In the process of kicking off a new season of awards judge duty, starting with Techtrailblazers, which focuses on start-ups (and upstarts).
Got me thinking – just what IS a start-up company? Ok – so there are definitions within even Techtrailblazers itself as competitions are based upon rules, and rules dictate strict definitions, so there’s no way around this (for the record, or mp3, I believe the entry conditions are a company no more than six years old?). BUT – what if you’re one of the many vendors that has been around the block once (or more) already and has reinvented itself, so it is effectively a start-up, just a mature one, like someone who revisits university in the 50s to do a different degree? So, a mature start-up!
For example, I was speaking recently with a US vendor who fits that very description – Vector Networks, which effectively refocused with the acquisition of its Vizor IT assets management software. The software manages the complete asset lifecycle, from network discovery and inventory data acquisition through to purchase, warranty and maintenance data. This, in itself, is effectively a reinvention of the original asset management systems of the early 90s on the back of networks first being deployed en masse. And in combining this with software management and service desk, it moves the game on from the original Landesk (itself reinvented and now part of Ivanti) product and its ilk that I was testing as long ago as ’91 (when Intel acquired that original Landesk incarnation).
And then there’s the next step in the process, as defined by the newly created SysSecOps category. A recent report from Technology Research outlined the concept of SysSecOps – that is to say combining systems and security operations into a single IT profile or categorisation. And it makes total sense as it’s all about visibility and follows the aforementioned mantra – if you don’t know what your systems are running – basically what is happening on an ongoing basis – then how can you possibly secure users, their data and applications?
I’ve just finished a test report on said approach for Ziften and the concept definitely works. Now, getting back to the original point here, Ziften is technically a start-up from the awards definition (founded 2011 I believe). So does that mean that essentially Vector should be competing against Ziften on a start-up playing field far more level that Yeovil Town’s old pitch? Most definitely, but it requires an IT rethink/reinvention of terminology and, as we all know, IT is very good at that -)
Security, for a decade or so, didn’t see much in the way of true change – yes, firewalls got smarter, likewise AV products (well, some anyway), IDS became IPS so it could actually stop something happening, encryption became more encrypted and VPNs became more virtual, but typically same old vendor faces, same old product types with variations on a theme.
And initial cloud instances didn’t really change much at first. For example, I remember testing some early cloud-based products and it was essentially just the same technology OnPrem, moved to the cloud – and with a significant drop in performance capability at the time.
However, the general consensus suggests that the “traditional” security architecture is no longer sufficient protection against cybersecurity and, certainly, the pure signature-based method of resistance is indeed full of cyber-holes. New vendors such as Tempered Networks and vArmour are looking to protect in a micro-segmented way, rather than building secure gateways/walls, albeit in very different ways to each other. And, meantime, you have vendors insisting that prevention at the cloud is the answer, and others saying the endpoint should be the focal point.
I recently had the pleasure of back to back arguments from two vendors, one in the former camp, Menlo Security, and one in the latter, Cylance (but is it golden?). Of course, the answer is that there is no single solution for all – indeed, each vendor has specific focuses – but that’s to kill the fun before it starts… Menlo’s focus currently is on preventing malware intrusions and has opted for the isolation method (not a form of birth control) – basically to isolate user devices from web and email threats coming from t’Interweb, so only the “good” stuff actually reaches the endpoints. It’s a valid argument for what it does – i.e. it is not an “all or nothing” solution, but a definite revisit to those initial cloud instances I mentioned earlier, but clearly better thought out. Anyway, it will hopefully come under the Broadband-Testing microscope soon, so watch this space on that one…
Cylance then described why the endpoint is still vulnerable (not least from insider attacks) and why, therefore, you do need protection at the endpoint (again, this is NOT a form of contraception) which, again, makes total sense in isolation, even though it’s not a isolation technology, just to make that clear (as mud). I kind of think of it in terms of, well – if we had NextGen Firewalls, then now we have a kind of NextGen AV technology. Funny – at that point I just looked at the Cylance website and that’s how they are describing it -) Great minds and all that. Or stupid ones as my old history teacher used to counter with. I actually got a “B” in History so the debate is still raging…
What I have noted from several demo’s is that Cylance’s “DNA-matching” approach to identifying threats seems to a) work and b) at very high performance levels and with a relatively minimal footprint/impact. Kind of like replacing a slow-burning 3-litre V8 engine with a turbo-charged 1.6-litre alternative, that is half the size and weight, has twice the power, and is thrice as economical. Will that appear on Cylance’s website???
