When I finished up my taxes online some months ago I laughed a little when I saw a button that said “If you do not have an email address, click here to get your tax receipt mailed to you.” I found it ironic because someone tech savvy enough to complete their taxes online would almost have to have something as basic as an email address.
I tried imagining the type of person who would have to click on that link. “Who in this day and age does not have an email address who uses the Internet?” I thought.
Although I’m embarrassed to admit, I couldn’t help but think of someone of an older generation. A thought persists that those who have not grown up around technology are somehow out of touch with the modern world. It seems everyone has a great aunt or uncle who refuses to go online, has been taken in by a phishing scam, or at least is still stuck using dial-up.
From my own experience I know plenty of recent retirees who have not only used computers during their careers but are more tech savvy than myself. So who would have to click on that link?
Not long after I asked this question did I receive a phone call from a long lost pal. We met up and reconnected, and despite the differences between gender, geography and race, the only time I felt disconnected from him was when he told me he could count on one hand how many times he had ever even been on the Internet.
Needless to say he did not have an email account. He was not over the age of retirement. He was not Amish. He had nothing against computers or technology. This person was 24. It blew my mind how someone my age had barely even surfed the Web, let alone been without an email address. Come to think of it, I think he was one of the last few in Generation Y who had a land line and no cell phone.
So I found examples of those close to me who had overthrown the statistics and stereotypes. When it came down to it age didn’t tie directly to one’s amount of tech-savviness or lack thereof, but I wondered whether being technological made someone more connected not just with society but with other people.
Either it’s wishful thinking or some keen insight. Yesterday Eric Savitz, the west coast editor of Barron’s, speculated that Cisco Systems might try to buy storage giant EMC Corp. He wrote that Paul Wick, manager of the Seligman Communications and Information Fund, a tech industry investment fund, told him that Cisco is overdue for a megadeal and that EMC is a perfect target.
A Cisco-EMC deal would probably lead to a big day on Wall Street, so it makes sense that the investment world would float such a rumor. Heck, it might even get the two companies talking. Perhaps Cisco CEO John Chambers and and his EMC counterpart Joseph Tucci read Savitz’s piece yesterday and have booked a TelePresence chat to toss the idea around.
Regardless of whether Cisco and EMC might take it seriously, many blogs in the tech universe are atwitter about the idea and for good reason. Cisco has $24 billion in cash, which is probably enough to grab EMC, with a market capitalization of around $35.5 billion.
Cisco has made no secret of its interest in transitioning from a networking vendor to an overall IT vendor. Buying EMC would make Cisco the leader in enterprise storage technology. It would also have a controlling interest in EMC software subsidiary VMware, the leader in virtualization, and RSA, EMC’s powerful security division. Cisco executives speak openly about the company’s interest in expanding its market position in both the virtualization and security industries. And Cisco already owns a a 1.5% stake in VMware.
Savitz says his source has no idea if such a deal is even being discussed between the companies, but Cisco has the cash to spend. It has set ambitious growth goals for itself, even though it’s already the dominant market leader in its core business – routing and switching. And EMC stock has been stagnant for awhile now (other than a brief boost late last year when VMware had a highly-publicized IPO), much to the consternation of its shareholders. A Cisco deal would no doubt cheer up EMC investors.
The question is – Is this good for the industry? Investors might like the deal, and it makes a whole lot more sense than a Blockbuster-Circuit City marriage. But how would the merger be handled? Would the world’s biggest networking company be capable of managing the world’s biggest storage company? How would a such a deal affect smaller players such as VMware, which has clearly benefited from a hands-off approach by EMC executives? Sometimes $30-to-$40-billion tech industry mergers don’t work. Just ask Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint-Nextel.
So it’s not exactly breaking at this point, but scary nonetheless: The FBI’s Operation Cisco Raider has led to a number criminal cases involving counterfeit Cisco products bought by military agencies and contractors, according to the New York Times.
What’s so worrisome? Knockoff handbags and even iPhones aren’t a direct security threat, but fake Cisco routers might be, as the Times reports:
The potential threat, according to the F.B.I. agents who gave a briefing at the Office of Management and Budget on Jan. 11, includes the remote jamming of supposedly secure computer networks and gaining access to supposedly highly secure systems.
Cisco says we’re safe this time, and the counterfeiters’ motives are a little more pedestrian:
“We did not find any evidence of re-engineering in the manner that was described in the F.B.I. presentation,” said John Noh, a Cisco spokesman. He added that the company believed the counterfeiters were interested in copying high volume products to make a quick profit. “We know what these counterfeiters are about.”
Today, it might (hopefully) be about making a quick buck, but an Ars Technica article underlines some of the Pentagon fears about of so-called “Manchurian chips“:
There is no question that the technological infrastructure in the United States is under siege. We have seen a steady litany of attempted intrusions originating from abroad, most likely perpetrated by a mix of foreign governments and organized crime groups. An emerging concern is that the same agents behind those cyber-attacks could also have access to the chip fabrication facilities that make the components used in US military technology. Researchers say that virtually undetectable kill-switches and backdoors can be built into any of the countless integrated-circuit chips used in mission-critical military hardware systems.
