Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The end or the beginning? IT predictions for 2013

Assuming the world doesn't end with the ancient Mayan calendar on Friday, December 21, 2012, this is the time of year when many people start looking toward the next year and making predictions for the future. Here are a few forward-thinking topics combed from various sources relating to IT issues in some of the key markets that Uplogix serves: Energy, Finance, and Federal.

Aging control systems in the US power grid and water plants
In October, U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta warned that successful attacks had been made on computer control systems of American electrical and water plants and transportation systems. While he didn't give much in the way of details on the attacks, he said they demonstrated that these facilities could be targets for foreign nations or extremist groups trying to derail trains or shut down power grids.

The utilities industry has long been accused of not investing in security and continuing to use software and hardware that has always worked, but may now be vulnerable as they have driven to make these sites more accessible and networked from remote locations.

Uplogix brings several solutions to some of the issues impacting critical utilities infrastructure. By locally monitoring both SCADA devices like RTUs and traditional IP devices like routers and switches, Uplogix can respond automatically to device issues, fixing common problems within minutes without IT personnel involvement. If the situation requires human involvement, Uplogix local management integrates secure access to remote sites for a fast, easy connection to remote devices for technicians even when the network is down.

In 2013, as compliance standards such as the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) Electric Reliability standards are expanded, Uplogix can help maintain a complete audit trail of all changes made to the IT infrastructure as well as real-time detection and remediation of compliance breaches.

Mobile applications, cloud and digital footprints key for financial industry in 2013
When consulting firm Frost & Sullivan released their four big 2013 predictions for financial services earlier this week, the focus was on customer interaction. From an increasing number of mobile services for consumers to managing interactions between consumers and institutions through social media, the task is collecting lots of data, analyzing it and storing it in the Cloud.

From an Uplogix perspective, we'll continue to securely operate in the data centers some of the largest financial institutions and help fast-growing regional banks integrate their network management of branch offices during acquisitions. For the Cloud, we expect to see more use of Local Management in the infrastructure that powers cloud computing.

We provide a cost-effective way to meet the pervasive higher service levels that are required for networks in the Cloud world. Local Management reduces the likelihood of problems occurring and to achieve big decreases in Mean-Time-To-Recovery (MTTR) when issues do occur.

Changes in Federal IT?
Many predictions for federal IT on the civilian site parallel those for the financial industry -- more use of the cloud, mobile computing and harnessing big data to work smarter. On the defense side of the federal IT equation, the Pentagon is planning to cut $487 billion in spending over the next decade -- with or without the fiscal cliff.

Budget cuts lead to more focus on efficiency. For managing the multiple layers of secure networks in all branches of the military, Uplogix automation ensures problems are spotted faster and often solved before traditional management systems could even generate a trouble ticket.

The integration that Uplogix provides for network infrastructure extends to securing access to devices. Utilizing existing TACACS+, RADIUS, LDAP, PKI, or RSA solutions, Uplogix can broker access to all devices (both console and IP) through the security solution of your choice. This functionality is available both in- and out-of-band.

Look for local management to grow in 2013
Of course, here in Austin, we're planning on surviving the end of the world and are busy booking new customer appointments, proof-of-concepts, and deployments well into 2013. If you haven't taken your network management local with Uplogix yet, we predict that you'll have a happier and more productive new year if you do.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It just makes sense - Local Management for regional banking

You've likely noticed that many of the banks you drive by every day tend to change names often. Mergers, acquisitions, consolidations... it's a busy time in banking. Not all changes in banks just involve rebranding, often there are massive IT hardware changes and major systems that must be integrated when banks change.

While Uplogix has been in financial data centers for some time, one of the fastest growing markets for local management is in regional banking. Uplogix provides specific value in these situations when it comes to managing disparate network gear, controlling support costs for branch offices, and limiting the number of site visits from IT staff.

Different strokes for different folks
When banks come together, they bring their history of IT decisions with them. Some banks invest in the latest and greatest, while others adopt a more lean approach. The challenge of managing a more
heterogeneous network after a merger falls on the networking group.

Uplogix integrates with various network devices and server platforms by tying the device’s command line interface into the Uplogix unified CLI framework. The unified common interface not only eliminates the need for administrators to remember individual device commands, but also makes automating common management tasks simpler. Devices not currently supported with advanced drivers can be managed natively by using the device CLI.

Network support for branch offices without IT staff
Uplogix is the virtual network administrator in a box, working 24x7 to ensure that gear onsite is up and running. Local, direct access to managed devices gives Uplogix the ability to monitor intensely and take actions based on established run book procedures for a wide range of networking and communications devices.

For the corporate IT folks in the NOC, Uplogix serves as their remote eyes, ears and hands at branch offices. When there are problems, best-in-class problem diagnosis and recovery capabilities  autonomously detect and fix remote issues without having to deploy expensive resources on-site. Meanwhile management connectivity with distributed locations is maintained, even when the network is down or degraded, providing always-secure access to distributed devices.

The bottom line
In the dynamic world that is local banking, Uplogix offers a secure platform for remote management and ensures compliance with internal management policies, regardless of the state of the network. Banks can continue to merge away while counting on their IT groups to keep the networks critical to operations up and running without breaking the... well, without breaking the bank. (Come on, it was just too easy!)

For more info on how Local Management has been a sound investment in a rapidly expanding regional bank, download the case study.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Taking our story down-under

The winding waterfront of Melbourne
A week ago, James Dollar, the founder and CTO of Uplogix had a chance to address the CIOs of one of the largest corporations in the world at a gathering in Australia. It was a chance to introduce a global audience to the concept of local management, as well as show them why it's something they need to know about. Here is a summary of what he had to say.

Today, Connectivity is King
The trend is toward smarter and more connected devices and systems. Examples range from the obvious, like the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, to the less conspicuous like unmanned energy transmission sites in the middle of nowhere connected by satellite links.

Under our noses, but not necessarily on the radar for networked systems are the smart devices like an MRI machine that self-monitors and "calls-in" for service as needed. Even the ubiquitous ATM where you pull out cash is likely a system made up of redundant wireless links and individual components for check scanning, cash dispensing and security monitoring -- all reporting back to a NOC somewhere on a network connection.

With the reliance on connectivity growing daily, business requirements for that connection are becoming more stringent. The key needs are:
  • Uptime – These devices are only useful if they are working, and connected with an acceptable QoS
  • Security – Absolutely critical to operations, customers
  • Acceptable Operating Cost – Increasing numbers of complex and critical devices is a formula for support costs to skyrocket
This last bullet is the kicker -- generally, if something is important-enough, and money is no object, layers of redundancy and lots of people can almost always conquer reliability issues. But rarely is money no object, and we're talking about a need for reliable networks almost everywhere and with billions of network devices. (Cisco predicts 50 billion by 2020!)

