Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Part 2 - Getting ready for the Internet of Things

Whatever number of billions of devices you are comfortable with predicting for the Internet of Things (IoT) over the next 5-10 years, no one seems to be arguing that there is not a massive growth of IP-enabled devices already underway. And this expansion of end nodes means more work for network infrastructure, whether it's aggregation sites or the networks that are going to be moving massive amounts of data.

One key piece of realizing the vision of the IoT is finding ways to scale up the management of the network infrastructure to keep from totally drowning IT groups. Traditional network management relies on the network for moving SNMP traps to have an idea of what's going on and notifying IT. It won't scale -- what's needed is network management automation where the tools monitor continuously and can respond as needed, saving IT from the time and effort required for even minor issues.

The two key areas impacted by Uplogix Local Management are secure administration of devices, which we addressed in the first part of this series and scaling network infrastructure management, which we are talking about today.

Finding and fixing IT problems remains a time-consuming, labor-intensive and expensive process. Existing management tools are good at monitoring devices and identifying problems, but lack the intelligence and local control to actively fix problems when they occur, forcing IT staff to perform routine administration and recovery tasks.

Uplogix lowers the cost and complexity of management by diagnosing and automatically fixing common problems throughout network infrastructure. In fact, Uplogix local management can address and resolve the bulk of issues that commonly impact distributed networks such as configuration errors, nonresponsive devices and telecom hardware failures. This is how you scale network infrastructure management to support billions of nodes.

Administrators are more efficient using Uplogix features like the ability to push mass config changes and upgrades without the risk that changes could result in network outages. Out-of-band automated SurgicalRollback™ restores valid configurations instantly and automatically, allowing admins to focus on exceptions, rather than every site.

Get the whole story in the Uplogix Solution Brief, Preparing your network infrastructure for the Internet of Things.

Getting ready for the Internet of Things - Part 1

Whether you call it the Internet of Things (IoT), the Internet of Everything, or just the next logical steps in networking, it's clear that if you aren't ready for it, the coming onslaught of IP-enabled devices is going to break your network.

Maybe it will be the number of end nodes or the amount of data they will generate and transmit across the network. Maybe both. Without big changes to network management as we know it, the IoT and its machine-to-machine (M2M) interactions will break the underlying infrastructure—technically or from a financial perspective.

Uplogix is M2M management designed to automate the bulk of network management issues that eat up the bulk of IT's time. The time that will be needed for innovation in order to fully embrace the demands of users for more data, more control and more connected endpoints in industries as varied as retail, defense and manufacturing.

The two key areas impacted by Uplogix Local Management are secure administration of devices and scaling network infrastructure management. Here we're going to talk about the security story.

Uplogix connects over the console like an onsite technician to managed devices, simultaneously enhancing a remote NOC’s ability to mount an effective response to issues while ensuring that security and audit is not compromised.

Flexible and fine-grained role-based administrative access allows security policies to be precisely reflected and enforced in the form of user access privileges. Rules prevent unauthorized user access by doing things like automatically closing idle console sessions, or intercepting and stopping noncompliant administrative commands, or even command sequences eliminating security gaps.

By storing encrypted device credentials only on the Uplogix Local Manager, secure, policy compliant and audited administrative access can be ensured with complete logging of all transactions for compliance requirements.

Read more in the Uplogix Solution Brief, Preparing your network infrastructure for the Internet of Things.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Finding successful tech solutions for DoD

Maj. Gen. Brett Williams is the director of operations at the US Cyber Command. He recently wrote an opinion piece entitled, "Why too many technology solutions fall short." His assertion is that solutions fail because it's tough to balance the risk across the three stakeholder groups, essentially those: 1) controlling the money, 2) responsible for operating and defending the network, and 3) using the solution.

While Williams' viewpoint is that of the Department of Defense information network, his observations are easily applied to IT solutions in commercial enterprise. When it comes down to a successful IT solution, Williams says it's all about risk management.

To implement a solution, the three groups are going to evaluate the various risks related to the solution differently:
"The resource people frequently do not understand the operations. The security people can tend to be risk-averse to the point where operational effectiveness is unnecessarily degraded. And the operations people do not want to be bothered with the messy details of acquisition or security. They just want it to all magically come together to satisfy their specific needs."
Sound familiar? Williams' suggestion for a possible solution to help avoid "buying yesterday's technology tomorrow" is to create a fourth group charged with operating independently to balance the risk across the three other groups in a way that allocates resources most effectively to achieve acceptable levels of operational effectiveness with levels of security.

This team would be made from a mix of experts from each group and would report directly to senior management.

