Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wrapping up, looking forward

It's that time of year - people are publishing their year-end recaps and prognostications for the year to come, office junk is being collected and wrapped for white elephant exchanges, and (some) folks are burning off vacation before the end of the calendar year.  We'll cover each of these topics in this post. You can also check out some of the photos of Uplogix employees in action.

Looking back

New hardware, new software

2013 at Uplogix started off with the announcement of the fourth generation of Local Management hardware and the release of the Uplogix 5000 and 500 Local Managers (LMs). These purpose-built devices are the most reliable and durable hardware yet.

Both feature no moving parts and have more than double the anticipated service life of most enterprise class servers. When you consider many of these devices are serving in hard to reach locations like oil platforms, forward operating bases in battle zones and lights-out data centers, our customers want to know they can rely on the hardware.

Another aspect of the new hardware is that it is all built in the United States, in fact, it's all assembled in the home state of Uplogix - Texas. Uplogix has partnered with Creation Technologies in Plano, one of the top electronic manufacturing services companies to build the Uplogix 5000 and Uplogix 500.

In November, Uplogix announced the release of a DC version of the Uplogix 5000. Designed for data centers, the DC Uplogix 5000 was built to accommodate the DC power that is commonly used in facilities with high power requirements.

New software releases throughout the year have added additional functionality to the Uplogix Local Management Software. New or additional advanced driver support is now available for TracStar satellite antennas, Comtech satellite modems, IBM Flex System SAN Switches and RackSwitches, APC and ServerTechnology PDUs.

Virtual Port capacity was increased for both 500 and 5000 platforms. Previously, the 500 allowed up to four virtual ports and the 5000 allowed up to eight virtual ports. The v4.7 release increases the maximum number on both platforms to 16 virtual ports. Virtual ports allow users to manage a device with an Uplogix LM through an IP interface instead of a console connection.

New customers

In 2013, Uplogix more than doubled the number of new customers over 2012. These customers continue to expand on the diversity of the existing customer base with more federal agencies, satellite communications users, school districts, managed service providers, the energy industry... the list goes on.

Also exciting is that Local Management continues to expand in the United States and around the world with new customers coming online in Europe, Africa, South America, Australia and Asia. There has even been some interest from the US Antarctic Program, which would make Local Management a truly global product. Stay tuned.

Looking forward

Just recently an agreement was announced with Uplogix partner, CenturyLink, that could expand the use of Local Management in the federal government. Available on CenturyLink's GSA IT Schedule 70 contract, as well as the the Networx contract, Uplogix products will be accessible to more agencies looking to increase network availability while reducing support costs through the unique combination of secure remote access and intelligent local monitoring and response.

New partnerships are taking off that should expand the awareness of Local Management, especially in some developing markets where network infrastructure reliability is critically needed.

Reading the predictions of others in the industry, the key themes look to continue to be big data, cloud and increasingly M2M as a real thing - not just talk of billions of devices in the Internet of Things, but M2M starting to have impact on people's lives. On this last topic, at Uplogix we're pretty interested because we've been M2M since before it was cool. Local Managers collecting data and taking action to automate the management of devices is not only M2M, it's M2M Management. Look for more on this in the new year. If we have billions of devices all connecting to each other, M2M Management is going to be critical. M2M^2? We'll see if that name catches on, but in the meantime, just remember it's Local Management.

Right now - the white elephant gift exchange

They are common in many workplaces, and this year, Uplogix was no different. The Uplogix exchange in the Austin headquarters featured a number of unique items, some clearly perceived as valuable, others less so. Hot items included a Bluetooth keyboard, a set of desktop speakers, and a chicken that played and danced to The Chicken Dance song. Moderately valuable gifts were a set of three margarita glasses and an Ikea light-up star decoration. Gifts not "stolen" after their unveiling included a bottle of non-alcoholic wine, a strange back-massage device, and the box of chic-flick movies chosen by Uplogix CEO, Tom Goldman. All on VHS.

Other employee events and fun in 2013 revolved around food. There is the annual Cookie Week, which some would say was tarnished this year in what can only be described as Gingersnap-gate. The tradition is strong enough to withstand the controversy. Over the summer, Waffle Day was a big hit, which was no surprise, because who doesn't like waffles?

In an opposite direction, the Uplogix Tough Mudder team left no man behind as the intrepid group of eight braved mud, ice and electric shocks to prove they were tough and muddy.

Happy Holidays from Uplogix

We'd like to wish all of our customers, vendors and employees a happy holiday. Our offices will be closed on December 24 & 25, and January 1, but our intrepid and highly-praised customer support will be available as always. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

What's in the new LMS v4.7 release?

The newest release of the Uplogix Local Management Software (LMS) is now available, delivering support for a DC version of the Uplogix 5000 targeted at data center applications, new hardware support and several new advanced drivers for third-party products.

The DC-powered Uplogix 5000 Local Manager (LM) has dual 48V DC power supplies, but otherwise has the same specifications as the AC-powered version. Designed for data centers, the DC Uplogix 5000 was built to accommodate the DC power that is commonly used in facilities with high power requirements. DC systems reduce the number of times power is converted compared to AC power, increasing efficiency and lowering electricity costs.

The DC Version of the Uplogix 5000 Local Manager

Other software updates for both the Uplogix 500 and 5000 in the v4.7 release include a new fiber Ethernet option card and mini-USB console port support. Placed into the LM’s Option Slot, the fiber Ethernet card has a SFP interface that can be used to connect the LM to the network via multimode and single mode fiber. The mini-USB console port on the LM is enabled in v4.7 for the Windows operating system (Windows 7).

New advanced driver functionality delivers local management for several new devices and products from IBM, Comtech, APC and Server Technology:
  • IBM Flex System SAN Switches
  • IBM RackSwitches
  • Comtech CDM-840 Satellite Modem
  • APC AP8900 Switched Rack Power Distribution Units
  • ServerTechnology 48V DC Power Distribution Units
The v4.7 release also introduces a Push/Pull SFTP and SCP action for all drivers. Using the CLI, scheduler or rules engine, administrators can initiate the transfer of a file between a managed device and the Local Manager file system using SFTP/SCP.

Virtual Port capacity was increased for both 500 and 5000 platforms. Previously, the 500 allowed up to four virtual ports and the 5000 allowed up to eight virtual ports. The v4.7 release increases the maximum number on both platforms to 16 virtual ports. Virtual ports allow users to manage a device with an Uplogix LM through an IP interface instead of a console connection. While dependent on a network connection, it is useful for cases where the device does not have an available console port (or one at all), situations where the device is physically too far away for a serial connection, and when the number of devices needing management exceeds the maximum number of hardware serial interfaces on a Local Manager.

LMS v4.7 is available now on all new Local Managers and the Uplogix Control Center. For more information and customers wishing to upgrade, visit Uplogix support at uplogix.com/support.