You can't put highly-trained people everywhere, all of the time, so operations are centralized. This introduces new problems:
  • Complexity and triaging of issues
    Everything goes into one big bucket for observation; collecting and processing vast amounts of monitoring data
  • Downtime and truck rolls
    Relying on the network itself to manage networked devices. It's like driving on a spare tire -- if it goes out, you are walking.
  • Security and compliance risk
    Pushing updates is difficult and sometimes risky, so the norm is to wait on updates until they are required, standardizing on major revisions
So what's the answer?
Distribute and automate the device management from a local perspective. Put intelligence out with these devices to manage them autonomously, and provide support tools for problems that are too difficult for automation.

Today, most "management" tools are really monitoring and filtering tools. The difference between them and local management is the difference between knowing there is an issue and FIXING the issue.

What do you need to have a local management solution? There are several key components for a successful platform including:
  • Directly connecting to devices
    See everything an on-site technician would see, more reliably and without impacting the network
  • On-board processing & storage
    Monitor, evaluate and take actions based on the run-book, back up configurations and OS files onsite
  • Secure out-of-band access
    Provide an off-network connection for more complicated problem resolution by a remote technician
  • Role-based access and audited management
    Eliminate potential for abuse and ensure policy compliance
  • Complement existing centralized management tools
    Feed the NOC with information, backfill for audit and compliance
The presentation went on to show some example of how this idea of local management answers many of the challenges of the increasingly connected world of today, as well as a pathway to an even more advanced world tomorrow. Check out the slides above!

Analyst perspective on Local Management

Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) recently published a market perspective on local management technologies, highlighting the Uplogix Local Management Platform. They note an increasing urgency in IT as it deals with a widening human resource gap, ever-present pressures to limit operational expenses, and substantial increases in complexity within IT infrastructure, as driving factors for implementing more automation to IT management.

The brief says that Local Management needs to be in your vocabulary. For some time now, all of the focus has been on virtualization, which has delivered great rewards, but is also built on the assumption that there is a physical infrastructure that performs in a flawless manner. They state:
"IT pros can little afford to drop their guard against anything less than 100% availability when it comes to any aspect of physical compute or connectivity assets."
There is an analysis of compelling reasons for implementing local management including increased efficiency and speed when it comes to recognizing issues automatically and also resolving problems without human effort. The broader business objective of reducing operational risk is addressed through this constant monitoring of day-to-day operations as well as acting as a "backstop" for occasional activities like patches and upgrades. In these situations, local management can automatically roll-back any failed configurations to restore operations without "requiring personnel on-site to 'babysit' the process."

Seven essential requirements for investigating or evaluating local management solutions are described in the brief as well as an evaluation of the Uplogix platform.

Rather than give you a brief of the brief, read it for yourself by downloading the EMA Perspective from the Uplogix Resource Center.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting to the truth on Service Level Agreements

Which side of SLAs do you sit on? Are you gunning to meet required service levels for your customers, or are you watching your provider like a hawk to make sure you get what you pay for?

Either way, service level agreements are only as good as:
  1. What they measure - are these really the key network deliverables that are important for your business objectives?
  2. Can they be enforced - are they accurately and readily measurable?
  3. Are they worth it - Is the penalty balanced against the ongoing risk?
First, it's important that both sides agree on the metrics that matter. The customer needs to know their business requirements and be able to specify realistically what they need, plus be willing to pay for it. Five-9s of reliability? It looks good on paper, but accurate assessment of business requirements is key to making the right choices for providers and SLAs.

Next, assuming you know what service levels you need, are they measurable? What are the pitfalls that aren't obvious during contract negotiations, but will appear when trying to enforce an SLA penalty? When service goes down, the fingers start pointing.

This is one area where Uplogix can help out. The unique position of a Local Manager (LM) in the network stack, but operating independently of the network makes it possible to measure service levels in multiple ways. LMs can conduct point-to-point testing where one Local Manager accesses another Local Manager over the same WAN connections as the rest of the network infrastructure. The LM can make and grade synthetic voice calls, as well as simulate user interactions by grading HTTP and IP performance metrics.

And, just as importantly, these tests can be automated and scheduled so the monitoring is always happening -- not just in response to a customer that already has a problem. This proactive nature means that some problems can be spotted early, and avoided, or at least more quickly and accurately triaged when they occur.

Service Level Verification with Uplogix falls into two types:
  • Passive Monitoring of Traffic | With its console connections to network gear like switches and routers, the LM can use this Layer 2 visibility to collect/report/act on 36 different values such as Rx, TX, CRC, Load, Line Protocol Status and others.
  • Active Monitoring of Traffic | This is Layer 4 testing where one LM connects directly to another over the same network path that your users depend on. Over 45 values can be collected related to VoIP and IP performance such as Jitter, Latency, MOS, R value and more.
Finally, are your SLAs worth it? Does the penalty aspect for the provider justify the added cost they will charge to cover their risk? This was the topic of an article on the Webtorials site. Author Beatrice Piquer Durand summed it up:
"...poorly used SLAs prove to be wooden swords. In many cases, the financial incentive is quite low or subject to clauses that prevent them being really dissuasive. In another hand, too big penalties will have a large cost as suppliers must take the risk into account in their pricing. Even worst, badly defined SLAs might even distort service operations and results by following fake goals and hitting useless targets.

More importantly, in complex environment when things are going in the wrong direction and the supplier really cannot deliver what is expected for whatever reason, the situation is generally such that no one really care about penalties anymore - Try to explain to the on-line Sales Director that her web site poor performance is not an issue thanks to the penalties that you'll try to get from your hosting provider in the next six months... good luck! The only thing that really matters for her it that the service performs and that she can get back to the business as fast as possible."
So whether you are subject to hitting the SLAs or collecting on them, it's like the Dire Straits song: "Sometimes you're the Louisville slugger, sometimes you're the ball," but with some careful evaluation and an handy tool for generating automated, actionable metrics like Uplogix, it's easier to be the windshield instead of the bug.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

BYON? (Bring your own network?)

Bring your own device has become a fairly established concept. But what's next? The network? Well, not quite.

Cloud Services Providers, typically by taking advantage of virtualization, have made it easier than ever for Line of Business users to rapidly and inexpensively source computing infrastructure, storage, hosted development platforms and enterprise class business applications over the Internet. Usually this can be done, or at least started, with a very low monthly subscription fee, no commitment and a credit card.