Anyway, there are still more questions than answers (sounds like a cue for a song?) which makes it all the more interesting. Me, saying security is interesting? Surely some mistake here… It’ll all come out in the washing (public or otherwise)…
WiFi/WLAN is taken so much for granted nowadays, that it’s easy to forget just how far it has come in recent years.
Given that it took around 15 years to get from proprietary 1Mbps technologies such as those offered by NCR (WaveLAN) and Olivetti (can’t remember the product name, except that they used it to remote control a forklift truck – a real one, not a Dinky – at a show at the NEC way back; ‘elf n safety’ – what was that back then?) to an IEEE standards-based 10Mbps Ethernet solution, the speed of change (and change of speed) since then, and especially since the .11n standard emerged, is nothing short of spectacular.
Been catching up with a number of vendors, including the likes of Zebra, Cradlepoint, Xirrus and TP-Link, and it’s clear that the WiFi world really has become ubiquitous, from Glastonbury – see CW story:
https://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240184168/EE-partners-with-Glastonbury-for-4G-festival – which used Cradlepoint technology, for the record (or mp3) – to every coffee chain in the world (seemingly), every hotel room (with the possible exception of Bridlington) and, pretty well every square yard of every town in the UK, WiFi is available. Even if you’re not aware of that (access) point, your smartphone keeps reminding you…
But it’s the capabilities that are now pretty astounding, something I touched on with Bruce Miller of Xirrus last week. That company’s latest Wave 2 APs contain up to eight radios and support 3.47Gbps of throughput – each! in the mid-2k’s we needed a depot full of gear to achieve those levels of coverage and performance…
And with the proliferation of outdoor APs now, it means that it is THE perfect technology for cloud-based services; it even passes in the ether, so you can even justify looking up in the sky when you mention the “C” word (as many people seem to do). It has also changed the way people select everything from which hotel room to which coffee chain (or burger chain), based on their past experiences – and the likes of Tripadvisor etc, something I also touched upon with Bruce, and conversations with Hubert Da Costa of Cradlepoint and Andy Woolhead of TP-Link.
The “value-add” that WiFi now gives to a business (not to technology) has also meant that IT guys, regardless of their business, are having to turn their WiFi investments into revenue-making resource. No longer is it enough just to feel inclined to offer WiFi as a free service to the staff or general public, it has to earn £££, soon equal to €€ or $… This, again, makes a cloud-based WiFi service a very attractive proposition to a business; known OpEx and less pressure on ROI. It also gets around the primary problem – still – of Wifi; hopelessly bad deployments. Despite automated site surveys having told engineers precisely where to mount each AP (and how many, and at what settings) since the early days of controller-based WLAN, Trapeze etc, venues (yes YOU hotels, you know who I mean) still get it horribly wrong. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another 15 years to sort that issue out..
Meantime for Zebra fans (and not those who eat the burgers available from the Arcade butchers in Hastings), watch this space – news soon…
IT – a job for life?
