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.