How the U.S. Armed Forces Monitor Tactical Deployments 5
U.S. armed forces take mobile network monitoring very seriously

When you think about where IT pros work you most likely envision a typical climate-controlled office setting. In reality IT happens everywhere. Even out in the field within high-pressure tactical IT deployments created by the U.S. armed forces.

Unique Requirements for U.S Armed Forces’ IT Deployments

These mobile military networks come in all shapes and sizes. They are often used to support radar, command and control, and satellite communication systems. These IT deployments can be more confined than you think. These IT deployments require network monitoring are deployed within a tent, an aircraft carrier, a destroyer, and even moving tactical vehicles. These are serious network operations that must be quickly deployed and mobile to meet the needs of our U.S. armed forces.

Government agencies and their contractors in the field have very specific needs for network monitoring tools. They work in isolated locations where the network simply cannot go down. This makes security, reliability and ease of operation a must. Their tools need to be deployed without hassle. Young soldiers with only a few months of IT training must be able to jump in and use the software effectively from day one. These tools also need to have a lot of value so they deliver exactly what is needed, without breaking the budget. Finally, within tactical IT deployments, network monitoring needs to be accessible, reliable and flexible.

Why U.S. Armed Forces and Government Agencies Choose WhatsUp Gold

All of these unique requirements by the U.S. armed forces and government agencies helps explain why Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold infrastructure monitoring tools are so often used within tactical IT deployments and traditional network environments. WhatsUp Gold has a small footprint with low-megabyte consumption, reasonable system requirements, and agentless architecture. In terms of budget, we can support a network with as few as 25 devices.

“The ceaseless damage control provided by WhatsUp Gold never failed in monitoring the only working civilian network of an entire nation. We couldn’t have done our job in Iraq without WhatsUp Gold doing its job.”

– U.S. Defense Contractor

WhatsUp Gold can also be deployed in a matter of minutes, ensuring full and quick coverage. This fast setup and user-friendly interface is enabled by a powerful discovery engine that applies monitors and policies to the appropriate switches and devices.

Even mobile networks that move from location to location use WhatsUp Gold because of its simplicity and dependability. For example, Cisco’s Emergency Response Team uses WhatsUp Gold to monitor local, state and Federal government networks across the U.S. and Canada that have experienced an outage due to natural disaster. With quick setup, Cisco can get an essential government network back online quickly and easily.

Concept Proven

I spoke recently with a network manager who was evaluating WhatsUp Gold for his new employer. Why did he pick us? Because our products helped support his tactical IT deployments during three tours in Afghanistan. That’s proof of concept for you.

 

be prepared for enough network bandwidth

Predicting the future isn’t a perfect practice without a DeLorean. For support desks at SMBs, however, determining network bandwidth needs down the line is critical to sustained growth. The farmer’s almanac may not cover network environments, but with a few helpful tips, you’ll gain much-needed perspective on how to plan for current and eventual system requirements.

From the Inside

Lars Brennan has spent the last two decades in IT functions ranging from network admin to director of operations, and for a variety of SMBs. Currently serving as an IT consultant in northern Colorado, Brennan is special in that he’s found himself knee-deep in bandwidth limits as company growth takes on data that outpaces the capabilities of its original network. More importantly, he’s found considerable success having confronted these crises early on in his technical tenure.

“All too often I focused on the problem, rather than the circumstances surrounding it,” Lars said quickly when asked about these midsized network headaches. “When I began to explore the current network environment and the people behind its traffic, I learned some valuable things.” Lars hits the nail on the head here: Network bandwidth serves to foster communication between multiple business applications, most of which are driven by humans in front of keyboards. Understand how the individuals sitting next to you interact with the network, and you’ll find yourself with the intuition to not only address present concerns, but plan for future requirements based on which data points receive the most activity and why.

Human After All

The real beauty in approaching bandwidth planning — from a behavioral perspective, according to Brennan — is that you begin to see the nuances of each source of traffic. “When I would try to tackle bandwidth issues from a programmatic stance, I would simply go to my network monitor and compile an application list of top bandwidth abusers.” he says. “I’d then pinpoint non-core apps that could be throttled or better prioritized.” Lars goes on to describe that although this approach worked well enough in the beginning, he began to notice different users engaging with the same application in very different ways as the company grew.