Friday, December 13, 2013

M2M Management Case Study: ATMs

Increasingly, automated teller machines are the “brick and mortar” point of contact for customers with their bank. For decades, these M2M systems have been popular with customers and increasingly reliable as the technology has advanced, but also complicated and expensive to support.

One Uplogix customer has an aggressive plan to deploy ATMs and chose to include Uplogix in the systems to ensure that the increasing number of cash machines doesn't come along with a increase in support costs that will, well, break the bank.

Putting Local Management into ATMs

ATMs are complicated, secure machines with a variety of devices that interact with the physical world—cash input and output machines, card readers, and screens and other inputs. In addition, they have a fair amount of communications technology with routers, redundant modems, cameras and storage. Managing these components can involve multiple technicians and all of the security concerns that come along with access to distributed and unstaffed machines full of cash.

The Uplogix Local Management platform provides the equivalent of an IT administrator in-the-box monitoring devices 24x7, taking initial run-book recovery actions when needed, and serving as an onsite toolbox for remote technicians to investigate and recover issues as if they were onsite.

Automated, lower cost installation

Installation of ATMs can be expedited using Uplogix. With configuration files pre-installed, or automatically downloaded to an Uplogix Local Manager (LM), the LM can perform pre-defined tasks such as updating the OS on the ATM’s router, checking cell modem signal strength, and establishing a secure out-of-band connection back to the NOC.
This means that setup takes less time, and potentially doesn’t require a technician or technicians with as much detailed knowledge of each component.

Fewer truck rolls needed

Most network and communications issues can be detected and recovered automatically, ensuring that the ATM is up and running, providing customers with expected levels of service. Issues can be reported directly into trouble ticketing systems, ensuring that the NOC is aware of any issues, including those that were resolved.
Before sending out a truck, administrators can connect into the ATM securely and remotely over an out-of-band connection that gives them access as if they were onsite.

Simplified management

It’s not uncommon in the banking world for an institution to have a wide variety of ATM platforms in operation, the result of mergers with other banks or just technology changes over time. Uplogix offers management flexibility thanks to the console-level connection with managed devices and the fact that it manages from a local perspective that is not dependent on a network connection.

Managing automatic tellers with another machine

The M2M (machine-to-machine) trend is just starting to put a name on what the ATM has done for years. Similarly, Uplogix Local Management is already proven in other high-security applications like financial institution data centers, in the field with deployments on battlefields managing satellite communications links for the armed forces, and in remote locations like oil platforms. Adding Uplogix to ATMs is the next step toward M2M management, with greater reliability and functionality at lower cost.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Amazon's PrimeAir faces the automation checklist

In a 60 Minutes interview that relatively few people actually saw, but many are now reading about, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos showed off a couple of Amazon delivery drones. The idea is that at some point in the future, one of these eight-rotor robots would fly a <5 lb. Amazon purchase to you in 30 minutes or less. While the pilot-less copters have been a PR coup for Amazon, it's an example of how automation can capture the imagination without actually delivering the goods. This is something all too familiar in the network management world.

Bezos said that he didn't want anybody to think the drone delivery service was just around the corner, but implied it's the law that's really holding things up. While it is currently illegal to fly a bunch of autonomous drones carrying packages, the FAA is working on drone rules, with first limited approvals potentially due out in 2015. Full-blown certifications aren't expected until maybe 2020.

So perhaps PrimeAir will be an option some day, but a lot of boxes will need to be checked first. Search "Amazon drone" and click on most any of the 436+ million hits for all kinds of scenarios that the little drones would need to successfully navigate. Check out the FAA's UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Roadmap for a few hundred reasons why this will take time from the Fed's perspective.

Still, it does look pretty cool in the Amazon video.

When we talk to potential customers about the automation capable in the Uplogix Local Management Platform, they start going through their own checklist of what it would take for them to have any confidence in network automation. Here are a few with parallels to PrimeAir:

Autonomy

  • Uplogix: Can't rely on the network for device access
  • PrimeAir: Large numbers of delivery drones need to fly themselves to be practical
Resiliency
  • Uplogix: Provides an alternate management access path if the primary link is down
  • PrimeAir: Needs to be able to find an alternate drop-off point if the primary is unexpectedly blocked, say by the kids playing football in the front yard
Intelligent, and reliable
  • Uplogix: Recognizes specific devices states and follows specified procedures when there are issues
  • PrimeAir: Large numbers of drones will need to be aware of the airspace around them and follow specific rules of the road like piloted aircraft
Security
  • Uplogix: Needs to be secure to ensure that only the right people have access to the right equipment, and document everything that happens to know who, did what, and with what impact
  • PrimeAir: It will probably take more than a tracking confirmation number that shows the 5 lb. parcel was dropped in your driveway and not on your roof. Maybe a video showing the delivery? 
Anyway, you get the idea. New ideas are easy to shoot down, but good ones fire back with good answers to tough questions. At Uplogix, we've been doing this with our network automation for years. We'll see how Amazon does with their newest automated plans.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Internet on the high seas a requirement for cruise line

Uplogix provides automated device control and recovery
that is especially useful for maintaining satellite
connectivity and network uptime aboard cruise ships.
Spanish cruise line Pullmantur Cruises recently signed a new deal with Uplogix customer MTN Communications to enhance connectivity options for passengers ad crew onboard its fleet of ships. The expansion of broadband satellite services is just the latest in the 11 year relationship between satellite services provider and cruise line.

The deal is becoming more common in the cruise industry, where passengers are demanding connectivity not as a nice-to-have on their vacations, but as a requirement.

“While satellite technology is important, it is the services around the technology which will be key. Some vendors think we are only focused on technology but this is not true," said Juan Manuel Cabellero Patón, IT and business process director for Grupo Pullmantur. "We want to improve speeds, as well as access to apps like Facebook, for example. People need to think about the services that customers want.”

Improvements in shipboard connectivity include satellite infrastructure, like moving from C-band to Ku-band technology, as well as more mainstream network connectivity like wireless access points, routers and switches. For Pullmantur, their goal is wi-fi coverage across 85% of all their ships. These floating hotspots aren't cheap. Patón says their estimate is that improvements will run $1 million per ship to deliver customers the Internet experience they expect. 

One option for limiting satellite costs is for the ships to pick up land-based wi-fi when they are close to the coast, reserving the more expensive satellite access for times at sea. Such hybrid network systems mean more gear to manage aboard the ship.

This is an ideal use case for Uplogix. With local network monitoring, critical communications gear is always being managed. The Uplogix rules engine has been configured for hybrid situations where the change-over from one pathway (say the satellite connection) can be automatically transferred to another (a land-based wi-fi connection) when a signal is not only detected, but verified as reliable enough to support the ship's traffic.

For an example of how this works, see the video, Rules-based antenna retargeting with Uplogix. 


Monday, November 18, 2013

NIST cybersecurity framework development continues

NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, held its fifth public workshop last week in Raleigh, North Carolina on a comprehensive cybersecurity framework mandated in a February 2012 executive order.

