Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A subscription to renew

Uplogix customers span industries from energy production to financial markets to the battle field, and deploy a range of gear including basic networking boxes like routers and switches to more niche devices like SCADA RTUs and satellite antenna controllers. One thing they all seem to have in common is an appreciation for the Uplogix Support Team. Based in Austin, Texas, the team provides 24/7 support with not only deep understanding of Uplogix products, but also how they interact with the rest of the networked world. Here is a quick run-through of what our customers get for their maintenance subscriptions.

Benefits of an Uplogix Maintenance Subscription

Uplogix customers have access to a variety of support resources, including self-help knowledge bases and documentation through the Uplogix Support Site, phone and e-mail support for troubleshooting or configuration assistance, and onsite visits by support technicians.

Uplogix Support Site

The Uplogix Support Site is available 24/7 at uplogix.com/support. Customers can request up to 10 individual accounts.

Customers have access to the following:
  • Product Documentation | Includes user, installation, and reference guides as well as third party documentation. Device-specific configuration guides and advanced-topic discussions are also available.
  • Knowledge Base | A constantly updated repository of common issues/solutions, tips & tricks, configuration notes, and important software notes. Also included are product-extending custom rules and configuration examples.
  • Software Updates |The most recent revisions of Uplogix Local Management software are available for download. Release notes are provided for each version of software.
  • Support Cases | Customers can open support cases through a short form. Uplogix Support will be automatically notified of the new case.

Live Support

Uplogix Support Specialists are available via telephone and e-mail, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • 24-Hour Phone Support: +1 888.663.6869 / 512.857.7070
  • Support E-mail: support@uplogix.com

Lifetime Hardware Warranty

For customers with continuous and current maintenance subscriptions, Uplogix Local Managers (LM) are covered by a lifetime hardware warranty. Any LM that fails will be replaced with an equivalent LM at no charge through the Uplogix Support Return Material Authorization (RMA) process.

Technical Services

For issues that extend beyond the scope of normal technical support, Uplogix provides technical services engagements that can including the following:
  • Deployment Planning | Assist in the integration and deployment of the Uplogix platform into the customer’s network.
  • Device Management | If the included rules on Uplogix Local Manager don’t match the customer’s expectations, we can help create new rules.
  • Onsite Repairs | In extreme cases, Uplogix will dispatch a technician to the customer’s site for hardware repair or replacement.

Keeping tabs on your network

A couple of scenarios commonly tested by potential Uplogix customers are built around cyber security features of Local Management. Uplogix 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. Importantly, all of these capabilities are maintained even in the event of a network outage.

Scenario: Restricted Access by Locale and Organizational Role

It is often desired to restrict access to which Uplogix Local Managers (LMs) and or ports on an LM a user has access to by their location/business unit and or role in an organization. Users with differing roles in an organization may have access to the same resources, but have different levels of authorization to perform activities.

Uplogix Solution – Granular Authorization

  • Every command that can be issued for the UCC or on a LM requires a user to have the appropriate permission to issue it.
  • Permissions can be grouped together to form custom roles.
  • Roles are granted to users on ports, LMs or groups of LMs.
  • LMs are managed in an inventory tree allowing them to be grouped by locale or business function.
  • Users can be organized by groups. When users are added to a group, they will inherit any privileges assigned to that group.

Scenario: Audit and Reporting

Enterprises need complete reporting data to pass today’s stringent compliance audits. Often companies are penalized as a result of incomplete information, especially when outages have occurred. During these most vulnerable moments for a network, reporting data on who has accessed devices and what was done to those devices often goes unrecorded.

Uplogix Solution – Key Audit and Compliance Reporting

  • Session logging captures and archives every keystroke and output, unlike network-based tools that fail to capture changes during a network outage.
  • Enable policy compliance by monitoring and reporting all changes made to the managed IT infrastructure to satisfy internal and regulatory security standards.
  • Satisfy numerous compliance standards by providing flexible reporting engine allowing you to report changes by device or people.

Uplogix is watching, always watching

In addition to benefits like reduced operational costs, faster resolution when issues arise, and maintaining AAA when the network is down, Local Management can strengthen your cyber security with improved security roles and compliance auditing vs. centralized only management. Find out more at uplogix.com.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mixing Local Management with rocket science

Last week was the Satellite 2013 Conference in Washington DC. Uplogix was there exhibiting in the large hall featuring a variety of vendors promoting everything from rocket launch vehicles to nondescript signal conversion widgets to air time. As usual, our message was a little different, but well received in the satellite market. There were some common themes to our conversations:

Dealing with great distances

While it's less than 500 miles straight up to reach the orbit of the Iridium satellite constellation, satellite networks are often deployed far from population centers and thousands of miles from supporting NOCs. Sending technicians out to remote sites for service calls is frequently expensive, and sometimes dangerous. 

A time lapse from above the Uplogix booth
as things wound down at Satellite 2013.

At the Satellite show, the ability of Local Management to reduce the number of support trips for basic maintenance and recovery goes over big. We talked with existing customers that use our gear in the oil & gas industry to support the networks that are essential for drilling operations from the North Sea to the Niger River Delta. They have a classic use case for Uplogix. In the past, support of remote gear meant one of two things: 1) send out a technician prepared to deal with any problem, meaning they traveled with spare routers, switches, and satellite gear, or 2) try to walk someone onsite (not necessarily someone with any IT training), through troubleshooting an issue over a satellite phone. 