“We would have a small group of developers using the exact same IDE, but for very different purposes. GUI guys would be using an insignificant amount [of bandwidth], whereas the ones testing data features would eat up more than we had allotted.” How come? Because not every department is an equal contributor to the data usage you’re measuring, even if 100 people are touching the same application.

This presents a unique opportunity to delegate network resources for a current environment’s future growth based on in-depth knowledge of the people who use your hardware and software. As such, one of the best ways to begin planning the often-turbulent requirements of SMB network bandwidth is to examine the tasks behind the applications that wind up spiking on your network monitor. Take a look at who’s using them, what they’re using it for and how future projects may change the answers to those first two issues.

A Cloudy Concept

Understanding the way in which a particular user consumes bandwidth — with respect to the software and hardware that goes with it — allows you to draw a detailed roadmap of your overall network requirements. It’s not the only view, though. Cloud computing can throw a major wrench into even the best network plans because you can’t always identify the source of activity in a drive that’s accessible off-site or on a separate device. In these instances, stick to what you know: Use your knowledge of user behavior to set up appropriate VLANs, which TechTarget suggests can better organize and isolate the most logical cloud segments.

In the end, a user-centric approach to network planning serves two important purposes: First, it gives you the environmental insight to build a detailed network bandwidth management plan. And second, it allows you to marry this knowledge with new potential projects and assets so you can better predict what your future network requirements will look like. In tandem with conventional capacity planning wisdom, you’ll be well equipped to provide a robust network that handles modern SMB challenges, however many users may be involved.

6 Pain Points You Can Avoid With Unified Infrastructure Monitoring

“The story of the blind men and an elephant originated in the Indian subcontinent from where it has widely diffused. It is a story of a group of blind men (or men in the dark) who touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.” (Source: Wikipedia)

This parable rings true beyond the animal kingdom. Like in IT, for example. When unified monitoring tools are not part of the mix, sysadmins can’t see a full picture of their networks, systems and applications.

The advantages of a unified tool for full visibility could easily make a full switch worthwhile. TechTarget presents a typical use case: It’s a wireless access point that seems to be acting up, but the problem is actually in the wired subnet to which it’s connected. A technician could lose precious minutes logging into the WAP’s web portal only to find that a completely different tool would’ve localized the problem sooner.

That use case didn’t consider applications. Adding application performance management issues into the mix typically adds more tools into the diagnostic phase. Many more could be cited, but here are six pain points you can avoid when you’ve got unified monitoring tools in place:

1. Apps Stuck in a Network Traffic Jam

This is one of the most common challenges for any toolset that isn’t unified. Separating application performance degradation from high network traffic. Is your CRM application the culprit or might it be a problem lower in the stack?

2. Inability to Identify Sources of SLA Threshold Failures

Managing SLA terms can have heavy fiscal impacts in some organizations. And when multiple tools are needed to isolate the cause of a service-level drop, the time to resolve may increase.

3. Inability to Prioritize Alerts

Using many tools can lead to a profusion of false positives. These are especially pernicious amid security threats, which should be placed above capacity management and routine. SANS points out in the context of intrusion detection: “When you consider all the different things that can go wrong to cause a false positive, it is not surprising that false positives are one of the largest problems facing [implementers].”

4. One-Off Project Deployment and Routine Monitoring Tasks

There’s a temptation when using one set of tools to configure and test a new server cluster for deployment, and a different set for day-to-day monitoring. The result can be misleading alerts. Using a unified tool can gain visibility into both event families, potentially reducing noise and confusion.

5. Dissimilar Interfaces and Terminology Across Toolsets

This can interfere with expeditious problem resolution, even with trained personnel. When different managers use unique tools to solve different problems over time, your tools portfolio can get pretty overwhelming, and training budgets can become a luxury.

6. Difficulty Developing ‘Crime Scene Maps’

This term is popular with Cisco’s Denise Fishburn to characterize recurring problems that require tools to operate in tandem. Fishburn reminds IT teams that once a problem has been identified, “it’s time to improve (document, prevent/prepare/repair).” Producing useful shareable scripts — manual or automated — makes your job harder.