Possibly… just finished a meeting with an old IT mate, Mike Silvey of Moogsoft, and we were talking about how all the recent networking reinvention bollox has basically forced companies into investing in new technology, not least network management in its broadest sense, simply in order to make sense of the new PARADIGM -)
The reality is, regardless of whether the world needed Cloud, SDN, SD-WAN, FinTech, IoT etc, they’ve been landed with it, so someone/something has to manage it. Had a variation on said topic with Joel Dolisy of SolarWinds recently in London. We spoke about how everything and nothing changes simultaneously, from virtualisation to outsourcing and to, more critically, automation. Ah, the golden nugget – freeing up staff from fire-fighting to actually be pro-active in making their company better, whether it makes biscuits or sells petroleum. Way back in the 90s I was involved in network management automation projects and so it goes on in 2016. The question is, would true automation really lead to staff being freed up to be more productive, or would they simply be made redundant – in every sense? Well, what doesn’t make sense is individuals spending hours a day on mundane admin, so automation has to happen and then we see the fallout… It is therefore important for the likes of SolarWinds to continue to pursue the automation quest – one day Rodney…
On the SolarWinds front (weather gag?) an interesting move from the guys is device specific dashboards for the likes of F5, Cisco and others, with an SDK also coming out. This might seem overkill, but it does make sense as, after all, network management software vendors are better at doing network management than the hardware vendors!
Back to the talk of reducing manual admin time, one new product I’m working with currently that takes networking back to its hexadecimal basics and then gives it a two-digits wave goodbye is from a company called CapStar Forensics. The idea here is to take the “Wireshark” PCAP world into the 21st century for real – i.e. digging deep and dirty is still fundamental to many IT engineers, but why spend days and weeks doing manual searches to find what you’re looking for – tiny needles in Giant Haystacks is not an issue we should be wresting with (!) in 2016. So, CapStar adds a DPI engine and a huge library of search profiles into the equation. Early testing suggests that days can indeed be taken down to seconds, based on some cybersecurity related forensics.
Definitely a “watch this space” moment…
This week I have to host a panel debate on “stress testing cloud applications and infrastructure” at Netevents in Rome (I know – it’s tough, but someone’s got to do it…).
One of the areas to cover is, well, how you do actually cover that kind of environment from a test perspective – e.g. engage thousands of what we used to call human beings to all use specific apps at certain times, or can we simulate that or… given that we live in a world of analytics – well, we always have done, just that now they are being collected and – funnily enough – analysed, is a lot of the hard work actually being done for us? I mentioned in my last blog that I recently met up with John Rakowski of AppDynamics, the Application Intelligence company in the Enterprise space (that’s as in the type of business, not the starship – well, not yet at least) and a couple of areas we talked about were application intelligence and unified monitoring. In other words, the ability to blanket monitor, so you are collecting all the data into a unified reporting mechanism, and the ability to understand the app’s you’re actually monitoring.
This is a gazillion miles away from the old methods of collecting and then sifting through Syslog files and other Data Centre consuming information logs, requiring several of those human being things again on hand to manual carry out this most exciting of tasks – finding the eNeedle in the data haystack. So, in one fell swoop you minimise costs, remove human error, and maximise visibility and the ability to pro-actively manage apps and services.
It’s much the same kind of story in the world of network monitoring itself; I had a catch-up last year Savvius (the artist formerly known as WildPackets) and gone are the days when we had to search manually through disks-worth of Hex in order to find a particular packet identifier or character string for example. In its recent update, you can now correlate and analyse network data directly on the capture engine, as it happens, and it give you remediation advice too!
So, back to the original point – are these, let’s call them “app and data visibility tools” actually doing the job of a specialist app/service product testing, er, product and, more worryingly, that of the product tester?
That’ll be one to debate in Rome then! Bring on the pizza and Chianti (classico reserva, of course..) .
NetMan/Security vendor, and now part of the Thoma Bravo empire (watch out China!) SolarWinds, AKA SW, has sent us a timely reminder that this leap year has resulted in Feb having an extra Monday – AKA today – so what to do with it and improve the life of an IT pro at the same time?
Having recently finished some testing with Cirba on its SDI (Software Defined Infrastructure) approach to compute and storage resource management and app deployment, it’s been interesting to be simultaneously judging an early stage tech vendor competition and see just how many Cirba wannabe’s there are out there!
Much of the talk on this blog recently has involved the world of acquisitions. And so it goes on.
A recent meeting with Phil and Jim from the UK and US arms of Netscout respectively focused partially on their completion of the acquisition of the comms business of Danaher Corp – Danaher is an enormous company; I can imagine a conversation in parts of that company where one employee in a different division comments on “we’ve just sold our comms business” and another saying “did we have a comms business?” However – it’s a very sizeable business in its own right and actually turns Netscout into kind of a “big” company.