With Local Management in the network and communications stack, they are able to monitor with much greater detail and frequency, spotting issues faster and dealing with them automatically. Plus, Uplogix can provide an out-of-band connection to the site over Iridium or Fleet Broadband that gives a remote technician the same access they would have to devices if they were onsite. 

Comms on the Move (COTM)

Satellite communications is all about mobility as evidenced by the variety of exhibitors showing off new antennas for maritime use, low-profile arrays for vehicles and airliners, and increasingly, non-piloted aircraft. While we can't say that there is an Uplogix Local Manager winging its way over a battlefield today, there was considerable interest in the new hardware platforms, the Uplogix 500 and 5000. 

Both the 500 and 5000 are smaller and lighter than previous Uplogix platforms, with the 500 delivering dedicated Local Management in a 1u device that's only about six inches wide and deep. Neither platform has moving parts, with 40GB solid state drives and fan-less cooling.

One person we talked with was interested in Uplogix providing functionality to allow him the remote control he needs to separate the infrastructure devices on a satellite trailer from the end-user devices. This would allow them to "lock-down" the gear that they don't want their customer to be able to access, because as everyone knows, if someone can get to a device, there is a good chance they are going to mess with it. It's kind of a Murphy's Law thing.

Unexpected applications and Black Ops (maybe)

Conversations about Local Management at conferences always turn up a few new applications. The Satellite 2013 Exhibition was no different.

One person we talked with was interested in potentially deploying Local Management in his satellite television business. The homegrown operation provides turnkey systems for a few niche markets including prisons. While not one of our typical locations for Uplogix, his issues are basically the same challenges of any branch office -- no onsite IT staff to support a stack of gear. While his SNMP polling can tell him basic health information, at the end of the day, he's managing his network over the network. Plus, it's difficult to manage a growing business 24x7. 

With Uplogix, the Local Manager would tell him exactly what device was having issues as well as provide access for remote troubleshooting. Sometimes, he has devices that just wear out. The onboard storage for previous configurations would allow him to have Uplogix automatically configure the staged replacement parts he already has onsite.  With just a little direction, a prison guard could open the cabinet, unplug the device and re-plug in a spare. Uplogix would recognize the new device was missing a configuration and load it with the previous config. Movie night at the Big House is back on!

Other people walking around the Satellite show in Washington DC are less clear about their applications. We talked with a few people that worked for various acronym-named agencies or said they consulted for a organizations that would not be named. It was clear that they had applications that relied on secure networks with gear into the field. A flexible tool like Uplogix seemed to have great appeal for them. It makes sense think of the value of being able to deploy advanced communications without needing to send along a trained IT administrator. Uplogix could provide automated responses for level one issues and remote access for bigger problems connecting the best tech back at the home office, wherever that might be. 

See you at Satellite 2014

We'll be back next year and we're looking forward to more interesting conversations with customers both current and potential, other vendors, and those more mysterious conference-goers.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Treating sequestration symptoms with local management

Avoiding the politics of the sequestration drama isn't easy, but here we'll try to just state some facts and discuss a few things that Uplogix can help out with. Change brings opportunity, and in a time of broad budget cuts there are probably many federal agencies that are going to look (hopefully) to technology to help keep things moving. Uplogix alone probably can't save the entire $85 billion, but we can help make a dent.

Ensuring people work on the challenging tasks

One of the key targets for cuts in the sequestration being widely discussed is furloughs for employees. Again, speaking apolitically, the basic fact is that with fewer people to do the work, less work gets done and/or quality levels decrease. Those folks left will need to work more efficiently.

Uplogix is a great solution in this situation because we help IT groups drastically reduce the time, expense and risk of manually maintaining IT infrastructure. Here are a couple examples:

Configuration changes

Government operations might slow down over the rest of the fiscal year, but, like in the enterprise world, expectations on networks will continue to increase. Maintaining those networks involves device configuration updates and patches on a regular basis. Uplogix can reliably automate hundreds of tedious, error-prone routine change and configuration management tasks that typically require an on-site technician, freeing existing technical resources for more advanced activities.

Mass configuration changes can be scheduled in the Uplogix Control Center and executed consistently by the Uplogix Local Managers as batches, rather than updating each router, switch or server one by one.

On the quality side of this example, if employees are furloughed, you might have people filling-in on roles that they are less familiar with. If Uplogix is involved in config updates, we enforce consistent operations by ensuring that change and configuration management tasks are done the right way, every time, minimizing human error and protecting availability.

Uplogix reduces unplanned downtime by providing a built-in safety net with SurgicalRollback™ to quickly recover and minimize the impact of failed configuration changes. Surgical Rollback™ combines fine grained configuration differencing with a unique “production confirmation” based approach to changes. 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.

The bottom line is that a smaller IT staff can spend more time on innovation and less on ongoing config maintenance.

Limiting "Windshield Time"

The last thing you want to do is waste the resources of a skilled IT admin by making them spend a bunch of time in a car going to remote sites.

When there are problems and the network goes down, Uplogix Local Management serves as an automated lifeline -- either restoring network connectivity, or by providing secure out-of-band access and a local “toolbox” for remote experts to speed troubleshooting without a truck roll.

By providing persistent connectivity to the devices you need to manage, our solutions enable 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

If you find yourself sequestered

Keep Uplogix in mind. We can drastically reduce the cost, complexity and risk of managing network infrastructure. As federal IT groups deal with their cuts, finding ways to deploy cost-saving automation will likely take on increased importance. 

So, if you are dealing with sequestration, remember the viewpoint of the great philosopher Kobe Bryant (yeah, of the LA Lakers) on tough times: "Everything negative – pressure, challenges – it's all an opportunity for me to rise."