the longer-term planning to actually be of use in 2009, Eco-crisis or not?

Instead, Sostenuto ITSM lets you service-manage in a way that reflects your business model and methodology, rather than forcing you down the path the software developers created with their own vision of how everything from raising alerts to trouble ticketing happens. It's much the same approach as taken by the previously (in this blog) lauded Thingamy in the enterprise software world. And it works.

Moreover, Sostenuto ITSM goes way beyond the other limiting factor in this market - b****y ITIL compliance. But that's another rant for another blog...

Anyway, anyone fancies a read-up on Sostenuto ITSM should check out my report on the following link:

There might even be the odd joke or two thrown in.

Swapping Staff For Vendor Partners

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Interesting to see that, just as HP announces more job losses - see front page of CW today - amounting to 6,400 in addition to the 7,500 announced last Autumn, at the same time HP is jointly investing $180m in association with Microsoft to create a complete unified comms and collaboration solution. This Frontline Partnership announcement follows ProCurve's own major ProCurve One vendor alliance announced earlier this year. HP really is swapping staff for vendors partners - almost one-to-one at this rate...

My mates in the ProCurve division will be a significant component of this latest "in your face, Cisco" proposal - all the more reason then for them to "take advantage" of some of the wonderful UK start-up technologies I've highlighted in this blog and via test reports on the Broadband-Testing website!

Going back to that front page HP story, also interesting to note the losses highlighted over the past 12 months - sales of servers and storage equipment fell 28%, personal computer sales fell 19% and printing sales fell 23% from figures for the previous year. What it doesn't say is that the ProCurve networking division GREW by 35% in the same timescale.Sure those sales are down this year - whose aren't? - but it still shows how little HP seems to genuinely value the networking world.

I meant, just how many printer cartridges can you sell?

Virtual Time Travelling

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I couldn't help noticing that Microsoft - in a bid to compete with VMware's new world of Cloud Computing (i.e. new take on old variation) - is offering live migration with its hypervisor on a newly available download of.... "Windows Server 2008 R2" - and I could have sworn it was 2009...

So anyway, the new release will enable you to migrate between two CPUs from the same source vendor (e.g. Intel - ths slightly poorer Intel that us, thanks to the EU) even if they are different models. Wow eh, progress...

The big question is - who is simply playing with virtualisation and who is really making it stick? VMware has no other option - virtualisation, sorry - the cloud - is its only world. Microsoft, on the other hand, has nothing clearly obvious to gain in the move from real to virtual - environment, product and profits.

I guess the same thing applies to the users - who is simply piloting and who is already reliant on a virtual world, whether in the data centre or outwards from the edge? The reality is that the various layers of virtualisation do now actually work, so the "hype" in hypervisor is less so than it once was. With Cisco also getting further into the "cloud" it seems there is no way back.

But with the 'net still spectacularly less than perfect and feeling the strain ever more daily, fundamental backbone providers such as BT leaking profits faster than an American car manufacturer and spending cuts abounding, surely something is going to break at some point and that could be a pretty irrepairable break when it happens.

Batten down the hatches chaps.

Broadband Wideboys?

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Interesting to hear that Virgin is piloting 200-400Mbps Broadband (in Kent, so they be hopful of a good result (bad spelling makes bad gags) without really knowing what applications it will be used for.

Here in Andorra they've also been rolling out FTTH and have that great application to run over the 100Mbps feeds they're offering - Internet access. T'trouble is, the comms speeds out from Andorra (can't be so much a fat pipe as a thin roll-up) is rubbish and the DNS is almost always out of sync, so it's the finest waste of bandwidth availability ever.

Contrast this with a story this week in The Grauniad (still no spelling mistakes) on the excessive global footprint of the Internet: - - and how the web providers must limit this and you see the folly of giving homes 400Mbps to watch Corrie Omnibus reruns on. Meantime, we continue to test and validate fantastic optimisation technologies - DBAM Systems, jetNEXUS, NetMotion - to name just three companies I'm currently working with that problem more for less (and with less) and you wonder why this technology isn't de facto standard in every application and content delivery mechanism in the world, whether running across hi-band fibre between server farms or narrowband connections to middle-Africa or any mobile handset and all stops in between.

The reality is that you don't need 200-400Mbps into the home, not for any useful application (or most useless ones either). Billions of WLAN connections are used daily and this is typically over shared 11Mbps or 54Mbps networks (and then only half of that bandwidth is really available to start with) and then there's mobile and yet video is popularly run across these networks. And with .11n - see soon to be released Broadband-Testing report on ProCurve's recently (ex-Colubris) acquired WLAN technology - we have genuinely usable wireless bandwidth now. Why continue to put fibre into the ground? Even if it's already there (which is commonly is, but wasn't in Andorra) it costs a fortune to light it.

Surely if there's a message for the screwed up global economy that is 2009 it's 'optimise and rationalise', not bloat out on bandwidth?

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