Networks Generation

November 9, 2018  2:20 PM

Global, Load-Balanced Redundant Weather

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead

I remember long ago, in an unlikely setting for a bleeding-edge test-labs – an old winery surrounded by vines where the only “blood” came from crushed grapes – yes, my old French test labs, where we created the world’s first globally load-balanced, server/content distribution system.

OK, so it was all simulated, but it worked. I won’t reveal the vendor concerned, but it never went into production as tested – ahead of its time? And why didn’t I copyright it????

Fast forward well over a decade and we have a similar situation regarding the cloudy IT scenario. Why have one cloud when you can have several? Then if one turns black you still have another with a silver lining… But then how do you load-balance them? Not even Carol Kirkwood knows how to do that… And our American readers don’t get that reference -)

So, along comes the knight in shining armour to match that silver-lined cloud, in the form of Avi Networks, who I met up with recently at IP Expo and was suitably impressed by. Its solution, logically, is SaaS-based and provides web app firewalling and service mesh for containers, as well as load-balancing and global server load-balancing across a multi-cloud environment. Avi rightly argues that appliance-based L-B solutions are not designed for the public cloud; correct, in the same way that Dartmouth’s Victorian streets were not designed for car parking, something I have first-hand experience of. If only I could park in the cloud…

The Avi solution, then, comes as a cloud-managed service; a true SaaS-based L-B controller, meaning very fast deployment, no field engineers required to be onsite across the globe (bang go your airmiles guys!) and adds/changes are simple as, so OpEx is bound to be lower too.

If only I’d taken out that copyright, would I be due royalties? Regardless, it would be most interesting to get my virtual hands on said virtual solution to see how closely it resembles my own creation!

October 22, 2018  2:02 PM

All Things Migration

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead

So, in recent blogs I’ve talked about all things migration-wise; Windows migration issues and the testing thereof, migrating to the cloud, even migrating the cloud back to OnPrem, from OnPrem to VDI (in the cloud) and all stops in between seemingly…

Shortly, my focus will be turned by to the issue of cloud migration with a look at Densify’s service solution but, meantime, I also decided to migrate my own website, aka a makeover, and have just put the report on Rimo3’s ACTIV Windows migration solution, as blogged about recently, up there, so check out the new look:

Interestingly, for the vendors concerned, my record on testing migration products – starting with a Netware 4.1 migration tool company, whose name escapes me (and Wikipedia) currently – and that vendor then getting acquired by either the obvious candidate, or a suitable suitor, is very high, so watch this space!

October 12, 2018  4:23 PM

No Cloud Over VDI!

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead

Unsurprisingly, whatever the IT genre and whatever the weather, cloud is always on the horizon right now.

One of several top meetings I had last week within IP Expo’s confines was with Morteza Esteki of Liquidware (glamorously assisted by Jane Rimmer of Hiviz Marketing of course, from an original idea by Declan “when’s my next guitar lesson?” Waters of Water Comms). One issue that many IT departments are finding themselves in right now, is in feeling they are potentially trapped within a world of VMware, Citrix, Google, Amazon, Azure… you get the picture.

For the VDI crowd who chose the thin client route many moons ago, the potential migration to the cloud/DaaS world (one mainframe substitute to another?) can, I guess, be a little scary – two IT worlds that make lots of sense, meshing logically but… What Liquidware offers is a platform-agnostic helping hand. For example, its Stratusphere UX product, sits atop and provides that all important end-to-end visibility of the combo of physical, virtual and cloud-based workspaces – as a single entity. Think migration, performance assessment and optimisation, as well as problem solving and – ideally – avoiding those problems in the first case. Endpoint client support is also open – Windows, Mac and Linux are all supported (not sure about Oric Atmos and ZX Spectrum though…).

