Friday, April 26, 2013

It's really about the Internet of (every)thing

Intel's colorful take on the Internet of Things
There are many numbers thrown around with the concept of the Internet of Things: some10 billion devices are connected today, by 2020, that number could grow to over 31 billion devices and 4 billion people. Some estimates are going even higher as the talk transitions from an Internet of Things to the Internet of Everything.

What's the difference? That was the subject of an article by Cisco Chief Futurist Dave Evans. The Internet of Things is just that -- machines connected to machines (M2M). Smart phones, smart thermostats, cars, trains, farm equipment... you name it. Billions of devices sending and receiving information over the Internet enabling all kinds of new and wondrous functionality that is already re-shaping the way the world works.

The Internet of Everything is defined as expanding on the Internet of Things to add additional pillars for people, data and process. Cisco estimating this new more encompassing definition might hit 50 billion people, data and things by 2020.

What does all this mean for the average network administrator? For one, it's time to make sure you are only working on really important stuff. Automate what you can because as your workplace network becomes even more critical to connect things, people and data, there will be new challenges and even less time to do anything but the most complicated tasks manually.

Uplogix is really straddling multiple pillars of the Internet of Everything. On one hand, our Local Managers are machines that are monitoring and managing other machines and generating data sent back to the Uplogix Control Center. (Although, remember that our primary connections to managed devices are via a console connection, so they aren't network and Internet dependent!). On the other hand, Uplogix provides connections for human administrators to access remote devices as if they were there in person.

So, get out into the world before it's totally connected. In just the couple of minutes it's probably taken to read this post, over 185,000 HOURS of video was watched on YouTube, 700 photos were uploaded to Instagram, over 6 BILLION emails went out, and a hundred thousand new devices just logged on to the Internet for the first time.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Is being there really half the fun?

Definitely there and in the moment -- the Uplogix
Tough Mudder team after completing the 2013
race though mud, hills, ice, electric shocks and more.
See more on the race.
A couple years ago we tried out a slogan at Cisco Live that was "We're there... so you don't have to be." The concept of using Local Management to "be" places without actually traveling there still applies today. Our out-of-band management features not only mean that we operate independently of the network, but also that we can connect you to that gear if and when that network is down. With Uplogix there, we should be able to fix the problems or provide you with tools and access to fix problems remotely.

Traditionally "being there without being there" was the role of a console server. While traditional console can provide basic access to remote devices, it’s still a manual process totally dependent on a human. Improving on this accepted norm, Uplogix gives you all the functionality of a high-end console server -- and that's just the start. Here is a quick comparison of Uplogix Local Managers to console servers.

Access



  • Console servers provide basic access to devices over the network. An out-of-band connection to the console server is necessary in case the network is down.
  • Uplogix utilizes the same console connections to devices as a console server providing secure access to remote devices. Out-of-band connectivity is also automated, with the out-of-the-box ability to dial-out over v.92, cellular, or low-earth orbit satellite. For devices without a console port or without a routable IP address, users can use port forwarding to securely access devices and manage them through the Uplogix Local Manager.


Device Control and Fault Management



  • NSM tools have robust algorithms, but depend on the network to manage the network. Access technologies like console servers aren't well integrated with control software to make access seamless. They rely on custom scripting and the related headaches and risk of maintaining them to keep in compliance with policies. Plus, when there is a problem, people are required to do the work. Even at 2 a.m.
  • With Uplogix on-site at a remote location, it can perform a majority of the routine administration, maintenance and recovery tasks that an on-site technician would do today. Utilizing an on-board rules engine, Uplogix minimizes costly tech support calls and on-site visits to remote locations by diagnosing and fixing problems locally as well as automating routine maintenance tasks.

Security and Compliance

  • Console servers cannot log every action and protect the data that goes through it because they do not have a sizable hard drive, database, or enough memory to store data to prevent overwriting for compliance and root cause analysis. Console servers are called “dumb” because they don’t have real-time automation “brains,” process actions, and are designed just for pass-through access to devices.
  • Uplogix ensures that internal security and management policies are always enforced, even during a network outage. IT staff can control who has access to devices on the network, what they are doing while accessing the devices, and accurately and comprehensively report on all user interactions (IT staff and third party contractors) in order to satisfy security and compliance requirements.


It's OK to phone it in

Next time you are using a console server, or considering installing one, take a moment to think about what you are doing. With Uplogix it’s possible to not only get access to remote gear, but also automate many of the maintenance and recovery actions that have required human intervention in the past. Unless you are looking to AVOID taking the easy way out, like say the Uplogix Mudder team, that console server is only going to ensure that you are bogged down with routine tasks and heavy IT lifting. Save the obstacles for a weekend race -- use Uplogix to keep your network management clean and pain-free.





Monday, April 15, 2013

Death, taxes and downtime -- pick two?