In most, but not all, enterprises, IT organizations are facilitating the effective exploitation of such services, establishing standards and processes and handling negotiations to make sure that costs and service levels are managed in line with business goals. At the same time, many IT organizations are gearing up to provide services to their internal customers on similar terms, also usually exploiting virtualization. This may include rapid or even self-provisioning of infrastructure resources and internal usage-based billing. In the vast majority of enterprises, IT services are comprised of a combination of both.

Research conducted by Enterprise Management Associates
in 2011 shows that Virtualization is already the top driver of
network management priorities.
The most significant impact on IT Operations is the way that this trend is impacting internal customer expectations:
  • They Perceive Options | Internal customers are coming to see internal IT as just one way to get the technology resources that they need. This makes it increasingly difficult for IT organizations to set service level objectives at a point that optimizes cost with outcomes based on business logic. Instead, CSPs, seeking to compete for revenue generating customers, drive the standard higher than might make sense.
  • They Act Like Customers | Employees collaborate with IT to get what they need in the context of what is best for the enterprise overall. Customers decide what they want and what they are willing to pay for it, then select a provider. Someone with a customer attitude tends to be concerned with getting the best deal for themselves and tends to demand more.
  • They Need the Network | None of these services can be accessed without a robust network. Ironically, even as internal customers turn to third party service providers for a portion of the services that they once looked exclusively to internal IT for, their dependence on internal IT to enable them to access these services increases. Ultimately this shifts operational priorities toward the network. The more CSP services are used, the more sensitive to network outages and performance issues users become.

Read more on trends in virtual and cloud computing and the benefits of deploying local management in these environments in the Uplogix white paper, Meeting the Network Requirements of Cloud and Virtual Computing with Local Management. A quick and easy registration is required.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Be Prepared - What Local Management can do in disaster

The expectations for the storm as of Monday morning, October 29.
As the Northeast region of the United States hunkers down for the landfall of Hurricane Sandy it seems to be a good time to reflect (under the blue skies and cool temperatures of a nice early fall day here at Uplogix headquarters in Austin) about some of the benefits Local Management offers for disaster preparedness.

Stay home, but still stay connected: Secure remote access
While the federal government and many offices are closed today, with so many workers either working remotely, or given access to work remotely, the network still needs to be up and running. For IT staff riding out the storm at home, Uplogix Local Managers (LMs) offer a direct connection to managed devices -- just like plugging into a device's console port onsite.

Connectivity is available both in- and out-of-band to ensure that admins can reach devices, as well as to feed centralized reporting tools. Think of trying to get the status of a large network in the storm's path. Surveying a dashboard, many sites might show up red, or down, but they don't all necessarily have the same issues. It's much easier to triage the situation if you know what's going on at the site. The in-depth monitoring of local management will tell you much more than just red/green -- maybe lines are down, so there isn't any connectivity in-bound, or maybe a power surge put a router into ROMmon state and will be fixed automatically by Uplogix.

AAA is enforced even when the network is down or degraded with multiple failover options to ensure that strict access control is maintained even in the event that the primary AAA server is not reachable. With Local Management, you'll know that even if parts of your network are down, access is still protected.

When the storm hits: The graceful shutdown
As the storm hits, power failures are almost a guarantee. We generally talk about the power management features in Local Management when we talk about device recovery. After all, one of the easiest techniques is to power off a device and then turn it back on. But in a storm situation, it could be that power goes out suddenly, and stays off for some time.

Uplogix can maximize the time you have on a battery backup, or minimize the drain on a generator with automated actions. A LM can gracefully shutdown network gear by issuing the proper commands and waiting for appropriate responses to ensure that your gear goes down properly. Another option would be to reconfigure network gear to operate in a "light" mode, maybe some devices can be shut down automatically to reduce the power draw.

Picking up the pieces: After the storm
Uplogix has been tested in hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, where oil operations are sometimes suspended during extreme weather. With drilling rigs costing thousands of dollars a day to operate, rapidly returning to a functioning state is critical. With Uplogix, network operators are able to remotely re-start networks with confidence saving a trip for a technician back to the vessel. In a large event, this could mean network operations are restored in hours instead of days or even weeks. Configuration files are stored locally in the LM for easy access, and they are backed up in the Uplogix Control Center for offsite redundancy.

In the event of a catastrophic network event, Uplogix can serve as the foundation of a bare-metal restore. Wire up the new gear with a LM and Uplogix can push out the previous configurations, saving hours of work, and freeing up the most skilled network technicians to focus on more difficult problems in your network.

Maybe you already have a backup network connection using satellite or Wi-Fi. Uplogix can broker the transition over to the secondary connection automatically, ensuring your downtime is minimized. 

Hope for the best, but be prepared
If you are in the storm this week, our thoughts are with you. For your personal safety, take every precaution. For your network, remember that luck favors the prepared, so make some of your own luck with Uplogix Local Management.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Going beyond monitoring for true network management

Uplogix founder and CTO James Dollar was recent interviewed for a story in Via Satellite magazine on the state of network management in the satellite network world. Having been in the room during the phone interview, it was interesting to hear Dollar put Uplogix into the context of other solutions the reporter was including in the story.

Dollar said that network monitoring provides a display of the network and a historical record of what has happened, but network management also means that you can take actions. "We take in data and execute tasks, as a live person would," he said.

This key difference is critical to the Uplogix value proposition. Local Management is like the first-level support technician that would be sent out in a truck (or often in satellite networks, a helicopter), to identify root cause of issues and take run book steps to get things back to a working order. These relatively simple problems and solutions are key drivers of support costs. Being able to automate the monitoring and recovery from these issues can have a big impact.

From the article:
"The oil and gas sector is a great example of how network management systems cut costs," says Dollar. "The average cost for an oil and gas company to send someone out to fix a piece of networking gear is around $5,000. They have to find a helicopter and a guy with the right visa and bring them together. Generally that takes more than eight hours to accomplish. They also have to combine that with their cost of downtime. You can double that $5,000 cost when it comes to fixing the same problems in the military satcom sector. And that includes putting a human in harm's way, which adds protecting personnel to the list of things that the operator needs to do. There are also dangers present in the enterprise sector. Think about being responsible for sending a technician out to the middle of the North Sea in January to resolve a problem with a router or an RF amplifier. These are situations where our solutions play a strong role. We not only reduce the operational expenses, but we increase the network's uptime."
The combination of persistent monitoring at frequent intervals and the ability to take actions to remediate issues with networking and VSAT communications gear is a strength of local management. While these examples were from the satellite world, their problems are really not all that different from typical enterprise networking in civilization -- the "office" is usually just more remote.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Being right there: Uplogix phones home

Thirty years ago, a wrinkly alien named ET showed how important the idea of phoning home can be as he went through great effort to phone home to report his status. Luckily with Uplogix you won't have to build an antenna out of an umbrella and aluminum foil. No need for a Speak & Spell either -- we'll do the dialing for you.

