Networks Generation

March 3, 2015  10:32 AM

Shock – HP Acts On Advice – Five Years Too Late…

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead
3Com, Acquisitions, Aruba, Autonomy, Colubris, Dell, Enterprise, Hewlett-Packard, MOTOROLA, OEM, ProCurve, Symbol

So – HP has just announced it is acquiring Aruba Networks; basically the 2nd-3rd stab at buying a wireless solution after Colubris and effectively inheriting additional WLAN tech with the 3Com acquisition (that NOT being the raison d’etre for that acquisition).

The daft thing here is that, after doing some internal test comparison work for HP towards the end of 2009, the recommendation was – “definitely cheaper and quicker to acquire Aruba than incorporate that capability into your own technology”.
So x 2, of course, they didn’t – and then went and acquired Colubris, on the basis of wanting an Enterprise WLAN solution (AKA Aruba) except Colubris had been designed as a hospitality/hotel etc type solution. The question is, how much would Aruba have cost in 2009 – $3bn? More to the point here, Aruba these days has many OEM deals in place (but not back then) with key HP rivals, most notably Dell boys. So, what happens there? And we thought Putin was going to be at the heart of WW III…
On the plus side, this HAS to be a better acquisition than Autonomy -)
As a footnote – HP (as Procurve’s) original WLAN portfolio was based on licensing a subset of Symbol’s WLAN product range, a company that Motorola acquired a few years ago. So why not simply acquire Symbol before Motorola did, and then add Aruba back in 2009? But then, what do I know about comparing products and best acquisition practise?

February 6, 2015  12:18 PM

Cloud Innovation and Groundhog Day Combined…

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead
AppDNA, Big Data, Citrix, Cloud Computing, IBM, Netflix, Open source, Software as a Service

Within the general misty definition of “Cloud”, sometimes something pokes through the veil of ether-precipitation that says “I’m new and I make sense”.

And typically, it’s not a variation on that other “Somehow Defines Nothing” Hype-TLA that is SDN, but more akin to the style of Python “And now for something completely different”. In this case it comes from a UK start-up Fedr8. Ok, so the name sounds more like a courier company, but stick with me…

Rather than focusing on Cloud storage or performance, Fedr8 is focusing on making sure your existing applications will actually work in that environment in the first place. Kind of akin to avoiding the scenario where you buy a large American car before you measure the size of your garage. The product itself, Argentum, provides compatibility analysis and optimisation for in-house applications, prior to cloud delivery.  It provides organisations with a suite of tools that can assess, analyse and optimise existing applications, enabling organisations to design successful cloud projects and migrate applications without even thinking about the pain, system, effort and time in attempting to do it manually. Or simply guessing…

To date Argentum has been piloted on Open Source applications developed by companies including Netflix, Twitter and IBM, so no big names there then! How, then, does it work? In layman’s terms it analyses the source code of any application, in any programming language, and then provides actionable intelligence to help a company move those existing apps into the cloud – hence “federate” the services! So, what’s in a name? Lots it seems -) At a slightly more technical level, code is uploaded to the Argentum platform where it undergoes a complex analysis and is split into objectified tokens. These tokens populate a meta database against which queries are run. From this, out pops a visualisation of the application and actionable business intelligence to enable successful cloud adoption.

Sounds great in theory, and looks a must for Broadband-Testing to put through its paces; not least because there is a Groundhog Day moment here. Yes, the product is innovative, BUT there is an eerie resemblance to that of a former client, AppDNA, whose product analysed applications for migration between Microsoft OSs and browser versions. So, same concept, different application (in every sense) and, indeed, why not? Especially since AppDNA ultimately got acquired by Citrix for more than a few quid. Now that’s a precedent I suspect the Fedr8 board will be quite sweet on…

November 20, 2014  11:17 AM

It’s CA Jim But Not As We Know IT

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead
apps, Barcelona, CA, Gartner, IOS, Network management, Software, twitter

I was at a Gartner event in Barcelona last week, where Computer Associates were playing host.