The framework is designed to improve cybersecurity across sixteen critical infrastructure industries and build up from a basic core of functions based around the structure of Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover. From there, the framework gets more specific in categories, subcategories and finally informative references, which are standards, guidelines and practices common among critical infrastructure sectors that illustrate how to meet the guidelines in each category.

The preliminary framework defines "critical infrastructure" as:
“systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.”
The most recent workshop solicited more feedback from a diverse group of cybersecurity specialists, lawyers and federal employees and policymakers, as well as provided guidance on what lies ahead as the framework moves from development to application.

A common concern expressed by industry experts about the framework is how much of challenge it will be for small and medium-sized businesses to implement.

"There are twenty-two categories and ninety-seven subcategories. That's a lot for small and medium-sized businesses," said Cox Communications CISO Phil Agcaoili during a panel discussion at the workshop. 

Uplogix is a part of securing critical network infrastructure. From maintaining and enforcing AAA (authentication, authorization and accounting), regardless of the state of the network to eliminating modem security issues by "dialing-out" instead of accepting in-bound requests, Uplogix provides a secure platform for device administration. 

In the Recover function described in the NIST framework, Uplogix provides detailed audit and compliance reporting, so you will always be able to know who, did what, and with what effect to your critical network and communications devices.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How BYOD Can Benefit IT Departments

Bringing your own device to work is increasingly becoming not just an option, but a requirement. Gartner predicts by 2016, 38 percent of companies will no longer supply devices to workers, and by 2017, half of employers will expect employees to bring their own equipment.

IT departments, however, have been slower to adopt BYOD due to concerns over security and other issues, with a Robert Half survey finding only one third of CIOs allowed employees to bring their own devices as of last May. However, that number is rising, as BYOD momentum grows and mobile vendors take steps to address enterprise security concerns with innovations such as LG Gate, which insulates business applications from personal activity by running two operating systems on a single device. As the security objections to BYOD are answered, IT departments stand to gain from looking more closely at the benefits of letting employees bring their own devices.

It's Happening Anyway

EMC Corporation Chief Security Office Dave Martin says he's learned through experience trying to block BYOD outright is an ineffective and counterproductive policy. Martin says when companies prohibit BYOD, what happens is employees begin using their own devices covertly, making it harder to monitor risks and take preventive measures. For instance, if a mobile phone vishing attack compromised an employee's unmonitored device, their employer might never know it happened, leaving the gate open for follow-up attacks on the network.

On the other hand, Martin adds, companies that lack any BYOD policies leave themselves open to data loss. A better balance between these two extremes is a transparent approach, where employers communicate policies to employees and cooperate to ensure good security procedures are followed and breaches can be monitored.

Cost

Cutting costs gives IT departments another potential reason to adopt BYOD. Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group has estimated American businesses can save up to $3,150 per worker annually by allowing employees to use their own mobile devices. These gains stem from decreased company expenditures on devices, as well as increased worker productivity.
In a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis, these gains need to be weighed against potential cost increases from the added demands BYOD places on telecommunications bills, security, networking, development, and technical support. Cisco's analysis factored some of these elements in, but BYOD cost benefits will vary from one enterprise to another. Each company should do its own analysis to gain an objective foundation for evaluation.

Productivity

Cisco also found BYOD adoption translated into 81 minutes per week of increased productivity among U.S. employees, and an average of 37 minutes weekly among all countries surveyed. IBM suggests these productivity gains stem from factors such as technical proficiency with familiar devices, and a tendency for personal devices to be maintained closer to the cutting edge of current technology.

In order to see such productivity benefits, it is vital for companies to develop policies and follow best practices for effective BYOD usage. These include using notification systems for effective time management; segregating company email and social media accounts from personal accounts so extracurricular conversations do not eat into work time; and setting up effective cloud-based collaboration systems for project management and file sharing. Disaster recovery policies can further help ensure minimal productivity is lost in the event of a network breach.

Development Benefits

For IT teams, BYOD brings other potential benefits beyond cost cutting and productivity gains. With Web design shifting to a mobile-oriented, responsive paradigm, it has become imperative for developers and designers to work with mobile users in mind. BYOD facilitates this by putting IT teams into the mobile UX environment. This makes it easier for developers to think from the user's perspective, identify usability problems, and troubleshoot solutions. Similarly, it helps designers experience the look and feel of a site from a mobile user's perspective.

BYOD can be used to deliver more efficient cloud resources. For instance, Intel has found implementing bidirectional communication between the cloud and BYOD devices enables network servers to customize employee usage of virtual resources for optimum efficiency.

Another advantage BYOD offers is supporting cross-platform development, one of the biggest challenges facing developers today. Cross-platform development is, in a sense, the flip side of BYOD, seeking to serve the universal user regardless of the individual device. While trying to support a multiplicity of devices creates a challenge of cross-platform development, BYOD simultaneously helps promote the solution by letting Web and content developers access apps beyond those supported by a single device and operating system. This can reduce the time and considerable expense that would be required to develop native apps, enabling developers to more quickly and cost-efficiently design solutions to serve a wide range of platforms and devices.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

That's our point, entirely

Incremental improvements to traditional network
monitoring tools would really be like putting lipstick
on a pig - you would still have a flawed solution. 
A recent article on The Register entitled "What's wrong with network monitoring tools? Where do I start..." was all about incremental improvements to traditional network management methods. These improvements just point out how necessary a solution like Local Management really is.

The author's main question is why there aren't solutions that actually monitor what you care about and let you know when you need to know it. He starts off with an accurate assessment of SNMP.
"SNMP (the Simple Network Management Protocol – though frankly there's nothing simple about it) is unwieldy and clunky to use, but we're stuck with it because its longevity has made it ubiquitous. Let's face it, nobody with any sense is about to try to produce an alternative because the barriers to entry into the market are insurmountable."
Well, here at Uplogix, we wouldn't say that the barriers are insurmountable. The key is that you need to look at the bigger picture -- trying to monitor and manage network devices over the very network they are enabling isn't smart. When everything is working, you are sending lots of management traffic back and forth across your network, and at moments when you need monitoring information the most - during an outage, SNMP goes silent, your dashboard turns red, and time continues to tick.

The answer is to remove the network dependence by putting the intelligence, storage, horsepower, and out-of-band connections in the rack with the the network and communications devices you care about. Connect directly over a console port and monitor the devices directly.

The benefits are numerous - more frequent, higher resolution monitoring, and you can go beyond monitoring to managing that gear automatically. In the past, this was something done from a crash cart, or in the dark of night to avoid breaking the network, but with local management you have that same crash cart accessibility over the console port. And with intelligent automation, if there is a configuration problem, Uplogix will automatically roll it back to the previous working configuration.

We can go on and on, but the real solution here isn't designing improvements to a weak solution from the old days of networking -- as they say down here in Texas, that's like putting lipstick on a pig. The real solution is to think locally, implementing a whole new animal for your network monitoring... and management.

