Enterprise IT Watch Blog

August 4, 2010  1:49 PM

802.11n: Not If, Not When – It’s Now

Guest Author Profile: Guest Author

Wondering when you should update your wireless network from scattered unsecured “hotspots” to something a little more … serious? Then you’ve been wondering a little too long, according to today’s guest author Craig Mathias. Mathias is a Principal with the wireless and mobile advisory firm Farpoint Group. He can be reached at craig@farpointgroup.com. -Michael Morisy

With the IEEE 802.11n standard taking so long to develop (about seven years!), it’s no wonder that many are still having hard time with the fact that, yes, the standard is done, and all major WLAN system vendors are now shipping .11n products. In fact, many are reporting that 802.11n is now the bulk of their sales. Farpoint Group has, since the release of the interim 802.11n spec from the Wi-Fi Alliance, in fact been recommending nothing but 802.11n – it’s got so much higher performance in any dimension than any previous standard, from throughput to capacity to range, that there’s no point in riding the older horses anymore. OK, .11n is a little more expensive, but it has vastly improved price/performance – perhaps the vendors don’t want you to hear this, but it’s really downright cheap to install a .11n infrastructure, given falling prices due to competition and much lower components costs.

So it might surprise you to learn that the key issues (and, yes, there are some) surrounding 802.11n have nothing to do with the maturity of the technology or the price to get into the game, or even the radios required. The arguments have moved – here’s what are at the top of the list for many IT managers today:

  • Operating Expense (OpEx)– Whereas the capital expense (CapEx) required to buy that new .11n system is nothing to sneeze at, most of the life-cycle cost in any large-scale WLAN deployment is in OpEx – management, maintenance, help desk, etc. And, of course, the reason for this is that so much of the work here is labor-intensive, and that labor is highly-skilled. This is why we always recommend that end-user organizations carefully examine the management capabilities of systems under consideration. There are often major differences in functionality here between different products, and it’s important to verify functionality against one’s list of requirements, including interface points with other operational systems, in order to minimize OpEx and thus total cost of ownership (TCO) down the road. As it is with end-users, productivity is the name of the game in operations as well.
  • Scalability– Similarly, we recommend that IT managers buy not only what they need today, but alsowhat they’ll need a few years out. It’s usually not as difficult as it might seem to make a determination here; network requirements in terms of users, traffic loads, and type and number of number of applications only grow over time. It’s important to ask all vendors, of course, how their solutions scale over the lifespan of a given installation, and also across geographies from campus to branch office to global. it’s also important to learn how a given system can non-disruptively scale as core requirements grow – as they inevitably will.
  • Assurance– Finally (or not; we’ll get to another cautionary note shortly), it’s important to consider a wireless LAN assurance solution in planning your new .11n deployment. These systems perform a broad range of functions – regulatory compliance monitoring, intrusion detection and prevention, security audits, and even provide, in some cases, such vital services and spectral analysis to detect interference. There is a slow trend afoot to integrate assurance services into core WLAN management systems, and that makes sense. But you may want a system entirely distinct from your WLAN infrastructure, in a belt-and-suspenders fashion.

Of course, there’s more. I’m particularly interested in convergence functionality, for example, to allow handoffs between cellular systems and wireless LANs. And while I noted above that differences in radio performance alone aren’t the gating issue that they once were, it’s still vital to do a little testing to make sure that you’re getting the performance you need. And attention must be paid the rest of the network value chain as well, particularly in terms of deploying gigabit Ethernet – .11n will swamp fast Ethernet without even trying very hard.

A full checklist could take several pages, but I hope my core message is clear: 802.11n is all you should be considering at present. The benefits are there, and the issues, as I noted above, have shifted. No matter – it’s full speed ahead, pun intended, to 802.11n.

July 30, 2010  6:43 AM

Must-reads when planning your Windows 7 migrations

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

Windows 7 migrations…Yeah, yeah, yeah – what a boring topic. Be that as it may, boring doesn’t mean unimportant. If you’re going to move forward with Windows 7, you might as well take the time to do it right. If that’s not enough incentive how about this: Time management experts have found that one minute in planning can save 5 minutes in execution. Now that’s some ROI you can bank on!

