Enterprise IT Watch Blog

July 12, 2011  6:34 AM

Cisco drops 25 priorities for the 5 that matter

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

We see all of these market transitions going on at the same time; so, instead of doing 1 or 2 [priority initiatives] a year, like we did during each of the economic slowdowns—the four that we’d seen before—we’re going to do 30. And it sounds impossible.

John Chambers to McKinsey Quarterly, July 2009

That said, today we face a simple truth: we have disappointed our investors and we have confused our employees.  Bottom line, we have lost some of the credibility that is foundational to Cisco’s success – and we must earn it back. Our market is in transition, and our company is in transition.  And the time is right to define this transition for ourselves and our industry.  I understand this.  It’s time for focus.

John Chambers memo to Cisco employees, April 2011

It was a wholly ambitious plan, and one that, if executed, would not just have grown Cisco’s position as the networking infrastructure provider, but would have grown it to be a dominant communications provider in both the enterprise and consumer space. Cisco was moving from being an enterprise darling with limited mass visibility to a company that would touch every bit and byte of communications at almost every point: From taking video and voice on its broad line of professional phones and pricey TelePresence to the budget and beloved Flip camera, to the wireless and wired switches that carry that video and voice, to the telecom infrastructure that carries them worldwide, to new, interactive viewing experiences.

But Chambers realized, two years later, that Cisco wasn’t cut out to be a consumer company, at least not now. And so at this Cisco Live!, the company is chastened but not humbled and cutting back from 30 priorities to just 5 fundamentals: Continued »

July 12, 2011  4:17 AM

Cisco’s big news: A Catalyst 6500 revamp

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

Kudos go to the Wall Street Journal’s Don Clark for digging up some dirt on Cisco’s closely-held “big announcement” coming today: A revamped Catalyst 6500 which will provide a way for users to upgrade their existing hardware (Skip WSj paywall). Details are fairly light, except that the the offering will sport “four times the performance” of a comparable HP system, and existing customers can achieve many of the benefits of the revamp by installing a new $38,000 module into their existing 6500s.

The Catalyst 6500 has been a mainstay of many high-end network hubs since Cisco introduced the product in 1999, and boasts 700,000 of the pricey systems still active today, according to Cisco’s John McCool.

But Cisco hasn’t been resting on its laurels: Cisco’s been blazing forward with the Nexus line, which runs the NX-OS rather than Cisco’s more traditional IOS and which tends to find itself squarely in the datacenter and other super-high-demand situations. That Cisco is trying to bolster the old standby even as it reinvents some its fundamentals is a testament to its determination to keep its loyal customers happy, but neither option competes directly with HP on initial pricing (Cisco insists its products are cheaper when you factor in the full life of the product, particular in maintenance and support down the road).

I’ll be blogging the Cisco Live! keynotes and breaking news as they happen, so be sure to check back for more details. In the meantime, however, check out the rest of Clark’s article, which dives a bit deeper into the rather difficult competitive landscape Cisco has suddenly found itself in, after years of being a big fish in a pond full of minnows. Here’s a hint: HP’s largess and cut-rate pricing have made life more than a little difficult for the boys down the road in San Jose.

Michael Morisy is the editorial director for ITKnowledgeExchange. He can be followed on Twitter or you can reach him at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Check out our complete Cisco Live! Coverage guide for more breaking news.

July 11, 2011  6:51 AM

IT’s stance on social networking in the enterprise

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

When I chatted with David Sacks about social networking in the enterprise, he seemed to think that IT was coming around to cloud-based offerings. But when I posed the question to the IT Knowledge Exchange community, the response wasn’t as progressive.
Continued »

July 7, 2011  8:18 AM

Cisco Live 2011! prepares to rally the base

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

Next Sunday, I’m packing up and shipping back to Vegas for Cisco Live! 2011, the IT giant’s annual user conference. Last year, they proudly announced the Cisco Cius, the tablet built for enterprise which has been lingering on the horizon for a year, limply promising a video-driven tablet that will delight IT departments everywhere.