A key component of the Uplogix Local Management Platform is out-of-band (OOB) connectivity. While the Uplogix Local Manager (LM) can operate autonomously when the network is down and communicate with managed devices over a console connection, OOB ensures that centralized dashboard tools can continue to receive information on remote devices as well as provide technicians with secure remote access to gear.

When the network is functioning properly, Uplogix LMs use an Ethernet-based connection to connect and transmit data to the Uplogix Control Center through the in-band network (also referred to as the primary network connection). However, when the primary network connection is lost, the Uplogix LM immediately establishes remote connectivity using a dial-up modem, cellular network, or satellite communications.

By providing persistent connectivity to the devices you need to manage, Uplogix enables you to:
  • Maintain management access and control over distributed locations, even when the network is down or degraded.
  • Enforce security policies even during network outages to maintain compliance.
  • Log all changes and the results of those changes, and inspect the logs in real-time for problems.
  • Continuously monitor critical statistics and user interactions with managed devices via an always-on, serial connection.
Out-of-Band Categories

Uplogix uses two categories of out-of-band (OOB) methods to reach remote Local Managers:
  • Phone home | When detecting an outage, the LM initiates a phone home connection automatically.
  • Dial-in | A user manually connects to a remote LM via a secure dialer applet launched from the Uplogix Control Center (UCC.)

Phone Home
When the Uplogix Local Manager detects a network outage it will initiate an OOB connection in order to create an alternative path back to the NOC. A variety of technologies can be used to create the OOB connections including analog phone lines, cellular, DSL or alternate networks, and satellites.

The OOB connection allows the LM to resume communication with the Uplogix Control Center as well as other network monitoring tools.

Users will be alerted when the OOB connection is initiated and the UCC will display the LM’s new IP address. Users can connect to the OOB LM via SSH and will be authenticated as if the user were connecting via the in-band network.

Figure 1. Phone Home Scenario Using a POTS Line. Step 1: The in-band network goes down, in this case due to trouble with a router. Step 2: The Uplogix Local Manager detects the network outage and dials-out via a modem and POTS line. A PPP session is established. Step 3: The LM builds a VPN over the PPP connection and begins to communicate with the Uplogix Control Center.

Figure 2. Phone Home Scenario Using a Cellular Modem. Step 1: The in-band network goes down, in this case due to trouble with a router. Step 2: The Uplogix Local Manager detects the network outage and dials-out via a cellular modem. A PPP session is established. Step 3: The LM builds a VPN over the PPP connection and begins to communicate with the Uplogix Control Center.

Figure 3. Phone Home Scenario Using a Cellular Modem with a custom APN. Step 1: The in-band network goes down, in this case due to trouble with a router. Step 2: The Uplogix Local Manager detects the network outage and dials-out via a cellular modem using a SIM provisioned with the customer APN. Step 3: The modem automatically connects to the customer MPLS network. The LM then resumes communication with the UCC.

Figure 4. Phone Home Scenario Using Secondary Ethernet. Step 1: The in-band network goes down, in this case due to trouble with a router. Step 2: The Uplogix Local Manager detects the network outage and brings up its secondary Ethernet port. Step 3: The secondary Ethernet connection can be routed through an alternate internal network or through a cable or DSL provider. Step 4: If connecting from a cable or DSL provider, a VPN connection will be needed to re-enter the network.

Dial-In Access

But maybe sometimes you might want to phone in to a local manager. To do this a user establishes a dial-in connection to the LM, usually due to an in-band connection failure. Then the user logs into the UCC and launches a secure dial applet for the desired LM. The dial applet runs on the user’s local workstation and establishes a TLS encrypted connection to the LM via the Remote Access Server.

If normal AAA passwords are not cached, the administrator will need to define a user and password in the UCC that will exist in case AAA servers are not reachable. Once the administrator logs out of the LM, the encrypted connection between the user’s workstation and the LM is torn down.

Figure 5. Dial-In Scenario Using POTS Line. Step 1: User connects to the UCC and launches the encrypted dialer applet. The applet establishes the socketed connection to an available modem on the Remote Access Server, and dials into the LM. Step 2: The user is presented with a login prompt for the LM.

Satellite-based OOB Connectivity
We haven't even touched on satellite options here, but many Uplogix customers use their Local Managers in networks that are quite off the beaten path. Maybe they are at sea, or on the battlefield where POTS lines are non-existent and cellular coverage is intermittent at best. For these deployments, satellite connections over Iridium or Inmarsat provide the same secure connections and two-way access. For more information, see the Uplogix website or this previous blog post.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The case for managed service providers to go local

Ensuring high availability and performance for customers with geographically distributed networks and multiple remote locations presents a number of unique management challenges for MSP staff. Since it’s not possible to be onsite everywhere, network device errors often require expensive support calls and drive missed SLAs.

Monitor AND Control Remote Networks
Local Management drastically reduces the cost and complexity of supporting highly distributed IT environments. Uplogix Local Managers (LMs) enable MSPs to remotely monitor, manage, and control network equipment on the customer’s premise—even when the network is down.

From the Uplogix Control Center, operations staff can centrally manage multiple customers’ networking, communications and other IT devices connected to Uplogix LMs via a simple, web-based interface with multi-tenant capabilities. With Uplogix, you can also give your customers the added value of secure access to their network infrastructure at all times.

Uplogix saves MSPs significant labor costs by displacing mundane daily maintenance tasks and reducing the dispatch of costly, limited IT personnel to remote customer sites. Uplogix augments existing network & systems management with a unique ability to not only alert, but to take immediate local action to remediate issues.

Uplogix in a Typical MSP Deployment
Uplogix LMs deployed at remote sites are connected over the console port to managed network devices. With a variety of out-of-band options, Uplogix ensures that you can always have local management and control. LMs at customer sites are managed from the Uplogix Control Center in the MSP NOC.