But where do you start with Windows 7 migrations? As I wrote in a previous post, Microsoft has their own toolkits.  However, before you even go down that path, TechTarget has several good resources on the subject worth checking out. Here’s the rundown:

Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 – Part 1, Weighing the options

Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 – Part 2, The experts weigh in

Moving from Windows XP to Windows 7? One CIO shares why he started now.

Finally, here’s a piece I wrote last summer on why it’s important to lock down XP before moving to Windows 7:

Secure Windows XP before a Windows 7 Upgrade

Sure, these topics aren’t all that glamorous but they sure can help you set yourself and your business up for success with your Windows 7 migration efforts.

July 29, 2010  2:30 PM

A great way to get to know Windows 7

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

A few months back, Microsoft extended the Windows 7 Enterprise Eval 90-Day Trial. We now have until the end of 2010 to take the “new” OS for a test drive.

As you’ve likely experienced, there is no better way to learn about a new OS or piece of software than trying it out for yourself. That’s what I did with Vista and was quickly turned off. That’s what I did with Windows 7 and was easily sold.

The Windows 7 Enterprise 90-day trial will shutdown every hour after the trial period has ended…a MAJOR incentive to fish or cut bait – especially when you’re in the middle of something and lose all your work! Not that that has happened to me. Ahem…

After that, it’s up to you to decide if Windows 7 is right for your business. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it: I believe Windows 7 is here to stay. All of my clients that I perform internal security vulnerability assessments for are at least testing Windows 7 in the enterprise. From what I can tell most are considering moving forward with it and eventually phasing out XP.

You owe it to yourself – and your users and your business – to at least try Windows 7. It’ll take a little getting used to but I’m pretty confident you’ll like it.

July 29, 2010  9:37 AM

Windows 7 news & tips worth checking out

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

It’s been a year since Windows 7 RTM officially came to the market. My, how time flies. I feel like I was just getting to know it! Anyway, I came across some recent news bits and posts about Windows 7 that I thought were fitting.

Hardware manufacturer Asus ditches Windows 7 for Android on its upcoming Eee table computer. Interesting. I suspect other manufacturers have the same plans in mind. Maybe not for run-of-the-mill laptops and desktops but at least tablet devices. At least HP appears to be staying the course. Regardless, I never thought I’d live to see an OS that has the potential to push Microsoft aside.

Windows 7 SP1 is set to be released next year. Next year!? I’m not complaining, it just seems that two years is a long gap between the initial release of the OS and its first service pack. Maybe its a sign that Microsoft has finally gotten past its Vista ways.

One of my favorite new posts is on 15 keyboard shortcuts for Windows 7 – most of which I wasn’t aware of. What am I going to do with the extra 2 minutes I save each day by using these? Perhaps I can talk myself into leaving the office a little earlier.

Finally, one more thing that’s slightly off topic but still affects those of us working in the world of Windows is this bit on how Microsoft is giving all employees a new Windows 7 phone. Certainly a great way to get buy-in and spread the word on a device that Microsoft has otherwise given minimal attention up to this point. Is the Windows 7 phone another case of too little too late from Redmond? We’ll see.

July 28, 2010  11:28 AM

How Lockheed Martin learned to stop worrying and love the tarball

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

Monday morning, Lockheed Martin did a funny thing: They released a major bit of enterprise social computing software, dubbed Eureka Streams, to the open source community. It’s a little bit like Yammer, a little bit like an Intranet and a little bit like Facebook, but not really a bit like what we’ve come to expect from our nation’s military suppliers, which have traditionally been pretty tight-lipped about what they’re building, what they’re charging and how you can use it.

Lest things get too weird, at least the promotional YouTube video is full of dull, comforting marketing drivel:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/uhefaGKRAkA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

As it turns out, there are a lot of open source enthusiasts within our nation’s military-industrial complex, and just like in big business, open source is starting to find its own profitable, sustainable niche within military suppliers and the nation’s military itself. For proof, just look at the upcoming 2nd annual Mil-OSS Working Group conference (suits and ties strongly discouraged), which will feature almost 50 speakers on topics ranging from “Using Git to Overcome Traditional VCS Limitations” to “OZONE & OWF: A Community-wide GOTS initiative and its transition to GOSS.”