This comes with obvious complications. I can remember a conversation with ex F5 SVP marketing and top geezer Erik Giesa years ago at F5s HQ in Seattle and he talked about (while using his arms to emphasise the size of the offices) how F5 had never intended becoming a “big company” – simply that no one had acquired them in time before their market cap became too big to make them attractive any longer.
That said, Netscout seems to have all the angles covered, even the Arbor Networks security oriented element of the acquisitiion – I mean, on the surface, how does cyber security fit into network monitoring? Surprisingly easily as it happens – a no-brainer if you think about at; incredibly valuable information being extracted from the network needs the most protection of all. SNMP v1 anybody? You can imagine all the IT guys who used it to death way back ow thinking: “what possessed me to send intimate details about the corporate network across completely open connections in plain text?” Of course, the Arbor element runs way deeper than that, but you get the message. It’s as I have talked about in recent blogs, pretty well all IT companies are having to reinvent themselves, whether in networking or not. Hell – some people still think Dell only makes laptops!
It will, however, be interesting indeed to see how Netscout progresses as a company with a broad range of products and a massively increased customer base to keep happy. Good luck chaps!
Talking of mergers and acquisitions, just read that the green light has been given for BT and EE to get their act together – when I’m in the UK I’m with BT on broadband and EE on mobile – what did I do to deserve this? For the record, the BT Homehub5 has surely the worst coverage of any WiFi router I’ve used in the past 15 years. It doesn’t even extend between two bedrooms (don’t ask why I’m using this as the metric)! Time for signal booster acquisition, or a better router obviously, but that’s the easy option. I don’t do easy options…
The IT world has gone acquisition bonkers. Dell is paying as much for EMC as any football club would do to secure the combined services of Messi and Ronaldo. Well almost…
Meantime, a couple of companies I keep tabs on have also been in acquisition mode, albeit on a lesser, but still significant, scale, as the need to reinvent to stay in – and play – the game is more critical than ever. The two companies I am speaking of are TIBCO and SolarWinds and I caught up with both of them last week in that tourist theme park known as London.
TIBCO is on a world tour – we didn’t get the T-shirt however – and clearly it was a sell-out; barely standing room in the (large) conference room of the Landmark Hotel. Interesting to see that t’Interweb, while initially reducing physical presence at live events, seems to be a less significant distractor these days. Good job, as it’s just taken me over two weeks to get a BT broadband line activated, and that with the help of the press office and the “Exec Level Complaints Dept” (than you Lisa) – otherwise I would be still waiting until the middle of next week, or next year or… Meantime, BT has now issued four accounts on my behalf and I have three BT HomeHubs already. I digress…
Cloud integration is a key driver for TIBCO right now as evidenced by two releases last week – the snappily named TIBCO BusinessWorks Container Edition and the more direct TIBCO Cloud Integration (we likes “does what it says on the tin” descriptions my precious). The former is designed to get companies scaling the heights of the cloud as rapidly as possible, while the second is all about APIs – an IPaaS, AKA, integration Platform-as-a-Service, kind of a Platform as a Platform as a Service, if you like. Both are worthy missions from a company whose origins were on the trading floors of the world, where clouds were not even visible. And interesting how the old and new come together – APIs and iPaaS (only one letter different between the two, note, maybe we should introduce an IT version of Countdown, along the lines of the 8/10 Cats variant?) – I still remember when APIs “were the future”. Mind, so was 8-bit computing once…
Integration was also a key theme in my conversation with SolarWind’s head of security, Mav Turner, who has featured in a previous CW article of mine on compliance. Switching to that subject briefly, I made the point to the TIBCO board that accelerating DevOps and Integration might lead to some compliance issues as dev gets too far ahead of compliance box-ticking? CTO Matt Quinn begged to differ, but Mav of SolarWind was in my camp. Obviously both vendors have vested interests (if neither tour vests nor T-shirts in TIBCOs case) but compliance really is a fundamental pain in the (word deleted here – Ed) process of implementing and delivering new services and applications these days. With Mav, we talked about how this is an even more spectacular problem when dealing with government departments – something I know only too well from chatting with MK Council earlier this year.