Here is a summary of the key benefits for MSPs:
  • Simplify Remote Management | The Uplogix Control Center can be configured to support and manage multiple customer environments via a multi-tenant model. MSPs can offer customers the added value of secure access their own remote sites through the Control Center.
  • Reduce support costs | Uplogix LMs work like on-site virtual IT administrators capable of anticipating/diagnosing problems and executing recovery actions in minutes or even seconds for less staff interaction and fewer tech support trips to remote locations
  • Maintain and Improve Service Levels | Uplogix LMs proactively find and fix problems before network performance is impacted. The Service Level Verification feature can monitor, measure and manage critical network and communication services including TCP/IP, web-based transactions, and voice over IP systems from each remote location where deployed to mirror, and improve, the quality of service that end users are experiencing.
  • Reduce Security Risk | Constantly enforces security policies by providing encrypted access to all managed devices, enforces authorization and authentication policies. Also audits all user interactions and configuration changes even during a network outage or service disruption.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Managing devices locally for a greener network

Many network environments have redundant gear that is always powered-on just waiting to be needed. Day-in and day-out this gear hums along burning electricity without providing any service other than insurance. Chalk it up as a cost of providing 99.99%-plus uptime; redundancy is a fact of life. This practice is common in many offices and labs, but most striking in data centers, which use vast amounts of electricity despite utilization rates in the single digits to low teens. Its increasing prominence as an issue can be seen in this recent New York Times article.

Work on improving data center efficiency has typically been based on improvements in cooling or lower-power processors. More recently utilization improvements have been promised with virtualization and consolidation into clouds. But these efforts aren’t keeping pace with the voracious power needs of more and more data centers and the increasingly universal demand for 100% availability for all services. We expect to be able to click at Like button at any time of day as much as we expect our call to go through from one office to another during working hours. Saving our vacation photos to the cloud is treated as critically as accessing the SAS package that is the backbone of our business.

Why the reluctance to power down backup machines instead of running them constantly? Easy. It’s the long held fear that if you turn it off, it might not turn back on. And when you are talking about powering-down multiple devices, verifying that they came back on as expected would be a tedious task that might even wipe out the savings.

Using the power of local management to reduce power consumption
Local Management from Uplogix has the potential to solve some of the issues with powering-down devices when they aren’t needed. It addresses the key considerations that keep organizations from only using the computing power they really need, when they need it:
  1. Flipping the switch
    The key to local management is deploying an intelligent device (the Local Manager, or LM) that connects directly to managed devices the same way a technician would. This console connection is independent of the network and highly reliable. The other side of the equation is integration with a managed power source. The LM can issue proper shutdown commands to the device and instruct the power strip to turn off power. At this point, power use decreases, cooling requirements go down and the green savings start going up. When it’s time to power up the device, the LM flips the switch through the power strip, boots-up and begins monitoring the device.
  2. Confidence that devices will come back
    It’s the fear of failure that leads to never turning off devices. With Uplogix, the LM can verify device states and report into central monitoring tools showing exactly what’s going on in the operation. If a device does not boot up correctly, Uplogix can take automated steps right out of the run book to attempt a recovery without having to bring in a technician. Recovery techniques could range from clearing modules to ROMMON recovery, reinstalling the previous configuration to the old standby – turn it on and off again. The vast majority of issues are solved using the first basic steps in the run book. For those that aren’t, technicians will be notified of the situation, and they won’t have to start at square one because the first steps will have already been tried and failed.
  3. Automating the process
    One of the keys to making automation truly useful is to not have to think about turning it on and off. The flexibility of the Local Management platform allows for custom rules and monitoring, so users can configure actions to their own needs. Maybe it’s a matter of off-hours, or low-usage times, or maybe looking for a minimum amount of traffic to be used as a trigger for implementing a shut-down or conversely, a power-up process when usage increases.
Don’t wait for tomorrow, get greener today
One of the exciting things about this solution is that it’s available today using core functionality of the Local Management platform. One customer case study already demonstrating this functionality would be a network test lab at a major IT installation for one of the US Armed Services. They use Uplogix to create rules and implement actions that turn off network gear late every evening and bring power on and devices back up early the next morning. These devices are also reset to a baseline configuration each morning.

This application is really not that much different from a data center where they know their peak usage times, or a corporate cloud environment that might really only be accessed during working hours. Running every device flat out all the time doesn’t make sense. And when even a single data center can draw more power than a medium-size town, implementing a relatively simple solution like turning off a switch -- with confidence that you’ll be able to turn it back on -- could have a big impact.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Satellites, networking and really big boats

The view this week at the Monaco Yacht Show.
Uplogix might have “cut its teeth” in maritime VSAT in the energy industry with deployments on drilling platforms from the North Sea to the Gulf of Mexico to the Niger River delta and on the support vessels servicing them, but the value we bring to the yachting market is fairly similar.

For luxury yachts and cruise ships, form may not always follow function, but today's vessels aim to provide the same connectivity that passengers are familiar with on shore. Always-on internet access through stabilized satellite antennas means that a yacht has many of the same networking devices and support headaches as a branch office with the added challenges of mobility across the 70% of the earth's surface covered by water.

What luxury yacht would be complete without
it's own submersible?
This week at the Monaco Yacht Show, Uplogix has been talking with yacht owners and technology vendors about the benefits of Local Management at sea. On many luxury yachts, access is very limited and tolerance of technical issues and downtime is even tighter. No one wants to cut a trip short for a service call, or settle for slow download speeds when they are equipped for higher bandwidth. And the chance that a vessel sales with a satellite and/or networking expert on board isn't likely.

Here are some reasons for a service provider to put Local Management into a luxury yacht today:

Lower Service Costs
Troubleshooting with VSAT users in the field is challenging and expensive. Often the only resource techs have to work with is from the users on the boat. If they are unable to fix the problem over the phone, an expensive site visit becomes necessary and downtime and missed SLA’s drag on. Uplogix reduces this pain and expense with:
  • Persistent access to remote gear
    • Secure access both in- and out-of-band
    • Reduce site visits with remote diagnostics and automated remediation
    • Use of direct-access device tools remotely over an out-of-band satellite connection
  • Local storage of config and OS files
    • Remotely upgrade gear with confidence
    • Commission new deployments more rapidly
    • Switch configurations without the need to upload over the network
      A different kind of tailgate party...
  • Troubleshoot more rapidly
    • Key parameters are converted to human-readable format
    • Device information is stored for forensic evaluation
Improve Service Levels
Customers expect their gear to work when they need it. Uplogix brings unprecedented functionality to help ensure you deliver.
  • Proactive alerting
    • Devices are monitored locally every 30 seconds without sending any traffic over the satellite link
    • Receive an email or text message when specific events occur
  • Service Level Verification
    • Local monitoring of dozens of quality metrics, including voice call quality, satellite signal verification
Advanced Antenna Automation
The tight integration between Uplogix and antennas makes it possible to automate functions like blockage zone detection and retargeting to a new satellite based on pre-set thresholds.

Don't have a yacht? No problem. We don't have one either. But we're excited that our gear is deployed on them and increasing network uptime while lowering support costs. For more information, check out some of the case studies on the Uplogix website.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Protecting your network from insider threats

A recent government report analyzed 80 cases of computer-based fraud within the banking and finance sector. The findings include six common patterns and activities of the perpetrators as well as recommendations for organizations to protect themselves.