Not surprisingly, there’s some skepticism. Dana Blankhorn writes:

To what do we owe the honor? Have the people sworn to protect us from fanatics in caves suddenly gained open source religion? Are they trying to ingratiate themselves with a new Administration which looks favorably on open source? Or are they trying to take it over, infiltrate it?

The answers to these questions are important, as is your speculation, because the welcome these projects get from the open source community will likely determine how much help they get. Reputation is vital in open source, and government often has a poor one.

Then there’s the quality of the offering itself. I don’t see anything in Eureka Streams I can’t do in Drupal, or a number of other high-quality open source projects that have existed for years. Lockheed has reinvented the wheel — why? And why should I help them push it up the hill?

Skepticism: Constructive. Unfounded speculation: Less so. Cheap potshots: Grow up.

Let’s look at the facts:

To what do we owe the honor? The national security industry has been making serious contributions to open source software in one way or another for a long time, and Dana’s reaction isn’t atypical. As Gunnar Hellekson recalled, the same skepticism greeted the NSA’s contributions to SE-Linux, many of which were later vetted and pulled into the kernel.

Reputation is vital in open source, and government often has a poor one. Recently I’d say it’s the opposite, and we’re finally starting to see the fruits of what people have suggested for years: That government and OSS should go hand-in-hand. See Whitehouse.gov. Or better yet, check out this post by Sun’s Bill Vass, written two years ago, pre-Obama:

Just recently, the House released The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (H.R. 5658) which includes language that calls for all DoD agencies to consider open source software when procuring manned or unmanned aerial vehicles. Including such language is a milestone for the open source movement and just the beginning!

Joab Jackson of Government Computer News wrote this in his blog, “The Defense Department has traditionally been somewhat wary of OSS, at least for official duties. So some feel the language could pave the way for greater acceptance within the Defense community.”

I don’t see anything in Eureka Streams I can’t do in Drupal. Coming from an affirmed Drupal enthusiast (and proud member of the Wicked Pissah Usah Group), yes, you can do that in Drupal, just like you can build pretty much anything with it, but that doesn’t mean you can build it well, or easily, or without more re-inventing the wheel than makes it worth your while. That’s why we have Joomla, WordPress, Open Atrium and now … Eureka Streams, which actually appears to do a lot that none of those other platforms can do without a lot of work.

But at the end of the day, what this story comes down to is that the economics of open source are the same for Red Hat as they are for IBM as they are for Lockheed. Lockheed isn’t open sourcing Eureka Streams because Bildenbring and the Illuminati are planning on stealing your SMB’s Intranet data. It’s open sourcing it because in today’s worlds, there are plenty of great business reasons to open source your software, particularly if your primary product is hardware (like missiles!) and not corporate Intranet platforms.

The same economics apply to the government and the military, too: Every wheel not re-invented because of forge.mil means more money, time and energy spent focused on protecting the country or reducing taxes (Well, that might be taking it a bit too far).

Let’s cut the open source polemics, just like the enterprise has. Open source projects require backing; sometimes that will be an active community, but just as often it will be the IBMs, federal governments, and even, yes, Lockheed Martins of the world.

Michael Morisy is the community editor for ITKnowledgeExchange. He can be followed on Twitter or you can reach him at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

July 27, 2010  11:40 AM

The Not-So Brief, Still Wondrous Life of Windows OS

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Our Windows 7 in 2010 month is wrapping up, so we thought we’d do a little look back through the years.

[Click on images to enlarge.] Uploaded with ImageShack.us

Remember this guy? Windows 1.0, in all of its 16-bit glory, was released in November of 1985. This OS—available only on floppy disk—was supported until December 31, 2001. System requirements for Windows 1.0: 256 KB RAM, DOS 2.0, and two floppy drives. Continued »

July 26, 2010  2:55 PM

Windows 7: We’ve done our research for your research

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Transitioning to a new operating system is never easy, especially when migrating an entire company. Avoid minor speed bumps becoming major setbacks by catching up on your Windows 7 literature. We’re giving you a bit of a head start by compiling some good old-fashioned book resources for you to peruse and consider.