There are lots of stats on downtime - one we use around Uplogix is that 60% of network downtime is caused by human error during device configuration. Maybe it's from a "fat-finger" mistake, or it could be what was thought to be a simple change actually impacted the device in unexpected ways. Many in IT think of downtime as something as inevitable as death and taxes.

The average business isn't about to afford accounting for ALL sources of downtime with multiple redundancies at every point of failure, but with Uplogix, they can go a long way toward removing the human error from causing significant downtime.

Recovering from configuration errors automatically

Rolling back to previous configurations

With Uplogix, you can reduce unplanned downtime by providing a built-in safety net with the SurgicalRollback™ feature. It allows you 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 and automatically rolled back. 

Secure out-of-band remote access also provides for corrective action even if the network is unavailable for other reasons or if this method is preferred.


See how Uplogix helps with configuration issues.
Narrated by James Dollar, Uplogix founder and CTO.

Duplicating config changes across the network

Many companies run similar gear at their sites, but maintaining even the same gear can be difficult because getting around to applying changes to each and every site can be complicated by varying maintenance windows, downtime tolerances... Standardization is tough.

With the Uplogix Control Center, you can reliably make enterprise-wide configuration changes with a few clicks using a simple, web-based interface. Common change management tasks, such as distributing patches or password resets, can be scheduled and consistently executed across the entire distributed infrastructure. 

You can push changes with confidence thanks to SurgicalRollback -- if the device doesn't come back up with the new config, we'll roll it back and keep things up and running.

Like filing your taxes, the documentation is important

Uplogix Local Managers can integrate with your existing enterprise management systems. Uplogix allows for the full realization of the potential of your NCCM systems by providing local control and automation capabilities, regardless of network availability so that they can be used with confidence to execute changes.

We'll backfill your lost date during a downtime event so that you can see exactly what device is have a problem as well as what Uplogix is doing to solve the issues.

Some things are just unavoidable

We can't help you directly with death or taxes, but Uplogix can possibly save you stress (postpone the inevitable) and improve efficiency (possibly feeding a better bonus check) when it comes to downtime. Nothing personal, but people cause most of the configuration problems out there. It's time to apply some Local Management to the situation. And, if you haven't done it yet -- get your taxes to the post office! 

Need one open late? Find it here: www.usps.com.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Big plans for big data

When it comes to IT implementing Big Data, the
challenges most other company business units
will see are just the tip of the iceberg.
Two-thirds of IT managers recently surveyed by Cisco for the latest Connected World Technology Report said that they believe Big Data will be a strategic priority for their companies over the next five years. Nearly all of them (60%) believe it will be a worthwhile effort -- agreeing that Big Data can help improve decision making and global competitiveness. With most IT managers apparently bought into the value of Big Data, one of the first hurdles of any successful project is complete. But that's really just the tip of the iceberg.

Big challenges below the waterline
It won't be easy. Nearly half of IT managers estimate that their network loads will double over the next two years, with almost 25% expecting those loads to triple over the next two years.

As the foundation for the collection of data as well as the transport, storage and compilation of data, IT is expected to have a major role in Big Data's success. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed felt that IT will drive their company's Big Data strategy, though they'll be sharing responsibilities with other business units including finance, R&D, operations, engineering, sales and marketing.

In addition to playing nice with other lines of business, IT is expecting to need new strategic plans to take advantage of real-time data sources like digital sensors, smart meters, video and non-traditional "smart devices." Sixty-two percent felt that their current Big Data solutions and plans will need updating to manage these rapidly expanding data generation sources. Cisco's estimates are that there will be more than 1.7 billion machine-to-machine (M2M) connections by 2017, an increase of over three times today's numbers.

Another significant concern for IT managers when it comes to Big Data is security. About 25% said both the volume and variety of ways to access data is a major contributor to data security and risk management fears. Better IT policies and security measures will be needed to bring Big Data to fruition.

Ready or not, Big Data is here
Maybe it's a bit facetious to make that statement, but in many ways, it's all about how "Big" is defined when it comes to data. With the impending stream of data from those 1.7 billion M2M connections less than five years away, IT departments are already sailing in treacherous waters. Innovative, intriguing and valuable Big Data applications being proposed are just the tip of the iceberg, with the risky parts below the surface masking great complication, data volumes and potential security hazards.

Clever solutions will be needed across the entire Big Data environment. Smooth, secure communications between devices, networks and databases will require new standards, and infrastructure reliability will be more critical than ever. M2M networks will require machine-based network management that can automatically interrogate the billions of devices and take actions without human involvement.

If you have Big Data plans in your future, don't panic. It's not all future tech and science fiction, after all, at Uplogix, we've been working on machine management for nearly ten years. Local Management won't be the only solution you'll need to get to your destination, but we'll help take care of some of the obstacles between here and there.