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Aaron’s blog on Networking, and Enterprise Technology

Category Archives: Business Technology

HP’s Network Management with FlexNetwork Architecture

During Interop, I’ve had the pleasure to discuss, in detail, HP’s ideas and plans for a “Single-Pane” management interface, coming from Les Stuart, Distinguished Architect.

It should come as no surprise, that HP is the *KING* of applications.  Their product line is very diverse.  Some would even say, “too excessive”, and each device has it’s own management application.  Not only that, but there is also additional software to manage multiple applications/devices.  From Proliant Servers (Insight Manager) to Procurves (Procurve Manager).  And from storage networks (StorageWorks) to data networks (Network Node Manager and IMC), just to name only a few.  Confusion comes from determining which application to use for what.

Now that HP has publicly addressed the need for a single architecture called FlexNetwork, they have a few hurdles to overcome, to say the least.  But to Les Stuart, he sees opportunity, not challenges.  His passion to bring everything together makes one believe that not only is it possible, but it’s already underway.

“There has already been significant investment in the developing of the current applications for our product line….. and they’re GOOD.  Why re-invent the wheel?  We would rather keep those existing platforms, and [roll-up] the data into a single-pane interface for the personnel to use, seeing only the parts that they need”, says Stuart.  “[Drilling-down] to the device will simply open it’s respective application for details”.

However, it does not stop there.  Stuart’s vision for the FlexNetwork is not just managing and monitoring.  It includes provisioning.  “We want our software to not only manage those devices, but add [automation] so that if an administrator wants to ‘spin-up’ a new server, we can assign the VLAN, build the firewall policies, carve out storage, and assign the network access-lists”, Stuart goes on.

Do you want integration into your already existing management system? No problem, says Stuart.  Using existing standards and models like Netconf, Openflow, and Openstack, and following the FCAPS model, HP wants to make it easy to integrate into existing platforms.  “It’s not just an application, but a framework to build upon.”

HP wants to give you the starting tools to do what you need.  However, if you want to do more, you can.

HP will not be releasing a full-featured product like this anytime soon.  However, you can expect to see a “link launcher” as Stuart calls it, sooner than later.  A single point of access for all your HP tool needs.  I, for one, will be watching closely to see how HP handles this.  If it’s as good as Les Stuart is excited that it can be, it will be a fantastic and missing feature that admins are missing.

HP FlexNetwork Architecture

Today, Dave Donatelli, Executive VP for HP, announced HP’s FlexNetwork Architecture.

There is no doubt, that HP has been gaining alot of ground in their Procurve sales for the enterprise.  Being that their price points are below that of Cisco, with functionality one would expect in the enterprise, it’s no wonder people are considering HP when they did not before.

FlexNetwork is the all-inclusive term which encompasses 3 tiers of HP’s Networking Portfolio:

  • FlexFabric – Datacenter Networking
  • FlexCampus – Wired and Wireless networks in the Campus environment
  • FlexBranch – Branch Office products

FlexManagement actually applies to the FlexNetwork Architecture, as it pertains to the full management of it.  Currently, it consists of the Intelligent Management Center, or IMC for short, which monitors and manages all your network devices.  Not just Dell, but Cisco, Juniper, Dell, etc.  Currently, it manages 2600+ devices, and more than 3000 after Service Pack 1, to be released in June 2011.

My System Engineer’s toolkit for Mac

As Mac’s become more and more prevalent in today’s enterprise, more and more engineers are using Mac’s as their primary workstation.  While many of us use VMWare’s Fusion to run Windows for those apps that require it, this post is to identify programs I use on an almost daily basis, running natively on Mac OSX.

1). Wireshark – Okay.  This is pretty obvious.  No engineer’s toolkit is complete without a packet analyzer.

2).  TFTP Server – If you have a large network, you probably already have a dedicated TFTP Server storing all your images.  But, in smaller networks, or if you plan doing any “remote” work, it’s handy to have something local.

3).  IP Calculator – Yes, those that have certifications, can do this in their head, or at the very least, write down a matrix that helps them remember.  For those of us that just don’t have the time, or would like “confirmation”, cheat and use your own calculator.

4).  Chicken of the VNC – Yeah, it looks like a can of tuna.  Kinda kitschig to me, but it works.  Gives you a bookmark console for different VNC Servers.  Mostly used to access X Servers on Linux/Unix, but handy if you don’t have console access to other servers.

5).  Remote Desktop Connection – Pretty self-explanatory.  Gives you remote access to any Windows 2000/2003/2008 servers or workstations.  Full-feature including printer mappings, drive mappings, display settings, etc.

6).  MIB Browser – an indispensable tool, if you do alot of SNMP gets or traps.  Use this to browse vendor’s MIB Files to identify traps, and OID’s.