For Beginners

Windows 7: The Missing Manual: A Google search for this book will yield mixed reviews, though it seems the negative reviews stem from readers already having a comfortable grasp on Windows operating systems. This book is probably best for beginners, novices and casual learners. Check out reader reviews here and here.

Of course, there’s always the handy Windows 7 for Dummies, providing the details of upgrading your operating system and the ins and outs of new features in a familiar format.

Step by Step: Windows 7 is coauthored by Joan Preppernau and Joyce Cox, both experienced developers of training materials on Windows for non-technical audiences.

Easy Microsoft Windows 7 is for those visual learners out there looking to get familiar with this operating system.

For Non-Beginners

Windows 7 Inside Out: A well-organized resource for “timesaving solutions, troubleshooting tips, and workarounds.” Customer reviews are overwhelmingly positive, and seem to suggest that this book is a great as-needed reference or cover-to-cover read, depending on your level of interest.

Windows 7 Tweaks: Steve Sinchak created Tweaks.com, a site dedicated to optimizing various operating systems and servers through personalization. This is the book version; a compilation of modification methods for Windows 7.

In the same breath as he recommended Step by Step: Windows 7 for novices, one reviewer recommended Windows 7: The Definitive Guide for those who are more advanced in their knowledge of the operating system.

Windows 7 Resource Kit: Compiled by Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professionals and the Windows 7 team, this resource kit promises in-depth technical guidance.

Using Microsoft Windows 7 is the answer to all types of learners; offering multi-media options for absorbing its content.

Windows 7 In Depth was written for non-beginners, explaining Windows 7 tasks from migrating to Windows 7 (both for personal and business) to securing Windows 7 PCs.

Microsoft Windows 7 Your Way: Speed Up and Customize Windows is another compilation of tweaks and ways to personalize Windows 7 to your specifications.

Just want the gist?

Windows 7: Up and Running is “a quick, hands-on instruction” to getting started with Windows 7. Everything is need-to-know, including upgrade, installation, configuration, features and built-in apps.

Windows 7 Administrator’s Pocket Consultant: Meant to be an “on-the-go reference” to be used in the trenches during Windows 7 support and management.

Windows 7 Annoyances: After Vista, we’re all gasping for fresh air, but no one claims Windows 7 is perfect, especially not this guide. Check this out for fixes on the annoying parts of the OS.

Microsoft Windows 7 On Demand is great as a quick reference, providing “answers in a visual step-by-step format,” to provide context for a quick fix.

Since Windows 7 has been out for a while now, there are undoubtedly numerous more resources for beginners and advanced IT professionals alike. See something on this list you weren’t too fond of? Make your argument in the comments! Don’t see something that saved you and your company from operating system malfunction (or anything a little less dramatic)? Share that as well. This is a living list, so feel free to email me at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com with suggestions, reviews or tweaks and check back for updates!

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

July 26, 2010  9:33 AM

In era of cloudification, Windows 7 keeps bringing home the MicroBacon

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

While there was plenty of buzz about Microsoft proclaiming Windows 7 “the fastest-selling operating system ever,” the interesting news is that this rather traditional offering is so essential to keeping Microsoft happily profitable in the era of hyper-cloudification. Allan Krans put it well in his piece at LocalTechwire:

Using even conservative math, the revenue opportunity for Microsoft to convert the remaining 85 percent of PC users to Windows 7 approaches $50 billion. Beyond Windows, Microsoft has significant market opportunities in Office, SharePoint, Windows Server, and multiple other product areas that will sustain its financials for years.

Cloud is important and is capturing a large amount of Microsoft’s investment and messaging, but its existing business will sustain revenue and profit for quite some time.

While Windows 7 is a polished piece of work, it’s also, at the core, “more of the same” as far as operating systems go (or as Dee101 less charitably put it, Windows 7 is Vista SP2+), unlike Google’s nascent Chrome OS which fully embraces the cloud-as-a-platform philosophy.