Not only was there the amusement of the excellent and straight-talking EMEA CTO Bjarne Rasmussen referencing Forrester several times at a Gartner event (especially amusing for my Forrester analyst mate Nikki Babatola when I told her) but what followed was even better.
Beamed in on live video from the simultaneous CA World event in Vegas – AND IT WORKED! – we had CA CEO Mike Gregoire do a keynote on the new CA – and how right he is, this is an unrecognisable company from a few years back (and in a GOOD way) – and then the maddest panel debate ever. Hosted by Wired’s Jason Tanz, it featured Mike himself, Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter) and Jennifer “Legs” Hyman (co-founder of Rent The Runway clothes rental online).
How could this work? Well, Biz and Jennifer both looked like they’d been on something in the Green Room beforehand, but… they were all brilliant. Mike was comfortable in this company in a way that no senior exec from “old” CA would ever have been; Biz was the master of (laid back) common sense and Jennifer represented the new face of IT – i.e. not tech talk but pure business.
So what was a mainframe software company is now an Apps company…
The CA strap-line throughout was that your business is software and it’s hard to disagree with this, short of someone making pottery from their own home and selling direct from the doorstep!
With a few of the established IT and networking giants flounder currently (you know who you are guys!) CA is a good example of how you can reinvent yourself for the new IT economy; business not tech – about time too! Even if it does put a few of us out of business…

November 10, 2014  3:47 PM

Networking Innovation?

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead
ADC, apps, jetNEXUS, L-B, LAN, NAS, Network management, Networking, router, Storage, WAN, Wi-Fi

Been researching an article for CW’s very own Cliff Saran while, by chance, also speaking with a number of IT investors – the research being on networking innovations; oh and, by another chance, also judging an awards event, networking category and also visited a Cambridge Wireless innovations awards event…

That’s a lot of potential networking innovations to witness; except, networking ain’t what it used to be – much of the new development is WRT to tangential elements to networking, rather than at the heart of it all. Does this mean that networking is essentially done and dusted? That it all just… works?
Obviously a lot of the focus is on “the cloud” (everyone looks up to the sky for some reason when you say that) and end-to-end optimisation, especially at the NAS/storage end, which is fine, but not much else to report on that’s genuinely new and genuinely “networking”.
That said, a few things are being properly reinvented:
1. Network Management – to cope with cloudy, hybrid networks.
2. User Interfaces – finally getting less “IT and more “human being” – examples I’ve tested recently here include jetNEXUS Load-Balancing/ADC – once a mega-techie product area and now simplified to such an extent that we’re going to ask my mum to configure the next test (you think I’m kidding?) – and also WRT Sunrise Software’s Sostenuto ITSM platform – now truly “admin person friendly” and with whacko new features (at least by “Helpdesk” software standards) such as gamification (both reports are on the broadband-testing, website so check ’em out).
3. WiFi – well, not so much re-invented but now with real scalability – this stuff really does work, even if hotels still try to prove the complete opposite…
And, of course, we have the latest set of “router” replacement technologies, but now we’re talking optical tech, not exactly branch-office stuff…
And, finally, why ARE investors currently so obsessed with “Apps”? I mean, for every one that makes zillions…

September 1, 2014  11:38 AM

Shopping In A WiFi Cloud…

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead
application, Application Programming Interface, cloud, HP, openflow, Sdm, Tallac, Wi-Fi, Wifi

“Cloud” and “WLAN” or “WiFi” are not, to date, IT terms that are typically seen in tandem, but Tallac Systems, a new venture for a number of ex HP er, yes – let’s say it – veterans (I reckon I can out-run you guys if necessary) are looking to create one from t’other.

Some of the basic target scenarios here – for example, a multi-tenant building scenario, or a shopping mall equivalent – are not new; we tested this kind of application with the likes of Trapeze Networks  a decade or so ago – but the way in which Tallac is approaching this kind of solution, IS different. Have a look at the Tallac architecture, for example, to get an idea if where the boys are coming from, combining elements of SDN (OpenFlow) with Tallac’s own virtualisation model and open APIs to boot:

Of course, every start-up has to have a new variant on a marketing spin; in this case it’s SDM (not N, this was not a typo) or Software Defined Mobility. Get beyond the marketing BLX and the basics make sense:
  • Manage entire Wi-Fi network from a single dashboard
  • Control multi-tenant Wi-Fi networks, applications and devices
  • Application-based virtual networks
  • Cost effective 3rd party hardware
  • OpenFlow enabled API
So, the next step for me is to get some hands-on experience and the “seeing is believing” proof point. Watch this space…

August 8, 2014  2:19 PM

Next Gen Network Management

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead
CA, Cloud Computing, HP, IBM, IBM Tivoli, Moogsoft, Network management, Virtualisation
IT and networking reinvents itself partially or wholly every few years, and here we are again now – distributed, virtualised, cloud (private and public) based, hybrid networks… So where does this leave traditional Network Management (NetMan) applications?

Every few years, the topic of “next generation” NetMan crops up once more and here we are again right now, thanks to the the distributed, somewhat cloudy and virtualised nature of contemporary network deployments. I mean, just how do you manage a network “entity” if you don’t know where it is?