No Panaceas, but Unified Monitoring Suites Can Truly Be Sweet

An often-quoted truism said by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a 2002 press conference reprised a risk management concept that originated earlier in NASA circles: “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. It is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones.”

The underlying wisdom is generally thought to be sound and has appeared in some treatments of risk management, including those that consider the enterprise adoption of cloud services.

There’s a strong case to be made for unified monitoring solutions that tie together your network, application and infrastructure. Still, no single tool or set of tools can provide a 100-percent complete, real-time picture of everything happening on a complex network.

What tools can achieve as part of a unified monitoring system, though, is a reduction in the amount of “blindness” and “known unknowns.”

http://www.whatsupgold.com/products/whatsup-gold-ms-lync-performance-monitor.aspx

Do you get bogged down trying to both maintain sufficient performance across your Microsoft applications, while troubleshooting related problems as they happen? If so, here are seven tips that will help you manage your software from Redmond:

1: Don’t Try to Manage the Unknown

Ensuring optimal Microsoft application performance starts by automatically maintaining an up-to-date network and server inventory of hardware and software assets, physical connectivity, and configuration. This helps to truly understand what is being supported in your environment. Doing this will also save time identifying relationships between devices and applications, and piecing them together to see the big picture. You may even find discrepancies in application versions or patch levels within Exchange or IIS server farms. You can correct these by through discovery, mapping and documenting your assets.

2: Monitor the Whole Delivery Chain

There are multiple elements responsible for providing Microsoft services and application content to end-users. Take monitoring Lync, for example. Lync alone has:

  • A multi-tier architecture consisting of a Front-End Server at the core
  • SQL Database servers on the back-end
  • Edge Server to enable outside the firewall access
  • Mediation Server for VoIP
  • And more..

You get the idea. The same applies to any Web-based application. Like SharePoint on the front-end, middleware systems and back-end SQL databases, not to mention the underling network. Don’t take any shortcuts, monitor it all.

If any of these components in the application delivery chain underperform, your Microsoft applications will inevitably slow down and bring employee communications, productivity and business operations down with it.

3: Understand Dependencies within Applications

There’s nothing worse than receiving an alert storm when a problem is detected. It can take hours to sort out what has a red status, why it has that status, and whether it was a real problem or a false positive. It’s a waste of time and delays the root cause identification and resolution.

A far better solution is to monitor the entire application service as a whole. This includes IIS servers, SQL servers, physical and virtual servers and the underlying network. Identify monitoring capabilities that will discover and track end-to-end dependencies and suppress alerts (if a database is “down,” all related apps will also be “down”). This is also the foundation to build SLA monitoring strategies aligned with business goals. Read on to find out more.

4: Look for Tools That Can Go Deep

Application performance monitoring tools let you drill down from one unified view into the offending component to reduce triage
and troubleshooting to just minutes. Even if you are not a DBA, you should be able to quickly identify that SQL is the culprit. Plus, think about automatic corrective actions as part of your monitoring strategyto restore service levels faster.  This includes using Write Event Log, Run Scripts, Reboot, Active and PowerShell scripts. For example, Exchange and SQL are well-known for their
high memory consumption and high IOs, so you may want to automatically reboot them to avoid service disruptions for your users when exceeded memory reaches a problematic level.

5: Utilize Microsoft Application Monitoring Features

Use built-in application monitoring features that come with your Microsoft applications like Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, IIS, Dynamics, SQL and Windows. Or even some free tools. Every organization is different, so there really is no one size fits all approach to this. Look for pre-packaged monitoring with capabilities to easily tweak settings, so you can also monitor custom applications or more feature-rich applications.

6: Don’t Forget Wireless Bandwidth Monitoring

It is a wireless world out there, and BYOD continues to grow. Mobility has transformed wireless networks into business-critical assets that support employee connectivity, productivity and business Ops. For example, Microsoft corporate headquarters runs Lync over Aruba Wi-Fi. Just like you want a map of your wired assets, look for capabilities to automatically generate dynamic wireless maps — WLCs, APs and Clients — from the same single point of control.