Monday, October 28, 2013

DARPA Grand Challenge targets automated cyber security

A view of some of the sensing hardware on an
autonomously piloted vehicle in the DARPA Grand Challenge.
DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) announced the next focus area in their series of Grand Challenges that have included autonomously driven vehicles, humanoid robotics and now automated network defenses. The Cyber Grand Challenge seeks to drive an automation revolution in information security.

"The trends we've seen in cyber attacks and malware point to a future where automation must be developed to assist IT security analysts," said Dan Kaufman, director of DARPA's Information Innovation Office which is in charge of organizing the Challenge.

The competition, slated for early to mid-2016, is expected to draw teams of experts from industry and academia, with qualifying teams competing for a cash prize of $2 million, with second place earning $1 million and third taking home $750,000. The teams' systems would automatically identify software flaws, scanning the network to identify affected hosts. Teams would score based on how capably their systems could protect hosts, scan the network for vulnerabilities and maintain the correct function of software.

While Uplogix most likely will not be participating in the competition we do offer some related functionality that could be incorporated into a Grand Challenge solution.

First, there is secure access. No security solution would be successful if it introduces new security vulnerabilities to the gear it is supposed to be protecting. For example, managing in-line devices like intrusion prevention systems (IPSs), Uplogix manages from an out-of-band position. This ensures that even if the network is down, the devices are still being monitored, and access to those devices over the console port continues to be enforced with AAA (authentication, authorization and accounting) measures still in place.

Applying the requirements of the Cyber Grand Challenge to a larger view of a network means that when a threat is automatically detected and patched, that update will likely need to be distributed to similar devices across the network. The configuration management automation Uplogix provides could be useful in this situation.

With reliable enterprise-wide execution of configuration changes, Uplogix can push config updates to similar devices automatically and verify that the changes "take" with the device returning to an operational state. For those devices with issues that prevent them from coming back up, the SurgicalRollback feature will back out the changes and return the devices to its previous state. Notifications for system administrators will indicate which devices might require additional human attention.

While the Grand Challenge series is designed to spark innovation initially targeted at a defense industry application, the commercial applications (both direct and indirect) of the Cyber Grand Challenge will likely be seen even faster than autonomous cars and robotic disaster first responders. And as for the Uplogix solutions, they are available today!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Uplogix supports National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Uplogix compliance reporting records who 
has accessed devices and what was done.
Both Uplogix and the National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) are celebrating 10-year anniversaries in 2013, and share a relevance in today’s technology landscape that more important than ever.

The month-long NCSAM event aims to raise awareness of cyber security issues to create “a safe, secure, and resilient cyber environment.” Uplogix local management enhances enterprise security by extending role-based administrative access policies to network and communications 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.

The Stop. Think. Connect. campaign provides resources to the public to promote awareness of online safety. For industry cyber security, the campaign offers suggestions for reducing the risk of cyber threats from the loss of sensitive customer and employee data to network security.


One security role of Uplogix in corporate networks is supporting industry-specific IT audit and compliance reporting, primarily through in-depth reporting of changes made to the IT infrastructure. Regulations requiring this type of accountability include Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCIDSS), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Energy Policy Act (NERC/FERC), and the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

“By leveraging the Uplogix Local Manager’s dedicated serial connection with managed devices and servers,” said Uplogix founder and CTO James Dollar, “Uplogix Local Management Software logs all changes made by users and the results of these changes. Our customers are able to document who did what, and with what impact to the network.”

While NCSAM materials say that everyone has a role to play in cyber security, Uplogix is working hard to remove some of the human contributions to cyber insecurity. Human error is largely responsible for the majority of cyber security infractions, whether accidental or due to the human nature to skip steps or try to shortcut procedures aimed at ensuring security. Uplogix automates many of level-1 network management tasks, removing humans—and their shortcomings—out of the process entirely.

Uplogix is a registered Industry Champion of the National Cyber Security Awareness Month for 2013.

For more information about Uplogix functionality for secure network administration, please visit www.uplogix.com/security.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Gartner on the rise of the machines

"Come with me if you want to live" -
not quite that dramatic. Maybe more
"Work with me if you want to be in IT."
This year's Gartner Symposium and ITXpo featured strong messages around the importance of the so-called digital workforce. Defined broadly as smart machines that take over tasks and work handled by humans, analysts forecast wide ramifications within the next seven years.

The focus of the presentations were smart machines that totally take over human jobs, having especially strong impact on highly-skilled positions in the tech industry - including IT professionals. Gartner Analyst Kenneth Brant said CIOs that don't prep for the digital workforce will likely have short careers, and the IT profession will be hit directly with overdue impact.

The key advice for IT leaders was for them to get ahead of the smart machine trend and start investigating. Then determine the impact on IT professionals, and finally to respect the human disruption that will accompany the redefinition of jobs. Gartner expects the smart machine era to be the most disruptive in the history of IT.

Of course, at Uplogix we're already deep into the smart machine world. Our Local Managers connect to other devices and manage them like a Level-One technician would -- if they never slept and always followed the run book to the letter. While this isn't redefining IT as we all know it, Local Management definitely has an impact on many of the tedious tasks that are part of running a network today. We like to think that we're making today's IT professionals more effective by automating the routine tasks and serving as an onsite toolbox and assistant for administrative functions conducted by humans.

This fits into the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies focused on "the evolving relationship between humans and machines..." While much of the discussion revolves around bio-related technologies like 3D bioprinting and neuro-interfaces, the three main trends are applicable to Uplogix:

  • Augmenting humans with technology 
  • Machines replacing humans
  • Humans and machines working alongside each other

The hype cycle follows a standard curve over time going through periods of increasing and decreasing expectations. Starting with the rise of Innovation Triggers to the Peak of Inflated Expectations, down through the Trough of Disillusionment, and finally rising through the Slope of Enlightenment to the Plateau of Productivity. 

Where is Uplogix on this curve? We'd like to say our growing customer base and increasingly wide distribution across different vertical markets puts us heads-down and marching up the Slope of Enlightenment. Maybe once we start putting in neuro-interfaces to our Local Managers we'll enjoy the view from that Plateau of Productivity...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Federal shutdown highlights need for network automation amid the trend toward doing more with less in IT

The Uplogix CTO offers an editorial on the overlooked
importance of network automation in federal initiatives
for data center consolidation and the cloud.
With the current federal shutdown, many federal employees are on furlough, yet essential operations continue. For IT groups, this is an expansion of the current trend of being asked to do more with less. Much of the focus in federal IT is on consolidation of data centers and cloud technologies for federal applications, but in a recent editorial Uplogix founder and CTO James Dollar warns that one area being overlooked is the network itself.

Centralization of information relies on robust connections for data and applications, and without reliable network management automation, the cost savings of high profile projects might be lost if traditional network management techniques are applied.