The report was sponsored by (we're not making this up) the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate's Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency Cyber Security Division. Wow. Also contributing was the US Secret Service and the CERT Insider Threat Center of Carnegie Mellon University. Of the 80 cases, 67 were insider fraud cases, and the remaining 13 were external to the organizations harmed.

  1. Criminals who executed a "low and slow" approach accomplished more damage and escaped detection for longer
    • On average 5 years went by between a subject's hiring and the start of their fraud, with detection averaging almost 32 months before they were caught.
    • This is real money too -- cases less than 32 months averaged over $380,000 and longer cases averaged about $479,000.
  2. Insiders' means were not very technically sophisticated
    • Few of the subjects were in technical roles like a database administrator
    • In more than half the cases, the insider used some form of authorized, but often expired access
  3. Fraud by managers differs substantially from fraud by non-managers in damage and duration
    • Manager fraud caused nearly twice the economic damage and was took twice as long to detect
  4. Most cases do not involve collusion
    • Only 16% of fraud involved some type of collusion, and these subjects were mostly working with outsiders
  5. Most incidents were detected through an audit, customer complaint or coworker suspicion
    • Routine auditing caught 41%, with only 6% of cases involving detection by software and systems designed to detect fraudulent activity
  6. Personally identifiable information (PII) is a prominent target of those committing fraud
    • Roughly 1/3 of cases were targeting PII, with younger, non-managers generally being the ones committing this type of fraud


So, with the analysis of the types of fraud going on, what do they suggest to avoid it? They are really pretty basic, but the key is an effective implementation.

Behavioral and/or Business Process
  • Clearly document and consistently enforce policies and controls.
  • Institute periodic security awareness training for all employees.
Monitoring and Technical
  • Include unexplained financial gain in any periodic reinvestigations of employees.
  • Log, monitor, and audit employee online actions.
  • Pay special attention to those in special positions of trust and authority with relatively easy ability to perpetrate high value crimes (e.g., accountants and managers).
  • Restrict access to PII.
  • Develop an insider incident response plan to control the damage from malicious insider activity, assist in the investigative process, and incorporate lessons learned to continually improve the plan.
How can Uplogix help?

Uplogix local management enhances enterprise security by extending role based administrative access policies to network devices and by providing detailed auditing and reporting in support of attaining and demonstrating regulatory compliance. All of these capabilities are maintained even in the event of a network outage.

 By automating many routine network management actions, we ensure that your policies are followed to the letter, each and every time. No shortcuts because an admin is in a hurry to get to lunch, no sessions left open on a device.

See how this is working today in the financial industry in the Uplogix Global Financial Institution case study.

Best practices for connecting to machine-to-machine applications

Many M2M monitoring applications
run in remote locations on low power,
increasingly with a satellite or cellular
communications link.
An increasing number of IT applications are missing one key component: the user. From monitoring product distribution in the energy industry to autonomous machines that humans interact with daily like cash machines to healthcare devices that monitor themselves and "call-in" their own maintenance requests, one of the key components of many machine-to-machine (M2M) applications is communication.

While autonomous monitoring is useful, being able to transmit the data in real-time as well as provide remote control makes many M2M applications practical. A recent article in Utility Products magazine has a good list of best practices for using cellular communications for a two-way link to remote monitor and control devices.

Uplogix uses cellular communication as one option for out-of-band connections to our Local Managers (LMs). Cellular is increasingly cost-effective and available in many locations with the added benefit of not-needing to install or maintain local infrastructure.

The Uplogix Local Management platform is often used in M2M systems to provide management and control for a variety of sophisticated multi-component devices such as satellite communications systems (modems, dish controllers and networking gear), analog supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA) and digital cellular connected devices in M2M solutions (e.g. ATMs, Intelligent Power Systems and M2M gateways themselves).

Many of the recommendations in the article for choosing cellular monitoring applications have similar applications to Local Management. This makes sense, because when you think about it, with its constant monitoring and reliable automation capabilities, Uplogix is a type of machine-to-machine application. With our automation, it's really Machine Management of Machine-to-Machine systems. (We're not so sure that M^32M will catch on as a shortcut though.)

We also have the benefit of being a human-to-machine application, providing an on-site "virtual toolbox" for experts offsite to access remote gear as if they were sitting in front of it and connecting directly with their laptop.

Some of the recommendations applicable to both cellular for M2M and Uplogix are:
  • The solution should be carrier-agnostic
    You don't want to have to manage different gear at every site. In the case of Uplogix, you can expand this to not wanting different M2M management solutions for each piece of gear. With our base-level serial connections to managed devices, Uplogix can monitor and take actions for almost any piece of gear.
  • It should provide advanced wireless device management capabilities beyond simply pushing out firmware or configuration changes
    Device management is a two-way street. You want to be able to command remote devices, as well as see the impact of those changes. Uplogix can not only push out changes, but it also saves previous states, monitors the success of changes, and can automatically roll back failed changes to ensure devices continue to work. These are events that previously would have required a site visit from a technician.
  • M2M gateways should include advanced tools to manage and monitor connected assets
    Uplogix uses its position at the edge of the network to do more than monitor devices. We're able to conduct quality testing from the viewpoint of the end user, in the M2M world, not a human user, but other devices. We can conduct synthetic calls from one site to another and measure over 40 different quality variables to isolate issues or indicate a problem, often before it becomes detrimental. In true M2M fashion, these tests can be automated, so that they occur more often than a human would want to conduct them, as well as accurately, and as a trigger for proactive actions.
For more information on the use of Local Management for device management and control of M2M systems as well as in more traditional networks, please visit our website.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Going beyond keeping the lights on: a case for local management

Federal IT spending for FY 2011 was an estimated $79.4 billion.
In a recent interview, Dave Powner, one of three IT directors for the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), said about $55 billion of the $80 billion spent on federal IT goes toward steady state systems, while $25 billion goes to new development. Of that $55 billion, Powner said there is opportunity for reduction in operations and maintenance.

At Uplogix, we couldn't agree more -- whether you are talking federal or corporate networks. For years, one of the standard industry stats has come from Gartner, stating that 60% of total worldwide IT expenditures goes into IT infrastructure and operations (I&O). Gartner goes on to present 10 suggestions for achieving 10% savings in a year and 25% savings in three years. The key actions in the list supported by Local Management from Uplogix are to "Consolidate I&O" and "Push Down IT Support" through network management automation.