I recently finished testing with a genuinely fascinating start-up called Moogsoft (the report is available from the website) who also featured in an article I did recently for Computer Weekly on managing external, virtualised networks (it’s on the CW website somewhere!). The work really did bring home to me just HOW different it is attempting to manage a global network in 2014, compared to even 10 years ago. What seems now way back in ’99 with the emergence of network optimisation products and security I tried to set up the NGNMF – Next Generation Network Management Forum – with a view to getting the network management specialists – the BMCs, CAs, HPs IBM Tivoli’s etc of this world – to outline how they would advance their software solutions to cope with the – then – new generation of networks being deployed.
15 years on and that task is almost infinitesimally more challenging. I was speaking last week with Dan Holmes, director of product management at CA, about this very topic. Dan has historically been through many of the phases of network management development as myself, in his case starting with the – then Cabletron’s Spectrum manager, one of the first products to try and bring AI into the equation for resolving networking problems. Dan acknowledged that the change in networking infrrastructure is requiring a change of approach by all the major NetMan vendors and pointed to a lack of standards as being just one of many issues to resolve. He described the fundamental difference now as being, whereas NetMan was previously focused from the inside looking out, now it has to refocus from the outside looking in; in other words, the starting point is the bigger picture and you have to drill down to individual services, threads, user conversations, transactions… That’s a hell of a lot of “data” to manage – application monitoring and similar tools can do certain tasks, but they are not the complete answer – checkout the Moogsoft report to see how radical a solution is seemingly required in order to be that latter-day solution. 
And if that means the major NetMan vendors are all playing catch-up currently, it’ll be interesting to see how fast each or all of them can adapt to the new generation of networks being rapidly built out there in the ether at the moment…

May 1, 2014  11:54 AM

Finally Solving Network and Storage Capacity Planning?

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead
Capacity planning, CiRBA, Networking, Requirement, Virtualisation, VMware

Interesting how some elements of IT seem to be around forever without being cracked.

remember working with a couple of UK start-ups in the 90s on network, server and application capacity planning and automation of resource allocation etc – and the problem was that the rate of change always exceeded our capabilities to keep up with. Moving into the virtualised world just seemed to make the trick even harder.

Now, I’m not sure if IT has slowed down (surely not!) or whether the developers are simply getting smarter, but there do seem to be solutions around now to do the job. Latest example is from CiRBA – where the idea is to enable a company to see the true amount of server and storage resources required versus the amount that is currently allocated by application, department or operating division in virtualised and cloud infrastructures, not simply in static environments. The result? Better allocation and infrastructure decisions, reducing risk and eliminating over-provisioning, at least if they use it correctly!

If it resolves the ever-lasting issue of over-provisioning and the $$$$ that goes with that, then praise be to the god of virtualisation… Who’s called what exactly?  So the idea with CiRBA’s new, and snappily titled, Automated Capacity Control software, is to actively balance capacity supply with application demand by providing complete visibility into server, storage and network capacity based on both existing and future workload requirements.  The software is designed to accurately determine the true capacity requirements based on technical, operational and business policies as well as historical workload analysis, all of which is required to get the correct answer pumped out at the end.

So, bit by bit, it looks like we’re cracking the 2014 virtualised network management problem. Look out for an article by me on deploying and managing distributed virtualised networks in CW in the near future…


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Continued »

April 11, 2014  1:28 PM

Benchmarking Integration…

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead
Application Programming Interface, Big Data, Business, Data integration, Enterprise Resource Planning, Integration, Internet, Software as a Service, Spirent, TIBCO, VoIP, Voipex

Just finished some testing at test equipment partner Spirent’s offices in glamorous Crawley with client Voipex – some fab results on VoIP optimization so watch this space for the forthcoming report – and it made me think just how different testing is now.

In the old days of Ethernet switch testing and the like, it was all very straightforward. Now, however, we’re in the realms of multiple layers of software all delivering optimisation of one form or another, such as the aforementioned Voipex, but equally with less obviously benchmarked elements such as business flow processes. Yet we really do need to measure the impact of software in these areas in order to validate the vendor claims. 

One example is with TIBCO – essentially automating data processing and business flows across all parts of the networks (so we’re talking out to mobile devices etc) in real-time. Data integration has always been a fundamental problem – and requirement – for companies, both in terms of feeding data to applications and to physical devices, but now that issue is clearly both more fundamental, and more difficult, than ever in our virtual world of big data = unorganised chaos in its basic form.

TIBCO has just launched the latest version of its snappily-named ActiveMatrix BusinessWorks product and the company claims that it massively increases the speed with which new solutions can be configured and deployed, a single platform to transform lots of data into efficiently delivered data and lots of other good stuff. In a Etherworld that is made up of thousands of virtual elements now, and that is constantly changing in topology, this is important stuff.