As an example of real-world use of this tech, legal expenses insurance company DAS, in the UK, has recently taken on Stratusphere UX and is looking to put it to use it in areas such as:

⦁ The on-boarding of VDI from home.
⦁ Windows 10 testing and on-boarding.
⦁ Scaling the environment.
⦁ To provide a real time dashboard for BAU (business as usual) incidents and alerts so they are ahead of the game should an issue arise – fix it before it’s a problem!
⦁ Troubleshooting for users who have reported issues from a previous date, pulling historical info that will prove useful when working on longer standing issues.
⦁ Measuring Network and SAN performance during an issue (let’s not forget good old SANs – they won’t be disappearing anywhere quickly!).

Timing isn’t always my strong point, but there’s a definite alliance of technology here, given that I’m involved in very complimentary product projects with the likes of Fedr8 and Rimo3 in the UK and Canada-based Densify, not to mention some top secret due diligence on tech breakthroughs that impact on all of these areas by a mad professor from West Virginia (oops, too late).

Maybe I’m unintentionally assembling the next IT dream team?

October 11, 2018  12:20 PM

A Cure For IT Paranoia And A Dig In The US Ribs

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead

Last week’s IP Expo at EXCEL wasn’t all bad news; we escaped the first night into proper London, to a brewery disguised as a pig restaurant and then, naturally, to a (posh) curry house. Well, it is London, not Heckmondwike…

Focus of said evening was Cloudistics, the company that created “cloud for the paranoid”; i.e. it’s a private OnPrem cloud – the idea being all of the scalability benefits while maintaining control. I guess one of the issues – however well thought-out the concept (and it is well thought-out)  – you’ll always get with a “Cloudistics” trying to change the world is the “Cloud-who?” response the CFO proffers when smart IT geek says “we need to go in this direction”. That’s why we often talk about ” a big guy” needing to onboard the concept in order to validate a new market (or Goodwood), usually in the eyes of a Gartner or IDC. Well, let’s face it – Gartner. Now, this isn’t right or honourable or morally sound, but it is reality!

Now let’s go flip-side; you are a multi-billion dollar global vendor, doing very nicely, thank you, in a range of markets, but ideally needing an angle to get yourself into the emerging markets the likes of Cloudistics are creating. Well, sometimes the stars do align – in the guise of Lenovo in this instance. Now, for those of you who still think Lenovo = laptops, the DC/storage sector has been an increasingly major play for them in recent times. However, for Lenovo to create their own, in-house “Cloudistics” requires a leap of faith, as well as many person-years of development.

So, in a simple ceremony, with boardroom preferred to Westminster Abbey, the two have entered an exclusive relationship – meaning both get what they want. Yet another example of Common Sense as a Service. Lenovo provides the boxes, the global reach and the “big name brand”, Cloudistics provides the youthful makeover and a new lease of life. For the record (or mp3) the Lenovo-labelled product is called “ThinkAgile CP Series” – more snappy, corporate marketing at work there – but it promises to be right, right good (technical term), and definitely a keeper, kind of private cloud in a box (maybe comes delivered with optional “install pizza”?). As one Dell guy said once at a Netevents, we’re looking for our customers to have “a pleasant, out of the box experience”. You don’t hear that kind of language in Barnsley… And, talking of food, here’s the real story from that encounter – Chris (all-US boy) Myhill of Cloudistics declared the ribs at Cinnamon Kitchen to be “the best he’s ever tasted”. The Texan fan club has disbanded…

Meantime, I shall watch the Cloudistics/Lenovo development with a great deal of interest and hopefully get my paws on the tech. We might not be able to control the weather, but it looks like we can now control clouds at least 🙂




October 11, 2018  11:41 AM

AVIn A Well Balanced Time…

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead

Me and Load-Balancers (the artist wot became known as the Application Delivery Controller at some point in its life, even though it always did this anyway) go back a long way; 20 years basically, when “cloud” was merely a snowflake in the natural world of IT.

Think Alteon and Arrowpoint – kind of wild-west country where L-Bs were concerned; inventing concepts such as reverse proxy, sticky cookies (I wonder if Cadbury as was ever invested in this tech?) and global, load-balanced content delivery systems (actually created the world’s first in our old labs).