Free up IT staff for innovation, not repetition
Gartners says that I&O accounts for about 50% of total IT headcount, with most involved in day-to-day and tactical operational processes. When it comes to managing networks, many of these talented professionals are spending their time on routine maintenance. While there are many competitors in the network management market, they rely on the network to perform their jobs. As a result, they are limited to monitoring, dashboarding and analysis. In short, they are useful tools for IT staff, but they don't actually DO any of the tasks because of the reliance on the network.

Another Gartner stat is that about 40% of network problems can't be addressed with in-band software tools.

With Local Management, select management functionality is moved to where it is needed most -- right where users and managed devices are -- on the other side of the WAN, satellite or cellular network or inside of a lights out data center.

This lets IT groups reduce management costs, maintain service levels and ensure secure management practices in the course of day-to-day operations. Uplogix provides the configuration, performance and security management automation functions that are best performed locally.

Virtualization savings = operations cost increases?
The widespread adoption of cloud and virtualized computing in the name of cost savings will have a profound effect on the network and on IT network operations groups. Customer expectations are changing. New requirements are emerging, service levels are becoming more stringent and some time tested strategies for managing costs and ensuring adequate service levels are being invalidated. Trying to use the same old network and network management strategies and tools without Local Management will cause virtualization and cloud initiatives to fail or to incur runaway costs.

In short, virtualization savings on the infrastructure side could simply shift costs over to operations through increased network complexity and the heightened service levels needed. Network management automation like Uplogix is needed to ensure that all devices (physical and virtual) are monitored in real-time with the ability to rapidly identify failures and issues, then automatically perform recovery actions.

Finding the ROI that the GAO is looking for
Obviously, when you are talking about $80 billion of federal IT spending, there is no single solution for savings. When you look at saving money on operations and maintenance, there is a spectrum of solutions to deploy across network applications as different as research labs and battlefields to congressional offices and public service organizations.

Understanding the business case for network support is based on a risk/return calculation that takes into account the cost of downtime compared to the mix of resources spent to avoid downtime. The following chart shows that how much you spend on your resource mix doesn’t always equate to the lowest risk.

For more information
Check out the Uplogix ROI Calculator online.  It has inputs for things like the number of sites and devices managed, the current costs of managing them (both scheduled and unscheduled), as well as sliders to adjust expectations for the value delivered by Uplogix.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

More than a bandaid for healthcare IT

Even when trying to steer well clear of the election year healthcare debate by focusing solely on healthcare IT, there are a number of hot-button issues for healthcare CIOs. Electronic Health Records (EHRs), the Health Information Exchange (HIE), HIPPA compliance, telemedicine, as well as more industry-neutral issues like wireless networking and just how the cloud will impact operations are daily challenges in healthcare IT.

Critical data: balancing accessibility with "meaningful use"
Included in the 2009 economic stimulus package's HITECH Act, was a program that requires all providers to demonstrate meaningful use of electronic health records by 2014 or face reduced Medicare reimbursements. Using EHRs before that deadline can bring financial incentives. With both a stick and a carrot hanging over them, EHRs are a key deliverable for IT groups.

According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), as of May 2012, over 110,000 healthcare providers and more than 2,400 hospitals are using EHRs. About 48% of all eligible hospitals in the US have received an incentive payment "carrot."

Challenges include everything from what software to use, to the hardware to provide users with to access EHRs, as well as a network ensured to be secure, robust, and flexible enough to deal with the evolving landscape. Hospitals are deploying a wide variety of solutions ranging from fixed workstations, semi-mobile cart-based computers, and a wide variety of tablets that can travel with health care professional from room to room. When the sole access to critical information contained in the EHR is over the network, uptime could literally be the difference between life or death.

With large groups of users and diverse equipment to support, using Local Management from Uplogix in healthcare makes a lot of sense. Network infrastructure can be monitored independently of the network itself, recovery actions can be automated, and smaller staffs can support distributed sites with fewer truck rolls. In the 24/7/365 world of healthcare, uptime is a requirement.

Help is on the way? The Health Information Exchange
The HITECH Act also funded the creation state HIEs to help healthcare organizations share data between largely proprietary EHR systems through the Nationwide Health Information Network Exchange. This initiative develops standards and policies for data exchange.

Years of EHR evolution combined with industry consolidation in healthcare is a storm of complexity for IT groups. Not only are they tasked with sharing information across disparate systems, they inherit disparate gear from organizations acquired in mergers.

Uplogix can help here. By managing devices over the ubiquitous console port, Local Management is able to provide monitoring and access to just about any device. As healthcare organizations come together, IT groups can standardize device management across non-standard deployments, freeing up precious time and resources for fighting other IT fires.

HIPPA compliance - encrypt or else
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act predates the rise of IT, and was strengthened by the HITECH Act. It now requires any organization with access to personal health information (PHI) to follow its rules or face increased fines for data breaches. One important implication for mobile IT devices is that it notes that encrypted PHI on a lost device does not constitute a data breach.

New legislation also sets 2014 as the deadline for electronic fund transfer compliance. This means healthcare IT shops are now in the same boat at financial and retail IT groups familiar with PCI compliance.

With much of its early customer base in the financial world, Uplogix has developed Local Management to aid in compliance related to financial information. Whether it's enforcing AAA (authentication, authorization and accounting) regardless of the state of the network, or logging all changes made to devices and their results, Local Management improves overall security and makes it easier to document compliance.

Planning infrastructure to support today and tomorrow
Of course, one of the biggest challenges is meeting hard delivery dates with rapidly changing requirements. IT groups are called to deliver reliable (remember it's life or death) infrastructure to support everything from expectations for wireless, BYOD (bring your own device), and bandwidth-intensive telemedicine applications. IT deliverables have grown from desktops in doctor's offices and nursing stations to mobile devices, high-definition video conferencing in operating rooms and reliable connections from increasingly complicated medical devices for diagnostics monitoring support. The days of long banks of shelves with colorfully-tabbed folders has given way to data warehouses of personal healthcare information with specific rules about how it is stored, accessed and transmitted.

The typical healthcare data center is bursting at the seams. And the HITECH Acts meaningful use requirements may require some organizations to keep patient records on file for as long as 25 years. Moving this information into the cloud  is a clear solution, but will have to answer questions on HIPPA compliance, data ownership, security and always-on availability.

Local Management is an important component of any cloud strategy since utilizing cloud technology assumes that you have a sufficiently strong and available network to access it. While basic information such as shot records and office visits might not be too taxing, add in high-resolution images and high access rates to the equation and even smaller healthcare IT groups will need to provide a bulletproof network. Uplogix and Local Management are there to help out -- after all, it could be a matter of life or death.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Device management flexibility and the hot August sun

Unfortunately no automation here:
Putting a big, heavy antenna
on the roof in 100+ degree sun requires
physical effort.
One of the nifty things about local management from Uplogix is that we generally just don't care what kind of device we're managing. Console connections are available on many different devices from your standard networking gear to satellite communications components to SCADA systems and other machine-to-machine applications. They serve as a base-level management connection to the device.