7).  Screen – This isn’t really a seperate application.  It’s built-in to the shell of Mac.  But I had to list it, as it gives you serial console access into network devices such as Foundries, Junipers, and Cisco’s (probably others, but that’s what I’ve used thus far).  Just plug in a USB-to-Serial adapter that is either a Keyspan or Prolific-based.  Others probably work, but, again, this is what I’ve used.

8).  JellyfiSSH – This is my all-time favorite.  For those that love PuTTY, you will never go back.  JellyfiSSH, is just like PuTTY for Mac.  It gives you full bookmarks to all your devices.  The bonus, is that you can organize your bookmarks into groups.  For example, I have groups called “Firewalls”, “Linux”, “Routers”, etc.  I have already spent LOTS of time ‘tweaking’ my terminal in Mac.  I just tell JellyfiSSH to use my terminal settings, and viola!  It also gives you a handy way to backup/restore your bookmarks, whereas in PuTTY, you have to grab the registry keys.

9).  FileMerge – This comes with the XCode app as a seperate install from your OSX DVD.  Useful when comparing two similar files like network configs or other system files.  Those that use RANCID may already have subversion or CVS doing their compares.

[[EDIT]]

10).  OmniGraffle – I completely forgot about diagramming.  You’ve gotta be able to document your work for troubleshooting, training, or general brainstorming!  OmniGraffle just rocks.  It may take some getting used to, if you are familiar with Visio.  But, after using it for awhile, I’ve found I can diagram faster.  Who knew?

That’s it for my Engineer’s toolkit.  I didn’t include your ‘basic” apps that are built-in, like traceroute, ping, netstat, etc.  I have a host of other apps that I love, but I’ll save that for another day.

Does anyone want to list their favorite Mac Apps that aren’t already listed here?  The public would love to know, as do I.

Being that this is probably my last post of the year, “Happy New Year!!”.  Be safe, and enjoy the coming of “new starts”, “freshness”, or just all-around “good times”!

EMC Luns and vmWare: Best Practices?

Okay, so I’m at a cross-roads right now using iSCSI LUNs with vmWare vSphere.  I have 4 vmWare hosts participating in a cluster.  Among all the benefits of introducing a SAN to a virtual environment, one is intriguing.  “To be able to copy a LUN as another LUN, and attach a vmWare instance to it.  Why?  Testing with production data, such as migrations, upgrades, changes, etc”.  While I know I can do vmWare snapshots, that is using a live server, and not a dedicated instance running in parallel.

With that in mind, I have 2 ways to slice up storage:

1).  Create one large LUN and store lots of virtual machines on it.  This would be like, a 500GB or 1TB LUN.

  • Advantage: 1 LUN to map to each vmWare host, for vMotion
  • Advantage: Less Administrative work.  Lower LUN to virtual instance creation ratio.
  • Disdavantage:  LUN Snapshots for testing won’t work.  It is not efficient to snap a 500GB LUN to test 1 virtual instance that only has 50GB of data on it.

2).  Create individual LUN’s, for each virtual machine instance.

  • Advantage:  Easy to copy that single LUN to another for testing in an isolated environment using production data.
  • Disadvantage:  High administrative overhead, slicing LUNs for each new vmWare instance
  • Disadvantage:  Have to create each LUN on each vCenter host participating in vMotion

From the looks of things, it sounds like there are more advantages to creating larger LUN’s for multiple vmWare Instances than single LUNs.  What is your general practice?

HP Field Tech Day

I’m totally disappointed! I just received an invite to my first Tech Field Day in sunny California at HP’s campus. It will be focused on the new Procurves, what they are doing with 3com, and the HP Labs.

I had to decline as we are just finishing up moving 2 data centers that previous weekend.

I’m totally bummed! I was really excited!

Why do I choose complexity?

I have always loved complex systems.  Not because they make me feel smart, or because I just want to be the only one who knows how to do it.  But, because it opens up options for me.

For example, when I was deciding on a phone system 3 years ago, it boiled down to “Shortel” and “Cisco”.  One of Shortel’s selling points was that it takes 2 minutes to setup a new user.   Well, that’s true…. setting up a new user/phone/call center agent can take up to 10 minutes for someone not familiar with the interface on Cisco.

So, why did I choose Cisco?  Because it was more expensive and more complicated?  Not really.  I chose Cisco, because while it does take me longer to setup a user, that means I have more options in the setup process that I can work with later.  More flexibility means more solutions when presented with challenges.

I recently heard this motto on a podcast from PacketPushers, that said, “I love complexity, because it gives me options”.  I feel that is so true.

