Random Short Take #92

Happy New Year. Some of this news is old news now, but I’m posting it anyway. Let’s get random.

Random Short Take #72

This one is a little behind thanks to some work travel, but whatever. Let’s get random.

Random Short Take #71

Welcome to Random Short Take #71. A bit of home IT in this one. Let’s get random.

Random Short Take #67

Welcome to Random Short Take #67. Let’s get random.

  • MinIO was in the news recently, and this article from Chin-Fah seems to summarise nicely what you need to know.
  • Whenever I read articles about home Internet connectivity, I generally chuckle in Australian and move on. But this article from Jeff Geerling on his experience with Starlink makes for interesting reading, if only for the somewhat salty comments people felt the need to leave after the article was published. He nonetheless brings up some great points about challenges with the service, and I think the endless fawning over Musk as some kind of tech saviour needs to stop.
  • In the “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” category is this article from William Lam, outlining how to create a VMFS datastore on a USB device. It’s unsupported, but it strikes me that this is just the kind of crazy thing that might be useful to folks trying to move around VMs at the edge.
  • Karen Lopez is a really smart person, and this article over at Gestalt IT is more than just the “data is the new oil” schtick we’ve been hearing for the past few years.
  • Speaking of Pure Storage, Kyndryl and Pure Storage have announced a global alliance. You can read more on that here.
  • Mike Preston wrote a brief explainer on S3 Object Lock here. I really enjoy Mike’s articles, as I find he has a knack for breaking down complex topics into very simple to digest and consume pieces.
  • Remember when the movies and TV shows you watched had consistent aspect ratios? This article from Tom Andry talks about how that’s changed quite a bit in the last few years.
  • I’m still pretty fresh in my role, but in the future I hope to be sharing more news and articles about VMware Cloud on AWS. In the meantime, check out this article from Greg Vinton, where he covers some of his favourite parts of what’s new in the platform.

In unrelated news, this is the last week to vote for the #ITBlogAwards. You can cast your vote here.

Random Short Take #66

Happy New Year. Let’s get random.

  • Excited about VMware Cloud Director releases? Me too. 10.3.2 GA was recently announced, and you can read more about that here.
  • Speaking of Cloud Director, Al Rasheed put together this great post on deploying VCD 10.3.x – you can check it out here
  • Getting started with VMware Cloud on AWS but feeling a bit confused by some of the AWS terminology? Me too. Check out this extremely useful post on Amazon VPCs from a VMware perspective.
  • Still on VMware Cloud on AWS. So you need some help with HCX? My colleague Greg put together this excellent guide a little while ago – highly recommended. This margarita recipe is also highly recommended, if you’re into that kind of thing. 
  • Speaking of hyperscalers, Mellor put together a nice overview of Hyve Solutions here
  • Detecting audio problems in your home theatre? Are you though? Tom Andry breaks down what you should be looking for here.  
  • Working with NSX-T and needing to delete route advertisement filters via API? Say no more
  • Lost the password you set on that Raspbian install? Frederic has you covered

Random Short Take #64

Welcome to Random Short take #64. It’s the start of the last month of the year. We’re almost there.

  • Want to read an article that’s both funny and informative? Look no further than this beginner’s guide to subnetting. I did Elizabethan literature at uni, so it was good to get a reminder on Shakespeare’s involvement in IP addressing.
  • Continuing with the amusing articles, Chris Colotti published a video of outtakes from some Cohesity lightboard sessions that had me cracking up. It’s always nice when people don’t take themselves too seriously.
  • On a more serious note, data hoarding is a problem (I know this because I’ve been guilty of it), and this article from Preston outlines some of the reasons why it can be a bad thing for business.
  • Still on data protection, Howard Oakley looks at checking the integrity of Time Machine backups in this post. I’ve probably mentioned this a few times previously, but if you find macOS behaviour baffling at times, Howard likely has an article that can explain why you’re seeing what you’re seeing.
  • Zerto recently announced Zerto In-Cloud for AWS – you read more about that here. Zerto is really starting to put together a comprehensive suite of DR solutions. Worth checking out.
  • Still on press releases, Datadobi has announced new enhancements to DobiMigrate with 5.13. The company also recently validated Google Cloud Storage as an endpoint for its DobiProtect solution.
  • Leaseweb Global is also doing stuff with Google Cloud – you can read more about that here.
  • Finally, this article over at Blocks and Files on what constitutes a startup made for some interesting reading. Some companies truly are Peter Pans at this point, whilst others are holding on to the idea that they’re still in startup mode.