Sure we have advanced drivers for some of the most popular vendors in networking and satellite, but generally if a device has a console port, we can do some level of data collection, monitoring and automated management. One time I even saw the founder of Uplogix get a glimmer in his eye when he noticed that a large LCD TV had a console port on the back. What possible application could we come up with for managing the monitor with Uplogix? He didn't have one, but the potential was there...

It's pretty common for our customers to ask us about what we could do for new devices. Sometimes it's as simple as plugging in and seeing if a local manager can do what they need right out of the box. Other times we can use existing advanced drivers to enable more robust management.

For example, one of our customers recently had questions about some additional features for managing a VSAT antenna. The antenna is designed to mount on a vehicle roof and is commonly deployed in the Energy industry. They offered to let us borrow one "to play with," and we happily accepted. After all, VSAT stands for Very Small Aperture Terminal. How big could this antenna be?

The next challenge was where to put it. While designed to be roof mounted, the antenna is used in stationary operations, so at least we didn't need to mount it on a truck. The roof of the Uplogix headquarters was the most likely location, alongside a collection of other antennas we have up there for testing.

Action shot! Navigating the elevator door.
Next stop: the roof.
Here is where things got challenging -- this antenna weighs about 150 lbs. and after unbolting it from the large shipping pallet, it's about six feet long by four feet wide and a foot tall. Remember, VSAT is defined as an antenna with a dish less than 3 meters, so I guess it could have been worse. Getting it off the pallet and into the elevator wasn't too tough, but the final flight of stairs up to and through the roof hatch was some real work for four people.

Emerging into the blinding sunshine on the shimmering roof -- after all, we're talking mid-afternoon in August in Central Texas -- we were able to walk the antenna over to its testing location. After about ten minutes of re-mounting the antenna for stability we retreated back to the comfort of our air conditioned offices. Now the real fun will begin as our engineering team "plays" with the new gear to bring advanced local management functionality to a new device. 

What's the moral of this story? If you are already using local management, are we plugged into all of the gear that you care about? If you aren't using local management, check it out. Odds are we could automate some of the routine management tasks that are eating up the time and budget of your IT staff. And finally -- if you work at Uplogix, don't forget your sunscreen in case you get "volunteered" for a trip up to the roof.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Putting remote automation to the test

This week NASA provided a great example of automation with successful arrival of the Curiosity rover on Mars after months of spaceflight and a multi-stage landing process referred to as "seven minutes of terror."

As a company that has developed a unique solution for network automation, it's easy to draw a few comparisons (as well as some significant differences) between the new Mars Science Laboratory and Local Management from Uplogix.

Observing remotely just doesn't cut it, you have to be local.

In the centuries since Galileo Galilei trained his primitive telescope on the night skies to describe Mars as a "spherical body illuminated by the sun," the US and other countries have trained increasingly powerful telescopes and sent numerous satellites to observe Mars. But there are limits to what you can see from afar - clouds obscure vision, dust blowing on the surface changes features, and increasing the level of detail you can observe (bigger telescopes, more instruments) comes with increasing costs.

If you put the lab on the surface in a rover, it can engage in observations nearly full-time. Instead of space-based spectroscopy, the rover can collect and analyze samples directly. And the more capable the rover, the more science you can do with it.

With network management, the traditional methods have involved polling network devices from a remote location. Of course, it's usually less than the 225 million miles (on average) between Earth and Mars, but the key is less the where, and more the how. Relying on the network to monitor network devices is like the fox guarding the hen house. Local management deploys onsite, connecting directly to network infrastructure gear, ensuring directly sampling of information.

Deploying a device with built-in intelligence, memory and a powerful rules engine ensures that you can do more with your automation.

Even when automation is the answer,  sometimes it's hard to let go

The landing on Mars was an incredibly complicated set of maneuvers that required six vehicle configurations, 76 pyrotechnic devices, the largest supersonic parachute ever built, more than 500,000 lines of code, and a final sequence that was dubbed "seven minutes of terror" by NASA.

The precision required plus the radio signal delay between Mars and Earth made it impossible for a human to remotely pilot the craft to a landing -- the entire process had to be automated. Various new technologies invented for this mission all had to perform flawlessly. And they did.

With Uplogix, our automation is basically the same. Alright, it's not apples to apples, but Local Management can take the human involvement out of many routine Level 1 functions. This frees up that skilled technician to innovate or deal with muddier tasks that do require human intervention.

Plus, local management can help you limit unplanned downtime with Surgical Rollback. Say you are working on a device and accidentally push a change that cuts you off from the device. The Local Manager will ask if you to confirm the changes, and upon your lack of response, will roll back the device to it's previous working configuration, reestablishing your connection to the device. Instead of minutes of terror, you can use those moments during the roll back to get some coffee. Or watch a video from NASA.

But I need proof that the automation is working

Due to the planned proximity of the Mars Odyssey orbiter, NASA was able to relay status information on the automated landing and a rover heartbeat in real time back to the control center at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter pointed its camera at a position where the rover was mathematically calculated to be passing through in its parachute stage and took a photograph of the event.

On landing, the rover was programmed to take a few pictures and transmit them before losing the relay when Odyssey went over the horizon. The initial thumbnail image was all NASA engineers needed to confirm their success and begin the celebration.

The automation was working, and everyone could see it.

With local management there are a number of ways that you know the automation is working.

Service Level Verification measures network properties from the user's perspective in the network. By polling network gear for status information, or by actually conducting synthetic transactions like voice calls and HTTP-gets between Uplogix Local Managers or the web, we can grade quality on a host of metrics. With this information, automated actions can be taken including notifications back to the Uplogix Control Center.

Like the multiple orbiters staged to catch signals from Curiosity and relay them back to mission control, a key component of local management is out-of-band capability. This ensures you'll always know what's going on, as well as have access to remote gear using POTS lines, cell modems, secondary networks, or even (like Curiosity!) satellite connections.

The automation is working, and everyone can see it. 

The final frontier...

Automation is a requirement these days whether you're landing on another planet, or just trying to ensure that your network is bold enough to take your company where no one has gone before.

One last comparison -- the Curiosity program is designed to drive on Mars conducting scientific analysis for about two years at a cost of about $2.5 billion. But you can deploy Uplogix Local Management a little closer to home, for just about the cost of a nice laptop. See how today.