The Network Hub

January 22, 2009  7:44 PM

Riverbed gets Mazu Networks for a bargain

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

WAN optimization heavyweight Riverbed Technology gobbled up Mazu Networks this week for just $25 million in cash. Mazu is a privately held company that sells network behavior analysis (NBA) tools that analyze the interaction between users, applications and systems. Mazu Profiler, the company’s flagship product, is used for security monitoring, but like many NBA vendors, customers have been increasingly using it for monitoring and analyzing the performance of rich critical applications like voice and video.

Riverbed apparently is acquiring Mazu so that it can better evaluate the state of application performance over a customer’s wide area network. The comapny’s press release explains that Mazu’s ability to give “a holistic, real-time view of application usage and performance” is critical to understanding the “application environment and taking the right steps to validate and ensure delivery of business-critical applications across the wide area network.”

Riverbed’s cash payment of $25 million for Mazu is definitely a bargain. According to GigaOm, venture capitalists have invested $40 million into the company. The blog peHub puts the VC figure at $47 million. The VC firms might get their money back if Mazu performs for Riverbed. The terms of the sale include an additional payment of up to $22 million based on the sales performance of Mazu in the 12 months following the closing of the deal.

January 19, 2009  9:11 PM

Maintstream IPv6 is inching closer

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Over the last year I’ve written about the importance of developing your IPv6 skills now, and about how you should be looking at what kind of IPv6 support your vendors of choice have to offer. Some of you might think I’m being a Chicken Little by devoting any space to the advance of IPv6. IPv4 is the dominant version of Internet Protocol and widespread use of IPv6 is still years off, most of you say. Most of the networking pros and many of the vendors whom I talk to say its not something worth thinking about right now. There is plenty else to worry about.

Indeed, you may react to an IPv6 story or tip like I react to those commercials I’ve been seeing about the transition from analog to digital television broadcasts scheduled for February. “Upgrade your TVs today because in February TV stations will cease to broadcast analog signals. Yes, this means YOU, you folks who don’t have cable or satellite television. Vast multidues of you will be unable to watch NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and PBS unless you buy a new TV or get a digital converter box… Or you could just get cable.”

Yes, I usually flip the channel when I see those commercials. If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely that you aren’t one of the 7.8 million Americans who will be affected by the end of analog TV, either. But chances are good that you should be paying attention to IPv6 because it is getting closer.

In a new research note entitled IPv4 Address Exhaustion: An Inconvenient Truth (client log-in required), analyst Jeff Young predicts that IPv4 addresses will run out in November 2011. That’s less than two years away. And you don’t want to wait until then to start planning for a transition. IPv4 addresses could start getting pricey. There is still no backwards compatibility between IPv4 and IPv6, which means that when IPv6-only hosts start cropping up on the Internet in a couple years, there could be large swaths of the Internet that these hosts can’t talk to. Any company that relies on IP networks to conduct business will want to have a handle on this transition early.

January 17, 2009  2:29 AM

CNN viewers spooked by Cisco ad during flight 1549 coverage

Ron Richard Profile: Ron Richard

You know how sometimes you’re watching TV and the commercials seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to the program… and you wonder if it was just coincidence, or some kind of prank on the part of the programmers?

In Cisco’s case, the coincidental placement of their TelePresence “Business Travel Without the Travel” commercial jarred viewers Thursday during CNN’s coverage of the crash landing of US Airways flight 1549. As reported by the L.A. Times Technology Blog, the commercial, which mocks airline safety instructions, aired right after real-life coverage of the crash. And viewers, along with Cisco, were a little freaked out:

“They go right from having some guy interviewed talking about the pilot saying, ‘Brace yourself,’ to a commercial being sarcastic about the emergency stuff. It creeped me out,” said Lauren de la Fuente, a marketing consultant from New York who was fixated on TV coverage of the crash. “I thought, ‘This is the most inappropriate commercial for the time.’ “

The ad has been pulled off the air, but you can still view it on YouTube, at least for now.