Random Short Take #53

Welcome to Random Short Take #53. A few players have worn 53 in the NBA including Mark Eaton, James Edwards, and Artis Gilmore. My favourite though was Chocolate Thunder, Darryl Dawkins. Let’s get random.

  • I love Preston’s series of articles covering the basics of backup and recovery, and this one on backup lifecycle is no exception.
  • Speaking of data protection, Druva has secured another round of funding. You can read Mellor’s thoughts here, and the press release is here.
  • More data protection press releases? I’ve got you covered. Zerto released one recently about cloud data protection. Turns out folks like cloud when it comes to data protection. But I don’t know that everyone has realised that there’s some work still to do in that space.
  • In other press release news, Cloud Propeller and Violin Systems have teamed up. Things seem to have changed a bit at Violin Systems since StorCentric’s acquisition, and I’m interested to see how things progress.
  • This article on some of the peculiarities associated with mainframe deployments in the old days by Anthony Vanderwerdt was the most entertaining thing I’ve read in a while.
  • Alastair has been pumping out a series of articles around AWS principles, and this one on understanding your single points of failure is spot on.
  • Get excited! VMware Cloud Director 10.2.2 is out now. Read more about that here.
  • A lot of people seem to think it’s no big thing to stretch Layer 2 networks. I don’t like it, and this article from Ethan Banks covers a good number of reasons why you should think again if you’re that way inclined.

Random Short Take #42

Welcome to Random Short Take #42. A few players have worn 42 in the NBA, including Vin Baker, but my favourite from this list is Walt Williams.  A big man with a jumpshot and a great tube sock game. Let’s get random.

  • Datadobi has formed a partnership with Melillo Consulting to do more in the healthcare data management space. You can read the release here.
  • It’s that time of the year when Backblaze releases its quarterly hard drive statistics. It makes for some really interesting reading, and I’m a big fan of organisations that are willing to be as transparent as Backblaze is with the experience it’s having in the field. It has over 142000 drives in the field, across a variety of vendors, and the insights it delivers with this report are invaluable. In my opinion this is nothing but a good thing for customers and the industry in general. You can read more about the report here.
  • Was Airplay the reason you littered your house with Airport Express boxes? Same here. Have you been thinking it might be nice to replace the Airport Express with a Raspberry Pi since you’ve moved on to a different wireless access point technology? Same here. This article might just be the thing you’ve been looking for. I’m keen to try this out.
  • I’ve been trying to optimise my weblog, and turned on Cloudflare via my hosting provider. The website ran fine, but I had issues accessing the WordPress admin page after a while. This article got me sorted out.
  • I’ve been a bit loose with the security of my home infrastructure from time to time, but even I don’t use WPS. Check out this article if you’re thinking it might somehow be a good idea.
  • This article on caching versus tiering from Chris Evans made for some interesting reading.
  • This was a thorough review of the QNAP QSW-308-1C Unmanaged Switch, an 11 (!) port unmanaged switch boasting 3 10Gbps ports and 8 1Gbps ports. It’s an intriguing prospect, particularly given the price.
  • DH2i has announced it’s extending free access to DxOdyssey Work From Home (WFH) Software until December 31st. Read more about that here.

 

Apstra’s Intent – What Do They Mean?

Disclaimer: I recently attended VMworld 2019 – US.  My flights and accommodation were paid for by Digital Sense, and VMware provided me with a free pass to the conference and various bits of swag. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated by VMware for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

As part of my attendance at VMworld US 2019 I had the opportunity to attend Tech Field Day Extra sessions. You can view the videos from the Apstra session here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

More Than Meets The Eye

A lot of people like to talk about how organisations need to undertake “digital transformation”. One of the keys to success with this kind of transformation comes in the form of infrastructure transformation. The idea is that, if you’re doing it right, you can improve:

  • Business agility;
  • Application reliability; and
  • Control costs.