7: Keep Stakeholders and Teams Regularly Updated

Your Microsoft applications may be the backbone of your business. Slowdowns, intermittent application performance problems or failures will drive escalations through the roof. Not to mention bringing productivity, Ops and even revenue to a halt. Customizable reporting
(by application, by servers, by location, etc.) and automatic email distribution capabilities (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) will help to keep cross-functional team members and stakeholders in the know. Get in the habit of periodically analyzing all performance data to identify problematic trends early on, properly plan capacity, and justify investment on additional resources.

Maintaining network performance can sometimes feel like a gargantuan task, with issues seemingly coming out of nowhere. However, many of these unforeseen problems can actually be anticipated and avoided with the correct monitoring solutions in place.

it-vendors-and-solutionsWhen transitioning to a new solution, do IT vendors elicit a mix of anticipation and fear? That makes sense. You’re eager to see the new service hard at work, but simultaneously concerned it won’t live up to promised hype or deliver on promises made by the supplier.

Also, these transitions tend to cost a lot of money and resources, so a failed transisition usually doesn’t bode well to the decision-maker. Although no transition is foolproof, it’s worth running down the following support checklist. Have you covered all your bases, or is there more work to do before you take the plunge?

Have you researched other vendors?

The act of bringing in a new tech vendor is a lot like hiring a new employee. If you haven’t spent the time “interviewing” prospective providers and vetting their resumes, take a step back and do some more research.

Do they eat their own dogfood?

If an APM vendor is trying to sell you their monitoring tool, but you notice that their competitor’s tool is open in the background on their computer during a demo, that probably doesn’t instill confidence. Does your potential vendor use its own product or eschew it in favor of other solutions? Since you’re likely making the switch to a new service or technology, your new vendor should be prepared to demonstrate the same confidence in that offering.

If they don’t use it, ask why. If they do, ask for proof.

Is it a closed environment?

Is the technology interoperable with other offerings or are you compelled to use only what the vendor is selling? More so, what’s the plan when you switch providers or if the vendor goes out of business? Bottom line: If they’re locking you in, get out. The last thing you want to have is a broken legacy tool without any support. Unfortunately, it happens all the time so make sure you have a an option to get out.

Is there data to support their cause?

If you’re looking to link up with a new vendor, ask how they track customer needs and serve up effective solutions. The answer should be a brand of data analytics. If it’s a generalized “mission statement” about customization or best practices, take a pass. Hard data is critical to handle customer needs effectively.

Does it meet your needs or is it hype?

Does the product you’re considering really meet your needs? It’s easy to get caught in the hype trap and spring for something you don’t really need. Maybe a Magic Quadrant report convinced your boss it was the hot new ticket and they couldn’t turn it down. Instead, look for key characteristics such as single-pane-of-glass monitoring across physical and virtual servers as well as applications.

How does their licensing work?

How is licensing handled? Per-seat is the old standby, but it often serves to line vendors’ pockets rather than offering you any significant benefit. Consider shopping for a provider that offers per-device licensing to help manage costs and simplify the process of getting up to speed. Too often do vendors provide overly complicated licensing. If you can’t grasp how their licensing and pricing works then assume they did that on purpose.

Are they really trying to help you?

Whose success is your prospective partner focused on? While all IT vendors are in the market to make a healthy profit, they should have teams, systems and processes in place designed to assess your needs, measure your satisfaction and take action where warranted. If you get a “cog in the machine” or “check in the bank” vibe from your vendor, back away and find another offering.

Is their support adequate?

Support isn’t a static discipline. If you’re considering an agreement with a new provider, what kind of training and education is available to sysadmins down the road? If your vendor doesn’t offer this or even see the need, you may want to opt out.

Break It Down

It’s easy to talk generally about cost; you want to spend “X” and not exceed “Y”. Here’s the thing: You need a more concrete answer. Start with a decent cost calculator and see what shakes out. Refine as needed to find a bottom line that suits your needs and your budget.