When it comes to providing faster, stronger networks, network management tools are getting better, but only incrementally because they still rely on trained humans to actually do most of the work. Dollar says real network management automation hasn’t taken off because of the basic issue that tools are still dependent on the network to manage the network. As a result, they are pretty much limited to reactive tasks like monitoring, dashboarding and analysis.

“Until IT groups move beyond this fundamentally flawed approach, they won’t be able to realize automation savings,” said Dollar in the editorial. “Just “keeping the lights on” for the network will continue to consume upwards of 50% of IT’s resources.”

By de-coupling the management of the network from the network itself, Dollar says, great gains can be made toward reducing the human effort required while providing the resilient networks needed for the success of cloud and other cost saving initiatives.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study that said about $55 billion of the $80 billion spent on federal IT goes toward steady state systems, while $25 billion goes to new development. Industry analyst Gartner says that typically infrastructure and operations spending accounts for about 50% of total IT headcount. Improving automation can free up substantial resources for cost reductions, new innovations, and even keeping the lights on during a government shutdown.

For more information about federal applications for Uplogix Local Management, please see www.uplogix.com/federal.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Experts predict federal IT staff reductions next year

Belts are going to tighten in Federal IT, making Cloud,
data center consolidation and network automation
even more important.
A recent article in the Federal Times says that federal IT staff sizes will likely go down next year due to continued pressure from sequestration cuts, ongoing migration of federal IT infrastructure to the cloud, and program consolidation that leads to fewer employees and contractors.

A former Justice Department CIO, Van Hitch, said that agencies will primarily rely on attrition to reduce staff numbers, but may also cut contractor positions and use technology to operate with fewer people.

In a Goldman Sachs report from earlier in the month, the firm projected sequestration reductions will trim the federal workforce by 100,000 over the next year, with at least some of those jobs in IT positions. The report projects the next fiscal year to be tough as agencies deal with prolonged budget cuts and seek ways to do the same work with fewer people.

Technologies that will augment capabilities of the remaining staff include consolidating data centers, moving more services to the cloud, and deploying automation solutions within the network infrastructure itself. With about $80 billion a year spent directly on federal IT programs, roughly $60 billion is on personnel costs. Moving toward purchasing services and spending less on maintaining equipment means that IT offices can do more with less.

Local Management as a Solution to Staffing Challenges
Uplogix is essentially a virtual technician in a box that can maximize staff effectiveness by minimizing routine network management tasks. Nemertes Research estimates that these day-to-day tasks eat up 30-50% of IT staff time with troubleshooting and fixing problems across distributed networks. With secure automation that can be deployed with confidence, less staff time goes to routine tasks and can be focused on more strategic work like implementing cloud strategies and streamlining data centers, easing the pain of sequestration cuts.

The confidence in Uplogix comes from the fact that Local Management is a different approach to managing the network. Traditional centralized management relies on SNMP poling of devices providing the very network path it is supposedly managing. The patented Uplogix solution avoids the points of failure that has kept network management a hands-on practice for decades by putting the intelligence in the rack with the gear under management. Connections are made independently of the network allowing for higher frequency and resolution of poling data. With an onboard hard drive, robust processing and customizable rules engine, management of Level 1 tasks happens locally.

For more difficult issues, Uplogix becomes an onsite assistant for IT staff, securely passing information to centralized tools in- or out-of-band and serving as a direct connection to the troubled device. With Uplogix, onsite visits are reduced, meaning IT staff spends less time behind the windshield and/or outsourced service contracts are cheaper – all without sacrificing SLAs.

Beyond the direct savings of less time spent fixing issues, Local Management automation also removes chances for human error from network management. This is important for both reducing downtime (think "fat-finger" errors) as well as security. People are the cause of most security breaches. They skip steps tying to save time and get distracted and leave tasks undone or done incompletely introducing vulnerabilities into the network. Using a machine to manage some of the basic network management tasks means that jobs are going to happen the same way every time. Exactly like the run book says to do it.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to do more with less, it's not always about working hard. Try working smarter with Uplogix Local Management.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Next-Generation Firewalls Benefit from Local Management

Secure your firewall by taking its management
interface out of the network path and more
with Uplogix
Lots of firewall news this week. First, HP announced its Next-Generation Firewall line, joining Palo Alto Networks, Cisco and Check Point in the evolving world of firewalls that blend traditional port-based controls with application controls and intrusion prevention.

Then, there was the news that Iran's firewall was down. Tweets and Facebook posts celebrated the unexpected freedom until hours later when the firewall returned. Word from the Iranian government board that oversees the Internet blamed a "technical failure regarding some Internet service providers."

No matter what you are protecting with your firewalls, they are a critical part of network infrastructure. As firewall features expand to deal with increasing threats, Uplogix continues to provide secure device management automation that reduces operational expenses while improving uptime. 

Secure Administration

As a tool for IT security specialists to use for secure administration, Uplogix takes the management interface for the firewall out of the network path, which reduces potential exploits of the firewall through denial of service or intrusion. Local management provides secure device access by maintaining and enforcing AAA (Authentication, Authorization and Accounting) regardless of the state of the network; granular, role-based permissioning; logging and compliance reporting; and session management. These features help to securely manage firewalls and other devices remotely, saving both response time and physical security by allowing exports to support distributed networks from a central location.

Configuration Management

For key players in the firewall market, like Cisco and Juniper, Uplogix has advanced capabilities that support device configuration management by allowing administrators to stage configurations locally, and by providing a built-in safety net, SurgicalRollback, that can quickly recover and minimize the impact of a failed configuration change. With configuration issues commonly regarded as the cause of upwards of 60% of network downtime, providing firewall administrators with backup is crucial for maintaining overall network security.

“Even though firewalls and IPS devices are merging into what’s being called Next-Generation Firewalls, many of the same management issues remain,” said James Dollar, Uplogix founder and CTO. “The Uplogix proposition of securely managing remote devices through Local Management is only growing stronger as the security stakes rise higher.”

High-res Out-of-Band Monitoring

Going beyond secure administration, Local Management provides high-resolution out-of-band monitoring that pulls detailed device information as well as that of other managed devices in the stack, regardless of the state of the network. This allows for a more holistic viewpoint and means that even if there are network problems that would foil SNMP polling and attempts at remote troubleshooting, Uplogix is able to continue monitoring of network security devices over a direct connection.

Security is one of the key features of Uplogix Local Management, whether applied to security devices such as firewalls, or other network devices like routers and switches. Deployed in some of the most secure networks in the defense and financial industries, Uplogix is proven in security. 

For more information on Uplogix secure administration for critical network security devices, please visit Uplogix.com.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Automate network device configuration changes remotely and with confidence

Uplogix returns your device to it's previous working
state automatically by backing out each change made,
reviving your gear and guaranteeing a quick recovery.
No longer must configuration changes for key network devices be a late night weekend activity for IT admins with Uplogix Local Management. For years, this was the standard operating procedure to ensure there was time to fix anything that “broke” during the changes and not impact business operations.

In today's Product Feature Focus, we're going to look at Uplogix SurgicalRollback.