Apstra noted that “a lot of organisations start with choosing their hardware and all other choices are derived from that choice, including the software”. As a result of this, you’re constrained by the software you’ve bought from that vendor. The idea is you need to focus on business-oriented outcomes, which are then used to determine the technical direction you’ll need to take to achieve those outcomes.

But even if you’ve managed to get yourself a platform that helps you achieve the outcomes you’re after, if you don’t have an appropriate amount of automation and visibility in your environment, you’re going to struggle with deployments being slowed down. You’ll likely also find that that a lack of efficient automation can lead to:

  • Physical and logical topologies that are decoupled but dependent;
  • Error-prone deployments; and
  • No end to end validation.

When you’re in that situation, you’ll invariably find that you’ll struggle with reduced operational agility and a lack of visibility. This makes it hard to troubleshoot issues in the field, and people generally feel sad (I imagine).

 

Intent, Is That What You Mean?

So how can Apstra help? Will they magically make everything work the way you want it to? Not necessarily. There are a bunch of cool features available within the Apstra solution, but you need to do some work up front to understand what you’re trying to achieve in the first place. But once you have the framework in place, you can do some neat stuff, using AOS to accelerate initial and day 2 fabric configuration. You can, for example, deploy new racks and L2 / L3 fabric VLANs at scale in a few clicks:

  • Streamline new rack design and deployment;
  • Automate fabric VLAN deployment;
  • Closed-loop validation (endpoint configuration, EVPN routes expectations); and
  • Include jumbo frame configuration for overlay networks.

The idea behind intent-based networking (IBN) is fairly straightforward:

  • Collect intent;
  • Expose intent;
  • Validate; and
  • Remediate.

You can read a little more about IBN here. There’s a white paper on Intent-based DCs can be found here.

 

Thoughts

I don’t deal with complicated network deployments on a daily basis, but I do know some people who play that role on TV. Apstra delivered a really interesting session that had me thinking about the effectiveness of software solutions to control infrastructure architecture at scale. There’s been a lot of talk during conference keynotes about the importance of digital transformation in the enterprise and how we all need to be leveraging software-defined widgets to make our lives better. I’m all for widgets making life easier, but they’re only going to be able to do that when you’ve done a bit of work to understand what it is you’re trying to do with all of this technology. The thing that struck me about Apstra is that they seem to understand that, while they’re selling some magic software, it’s not going to be any good to you if you haven’t done some work to prepare yourself for it.

I rabbit on a lot about how technology organisations struggle to understand what “the business” is trying to achieve. This isn’t a one-way problem either, and the business frequently struggles with the idea that technology seems to be a constant drain on an organisation’s finances without necessarily adding value to the business. In most cases though, technology is doing some really cool stuff in the background to make businesses run better, and more efficiently. Apstra is a good example of using technology to deliver reliable services to the business. Whether you’re an enterprise networker, or toiling away at a cloud service provider, I recommend checking out how Apstra can make things easier when it comes to keeping your network under control.

Ixia Helps You See All The Stuff You Need To See

Disclaimer: I recently attended Tech Field Day 19.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Ixia recently presented at Tech Field Day 19. You can see videos of their presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

Overview

Recep Ozdag, VP of Product Management at Ixia, presented first on Ixia’s company overview and history. Here’s a bad photo of Recep.

Ixia were acquired by Keysight in 2017, but they’ve been around for an awfully long time.

  • 1939 – 1998 – the HP years
  • 1999 – 2013 – The Agilent Technologies years
  • 2014 – Keysight Technologies launched

In February 2019, they launched the Vision E1S with Hawkeye, and in June 2019 the Vision X was announced.

 

Ixia Visibility Solutions

So Ixia specialise in “network visibility”, but why is that important? What’s the real thing you need to know about on your network? Is it performance? That’s important, sure. But the really big thing that keeps network folks awake at night is security. It’s constantly changing and there’s always a lot of ground to cover. To wit, you have:

  • BYOD – uncontrolled devices on the network;
  • Encryption – hidden traffic means hidden threats;
  • IoT – billions more endpoints to protect; and
  • Cloud – secure data on or off-premises.

