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.