February 2010 Archives

Back to Basics and Back Biting...

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In IT it's all too easy to get carried away with smart tech and the attack of the mobiles and other stuff that encourages us to forget about the basics of looking after networks and storage - access to our data and apps in other words.

So, while the MWC 2010 at Barca has been attracting global attention this week, in Vegas - of all places - a show that is less of a marketeer's wet dream but somewhat more down to Earth (no best games awards!) is about to start - IBM's Pulse 2010 Service Management event. I know, I know - the irony of "pulse" as in "racing" and "Service Management.


But the reality is without management we have no service and without service we have no IT applications. At this level it's all about effeciency and cost-saving. An example is Orb Data's launch of a web portal application designed to provide self-service configuration of enterprise monitoring, developed in tandem with one of the UK's largest banks, which must be a bonus!

 

The Self-Service Portal (SSP) is a management tool that allows application owners to select and configure systems monitoring for any new systems they bring into production and replaces the web front-ends that many enterprises have built themselves for the multiple systems management products they typically use at the back-end. What's key here is that Orb Data can deploy the self-service portal in a couple of hours in contrast to a number of months; the time span usually expected with a traditional approach to enterprise systems management monitoring.

 

This kind of engineering short-cut is becoming more prevalent and rightly so. I'm hoping to cover similar kind of ground in the mobile space in the near future. Why should everyone continue to do everything themselves? With no need for internal development, but a highly customisable interface, organisations can enjoy significant savings in terms of project costs and resource allocation. Gotta make sense. And this is just one application example.

 

Meantime, good to see HP and Cisco still at it. Ever since Cisco introduced Storage while HP introduced its ProCurve One (f*** you Cisco) initiative, they've been having a good old dig, disguised (lightly) as some strategic maneouvre or other. In a webcast, Cisco has announced that HP is no longer a certified reseller/partner. According to Cisco's Keith Goodwin, HP no longer "aligns" with its "network-centric vision". Interesting that, since HP has finally brought ProCurve in-house and is, at last, taking networking seriously.

 

Goodwin noted: "Over the last few years, our relationship with HP has evolved from a partner to companies with different and conflicting visions of how to deliver value to our customers."

 

In other words they are now serious rivals who can't stand each other. Excellent - bring it on...

Mobile World Congress? Let's Start With Netevents...

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So - MWC 2010 is currently on in Barcelona, but I was actually down there last week at Netevents - www.netevents.org - speaking on a couple of Cloud Computing panels.

The Cloud then - hype or reality? Definitely the latter. Yes, there is nothing brand new here - mainframe time-sharing anyone? And whatever happened to the $17bn ASP market that Gartner predicted a few years ago? But it simply makes sense to create an architecture where you can contact anything from anywhere and be less reliant on fixed locations for tin. It also means that we need applications that fit the agenda - back to my old mates at www.thingamy.com then - but, infrastructure wise, my old mate at Alcatel-Lucent, Phil Tilley, insists that the zillion dollar MPLS network that has been built out over the past few years is well and truly up to the job. The proofpoint is in the testing of a cloudy, virtual universe and check that it really does work. Watch this space...

So - in terms of other clear indicators from Netevents - video is clearly key. Now we are not simply talking next gen vid-conferencing here, though this is in evidence - check out www.vidyo.com who I should be doing some testing with in the very near future - but just masses of video traffic being generated. I started thinking about how often I use Youtube daily, for example, and the reality is that I'm watching probably 10 times as much video across the 'net as I was 3-5 years ago. Now we all know that video aint like a basic data application. It needs TLC.

As does voice. Now we bring in one of the other themes - and clearly a key one at MWC 2010 - and that is LTE and we then have a fully IP-based mobile network too. So voice is VoIP. And that needs lots of TLC too. Makes me feel fortunate that I've got involved in a lot of traffic optimisation technology in the past two years and more. We're certainly going to need it!


Qtn: When Is An Ethernet Switch Not An Ethernet Switch?

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Answer: when it's a power supply.

Just released the latest test report for HP on its ProCurve 2520 Ethernet switch - http://www.broadband-testing.co.uk/ReportList.aspx - and the point of interest here is not that it's got plenty of Layer 2/two and a bit features and is well priced for the SMB market, but that - in any if its various incarnations - it's fully PoE enabled.

So it's not so much a switch for networking users as for networking applications - wireless APs, IP telephones, IP surveillance webcams. PoE per port prices have dropped significantly in the past 18 months, so it's now surely a case of thinking: what can we power via an Ethernet cable?

Answers in the form of comments on this blog please...

What this kind of product does show is that, in combining successfully with 3rd party products such as Avaya's IP Telephony products, the ProCurve One initiative which might have looked like just another marketing exercise around "strategic alliances" has genuine depth. Of course, it has been labelled a Cisco basher. Bring on the 3Com acquisition and that might well be true from an HP perspective. Suddenly the Cisco portfolio is beginning to look a bit "Dad's Army" and with more holes than a good slice of Leerdammer...

Meantime, my mates at jetNEXUS - watch out for the report on the company's Load-Balancer on a stick (or CD) appearing on the Broadband-Testing website any day now - have come up with a really smart little tool for identifying just how much your website performance could be improved: http://www.jetnexus.com/predictor/jetnexus.htm

This might look like a crass bit of marketing to(mfo)olery but since I've tested the jetNEXUS ALB-X product and know how good it is, I recommend you try out this predictor. And, no, I'm not going to tell you how much it said it could improve the Broadband-Testing website by....

Oh - ok, then, nothing to hide - 34% improvement is possible according to the predictor, which is not insigificant. The predictor takes a samples of web pages from the site and analyses how much improvement the jetNEXUS ALB-X could make in each case:

Size Reduction Page
122131 19% http://www.broadband-testing.co.uk/
17636 60% http://www.broadband-testing.co.uk/MobileTestLabs.aspx
17136 63% http://www.broadband-testing.co.uk/Default.aspx
17636 60% http://www.broadband-testing.co.uk/MobileTestLabs.aspx
17136 63% http://www.broadband-testing.co.uk/

So in most cases the improvement factor was actually a very significant 60%. On an eCommerce site that's the difference between a one-time customer visit and customer retention. It's useful as well as a bit of fun, but the results are there to be taken seriously. Try it out...

It's the weekend, so a quick wine tip/challenge. Try to find/buy/drink a red wine from the Ardeche region of France. I picked up a few en route back from a meeting at HP's EMEA HQ in Grenoble and they have been excellent - light, fruity and great with foods that reds don't normally go with (I'm not going to say which foods exactly- that spoils the fun).