That was a very different Cisco: HP still was getting its consolidated enterprise story straight, everybody and their uncle was promising a tablet, and Cisco still was touting a much-beloved little consumer device, the Flip.

Continued »

June 30, 2011  8:24 AM

Don’t pass the buck: Security policies straight from the community

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

It’s a rocky landscape lately, what with Sony taking over headlines and Lockheed Martin’s recent breach. We wanted to know how our members were setting up a strong offense against hacks and breaches at their own companies, as well as tips on setting up a sufficient defense in the case of a successful breach. We threw out the line, and the IT Knowledge Exchange community responded with some priceless opinions and advice. Does your company have a vague security policy or some recent red flags in your security log? Don’t waste any more time…

Batye suggests a more “proactive approach” to security, such as internal and external testing for security holes; a system for downloading, installing, and configuring updates and patches; and regular security hardware upgrades. Does your budget value security? It will show in your vulnerabilities…

Chippy088 makes a familiar point, which ErroneousGiant seconds: The weakest link is the user.

Because they think you have the system well protected, they don’t care where they browse, or what they download. They are, in the main, non technical, and think it’s covered, or have not been made aware of the dangers. The attitude being, I haven’t had a problem at home, so what harm can it do. I have seen many small companies who regard the user as a minor consideration when making security decisions.

He also warns against social networks, which often create a back door entry point into companies. His suggestion? “Aggressive methods.” Company policy should reflect possible vulnerabilities, and internal methods such as penetration testing could be done without too high a cost.

While ErroneousGiant agreed with Chippy on some things, he was willing to take responsibility, as an administrator, for either “preventing users from putting the company at more than accepted risks or to educate the users about the risk. The IT team are just as responsible for any breach by either not verify[ing] security properly, not having the correct security in place, or not shouting loudly enough if it’s not in place.”

Newer member Ekardris presents an interesting argument and plan of action:

We all know that users inside and outside the organization are going to attempt to breach security. (Whether they meant to or not) Therefore we have to plan that it will happen, and not be surprised afterwards that it did happen. Our job is to devise systems that will keep 98% of attempts made by amateurs and the ignorant from being effective.

Then plan contingencies for the 2% who we can’t stop from breaking through our security.

He says that most users assume they’ll be kept out of places they shouldn’t be, and so when they discover access to off-limits places, the blame for what happens next falls on IT. It doesn’t take a sophisticated hacker for the most part; there are gaping holes in enterprise security in most places. Some of the most obvious mistakes Ekardris finds:

  • Administrative accounts being used by multiple people
  • Common knowledge within the organization or IT department of the Admin password
  • Tracking turned off on corporate data files
  • Service accounts that are compromised or are the Administrator
  • No Security Policy documented
  • No documentation on security groups, policies and/or explicit rites
  • Inconsistent backups
  • Poor understanding of router and firewall ports
  • Only one security wall between the corporate data and the internet

In answer to these d’oh! moments, he included some tips for companies avoiding Sitting Duck syndrome:

  • Continuous auditing with the IT groups. Focusing specifically on corporate requirements, industry best practices, corporate policies and procedures.
  • Reviewing contingency plans in case of failure and security breaches.
  • Assigning a “security” role that focuses specifically on the organization’s security. This role would be responsible for reviewing corporate security policy, continually gathering security requirements from departmental stake holders, managing security audits within the organization, and maintaining a discussion around these issues within the entire business organization

For more from Ekardris and some of the red flags he’s come across during audits, check out his full response here.

How is your company handling the heightened awareness of security these days? Have you seen some of these vulnerabilities or implementations in your own industry? Let us know in the comments section or email me at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

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

June 28, 2011  3:40 PM

Google reaches for more pie with Google+

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Just in time for the newest Transformers movie, Google announces its latest attempt at crushing the behemoth that is Facebook. Focusing on Facebook’s Achilles heel – user privacy – Google’s new Google+ Project may have a fighting chance. That is, unless you’re taking into account their social networking track record. As Claire Miller at the NY Times pointed out, it may be too late for Google to defend its title as the most popular entry point on the Web.