Uplogix allows admins to work smarter by solving the key weakness with making configuration changes remotely: it’s too easy to get cut off from a device and not be able to recover it. Local Management functionality for configuration changes includes the SurgicalRollback feature. In this process, an admin pushes changes through the Uplogix Local Manager (LM) that is connected directly to the device. Current device configurations are automatically saved on the LM and changes are pushed by the Uplogix software. The changes are confirmed with the admin after being applied. Should a change cut off the admin from the device, Uplogix will automatically roll the device back to its previous state by backing out each change to restore the device to its previous state.

“Everyone in this line of work has made an error of some sort, or changed an ACL (access control list) and found themselves cut off from a remote device,” said James Dollar, Uplogix founder and CTO. “Then you are left trying to find someone onsite to help out or you have to make a service call. When you make a mistake like this with Uplogix, you go get a cup of coffee and your device will be back to its previous state when you return.”

With the SurgicalRollback “safety net,” administrators can schedule device changes during periods of low network activity, like weekend nights, and not feel compelled to be in the office. If there are devices with issues resulting from the new config, they will automatically roll-back and resume functioning. The admin can address only the problem devices Monday morning instead of pushing each change individually.

The Uplogix Control Center makes it possible to schedule multiple configuration changes, allowing an administrator to scale an automated process. An upgrade job can be scheduled for one device, or thousands which can result in considerable savings. Instead of 10-30 minutes for each device across the entire enterprise, in just a few minutes one person could schedule upgrades for the whole network. Granular user access and logging ensures clear control and documentation of the actions. With the time burden of upgrading removed, it's easier to ensure that all devices are current, which is important for compliance.


For more information, please see a demo of the Uplogix SurgicalRollback feature.

Local Management serves as an example of M2M automation in a world without standard platforms

As an automation platform, Uplogix performs basic
network monitoring and management actions
for just about any device.
While the “Internet of things” is gaining steam in popular culture with promises of transforming the world as we know it, one of the key hurdles to widespread adoption is the necessity of standards. Uplogix Local Management is an example of an M2M solution that works in a technology space (network management) where there are a large number of vendors, devices and proprietary operating systems.

A recent article on Channel Partners Online stated that standardization is the key to capitalizing on M2M platforms. It calls for adaptable technologies that will complement communications service providers (CSPs) existing networks. Industry leaders AT&T and Verizon both offer platforms for M2M development, but still require customers to commit to one network or another.

An example of an adaptable technology already working in M2M is the Uplogix platform. Connecting to devices for networking like routers, switches, firewalls, etc.; communications gear like satellite modems and antenna controllers; and really any device with a console port, Uplogix manages devices from different vendors and reports into third-party dashboards and management systems. A console connection is a base level input to a device provided for troubleshooting by a technician.

By providing an intelligent machine (the Uplogix Local Manager or LM) with onboard processing, storage and a configurable rules engine access through the console port, Uplogix is able to operate in “Native Mode” where the LM automatically manages a device for the most common issues that tend to cause the bulk of downtime cases. Uplogix provides automated monitoring and device recovery as well as secure remote access for human technicians to intervene when needed.

This type of M2M management delivered by Uplogix combines automation with capabilities to serve as a remote toolbox for technicians is a requirement for scaling the Internet of things in the near term as even broader standards are developed and implemented.


For more information on Uplogix M2M management, please visit Uplogix.com/M2M.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Local Management required for M2M device networking critical to smart grid

A recent report by Greentech Media puts the global smart grid market at $400 billion by 2020. The success of this market depends on strong networks connecting aggregation points for M2M devices in the field to data and operation centers. The large number and distributed nature of these networks will require secure automation like Uplogix Local Management to scale in both size and performance while controlling costs.

The global smart grid market today is a combination of M2M innovators in AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) like SilverSpring Networks and Schneider Electric, and networking giants like Cisco. The two-way communication networks between smart meters and operations centers enable utility users to work with their providers in demand response systems. These networks are widely distributed and must maintain high uptime—two requirements that make Uplogix Local Management a clear choice.

“Evolving regulatory requirements and historical IT and infrastructure investments are the biggest drivers shaping global utility demand,” said Ben Kellison, a senior analyst for GTM Research, the publisher of the report. “These factors continue to make transmission optimization and distribution automation the dominant capital expenditures for grid modernization.”

Uplogix automation is already at work in energy distribution, providing network automation for pipelines by increasing uptime and reducing the number of “truck rolls” required to support distributed networking and M2M devices that control and monitor pipelines. With integrated out-of-band capabilities over a variety of channels from traditional phone lines to cellular to low earth orbit satellites, Uplogix can provide technicians secure remote access to any managed gear as if they were onsite.

Automated high-resolution monitoring from a local perspective means that when there are issues with managed devices, recovery actions begin immediately. It’s the machine management needed in vast smart grid deployments of M2M systems.

For more information on Uplogix applications for the smart grid and the energy industry, please visit the Uplogix website.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Perfect storms of impossible events

When planning for a perfect storm,
automation is a critical component
of engineering for resiliency.
The recent failure of two network switches in a data center in Utah rippled across the network bringing down four major US web hosting firms and impacting millions of their customers. The breadth of the impact demonstrates some of the risks of consolidation in the hosting industry. Similar troubles have been seen in cloud computing with power issues at an Amazon data center causing headaches for some high profile customers.

From a more internal networking perspective, as businesses move more critical functions to the cloud, they rely more and more on their network infrastructures to connect to those functions. To a large degree (obviously not completely) reliability in the cloud will be there. The more likely risk will be issues with the local network. We're not just talking the black & white issues of whether the network is up or down. Cloud applications will require the network to operate at specified levels or suddenly the savings and promise of the cloud will be drowned out by complaints of slow moving applications killing productivity and costing business. For planning and operations of these networks, administrators of branch offices can learn some lessons from their cloud providers.

With data center issues, it's often a "perfect storms of impossible events" that lead to unprecedented downtime. Jesse Robbins of Amazon has been a frequent speaker on the topic and says the solution is try out contingency plans by breaking stuff on purpose and seeing what the response is to unexpected trouble to see how people respond. Then do it again and again.

Of course, people are important factors in responding to issues, but they tend to be the cause behind issues as well. People get busy, distracted... any number of things that can extend a problem or provide a window for a small problem to grow into something bigger. Robbins says that automation is a critical component of engineering for resiliency.

Uplogix provides solutions for the increasingly-important network infrastructure component often overlooked in the cloud discussion. A Local Manager can automatically detect common WAN problems, including outages or flapping circuits, and provide an instant diagnosis with the supporting trending or configuration data to speed recovery, document outages, or facilitate carrier resolution.

Many common faults can be solved without human intervention at all. A robust automation framework makes it possible for end-users to modify prepackaged -- or define sequential and conditional -- recovery procedures that align with their run book. For example, problems with a device could have the following automated steps taken with an evaluation for a successful recovery in between each action: Clear Service Module... Cycle Interface... Show Tech... Reboot... Cycle Power.