January 16, 2009  11:27 PM

Cisco’s Warrior may be Washington-bound for Obama CTO post

Ron Richard Profile: Ron Richard

Last spring at Cisco Networkers, I remember some jokes being bandied about regarding John Chambers as a potential candidate for president. It now seems that Cisco is actually quite close to having a representative in Obama’s administration.

According to published reports, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior is one of two candidates currently under consideration for the newly created post of federal chief technology officer. President-elect Obama is expected to reveal his choice in a couple of days. According to BusinessWeek:

One of the sources says the selection is being held up because it’s not yet clear how the person selected as CTO will interact with the government’s chief information officer, a position now held by Karen Evans, and with the new cyber-security czar, another position that has not yet been filed.

Warrior, who just joined Cisco in Dec., 2007, is now well-known for her favorable views of collaboration and innovation, as well as her pithy, name-dropping, often haiku-like Twitter feed.

Warrior’s competiton for the position is CTO for Washington, D.C., Vivek Kundra, who is already an advisor to Obama’s transition team on technology issues. In Washington, Kundra “runs his 600-person staff like a startup, experimenting in cloud computing, open source software, social networking, and other cutting-edge technologies,” reports BusinessWeek.

A few obvious questions already floating around in the blogosphere:

1. Exactly what sort of responsibilities will be given to this new CTO?
2. Who is better suited for the job: The (relatively) hard-core techie or the Washington insider?

Regarding the significance of the position, in the best-case scenario, this new CTO will play a large part in Obama’s plan for getting our nation up-to-speed (quite literally) in Internet access. As Data Center Knowledge reports:

President-elect Obama has outlined an ambitious agenda for national broadband access, and the initial economic stimulus proposal contains about $6 billion in grants to bring high-speed Internet access to underserved areas… Members of the Obama team say that is the first step in a larger investment in broadband infrastructure, with more details to come later in 2009.

My skeptical side wants to predict that at worst, whoever gets the job could end up a sort of useless figurehead. I also wonder, should Warrior go to Washington, just who might be able to fill her shoes at Cisco.

January 15, 2009  6:47 PM

PCI Compliance: Not easy, but not optional

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

While working on a story about how updates to PCI compliance rules will phase out WEP for retailers who process credit cards, I came across one of the more interesting takes on PCI compliance, by Anton Chuvakin, whose written or contributed to a number of books on the subject and now works at compliance solutions company Qualys.

As Anton sees it, there are two camps in the compliance world:

1. “Please, please make PCI easier by letting us skip the requirements; or, better, just let us ‘SAY YES ON THE SAQ!’” camp.
2. “We know that our security program makes us PCI –compliant; please make it easier for us to prove it!” camp.

For the former, Anton recommends ScanlessPCI*, a simple, quick banner that shows your customers you are PCI compliant — while actually proving, and doing, nothing.

The latter camp, in which I hope (pray?) most of our readers fall, might be better served by investigating tools and techniques to help prove that their security passes muster, which is exactly the advice Petco’s vice president of network and store systems J. Smith gave me.

“All vendors are definitely not created equal,” he said. “And all you have to do is ask your vendor where they stand in terms of upcoming compliance.”

If you’re looking for some more insight into how you can make sure you’re headed down the right path, you’re in luck, because TechTarget has just launched a brand new IT Compliance Advisor Blog, and is launching tomorrow for all your PCI — and other — compliance needs (a sneak preview is up today in case you can’t wait).

But the takeaway message? Even as everything else in the world seems to be getting cut back, the cost of PCI violation fines or, worse, an actual intrusion, is too great to risk. Trying to go the ScanlessPCI route is as deluded as thinking you’ll get money for nothing …

*NB: ScanlessPCI is, of course, a joke service, legitimate as the page may look. Don’t expect your compliance officer to be pleased if you try and pass it off!