Bradley Horowitz and Vic Gondutra, the masterminds behind Google Buzz, have come together again with Google+. Despite the familiar names on the ticket, the project aspires to be the phoenix out of Buzz’s ash. The two told the NY Times that Buzz “chastened” them and they’ve since learned the value users place on their privacy.

In limited field trial for now, Google+ advertises that it’s expected to change and evolve with each user’s feedback. The tool aims to mimick real-life relationships and discard the potentially awkward aspects of other social networks (ahem, poking, ahem). Perhaps the most refreshing update to this take on social networking is the ability to receive others’ updates without sharing your own. Google plans to spread the reach of Google+’s features across mobile platforms and websites.

What do you think? Is there room for more takes on the same idea?

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

June 28, 2011  12:03 AM

Yammer’s David Sacks: Product vs. Platform

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Last week at Enterprise 2.0, I sat down with David Sacks, CEO of Yammer. In the description of his panel discussion, Platform vs. Product, was a mention of the fault line between traditional software offerings and platform solutions with a wide range of capabilities. However, the conclusion the panel arrived at was that these days more and more products are presented as both. Even Sacks described Yammer as technically a product with an open API, allowing customers to build applications on top of it.

I asked Sacks why someone would choose Yammer or Salesforce’s Chatter above an intranet system, and he cited the distaste for accessing a “social network embedded inside a line of business tool.” Rather than separating departments, products such as Yammer offer “private, secure social network for the entire company.”

I was curious about how IT departments feel toward products such as this, given its usual suspicion for anything “social” or consumer in the network. Sacks pointed out that IT has been embracing the cloud. During his panel, another panelist accused Yammer of being insecure because of its position in the cloud. Sacks’s response was that he “hoped we’d moved past the point where anything cloud-based is considered insecure,” prompting applause from the audience.

With announcements of expanding communities, Yammer has moved beyond internal, allowing companies to create groups for each of their clients or customers. Future plans are to integrate a social layer atop and across all areas of the enterprise, from content management to finance.

What are your thoughts on socializing the enterprise? Would you prefer using a product such as Yammer that includes an API or build your own?

Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments section or email me directly at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter.

June 22, 2011  11:16 AM

Secure the intranet by working around user workarounds

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

In a session entitled “Real Time Collaboration Across the Firewall,” one member of the audience raised his hand to ask how to deal with end-users who don’t care that their company is deploying a huge system like Sharepoint. Once outside the firewall, he lamented, these users will use the simplest option, like Google Docs.

So how does IT keep from being seen merely for its costly deployments that nobody cares to use? Deploy another product that helps you use your major deployments more easily! Well, sort of.

I spoke with David Lavenda of Harmon.ie, who makes a product whose goal is to reduce the steps of utilizing Sharepoint’s central repository from about nine to one. It appears as a sidebar in your email client, allowing you to view the documents you’ve been working on. One Google-esque feature includes reminding a user who is trying to attach a document (old habits die hard) that they can send a link to where the document lives in Sharepoint. (Harmon.ie also offers a similar product that deals with documents in Google docs.) An upcoming announcement includes a view of a list of people you are currently collaborating with along with which documents they’ve edited.

Often products such as these flaunt the business benefits without ever exploring the effects, or obstacles, for IT. When I asked Lavenda about how a company’s IT department might feel about deploying it, he responded positively. “It’s centrally deployed by IT. We do not add another layer of security, and we don’t circumvent security. We allow users to continue using what they’re comfortable with,” he said. While it may seem silly to add a program to do what a major deployment such as Sharepoint should have the capability to do, there are benefits to showing the higher ups a growth in your adoption rate.

One of the inspirations for this tool was the array of digital distractions reported in the workplace, compounded by the inability for users to disconnect from work and work devices even when off-duty. A little bit of work here, and a little bit of email there, can sometimes mean that users employ solutions outside of the network with data that’s supposed to be secure within the network. How do you handle end-users deploying rogue solutions over big budget deployments such as Sharepoint?

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

June 21, 2011  1:18 PM

Is there a place for IT at Enterprise 2.0?