Maybe that’s why I choose Unix over Windows, Domino over Exchange, Plone over Sharepoint, and Cisco over Shoretel.  The more flexibility I have, the better the solutions I can give, when challenged by the business to do something extra-ordinary.

Microsoft Antivirus…….. good?

Recently, I’ve been following Microsoft’s antivirus since my Admin brought me up to speed on it.
They are actually doing really well in the market. Which is really ironic. As Microsoft was really never known well for it’s security. Their answer is usually asking the same question twice, or adding more security reducing functionality.

Still, being that they are still the number one target, they probably have more data than other security companies, since they have to already fix the flaw in their OS.

Unfortunately, I had just renewed the contract for our current antivirus, so I’ll have to wait another year. But, that gives me time to follow them.

Curious how this will play out.

The Undesireables

So many times, I’ve introduced technology that I received flack for. For example, dropping Exchange for Domino, or Cisco for Juniper. Even using Linux instead of Windows. McAfee vs Symantec vs Sophos. Take your pick.

Yes, I use Linux where I can, and Windows when it fits best. I use open-source apps when I feel it’s better or more flexible than commercialized apps. And, yes,I even prefer Domino over Exchange.

Many admins scoff at me, and question whether I know what I’m doing or not. I like to think I’ve been around the industry long enough to make my own decisions, rather than using public opinions alone. I base my decisions on experience, demos, admin guides, and Internet research. Sure, I pay attention to the industry trends and best practices, but there is so much more to learn.

I’ll give you an example for those admins who love to hate Domino. Why are you using Exchange? Isn’t it just easier to create a pop3 mailbox at an ISP?? I mean, thats a 1 minute process and rarely fails whereas administrating Exchange is more complicated. Oh, it’s because you can do more with Exchange than POP3? So why is it, you give me grief that Domino is more complicated. My answer is the same as yours, “…. because it can do more than Exchange”.

There is a fine line between simplicity and functionality. When you give on one, you take from the other.

I have finally come to the realization that it’s because many just don’t know enough about the subject to make an opinion, and therefore, use other’s opinions rather than admitting they don’t know. Those people, in turn, do the same thing, and this starts increasing at an exponential rate. In the end, everyone has an opinion, with little data, and only a few are left to actually have valid judgements on the discussed technology.

I have a new saying…… ” Lack of knowledge or fear of the unknown does not constitute accurate judgement ”

Of course, then again, who am I to even make judgement, really. I still don’t have a clue, which makes me no better than those I am talking about. Sigh.

Still, I get frustrated when people swear up and down by Product A when they haven’t even looked at Product B.

New Datacenter

I am totally missing my routine blogging, and I need to get re-organized.  Work is overwhelming me (when does it not for most people?).

We are moving one of our datacenter’s located in Cleveland Ohio.  This datacenter currently hosts 50+ servers, plus a PBX and Call Center, along with an AS400 ERP system.

So, I’ve been struggling the last 40 days trying to find a datacenter, moving circuits, and finding a logistics company capable of moving such equipment.

Dolphini Networks was the co-location that I decided on.  Peak10 was what I was going with, but they just couldn’t get my AT&T quote for my fiber line.  After 4 weeks of emails, I just felt I either wasn’t important enough, or they just stopped trying.  Too bad.  Their loss, Dolphini’s gain.  Plus, they are about 20 minutes closer to me and cheaper.

My only concern is that they are not a 24/7 datacenter, which I’m not used to.  But, hopefully, I’ll get around it, or used to it.  I’m just used to calling our current datacenter at 2am to ask for a modem power cycle, or re-seat a hard drive in a server.

So far, I’ve got our Qwest LD circuits ordered, Verizon WAN circuits ordered, and waiting on local PRI service and our 100Mb fiber line.

There is good news.  The company that had our current offices before us, Ingram Books, already had fiber put in.  So, hopefully it’s just a question of provisioning it, and the install time is cut dramatically.

Video series… Any takers?

I have registered the name “Netration” at blip.tv in an effort to combine my two favorite interests, video and networking.

This was supposed to be a vodcast for training, demos, and business technology news (focused on networking). A fun, playful series, where laughter, jokes, and informalities are present. Very similar to the way the “Java Posse” handles themselves.

However, in recent weeks, I realized it just wouldn’t be any fun to watch a single person.

I’m thinking of some co-hosts for this show. Maybe some “brief appearances” and if it takes off, then great.

Anyone willing to try out some video news and sharing? You would need a video camera, mic, and abiliy to give me either a DV or QuickTime format.

I’m thinking recordings would be every two weeks, depending on how fast I become in post-production.

I’m still not sure how this would work, but would love to try things. I’m open to any suggestions or volunteers.

Let me know!
Cheers!