January 15, 2009  3:24 PM

How network engineers can avoid the data center move blues

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

Just because we’re surrounded by bad news doesn’t mean we can’t turn our lemons into lemonade. That’s at least what network management software solution company Advanced Systems Group (ASG) has done (not to be confused with the ASG band). They found a way to help enterprise IT/network administrator’s avoid datacenter move blunders in a way more compelling than a white paper — they sang about it in their YouTube video: The Data Center Move Blues.

Because we all know, when a data center moves, the network can’t go down. “Oh you know it can’t go down,” wails ASG founder and band front man John Murphy on what appears to be a Martin Backpacker Guitar.

When relocation, deduplication and virtualization complicate the network enough to make IT engineers sing the blues, it’s good to know what not to do during the data center move process.

ASG suggests avoiding these bad boys:

  • Bad move #1: The so-called professional help
  • Bad move #2: The every-man-for-himself move
  • Bad move #3: The do-it-yourself move

More importantly, don’t forget to plan a great deal with your data center team and reach across to the right people. Before making a move, you can’t afford not to plan for every risk, and disaster preparedness will help you stay up while everything else is down.

January 14, 2009  4:37 PM

Nortel comes crashing down

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy
Farewell old friend

Farewell old friend

Nortel Networks has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It seems last quarter’s $3.4 billion loss was the last straw. The company still has about $2.4 billion in cash on hand, which it will use to maintain operations while it restructures itself.

When news broke this morning that Nortel was filing for bankruptcy protection, an old and familiar image popped into my head: that of the starship Enterprise near the end of Star Trek III. Badly crippled in a battle with a Klingon vessel, the faithful old ship started her fatal descent toward the planet below. Captain Kirk and his crew safely beamed down to the planet and watched their beloved ship streak through the sky towards its demise.

But as fans know, the Enterprise was rebuilt and rechristened time and again for countless adventures in subsequent films and television shows. So, too, may Nortel.

Right now, the telecom industry has slowed its investment in new hardware. When will that trend reverse? No one knows. No doubt Nortel’s efforts to sell into enterprise networks are also suffering in this climate. And unified communications is still such an emerging market, the company obviously couldn’t hope to stay afloat with the quality products it’s been producing in that field.

Indeed, this is just the first of what promises to be several collapses in the networking industry. When Nortel emerges from bankruptcy, what kind of world will it find? And will it survive? Lots of companies disappear forever in an economy like this, even a company as old and revered as this Canadian giant.

January 8, 2009  9:48 PM

Chief Executive or Commander in Chief, they both love their toys

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

CNN is reporting that President Elect Barack Obama is having a tough time parting with his BlackBerry, despite apparently strict White House IT policies against his using the device:

Those who follow Obama on a regular basis know the president-elect is constantly on the addictive e-mail device. But the Secret Service, as well as Obama lawyers, are concerned it could easily be hacked and are demanding the new president hand over the BlackBerry before he moves into the White House.

But in an interview with CNBC Wednesday, Obama made clear he’s not giving it up without a fight.

“They’re going to pry it out of my hands,” the president-elect said.

While the risks to national security that a hacked Obama BlackBerry could pose are substantially greater, every enterprise needs to be wary about the leeway they give their executives. Sure, the CEO wants to sync his iPhone with his corporate computer, but how valuable are the contacts that will automatically sync with it, and how do you remotely protect that data when the device goes missing?

Our own security expert Brian Posey offers some tips on dealing with USB security holes, while this piece from a year ago details some major threats coming from holiday presents.

Obama might not be happy about it, but it looks like he’ll lose his BlackBerry. With that example, maybe your gadget hound VP can stand to part with his iPod — at least on company time.

January 8, 2009  6:25 PM

An IT industry stimulus bill? better than investing in Detroit’s dinosaurs

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Seventy-five years ago millions of young men were out of work. The Great Depression was in full swing. The ruling powers, nervous that so many idle, impoverished young men might might destabilize society, created the Civilian Conservation Corps. This pseudo-military organization enlisted three million young men in forestry, flood control and construction projects that ultimately led to the creation of the country’s most prominent national and state parks. Many people today have no concept of how decimated the country’s forests and agricultural lands were back then. These men planted five billion trees, which in part were responsible for helping end the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s and revitalizing the country’s farmlands.