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Today’s my first day at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. I’ve listened to a couple keynotes and attended a couple sessions. What struck me most was the hostility being paraded toward IT departments. I caught the first half of Kevin Jones’s Enterprise 2.0 Failures session, where he stressed that in order to learn, we must fail. More trust means more room to fail which means more learning, innovation, and progress. After twenty minutes of fluff, I decided to head to the panel discussion on realtime collaboration across the firewall.

After less than a minute of sitting in the session, Brandon Savage of Box.net was in the middle of addressing the point of “IT as a bottleneck.” IT causes reluctance to move despite the opportunity for improvement. A woman in the audience who works for a pharmaceutical company on the IT side, asked about building solutions rather than buying a massive, large-scale solution. Her company, she said, prefers to implement bit by bit, testing and measuring (and beating dead horses) along the way. The panel’s treatment of IT departments was suddenly proven correct.

But not all IT departments want to throw a wrench in the productivity wheel. Another man in the audience questioned what to do when faced with end users who couldn’t care less about major systems like SharePoint. “When they’re outside the firewall, they just want the simplest option,” he said. Google Docs was named as the main rogue weapon of choice for those in no-firewall’s-land, but Savage dropped DropBox’s name as another form of employees going rogue. Savage took his opportunity to explain how Box.net is a better option than DropBox, with its ability to track files once they’re out in the wild, whether it’s who’s looking at what, how many times, and from what IP address.

Is IT fighting a losing battle?

Capabilities such as Box.net’s tracking features provide some hope that IT isn’t on its own. The search for a simple, user- and IT-friendly solution isn’t completely in vain, as long as IT departments keep some tips in mind.

  • Don’t just say “no.” Just because you know all of the reasons that sending the clients’ account information via Google Docs doesn’t mean that Bill from sales will know. One of the audience’s voiced complaints about IT departments is that they’re not helpful enough. Explaining why the extra steps to access SharePoint instead can save you headaches now and later.
  • Be proactive. Savage says that the majority of sales leads at Box.net are incoming from IT departments. While it may be a thorn in your foot that consumer applications are shiny, attracting every Joe Schmo at your company, they are necessary for pushing enterprise vendors. Savage pointed out that as long as there are consumer application start-ups with fewer obstacles for their end-users, they will outpace enterprise solutions. “As consumer applications become more accessible and used, it opens the end users’ eyes to the ease that’s possible, but also opens IT’s eyes to the vulnerabilities.”

What are your concerns when it comes to outside perceptions of IT? How does your company keep communications open amongst departments?

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

June 20, 2011  2:56 PM

Community-endorsed: Tech Twitter and Blogs

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

We cast the net, asking where IT Knowledge Exchange members get their latest technology news. Whether you prefer Twitter updates or your RSS feed is packed with tech blog posts, we wanted to hear from you. Add your own picks in the discussion area here, or in the comments section below.

IceCubbe recommends keeping up with the Loaded daily video to keep “up to date with all the latest happenings in the IT world.”

Whether you’re looking for a top of the line security podcast, job listings, or opinions of like-minded tech folks, ErroneousGiant recommends you pay a visit to Risky Biz. With over 170 podcasts published since February 2007, Risky Business has quite the archive, as well as forums and a second podcast, RB2. Looking for some reading material? ErroneousGiant also keeps up with Sophos’s Naked Security blog, where you can find updates on the latest Facebook phishing scam (probably updated hourly) and hacking or security issues from courtrooms all over the world.

Carlosdl suggested a couple Twitter accounts whose shortened URLs it’s probably safe to click: @helpnetsecurity and @FSecure. Help Net Security’s Twitter stream is managed by Mirko Zorz, editor in chief of Help Net Security and (IN)SECURE Magazine. F-Secure’s Twitter stream highlights the latest headlines in security.

There is an impressive array of Twitter accounts and blogs to follow, no matter what area of IT your focus is.

Networking: Twitter & Blogs

Storage Virtualization: Twitter & Books

Desktop Virtualization: Twitter & Blogs

Windows 7: Blogs

Security: Twitter & Blogs

Of course, checking out the Enterprise IT Watch blog and @ITKE on Twitter is always a good place to start.

Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments section or in the forums.

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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