One issue with the classic, H/W-based solutions was that, eventually they ran out of silicon puff and had to be re-engineered, ground up. This was great for repeat test work but patently (pun there?) not the future. Fast forward to the cloud era and meeting with AVI Networks at IP Expo in the culture desert that is EXCEL in East London, and the tech has most definitely been brought bang up to date. Instead of investing “X” in an L-B solution (well, X+Y as companies always wanted a redundant stack) and then trying to get your $$$ wotsits out of it, the idea here is what AVI flashily (well someone has to employ marketeers) calls Intent-Based Application Services (IBAS). In English, a business works out what it needs in terms of handling its traffic requirements/SLAs etc and then auto-provisioning takes over, scaling up or down as necessary to handle volume efficiently. Common Sense as a Service…

AVI is rightly aiming high with this solution; multi-cloud environments, xSPS, Times Fortune Top 500 or whatever it’s called, but essentially those whose need is greatest and loss is most painful. Talk with AVIs David Moss, whose CV is almost a mapping of my vendor clients since the early 90s, did turn to how an AVI-Lite might be achievable, so watch this space on that one. Suffice to say, L-B/ADC is alive and well in the cloud era. The snowflakes have melted long ago…

October 2, 2018  4:00 PM

Parallel Universe Windows Migration as a Service

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead

Rewind a few years and I was carrying out a series of test projects for a UK-based ISV client, AppDNA, whose focus was the analysis of application compatibility when migrating between different versions of Windows and IE respectively and, indeed, possibly concurrently – the ultimate double whammy.

The point was that, in order to do this manually, you ideally needed several parallel universes and an infinite team of advanced lifeforms within each, dedicated to the task. Otherwise, before you’ve generated the results from one migration analysis, the version you needed to migrate to had already moved on. So, said product automated all the Arcturan MegaDonkey work (thanks, Douglas Adams) and made the impossible possible (without the need for an Infinite Improbability Drive).

And that concept was clearly based on good foundations as the company sold to Citrix for rather a lot of money. Now, we do appear to have a case of parallel universes as one of the founders of the previous company has re-emerged as a founder of Rimo3, a UK-based ISV whose focus in is the area of application compliance and compatibility when moving to Windows 10 (funnily enough).

What’s that I hear: “You mean to say – shock, horror – that not all Microsoft-addict enterprises have moved to the current Windows platform yet?” Well, no actually. To use a technical term, ‘shedloads’ of them haven’t yet thrown themselves to the lion that is effectively Windows as a Service, or at least have only partially done so. I guess the latter option is kind of like letting a shark bite one ankle off initially to see how painful it might be if you went the whole way.

So, enter Rimo3 which, no prizes for guessing here, automates the process of testing application compatibility and compliance for moving to Windows 10/WaaS. But this time the stakes are even higher since, with WaaS, Microsoft moves the proverbial goalposts every six months, so you have to reconfirm that all is well in the land of Happyappville twice a year. And this is ongoing – to the end of time, at least. And that’s a conservative estimate…

My life would therefore not be complete without getting my hands on “Son (or daughter) of AppDNA”. I – perchance – am at IP Expo tomorrow in the beautiful and not at all ugly and echo chamber like surroundings of ExCel in the very far East of London (same time zone as Singapore) where, by an astonishing coincidence, Rimo3 is being launched. So, I might happen upon the stand and claim my testing rights which, in turn, would lead to a Broadband-Testing report on “Son (or daughter) of…” Watch thee said space. In whichever parallel universe you currently exist…

October 2, 2018  3:39 PM

What – no grilled sardines?

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead

Recently returned from the sunny climes of the Algarve at this year’s round up of IT reprobates at Netevents (congrats, as ever, to the Netevents team for a) organising the event and b) surviving it).

Unsurprisingly there was much talk of that re-roasted old chestnut that is AI and what it actually means (if not what it stands for). My old (equally) mad mate Jan Guldentops rightly made the point that you could probably ask a hundred vendors and get a different interpretation from each. And is “machine learning” the same thing as “artificial intelligence”? And why did no one discuss why, when the latter is known as “AI”, that no one ever refers to the former as “ML”?