In other words, while Microsoft is very publicly, very loudly “all in” on cloud (and its Azure efforts back that up), it’s also very aware and very happy that it doesn’t have to go flying into the cloud without a long runway still firmly on terra firma.

Michael Morisy is the community editor for ITKnowledgeExchange. He can be followed on Twitter or you can reach him at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

July 22, 2010  6:44 AM

Mark Collier, Rackspace VP on OpenStack: It actually is rocket science

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Rackspace launched their open-source cloud project this past Monday with an out-of-this-world partner. NASA and Rackspace, citing their non-commercial interests as the basis for the relationship, recognized the potential to complement one another in the cloud.

As SearchCloudComputing‘s Carl Brooks reports:

[NASA CTO Chris] Kemp said that just as Rackspace found his work on the compute side valuable, NASA found what it was looking for in cloud storage in Rackspace’s Object Storage technology, which will also be released to the public domain this fall.

So what exactly is OpenStack? It’s Rackspace’s code for Cloud Files and Cloud Servers available to developers. Eventually it’ll also be NASA’s Nebula cloud platform, created to offer a cloud solution for large scientific data sets.

Rackspace CSO and president of cloud technology Lew Moorman told Linux Insider:

We are founding the OpenStack initiative to help drive industry standards, prevent vendor lock-in and generally increase the velocity of innovation in cloud technologies. We expect ongoing collaboration with NASA and the rest of the community to drive more-rapid cloud adoption and innovation in the private and public spheres.

One of NASA’s motivating factors for creating Nebula and getting involved in the project was the lack of affordable cloud options for anyone other than businesses. With this initiative, Rackspace wants to spur cloud adoption across the board, including by the federal government. Last week, Amazon released its Cluster Compute Instance in beta, an answer to the scientific community looking for more powerful cloud solutions. And Rackspace isn’t alone in its endeavors either; there are similar offerings from Eucalyptus, which offers “infrastructure software that enables enterprises and government agencies to establish their own cloud computing environments,” and Cloud.com, which offers CloudStack packages for free (community edition), and in open source and proprietary form for both enterprise and service providers.

OpenStack has a leg up on the competition, however, with major names signing onto the project: Citrix, Dell, Intel, Rightscale and about twenty others.

Rackspace’s goal—to leverage a community of developers for innovative additions to the code—might be too lofty for some. John at the CloudBzz blog thinks OpenStack isn’t enterprise-ready. Additionally, any hope for differentiation amongst developer contributions might not be easily realized since every developer is working with the same code and building atop one another might lead to overlap.

But for every naysayer, there’s enthusiasm to match. The New York Times Bits blog picked up the story, equating Rackspace’s potential for achievement as the “next Linux operating system, Firefox Web browser or Android phone platform,” naming their biggest challenge as “getting that software developer critical mass.”

What other obstacles do you think lie between Rackspace and its goals of setting the industry standard, doing away with vendor lock-in and creating an open cloud community?

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

July 20, 2010  6:15 AM

Death at a Funeral: Discussing the untimely demise of Vista at XP’s wake

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

We’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching lately here at the Enterprise IT Watch blog. Like the loss of any trusted friend, the recent passing of Windows XP on July 13th has us reminiscing about successes and failures of past Windows operating systems. And it looks like we’re not the only ones; check out the Twitter conversation I eavesdropped [below] regarding the general attitude toward Vista. Do you think the multitude of problems from the get-go contributed to Vista going down infamously in OS history? Or do you think its downfall was amplified by Microsoft’s broken promises, that it was eventually mended to a working and even satisfactory operating system?

Did you bypass Vista altogether or are you still using it? What is it going to take for you to upgrade or migrate to Windows 7?

We’d love to know your relationship with past Windows operating systems, and how that affects your attitude toward current offerings such as Windows 7 and rumors of Windows 8. So sound off! And if you see @johnobeto or @techmute around, tell them we’d love to hear the rest of this debate!

Want to see what others on Twitter are saying about Windows 7? Check out our Windows 7 Pros Twitter list and share any interesting conversations or debates with us!

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

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