Today we face The Worst Economic Crisis Since The Great Depression. Is it time for another Corps? How about the Civilian Information Technology Corps?

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank, believes it’s a good idea. In a new 22-page position paper entitled The Digital Road to Recovery (PDF), the foundation says the federal government should invest $30 billion into the country’s “national information technology infrastructure.” By investing this money into upgrading the country’s broadband capabilities and the IT systems of the health care system and the national power grid, the country would create nearly one million new jobs while boosting productivity and innovation, according to the foundation. Not only will jobs be created to build this infrastructure, but the infrastructure itself will encourage the creation of new businesses and new jobs.

“Building out an IT-based network like broadband, health IT, or the smart power grid leads to new jobs generated upstream by investment in industries that create new and innovative applications and services to take advantage of the more robust IT network,” the paper reads.

Like the CCC and the WPA of the Depression, will there be a New IT Deal? Barack Obama is known to love his CrackBerry. No doubt he knows just how important such a targeted stimulus could be for the national economy. It should also resonate with those of you who raspberried my post about how a good network engineer is hard to find.

January 5, 2009  9:54 PM

Cisco is branching out into everything

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Every year at Cisco Live, the vendor’s giant annual customer conference, Cisco throws a big party for attendees. Last year the show was held in Orlando, and Cisco rented out a large portion of Universal Studios for the private party. Networking pros had the opportunity to try many of Universal’s rides for free, including Terminator 2: 3D Battle Across Time. The introductory video that plays before you enter the ride is an informecial for Cyberdine Systems, the fictional hi-tech company the developed Skynet, the evil defense network that exterminated the human race in the Terminator movies. Check out the video below.

The 200 or so network administrators I watched this with got quite a few chuckles from the video and commented on the parallels between Cyberdine and Cisco. Both companies are huge. Both are branching out into telepresence and collaboration technologies. And both are trying to market themselves to consumers. Several guys wondered aloud about whether Cisco realized just how closely the Cyberdine story seemed to echo Cisco’s real-life ambitions.

Indeed, Cisco is moving rapidly to establish itself as more than just the most dominant networking vendor in the world. It has explicitly stated its plans to conquer all segments of the IT industry. And it is also looking to expand into the highly competitive world of consumer electronics.

Cisco’s telepresence technologies have been marketed heavily to consumers. Last night I watched the rebroadcast of “24 Redemption,” the TV movie that bridges the gap between the last season of 24 and this upcoming season. As in past episodes, Fox has inserted some extremely heavy-handed product placements from Cisco. In a screen capture below, you can see the U.S. president clicking a button on a Cisco phone to open and close a telepresence session with the prime minister of a fictional African country.

President activating a Telepresence session during "24."
President activating a Telepresence session during “24 Redemption.”

There are now rumors circulating that Cisco will launch blade servers in 2009, putting it in direct competition with Dell, IBM and HP in a completely new market full of IT decision-makers who have very likely never bought a Cisco product before.

And this month at the Consumer Electronics Show, Cisco will unveil a new line of consumer products, including a wireless digital stereo system and a set-top box for Internet video. Now Cisco will be competing with companies like Sony and Apple for consumers who have very likely never bought a Cisco product before.

Cisco CEO John Chambers once told a roomful of reporters that his company typically doesn’t enter a market unless executives believe they can build at least a $1 billion business within it. So clearly, Cisco is preparing to push quite a few resources into new markets that are quite distinct from the routers, switches and 802.11x access points that so many Cisco customers are familiar with.

This all begs a question: In these economic times, does Cisco have the go-to-market capability to succeed in these new markets while remaining strong in its traditional networking domain?

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