According to Ixia, every day there are approximately 5 million IoT devices being connected to networks. Some of these cheap security cameras are even sitting on shelves pre-installed with malware. Happy days! With better visibility you have the opportunity to enhance your existing investments. Within a bank, for example, there are 15 different tools doing stuff and they all want to see a different piece of the data.

So how does Ixia help to improve visibility inside your network? Network packet brokers.

[image courtesy of Ixia]

And what can these things do? All kinds of cool stuff, including “Context Aware” Data Processing:

  • Deduplication
  • Packet trimming
  • Adaptive packet filtering
  • Data masking
  • GRE tunnel termination
  • SSL decryption
  • Geo location
  • Netlog generation

 

The Struggle Is Real

As I mentioned before, securing your network can be a challenge, and every day things are changing and new threats are popping up. Keeping up with all of this stuff is a struggle. You’re looking at challenges with:

  • DDoS
  • SSL and IPsec
  • Data leakage
  • Advanced persistent threats
  • Malware and vulnerabilities
  • BYOD

Enter the Vision X

The Vision X is a network packet broker delivered via a modular platform. You can make it do anything you want it to do today, and add functionality as it’s developed.

High-density

  • 2 Terabits/sec per unit
  • 60 ports of 200Gb
  • 108 ports of 50Gb
  • 76 ports of 40Gb
  • 108 ports of 10Gb
  • 108 ports of 25 Gb

High availability

  • 5 redundant and hot swap fans
  • 4 redundant and hot swap power
  • 6.4TB per second switching capacity
  • 2Tb per second of PacketStack
  • NEBS 3 certification
  • Out of band and inline

PacketStack – intelligent packet filtering, manipulation and transport

  • Deduplication
  • Data masking
  • Time-stamping
  • Protocol trimming
  • Header stripping
  • GRE tunneling

NetStack – robust filtering, aggregation, replication, and more

  • Three stages of filtering
  • Dynamic filter compiler
  • Aggregation
  • Replication
  • Load balancing
  • VLAN tagging

But The Edge!

Ixia also have the Vision E1S (the E stands for Edge). As Ixia pointed out during their presentation, a lot of customer data doesn’t always traverse to the cloud or DC – it stays local. “If you want to monitor something – you monitor where the data is”.

 

Thoughts And Further Reading

One of my favourite things about attending Tech Field Day events is that I hear from companies that I don’t deal with on a daily basis. As anyone who’s worked with me can attest, my networking chops aren’t great at all. So hearing about things like network packet brokers has been really interesting.

One of the biggest challenges in both enterprise and service provider environments is visibility into what’s happening at various levels of infrastructure – be it storage, compute, network or application. Tools like the ones offered by Ixia seem to do a pretty comprehensive job of ensuring that visibility is not the reason that you don’t know what’s going on in your network. I was intrigued by the security theme of the presentation, and I agree wholeheartedly that security concerns should be at the forefront of everything we do from an infrastructure perspective. Managing your critical infrastructure isn’t just knowing about what’s happening in your environment, but also being able to keep up with threats as they arise. Network packet brokers don’t automagically make your environment more secure, nor do they increase your security posture as new threats arise. That said, the kind of visibility you’ll get with these kinds of solutions takes away the concern that you can’t see what’s going on.

Monitoring and visibility solutions come in all shapes and sizes, and they can make a system administrator’s life a lot simpler or add to the noise in the environment. Given that most all infrastructure depends on network connectivity to some point, and network connectivity can have such a big impact on the end user’s ability to do what they need to do to engage in their core business activities, it makes a lot of sense to look at solutions like network packet brokers to get a deeper understanding of what’s going on in any particular environment.

Ixia’s range of products seems to do a pretty good job of covering both the core DC and edge workload requirements (along with cloud), and coupled with their rich history in network visibility, they’re delivering a good story when it comes to improving visibility within your environment. If you’re struggling to understand what your East-West traffic looks like, or what your applications are doing, or if someone’s been silly and plonked a malware-ridden security camera in their office, you’d do well to check out what Ixia has to offer. For another view, check out Wes‘s take on Ixia’s portfolio here.