As TIBCO put it themselves, “Organisations are no longer just integrating internal ERP, SaaS, custom or legacy applications; today they’re exposing the data that fuels their mobile applications, web channels and open APIs.” Without serious management and optimisation that’s a disaster waiting to happen.

 Just one more performance test scenario for me to get my head around then….


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November 5, 2013  2:27 PM

Reinventing Network Management

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead
cloud, Data communications, Enterprise, ISP, Managed Services, MSP, Network, Network management, Network performance, xSP

Network management is the proverbial bus syndrome – nothing shows up forever and then there’s a whole queue of them  – in this case interesting technologies, but here’s the really interesting one I’m about to start testing with – Moogsoft.

Think radical invention of network management and you’re getting there – the name and website give some clues I guess that this isn’t mainstream, me-too stuff… 
So here’s the problem – network management, even in its modern incarnation of application performance monitoring and all the variations on a theme, is all about some concept of a network configuration being stable and predictable. So the idea is that you, over time, build up a “rich database” of information regarding all elements of the network – hardware and software – so that there’s a level of intelligence to access when identifying problems (and potential problems). OK, except that, if you have a network deployment that is part cloud (or managed service of some description), part-virtualised and otherwise outsourced to some extent, how can you possibly know what the shape of that network is. Even as the service provider you cannot… 
It therefore doesn’t matter how much networking data you collect  – effectively you have to start from scratch every time, because the network is dynamic, not static, so any historical data is not necessarily correct. And we all know what happens in you make decisions based on inaccurate data… Moogsoft therefore says, forget about the existing methodologies – they don’t work any longer. Instead it uses algorithm-based techniques to establish concurrent relationships between all aspects of the network when an anomalous situation is identified – looking at every possible cause-effect possibility. And it works in a true, collaborative environment – after all, network management is not detached from other aspects of the network in the same way that user A in department X is not detached from user B in department Y. So every “element” of the “network” is relevant and involved.
Sounds like an impossible to scale scenario? Well how about handling 170m incidents a day? And taking resolution time down from hours and days to minutes? Sounds too good to be true? Maybe so, but these are recorded results involving a famous, global Internet player.
Watch out for the Broadband-Testing report on the Moogsoft solution – should be somewhat interesting!!!!
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October 22, 2013  9:16 AM

Trouble-Ticketing – The Future Is Here!

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead
Autotask, Cloud Computing, helpdesk, ITIL, ITSM, SaaS, SDN, Software as a Service, Thingamy

IT doesn’t so much go round in circles as overlapping rings – think the Olympic sign. That’s to say, it does repeat itself but with additions and a slightly changed working environment each time.

So, for the past few decades we’ve had good old Helpdesk, Trouble-Ticketing and related applications in every half-decent sized network across the globe; incredibly conservative, does what it says on the tin applications, typically created by incredibly conservative, does what it says on the tin ISVs. Nowt wrong with that, but nothing to get excited about either.
However, in a chat last week with the guys from Autotask at a gig in Barca – these guys have been around for over a decade, building business steadily… until recently, that is, since when they’ve been expanding faster than the average Brit’s waistline (and that’s some expansion rate!). 
So why? How can a humdrum, take it for granted network app suddenly become “sexy”? Speaking with Mark Cattini, CEO of Autotask, a couple of points immediately make things clearer. One is that we have that rare example of a Brit in charge of a US company (since three years ago), and a Brit who’s seen it all from both sides of the fence, pond and universe. So he understands the concept of “International”. Secondly, we have an instance of a product having been written from day one as a SaaS application, long before SaaS was invented – think about the biz flow product I’ve spoken about (and tested) many times here – Thingamy – and it’s the same story, just a complimentary app that is all part of the “bigger picture”.
The cloud, being forced on the IT world, is perfect for the likes of Autotask. It gives them the deployment and management flexibility that enables a so-called deluxe trouble-ticketing and workflow app to become a fundamental tool for the day-to-day running of a network (and a business) on a global scale. I was talking the other day with another ITSM client of mine, Laurence Coady of Richmond Systems, and he was saying how the cloud has enabled the company’s web-enabled version of its ITSM suite to go global from an office in Hampshire, with virtually no sales and marketing costs involved, thanks to the likes of Amazon’s cloud.
Mark Cattini spoke about his pre-Autotask days including a long stint in International sales with Lotus Notes. I made the point that Notes created an entire sub-industry with literally thousands of apps designed specifically to work with and support Notes – almost a pre-Internet Internet. While it seems absurd to say that something as “long-winded” as ITSM-related products can become the next Notes, think about it in a business/workflow perspective within a cloud infrastructure, given that there are open APIs to all this software (so anyone can join in) and given that no one really knows what “big data” is and we have a genuine infrastructure for building the next generation networks on – real software defined networking in other words!
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