SolarWinds’ focus was actually a combination of the two key themes here, acquisition and integration, in that they are currently bringing all their acquisitions together into a common interface and style (whatever happened to the days when you would test a “single” Cisco product and encounter three different management interfaces?) – we even used the dreaded phrase “single pane of glass management”. Oh how we laughed… On a more serious note – and this applies to every vendor that has done well enough to make a name for itself in one sphere, but moves forward into new worlds – Mav made the point that many people’s association with SolarWinds is simply Network Management, or even more simply, SNMP. People, the company HAS moved on…
This need for continual reinvention in the IT vendor world is frankly frustrating and driven largely by the analyst groups and stock exchanges in equal measure. TIBCO CEO, Murray Rode talked about how, in some ways, escaping the clutches of public ownership and moving back into private alleviates many of these pressures and allows a vendor to focus on all the important elements – bettering the product for the right reasons, customer focus etc – and he is absolutely right. Why do we have to put up with the pressures that, for example, force the renaming Mainframe Time-Sharing to Outsourcing, then Application Service Provision, then Outsourcing again and now Cloud? Just adds to marketing costs and confusion.
Talking of confusion – so what exactly is Dell boy going to do with VMware? Odds-on favourite is to offload it but who would be the buyer? Please, not HP, surely… (whichever bit of HP that might be) and could Brocade afford it? Microsoft, to clean up on the hypervisors? IBM as a slightly left-field proposition? Mega-management buy-out? As ever, it’s time to watch this space…
I remember writing a column for a long since deceased IT publication, where I was discussing the rebirth of the mainframe as a network server, I remember it, not simply for the content, but more specifically the context, and how the sub-editors, in the name of formatting and pure ignorance, change my column title: “The mainframe is dead, long live the mainframe” (quite a witty variation I though!) to simply: “The mainframe is dead”. Not quite the same meaning…
Fortunately, no one edits these blogs (normally!) so hopefully the title here stays as originally typed. The point is, the “mainframe” is being reinvented again, but this time it’s not the mainframe itself that is regenerating itself, but the “network”, so the exact inverse of what happened before.
This thought was reiterated in recent conversations with the excellent Danny Yeowell of Dimension Data (a man who can describe an incredibly complex company structure in simple layman’s terms in the space of 90 seconds!) and in recent work I’ve started with Cirba, a company focusing on “software-defined infrastructure control solutions” AKA managing and optimising virtual storage through software. The point is, whatever a vendor means by SDN and NFV, what is happening is that network functionality is being distributed across the ether, as one giant set of components, manageable from a single, remote entity, whose applications are largely accessed through a browser, regardless of the access device – AKA the rebirth of the mainframe as an organic network, sitting as a software layer, controlling application and data access, wherever the apps and data reside.
As a fundamental consequence of this, storage and networking are becoming ever more integrated, hence the number of acquisitions in recent years of network technology by storage vendors and vice-versa. Looking at Cirba’s solution, while focused on virtualised storage, networking elements such as workload routing, load-balancing and interfacing with NFV elements are all fundamental parts of the product. Cirba’s analytics automate VM routing decisions based on all the required constraints including workload utilisation, business, technical, software licensing, and complex storage requirements.
A side-effect of the likes of Cirba is that it means that the storage vendors don’t have to do this stuff for themselves; they can simply integrate with a “Cirba” as exemplified by this week’s announcement that Cirba is now integrated with NetApp‘s OnCommand Insight OCI), thus providing the aforementioned optimisation to NetApp customers. So the storage companies increasingly become part of the SDN/NFV movement – there is no escape!
Lest we forget to bring “cloud” into this blog, Cirba also provides cloud infrastructure management teams with visibility into when resource shortfalls might adversely affect associated VMs and where excess resources exist for – in this case – NetApp and other storage infrastructure connected to NetApp OCI.
On a more generic level, all this is being put to the test currently by yours truly, so look out for a report on the topic in the near future.