Of course, if the automated recovery can't fix the problem, it's time to escalate it to the human experts. Uplogix will provide them with a secure out-of-band connection through the device's console port for remote troubleshooting which is what a tech what they would do if they were onsite.

With automation, a small squall of a network issue should dissipate before building into a major storm. Read more about Uplogix automation.


Friday, August 9, 2013

New functionality for TracStar Antennas

Stationary autoacquire antennas provide delivery of
broadband satellite-based Internet services
into mobile environments virtually anywhere.
Local Management software now supports the DirectPoint mode for TracStar satellite antennas. This functionality adds to the robust support Uplogix already provides for satcom systems in use worldwide in energy, military and telecom deployments.

The DirectPoint functionality is designed to enhance satellite acquisition accuracy and reduce startup time by coupling the antenna with the satellite modem. With DirectPoint, the antenna goes directly to the data satellite by using enhanced communications capabilities with intelligent modems. This makes it possible to acquire, lock and peak on the specific satellite without the traditional pre-alignment stage.

The Uplogix DirectPoint support for the TracStar AVL Antenna Controller Unit (ACU) adds to the specialized features Local Management delivers for both fixed (autoacquire) antennas and the stabilized antennas common in maritime applications. Both types of satcom deployments benefit from the local, direct connections to network and communications devices made by the patented Uplogix platform.

Uplogix benefits for satcoms include:
  • Secure and persistent access to remote devices. When the network is up and running, admins access devices through the Uplogix Local Manager over the network. If that connection is broken or not yet established, the appliances “dial-out,” providing a two-way, secure management link independent of the primary network. In satellite deployments, this out-of-band connection is usually over Iridium, but could also be a cellular modem connection.
  • Automated device control and recovery. Uplogix monitor devices 24x7 over the console port and take recovery steps when issues are detected. With its embedded rules engine, Uplogix Local Managers can be configured to take advanced actions like blockage zone detection, notification and recovery.
Uplogix customers use Local Management for satellite installations spanning the globe in a variety of environments from ships in the Gulf of Mexico, to drilling platforms in the North Sea and military bases in hostile lands.

For more information, Uplogix customers should visit the Uplogix Support Site and reference the Uplogix Configuration Guide for the TracStar Antenna Controller Unit for complete installation and configuration information.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Local Management Becomes a Texas Export

This week we announced that manufacturing of the Uplogix Local Manager devices has moved to Creation Technologies in northeast Dallas. With the our headquarters in Austin, the move makes the Lone Star State the home of Local Management.

Austin is home for all design, engineering and administrative functions, and our sales operations are worldwide. Uplogix is now on the fourth generation of the Local Management hardware. Previous manufacturing was at various locations around the world and United States before the movie to Texas. 

Creation Technologies is a highly regarded contract manufacturer.

Alex Vaughn, director of manufacturing for Uplogix said, “They are one of the top electronic manufacturing services companies in the world, and the fact that we are in the same time zone and state as their Dallas business unit is just more upside for both companies.”

Creation Technologies works with a diversified group of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) from across North America and worldwide. They focus on delivering creative and tailored solutions that build strong relationships with their customers.

The Made in Texas Uplogix hardware is available in two form factors: the Uplogix 5000 which features expansion bays that accommodate management of 6 to 22 devices; and the Uplogix 500, is a full-featured, compact device that manages up to six devices. Both feature an option slot for a variety of modem types for out-of-band access, and are built for reliability with no moving parts, power efficiency and low temperature emissions.
The Uplogix 500 Local Manager (top) and
the Uplogix 5000 Local Manager.


In addition to the Uplogix hardware, the Local Management Platform can be delivered as a virtual machine running on a Cisco SRE blade in a Cisco Integrated Services Router, or as a custom solution that utilizes a virtual version of the Local Management Software running on a server connected to a console server.

For more information on Uplogix Local Managers, please visit Uplogix.com/products.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Deploying and managing services with Uplogix

Local Management has some clear benefits for managed service providers who use Uplogix to deploy gear faster, manage it better, and control costs while hitting their SLAs.

Uplogix is working with one of the top carriers in the world to deploy and manage services for a large federal customer. They are using Local Management throughout the customer life cycle as an out-of-band solution plus much more.

Network Rollout

Technicians with less networking experience are able to connect gear to the Local Manager, which can either push configurations to devices, or serve as a gateway for remote network administrators to bring up gear. Sites come online faster, with less staging.

Uplogix Local Managers can store and push device configurations over the console port. This means that even devices that provide network connectivity (like routers) can be configured remotely or even automatically after basic cabling is completed. This lowers the experience level needed for onsite staff, allowing the MSP to control costs and allow their experts to connect remotely to sites, saving truck rolls and shortening installation time.

Multi-tenant Access

The carrier can access Uplogix for initial tasks like device burn-in before granting access to their customers for specific management tasks. Automated monitoring capabilities ensure that connections like out-of-band modems are functioning before technicians leave the site.

The managed service market is a competitive space. Customers expect high uptime and are cost-conscious. There is usually another company waiting in the wings to take over if the customer is not satisfied. Being able to deliver new value-added services through Local Management is an important competitive advantage for the MSP.

Granular access and detailed reporting are two areas where Uplogix value can be passed along to the end customer. Roles can be created that specify which devices and which commands are available for secure customer access. This allows the MSP to deliver the access and support levels their customers want and back it up with detailed reporting that is collected when the network is up or down.

Ongoing Management

In addition to 24/7 monitoring and automated fault recovery, in situations where a device must be replaced, bare-metal restoration allows the carrier to use “hard hat” technicians to swap out defective gear with new devices.

Day-to-day management tasks are simplified with Uplogix. The MSP uses Uplogix to monitor gear locally. One example is automatically verifying out-of-band modems are available, ensuring that things are working as expected, and ready should there be a need.

Local Management for MSPs

Uplogix provides an onsite "toolbox" for managed service providers that lowers their operational costs while improving customer experience. For more information, see Local Management for the Enterprise on the Uplogix website.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Celebrating SysAdmin Day

You may or may not know it, but today, around the world many people are celebrating the 14th Annual SysAdmin Day. Launched on July 28th, 2000, an IT guy named Ted Kekatos created SysAdminDay.com to promote recognition of the people that work long and hard, often in the shadows to provide the computers, networks and applications that make the modern workplace, well, work.

According to the site:
Let’s face it, System Administrators get no respect 364 days a year. This is the day that all fellow System Administrators across the globe, will be showered with expensive sports cars and large piles of cash in appreciation of their diligent work. But seriously, we are asking for a nice token gift and some public acknowledgement. It’s the least you could do.
References to appropriate gifts for SysAdminDay seem to center around bacon and ice cream. Or maybe bacon ice cream. Fellow Austin company Spiceworks is clearly taking the day to heart, with live streaming of their office party downtown and complimentary bacon-wrapped delicacies for SysAdmins from the Lard Have Mercy food truck.