At Uplogix we frequently run into the first two groups in the purchase cycle due to the breadth of our solution. Group 1 knows the cost of supporting a network and appreciates the potential savings of Uplogix. Group 2 quickly sees the application of our feature set in their daily operations. And as for Group 3? Well after Local Management is implmented, all they know is that their network just magically comes together. And that's OK with us.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Federal agencies release healthcare IT framework

Will your healthcare IT application be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration? A report just released as part of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) brought together the FDA, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propose a strategy on health information technology. The recommendations include mobile medical applications and are charged with promoting innovation, protecting patient safety and avoiding regulatory duplication.

One interesting aspect of the framework is the lack of standards usually associated with healthcare IT like HIPAA. Maybe it's because the office that enforces HIPAA policy on patients' privacy is part of the Department of Health & Human Services.

The FDASIA framework breaks healthcare IT into three categories:

  1. Administrative functionality - business processes like admissions, billing and claims, inventory -- tasks with limited or no risk to patient safety
  2. Health Management functionality - health information data capture and sharing, patient identification (think HIPAA)
  3. Medical Device functionality - This is where the FDA comes into the picture, overseeing medical devices that use IT for data gathering and analysis and can present a greater risk to patient safety than the first two categories
For those planning, building and maintaining network infrastructure in healthcare, it's hard to see any immediate impact of the framework beyond reinforcing the growing importance of data in the healthcare industry. Whether for secure sharing of data for clinical decision support (CDS), or the transmission of operational data from medical devices (think remote monitoring and troubleshooting of device health like a technician proactively scheduling maintenance on an MRI machine based on diagnostic data), IT networks need to be reliable, secure and robust enough to meet the growing demands.

Uplogix in Healthcare IT
Providing healthcare IT organizations with a solution that simplifies the management of the widely distributed and complex IT infrastructure of healthcare organizations, Uplogix reduces IT support costs, maintains high network availability and service levels, and constantly enforces security and compliance auditing requirements.

In the future, machine-to-machine applications might involve building Local Management into "smart" devices. As medical devices become more and more specialized, they often have their own internal networks and specialized components that can benefit from high resolution, local monitoring and intelligent automation.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Network management automation is no April Fool's joke

AUSTIN, TEXAS (April 1, 2014) - Uplogix today announced network management automation that can be implemented with confidence. Designed to work as an onsite Level 1 technician-in-a-box, the Uplogix Local Management Platform automates the routine tasks that eat up the bulk of IT's time and effort when it comes to maintaining network infrastructure. And we're not foolin'.

On this day of corporate April Fools jokes, product launches, and videos, we're not being silly. Sure, we're capable of making a fun video, but why make up products and features like these below, when our actual products are so cool? For example:

Google Chrome Emoji Translations
This video announces the availability in Google Translate for the Emoji language, promising to read all of their favorite web content using "efficient and emotive illustrations, instead of cumbersome text." Perfect for today's small mobile screens.

If you are looking for efficiency, you should be using Uplogix for mass configuration changes. In this clever scenario, an administrator has a number of routers across the network all needing the same configuration. Instead of working nights to avoid peak usage times and updating the routers one at a time, risking errors that might take down the site (and involve tedious remediation or even site visits), the administrator loads the patch into the Uplogix Control Center and schedules the update task to take place at 2 a.m. on each router of the same type across the network. For that odd router that doesn't take the patch, Uplogix can roll-back to the previous working configuration.

This enables the administrator more time to devote toward that perfect office prank.

Nest/Virgin Airlines Personalized Climate Control
Home automation company, Nest, announced a partnership with Virgin Airlines to provide personal climate control at every seat, utilizing a Nest thermostat on each seat back. With custom temperature settings from ‘Cancun Afternoon’ to ‘Chicago Polar Vortex,’ CEOs Richard Branson and Tony Fadel demonstrate the new system.

In the Local Management world, personalization comes through a highly granular system of AAA (authentication, authorization and accounting) that allows users to be grouped for maximum comfort when it comes to security policies. This means there is not only control who has access to which devices, but also that all of their interactions with managed devices are captured to ensure security and compliance.

Advances in Power Management with Sony Power Food
Everyone hates it when their devices run out of batteries. To celebrate the first of April, Sony announced that with recent advances by their engineers and culinary technicians, "the same fuel we’ve used to power ourselves for thousands of years can be used to power personal electronics." That's right - just plug your USB cable right into that bowl of Cheerios-like cereal, charge your Bluetooth headphones off of a hot dog, and protein energy bars (with a complete day's serving of protein, fiber, and charged lithium.)

Managing power to your personal devices is a critical life skill these days, and in network management, it's no different. Uplogix can manage and monitor power functions in your network infrastructure. Local Managers integrate with managed power devices to monitor power utilization, provide remote access to power units and automate hardware-specific management tasks involving power cycling. 

So, as you go through your day trying to separate what's a joke and what's real, keep in mind that when we say that you can implement Uplogix to automate network management with confidence, we can back that up. And if you were hoping we'd make a video where we really did have a network admin in a box, well, you might have to wait until next year. Q1 was a busy quarter for us.

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