August 2009 Archives

Still Summer - Still Cloudy...

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It's a very interesting scenario when you work for yourself and summer arrives.

People go on holiday. Which is very annoying when:

a) You're trying to finalise dates for the next series of test projects and
b) You're looking for news in the networking world to blog about.

Frankly, almost nothing has been announced in the world of networking since June. And anything that has been talked about has had the word "cloud" in it. Then we read an analyst report that says Enterprises are not up for the cloud. Well, I don't think they've any choice, if the work I'm currently involved with or have lined up is anything to go by.

That and the increasingly wireless world. I note that BT is celebrating reaching the half-million point in terms of Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK. Given that its goal is to create a million, I wonder what the odds are on this happening and when? Will femtocell deployment produce WiFi replacement or just a coverage extension and therefore encourage more WiFi delivery?

Of course, if you can connect to anything anytime, that becomes irrelevant, so long as tariffing is flexibile and affordable. My current test project involves A N Other company wot provides session persistence across all types of connections from wired Ethernet to mobile data. The question is, as a subscriber to a mobile data service, if you had to pay extra to get this type of (admittedly very useful) always-on connectivity, which always includes some type of compression/acceleration as well, how much would you pay for the privilege? One of the key markets for this type of product is the operator itself so, unless it can generate revenue from its customers then there is no market.

Which brings us tidily back to the WiFi hotspot market. Let's hope the next half-million deployment is more affordable and reliable than the first half-million... I should get a clue from visiting the US next month to carry out phase II testing on ProCurve's acquisition last year of Colubris WLAN technology. This is the first I've seen which is really geared towards hotspot (rather than Enterprise) type delivery, so it'll be great to put it through its RFC2544 paces.

Meantime, I'm checking out if the Cloud works as a means of providing the level of update speed required for AV and related security defences by taking a look at Trend Micro's Smart Protection Network as part of its OfficeScan product. Rather than using a classic stored signature database, the Trend uses "the Cloud" for all its updating. Should definitely be a better approach but let's find out.

Then there's load-balancing in the cloud, c/o Zeus and load-balancing on a USB Memory stick c/o jetNEXUS. The latter is a really cool idea I'll be putting to the test in the next couple of weeks: take an old server, add someone who's fairly clueless technically but wants to get some use out of their old gear and maximise performance on their new servers and give them a memory stick with a simply instruction - plug it in!  Meantime, on the Zeus front I guess we'll be looking at taking traffic management in the virtual world as close to 20Gbps performance as possible - a far cry from what VMware was capable of not that long ago... A similar project is in the pipeline with another old client of mine Solarflare. 20Gig of virtualness via a single NIC/Server combination....

I wonder if anyone will ever ask me to test an Ethernet switch again? D-Link where are you?

Well, I didn't get a holiday this summer and it doesn't look like I'm going to get one this autumn either. Don't get out the violins, instead check out the www.broadband-testing.co.uk website where there's plenty of new material, including the mobile phone/data testing stuff and lots more to come in the following weeks as you can tell. Oh, and here in Andorra, I have been able to accompany the excellent weather with totally gluggable rosado wine at precisely 1€ a bottle...






Virgin 50 meg Broadband - Hows it going?

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I know, it's been an age, and I have been very remiss. So how have things been going for me and my super fast connection?

Very well, I have to say. We connect with 4 computers in the house. 3 Macs, and 1 PC. Sometimes it's 2 Macs and 2 PC's - as my MacBook had a small attack of the Bootcamps and now can run Windows.

The Bootcamp experiment was a good one actually, as it meant I got to check out one fo the big tweaks that not very many PC net users know about, and one that is very important for 50 meg broadband speeds - without it you literally aren't going anywhere. DrTCP is a handy little app that will help you tweak your connection - I literally went from the depth of 12-15 meg to a stonking 44meg with this.

I am pleased with the service, and I intend to keep it. It's dropped me a total of 3 times for an ave of 3 minutes 3 times in nearly 3 months, and when I compare that to my old BT service, well it's not something I want to go back to.

I rarely get 48meg or above, but I very often get 35-43meg, and that for me for a service like this, in it's early days, is more than acceptable.

Will I recommend this service? I do and I have, but with a few caveats:

Do your research

Don't expect 50 meg every time you use it - but do expect around 40 and up

Understand that a lot of sites on the web simply cannot serve pages to you as fast as you can now download them - this isn't Virgin's fault!

Until everyone in the country can get this - you are an early adopter - expect the odd burp - you are on the bleeding edge of technology here, cutting down the long grass in the digital frontier - expect the unexpected, and you will enjoy the ride.

I put my Virgin 50 meg through an awful lot, large uploads of .mov files to dropboxes all over the world, downloads of beta virtual worlds, lots and lots of streaming video and audio and heavy duty virtual world use (they eat bandwidth for breakfast).

Virgin has stepped up to the plate and more. I think their network is more stable than their copmpetition (not that they have any at this level at the moment), and more stable than the traditional high end business broadband I have had to use in my line of work to get a good less traffic shaped connection.

Bravo Virgin, as well as being voted one of the top in customer service, I think you are well on your way to becoming top of the pile in ISP's as well.

Thanks for letting me test, and thanks for letting me be on the bleeding edge of broadband tech in the UK. 





Bye Bye Nortel - Bye Bye Bay - Bye Bye Avaya? Bye Bye Vista!

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So it looks like the Enterprise networking division of Nortel is going to Avaya after all.

Shame, 'cos I really liked the idea of it being bought out and Bay Networks being reinvented - from an original idea by (ex-ProCurve) John McHugh, who took over the ailing (been waiting years to use that word) aforementioned division of ailing giant (and that phrase too!) Nortel, who used to be called Northern Telecom when they made real money.

So the moral is, don't change your name. Nice irony there too, Nortel - being voice oriented - buys into data networking, which helps bring it down, so now Avaya - voice oriented - buys the same data networking division.

Bye Bye Avaya?

Of course, if Avaya wanted to spend approx $450m sensibly, it would buy the VoIP technology from the Voipex guys I just finished testing with, thereby remaining focused and acquiring perfect technology for the times (shedloads of biz quality voice calls up a basic ADSL connection, plus full data networking concurrently for less that the square root of sod all) but what do I know? Anyone wanting to see the Voipex tech report can checkout the Broadband-Testing  - www.broadband-testing.co.uk - website as it's going to be uploaded onto there today.

Meantime, if John McHugh is able to see this and thinks he's going to be out of a job again - get in touch; I've got a great idea for reinventing Bay Networks for the current climate...

Finally, my hate-hate relationship with Vista (so what's new?) is coming to an end as my only Vista machine - a wretched (thanks purely to Vista) Acer laptop - is dying on me through over-heating in temperatures somewhat higher than Ice Station Zebra (AKA the UK) so it falls over several times a day. The networking element of this is the mysterious disappearance/reappearance of the WLAN icon on the Vista toolbar. Following a driver re-install nothing has changed. Any clues can be forwarded to me right here right now... not so much Norman Cook as Laptop Cook...

Bye Bye

P.S. Update on my mobile phone testing - I did an interview for Netevents TV, so if anyone wants to catch it, it's at: http://www.netevents.tv/video/all-mobile-phones-not-created-equal/ or accessible via the Broadband-Testing website. Our first report on smart phone performance is also available for purchase - perfect summer beach reading!