So what can you do to make sure your own equipment is genuine? Not a whole lot, it appears. Amy browsed some forums for tips, but the best we could find was the old consumer adage: If a deal looks to good to be true, it probably is.
Network pros must feel like they carry the world on their backs. One of my big takeaways from Interop was that with the tide of new applications being delivered across the network, network pros have to work across organizational and technological silos in order to keep things running; that they must stop pointing fingers and saying, “it’s not the network,” and fix the problems to prove their worth. By proving their worth, the network staff gains better access to coveted resources.
Network pros also have to be able to speak the language of business if they want to communicate with company bigwigs. Dr. Jim Metzler, evangelizing this message at Interop, said: “You don’t want to go to the vice president of sales and say, ‘I have MPLS.’ It sounds like a disease. You would not get a second meeting with that person; you have just screamed ‘I am a techie nerd.'”
Maybe this isn’t new or earth-shattering wisdom, but the frequency I heard it repeated got me thinking: Why is it all up to the network pro? Isn’t expecting the network guy to troubleshoot application performance sort of like expecting the highway department to fix your car?
Before you start to complain too much, though, think about MacGruber. If you haven’t seen the recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live, Will Forte plays an alcoholic, neurotic spoof on MacGyver. In the most recent MacGruber sketch with Jonah Hill, MacGruber confronts his assistants about criticizing his abilities and questioning his job performance. He’s so busy worrying about this that he fails to defuse the ticking time bomb, and — boom!
Imagine you’re MacGruber, the ticking timebomb is an application performance problem, and Jonah Hill is an application manager blaming your network for his flawed application. You could get defensive and argue with him over whose fault the bomb is. But look what happens.
Sometimes, if you don’t fix the problem, nobody will.
I asked Craig Hulbert, a senior network engineer at a major health care company in Ohio, why so much responsibility falls on the shoulders of network staff. He answered, “Lowest common denominator,” and explained that calling him is almost always the first step taken when there’s a problem to solve.
I’m not sure whether the network is the lowest common denominator. I would like to think that the smartest people with the most technical know-how are running the network, and when people have a problem that’s where they turn.
As far as I know, they’re not turning to the security team to fix application problems or asking the CEO to bone up on his geek-speak.
> Does your network take the blame for poor application performance? Tell us your story in an email.
What, you don’t know a precise number? Then get over to RateMyNetworkDiagram.com and find out exactly how pretty your peers think your network diagram is on a sliding 1-10 scale. It’s HotOrNot.com for the networking set.
My favorite diagram overlaid the components and locations over an outdoor picture of the building, although another which explained Godzilla’s position in the network was helpful when planning my home setup.
Speaking of which, you can browse and rank diagrams by size and purpose: Small, Large, Home, Rack, and Funny are all options, so no matter what your need you can find a little diagram inspiration … or at least a laugh or two.
Via Cisco blog.
After struggling for several hours to upload the first of my Interop videos to YouTube, I ran across FastSoft’s video demonstration of their accelerated file transfer appliance, which struck me pretty compelling. In this video, Dan Henderson, VP of Marketing, explains and demonstrates how FastSoft can accelerate data transmission over the Web at Interop Las Vegas 2008.
AdRem Sales and Marketing Director Jarek Jerzakowski gives a tour of the company’s brand new network management and monitoring product, NetCrunch 5, at Interop Las Vegas 2008. The product, sold around the world by AdRem and its resellers, automatically draws routing maps and physical maps of the network and allows you to create geographical custom maps to graphically monitor and manage your network.
Aruba Networks is one of the top WLAN infrastructure vendors in the market. The last time I checked, they were second to the titan in the market, Cisco. A lot of vendors see the coming generation of 802.11n wireless technology as an opportunity to take on Cisco’s market dominance.
At Interop last week, I stopped by Aruba’s booth to talk about what they’re doing with 802.11n. In this video, Aruba’s head of strategic marketing, Michael Tennefoss shares the results of some recent tests which showed that endpoints performed better with Aruba’s 802.11n technology than with some of its competitors.
Aerohive is a new company in the wireless networking space. It’s developed some innovative access points that work cooperatively with each other. Many vendors rely on controllers to coordinate the activities of Wi-Fi access points. Aerohive’s access points communicate with each other in a “cooperative control model.”
In this video Paul Levasseur, director of technical marketing for Aerohive, demonstrates this concept of cooperative control at Aerohive’s booth at Interop 2008.
Since I first encountered Vyatta two years ago, they have grown beyond merely being an open source software router. These days, Vyatta is calling itself an “open-source networking” company, and their router is now a router/firewall/VPN.
Dave Roberts, Vyatta’s VP of Strategy, spoke on a panel session called “Open source networking: An insanely smart idea?” at Interop Las Vegas 2008. I asked Dave whether open source networking was making any progress against the common arguments against its use in businesses, such as companies wanting the assurance of “one (vendor’s) throat to choke” should they have problems with the technology. Dave says that issue is “exactly the problem Vyatta was created to solve,” and said that they wanted to bring together all the disparate open source parts to become the “Red Hat of the networking industry.”
In this video, Dave talks a little bit about where Vyatta is now, some of the company’s recent price/performance successes, and new features they’re offering.