What's the Uplogix connection? 
We did consume a box of the World Famous Round Rock Donuts this morning. You know, the orange-colored ones you've seen on the Food Network. Yeah, they are that good.

Of course, you could also count our Local Management platform as a contribution to System Admins around the world. We're saving truck rolls, providing secure out-of-band access to remote gear that works just as if the admin were right there, plugging their laptop into the console port of a piece of gear.

There is the helpful (and potentially ego-saving) SurgicalRollback feature where any change made is followed by a prompt for confirmation by the technician initiating the change. If no confirmation is received (e.g. if the change brought down the network and the technician’s access with it), the change is precisely rolled back.

And we're saving SysAdmins from many of the little tasks that can eat up their day (and night). With our local connection to gear that allows us to operate independently of the network, they can have confidence in our automation of hundreds of tedious, error-prone routine change and configuration management tasks.

So, enjoy what's left of SysAdmin Day, and fry up a little thank you for those people that keep you working.

Uplogix plays critical role in growing M2M market

One key to scaling M2M to predicted levels is
machine management of M2M systems.
Machine-to-Machine systems will need machine-based management to scale networks required to realize the true value of M2M. This demand for machine-based management of M2M networks will be increasingly driven by the communications, security and control infrastructure requirements at the core of the M2M value proposition. To connect the billions of devices expected, infrastructure components such as M2M gateways, firewalls, RTUs, PLCs, communications gear and even standard networking gear like routers and switches will be highly-distributed, making on-site repairs, changes and upgrades expensive and sometimes dangerous.

The Uplogix Local Management platform does this today. We implement automated management functionality in the same location as the devices being managed, connecting independently of any network. High-resolution monitoring and trend analysis is combined with automated responses to the basic issues that make up the bulk of networking troubles. Uplogix delivers secure, intelligent machine-based management for M2M systems in a solution that enables scaling of the network management functions required to achieve the promises of M2M.

An example of where Uplogix is already providing value in a critical M2M system is the pipeline industry. Thousands of miles of pipelines are monitored by systems made up of RTUs, PLCs and various communications ranging from microwave radio to satellite links. The shift from SCADA to IP networks has also introduced routers, switches and firewalls into the field, increasing complexity and the need for on-site maintenance when there are issues.

Uplogix has been successful in integrating the management of these hybrid systems, automating maintenance as well as providing an on-site “toolbox” for remote administrators performing higher level activities without having to go onsite. This means less time traveling to remote sites reacting to problems and more time for the proactive improvements that will expand the value of M2M.

As the M2M market continues to develop and new standards emerge, the flexibility of the Local Management platform will be critical. Current applications include M2M management for SCADA/Modbus networks and IP/Zigbee systems or distributed advanced intelligent devices that combine a variety of physical systems that rely on constant communication to centralized systems, like an ATM or CNC machine on a factory floor.

Find out more about Uplogix Local Management in M2M systems at Uplogix.com/M2M.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A few things we learned at Cisco Live 2013

High stakes racing in the Uplogix booth. Winners took home
flying chickens, medals, or trucker hats.
This year's Cisco Live in Orlando was another opportunity for us to share the Uplogix vision of how to manage a network. The attendees in the World of Solutions are a sharp group -- they tend to quickly understand how we're different and quickly make the jump to some of the cool things that are possible with Local Management. Plus, they are a fun-loving bunch.

We decided months ago to do something a little different this year in our booth. We rented a slot car track and dressed it up with stage lights and some on-track video cameras to catch all the racing action on a bank of monitors over the track. With Uplogix demo stations as bookends for the track, racing ran continuously through the show, From the packed opening hours right up to the point we pulled the power as the show ended, we had cars racing through the figure-8. Our guess is that we ran close to 100 miles over four days and five lanes of racing.

Take a better look at our time at Live in these Facebook albums.

So what did we learn this year?

  1. Cisco Live attendees like slot car racing. "I haven't done this since I was a kid," was a common statement.
  2. Not all attendees have driving skills. Check out some of the videos for evidence of this. That sharp turn in the tunnel was the biggest challenge.
  3. M2M is going to be huge. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, said in his opening keynote that 45% of the 50B connections in the 2020 Internet of Everything will be M2M connections. 
This one is pretty exciting for a company like Uplogix. The case can easily be made today that our network automation is really an M2M application. Beyond our high-resolution monitoring of managed networking devices over a console connection, we also have the flexibility to manage many other types of devices. This is the case in applications currently using Uplogix to monitor industrial controllers on pipelines and satellite antenna hardware on land and at sea. Machines talking to machines, and in our case going beyond talking to managing them.

The list of things we learned goes on. A couple of Uplogix people were busy in classes during Live, keeping up-to-date on Cisco gear while our business folks were busy maintaining relationships and making new ones. We talked with existing customers, potential customers and lots of interested Cisco employees involved in everything from connected cars to training.

One final thing we learned was that the relatively new singer for Journey -- the one they found on YouTube? He can really sing. We'll see everyone again next year at Cisco Live 2014 in San Francisco.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kick the tires, feel the horsepower

A frequent question we get at Uplogix is "is your product a console server?" Answer - absolutely, we're the best console server on the market—the most reliable and secure out-of-band access solution. Add in our Local Management Software, when you need access, you'll get it. Whatever you want out of a console server you'll get from Uplogix.

However, that's where console servers stop and we're just getting started. Uplogix Local Managers (LMs) have a wide array of communications, secure access and automation capabilities not found in traditional console or terminal servers. The difference is that console servers are built for remote access, while Uplogix LMs are designed for Local Management.

Console servers are generally weak computing platforms, while an LM is built with intelligence and horsepower:

  • CPU
    Console: Slow CPUs, generally older, single core in the 130-160 MHz range
    Uplogix: A 600 MHz to 1.3 GHz Intel Atom powers local monitoring, evaluation and execution of automation routines
  • Memory
    Console: Typically in the 256 MB range or less
    Uplogix: 1 GB
  • Storage
    Console: Typically it's under 1 GB with some models offering up to 16 GB
    Uplogix: Our Local Managers have 40 GB solid state drives with wear-balanced storage intended to support frequent writes. Imagine the value of easy access to a dozen configuration files for each managed device, including local storage of Candidate, Current and Previous version. 
Today we're just talking a bit about what's under the hood, we're not even getting into the real power, which is the Local Management Software. The physical specs say it all -- console servers lack the horsepower to support anything other than remote access. For monitoring and storage of diagnostic data, storage and execution of automation routines and rules engines, to cache configurations and apply/fail-safe configuration changes and upgrades with differencing... this is what Uplogix Local Managers are designed for. 

For true local management of critical infrastructure, communications and M2M environments, that takes real horsepower. If you are in Orlando June 24-27, come by the Uplogix booth #553 at Cisco Live. Kick the tires of a Local Manager and try out your racing skills on our very own test track - right in the booth.