Much of the conversation was greatly on topic – thanks Scott Raynovich, AKA Mr Futuriom, for making the point that SD-WAN is going to be massive. Music to my ears, as it’s one of my key focus areas. Some of my clients are smiling very broadly. No thanks to Gartner for narrowing the definition of WAN Optimisation in the first place, so that it had to be renamed in order to expand and fulfil its potential, however…

As part of the ongoing debates around SD-WAN and cloud came the realisation that there isn’t actually infinite bandwidth around the globe and that all forms of optimisation are actually a fundamental requirement going forward into a multi-cloud, “let’s kill off MPLS” future.

And then there’s the inevitable realisation that security still doesn’t work (though if you believe certain Antipodean journalists it isn’t actually necessary; what’s worth stealing in Australia anyway?), as evidenced by ongoing, much documented hacks into major global companies, banks, travel companies and governments.

Then with the migration from OnPrem to various cloudy scenarios and migration of apps and data onto all manner of virtual environments and self-contained containers, there’s the issue of how you manage that migration, especially when it might be across connections that have very significantly less than infinite bandwidth? Does VMware enjoy the company of Docker? Are Azure and AWS bosom buddies?

Seems almost freaky then, that I’ve just started a project working with a US inventor focused in the areas of data acceleration, encryption and multi-platform migration, backup and replication management. Or was I just dreaming that on the way back from Faro airport?

Actually, I wasn’t. I think I’m rather going to enjoy the ride. And no prizes for guessing what I bought a bottle of at the duty-free shop, Faro airport, that being in PORTugal…

September 7, 2018  11:38 AM

Who is The Cloud Daddy?

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead

Had a great couple of online sessions recently with Joe Merces of the splendidly named CloudDaddy.

The aim of CloudDaddy is to simplify one of the great pain points of IT (no, not repairing daisywheel printers, I think that really is historical pain), that being backup and restore, by incorporating AWS into the process. So often IT gets carried away with inventing for its own sake and ignoring the “stuff” that has always caused the most problems.

CEO Joe (who grew up the hard way as CIO of the New York City Law Department) and I spoke about the old uncertainties of not just ensuring backup strategies went according to plan but the sweat-inducing trauma of… the restore! Of course, there are still gazillibytes of data out there on tape, so the traumas continue for many, but with something like CloudDaddy a company can move its backup into the cloud site by site, byte by byte, just in case “cloud paranoia” is at work.

Talking of paranoia, an important point to make is that CloudDaddy comes with fully integrated security; yes, I appreciate this should be a given, but it isn’t. We referenced the city of Atlanta attack, where they found even their backups had been encrypted. Nice… One look at the CloudDaddy dashboard would have show them every instance that wasn’t secured. And another look at the AWS site map shows you where you can backup your data to. It’s like a new form of global war game – “I’m going to launch a backup at Australia…”.

Hoping to get a full look at the product asap; given its global approach via AWS, this could just be THE cloud daddy!

And talking earlier of IT all too often getting obsessed with “what’s new” and marketing hype, machine learning (now in its 4th historical hype cycle by my reckoning) has been much overused and abused of recent, but it is also now making its way into the world of data backup and recovery, care of Imanis Data. The company set out to use machine learning to protect Hadoop and NoSQL applications against Ransomware, but have extended the intelligence to backup/recovery, albeit currently for Hadoop and NoSQL enterprise data management specifically (hardly a small market!) but you can see where the concept could go in the future, so be watching of this space!


June 29, 2018  11:26 AM

IT On A Budget? Still Plenty Of Investment Money Around…

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead

IT is often two-faced and never more so than when it comes to the financial health of the industry.

Speak to one set and they’ll tell you how tight it is, scrapping for every penny of profit, and they’re speaking as they see it. At the same time, many of my US-based clients and regular contacts seem to be able to bring in the levels of investment they need, as they need it. And we’re not simply talking the Bay Area here; Austin in deepest Texas is a hotbed of security start-ups these days and a great place it seems to bring the $$$ into it seems. Latest example is JASK (Just ASK) which has just raised another $25m (Series B) to bring total investment to just shy of $40m in not a very long time at all. To put it into perspsective, I’ve got UK clients who – between them – have struggled to raise one tenth of this between them all over 10 years, despite having great tech!

So is the answer for EMEA companies to up sticks and move to the US and go down the .inc route? Well, it has helped in some notable cases – for example, my old client AppDNA – but equally it can prove to be a very expensive wild goose chase. And free-range geese don’t come cheap! No, in many ways it’s still a “who you know” industry, though having good tech does help these days; go back 20 years and that wasn’t even a qualifier. Nowadays there is some level of common sense involved in the investment decisionmaking process. WRT JASK (enough initialisation!) its tech does take a very common sense approach to helping security analysts free up more holiday time -:) If you’ve ever tried to wade through a gazlllion alerts and shedloadbytes of packet captures to find the eNeedle in the eHaystack, then you’ll get the idea behind JASK – i.e. do all that stuff for you – so you can short-cut to the conclusions and remediation.

Related to this concept is another Austin-based company that I am spending some time with currently, and that is Capstar Forensics; we worked out that, not only does its search engine tech take weeks and months of manual search time down to literally a few seconds, but actually makes the impossible, er, possible. And talking still of Austin (told you it’s a hotbed!) I’m literally about to start working on an updated report for client Ziften, focusing on its integration with Microsoft’s Defender tech. Integration is also a key aspect of the JASK approach. Maybe someday there’ll simply be one security product called “Austin, Texas”? You heard it here first…

June 5, 2018  12:24 PM

Divisive Devices And Conferencing Woes?

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead

Like – I suspect – many people, I spend far too large a percentage of my one and only life on various ‘net conferences, using a variety of platforms.

Most of them are truly loathsome. So it was quite refreshing recently, when speaking to a conf software vendor, Fuze, using its own product for said conference, to have a one-click connection, with no “sorry I’m struggling to get onto the conference” moments, and excellent lip-sync when using the video (and, no, we weren’t in the same room -) – hoping to spend more time with these guys down the line.

One issue the aside comments during the conf did raise is that of – “what devices are conf attendees using to access the conferences nowadays?” Given that I regularly test network infrastructure management (of various sorts) products, security admin services etc, that are all completely manageable via an Android/iPhone device, it seems logical that more and more folks are using said devices to join conferences, and this is indeed the case, regardless of their actual location – e.g. at their desk. And it’s not a trivial issue providing the same level of access and facilities across all platforms – phone, laptop, desktop, tablet (stone or otherwise), cave walls etc…

Moreover, it shows the ever-increasing need for focus on audio/video from smartphones to attain a quality, shall we say, approximately a thousand times better than that we experience with the likes of WhatsApp. And of course it needs to be secure, even by what Russian FIFA World Cup 2018 standards are likely to be (with probably less use of batons). Which brings me nicely onto another recent conversation with another vendor, this time Swiss-based Equiis (needless to say, the conference started exactly on time -). Equiis plays in the world of secure mobile comms, an area I’ve been focused on since the early 90s, care of Brand Communications, Netmotion and others. And it’s bigger than ever, for the aforementioned – and many other – reasons. Equiis’ focus is very much on the enterprise market, though they do have an intriguing announcement in the pipeline which will expand that market considerably, but I’m not at liberty to talk about that currently. Many people think I should be locked up anyway…

What is really key here is the ability to continue what typically starts as some kind of online conversation in the office and continues on the way back home, or to another meeting, the gym, pub, Indian take-away, noodle bar or whatever… with all the same secure functionality on tap. Two or more different locations shouldn’t require two or more different devices and applications and, regardless of the number of devices, the user methodology should be the same. This isn’t Nirvana, it’s just basically what’s needed in 2018 and beyond. Or at least until the world ends, which some people are suggesting might be as a result of the World Cup. Not sure about that, but I can certainly see a potential depression building over England as a result thereof… I do hope I am proved wrong -)

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