All companies eventually move up, laterally or simply into a need for action to keep up with IT trends. Do your workload a favor: Run this checklist first, adjust as needed and then dive into your new investment.

network protocols

It’s obviously easy to tell when two humans are communicating with one another. It’s not as easy for some folks to get how two machines communicate with each other. They do. It’s just a less obvious. Hint: they don’t Snapchat. Instead, components within your IT infrastructure, like routers or applications, use network protocols to chat with each other.

Network protocols get kind of important when it comes to their sharing information about your company. When machines don’t communicate with each other properly, vital information is lost.

Moreover, network protocols alert sysadmins to the status of IT health and performance. If you’re not paying attention to what your network protocols are trying to tell you, devices on your network could be failing and you don’t know about it.

In order to better understand the importance of network protocols, you should become familiar with the ones which are most commonly used.

SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol)

IT pros use SNMP to collect information as well as to configure network devices such as servers, printers, hubs, switches, and routers on an IP network. How does it work? You install an SNMP agent on a device. The SNMP agent allows you to monitor that device from an SNMP management console. SNMP’s developers designed this protocol so it could be deployed on the largest number of devices and so it would have minimal impact on them. Also, they developed SNMP so that it would continue to work even when other network applications fail.

WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation)

WMI is the Microsoft implementation of Web-Based Enterprise Management, a software industry initiative to develop a standard for accessing management information in the enterprise. This protocol creates an operating system interface that receives information from devices running a WMI agent. WMI gathers details about the operating system, hardware or software data, the status and properties of remote or local systems, configuration and security information, and process and services information. It then passes all of these details along to the network management software, which monitors network health, performance, and availability. Although WMI is a proprietary protocol for Windows-based systems and applications, it can work with SNMP and other protocols.

SSH (Secure Shell)

SSH is a UNIX-based command interface that allows a user to gain remote access to a computer. Network administrators use SSH to control devices remotely. SSH creates a protective “shell” through encryption so that information can travel between network management software and devices. In addition to the security measure of encryption, SSH requires IT administrators to provide a username, password, and port number for authentication.

Telnet

Telnet is one of the oldest communications protocols. Like SSH, it enables a user to control a device remotely. Unlike SSH, Telnet doesn’t use encryption. It’s been criticized for being less secure. In spite of that, people still use Telnet because there are some servers and network devices still require it.

Monitoring Your Infrastructure

Like almost every other IT team out there, yours probably is dealing with an infrastructure composed of a mish mash of servers, network equipment, mobile devices, and applications. Being able to automatically discover, manage and monitor this all requires unified infrastructure and application monitoring technology that uses all four of these protocols.

 

 

 

how it pros can save 30 minutes a day
Learn how to eliminate time wasters and get 30 minutes of your day back

Nobody knows the value of time better than an IT pro. Staying ahead of issues gives IT breathing room to enhance the network, instead of wasting time on fixing problems. 2016 is no different: Your IT team will need to once again deploy patches, install new hardware and transition to yet another upgraded Windows platform.

That’s right. The start of a new year always brings with it new challenges, but 2016 stands out as a year that could bring unforeseen complications following the release of Windows 10. Depending on your deployment plan, moving over to the latest incarnation of Windows is a massive additional project.

To make up for it, you and your team need to save 30 minutes a day this year. Our upcoming webinar on February 9th will hopefully help your team handle many of their core tasks quickly so they can concentrate on big things like the new Windows 10.

In our upcoming webinar, we’ll discuss how using WhatsUp Gold infrastructure monitoring software will enhance your team’s ability to:

  • Manage and track your entire inventory, down to the component level
  • Configure new or replaced devices
  • Create network diagrams and stay within any necessary compliance
  • Many other necessary and vital tasks that your team handles on a daily basis

Understanding how to save time on regular tasks represents a massive opportunity for time savings over the course of 2016.

Save Every Precious Second You’ve Got

WhatsUp Gold provides all of the visibility about your entire infrastructure that your team needs to reduce time spent on time-consuming tasks. IT administration is about managing a massive amount of tasks. Knowing this, we’ve designed software that can save every precious second you’ve got.

The webinar will show how WhatsUp Gold can become an IT pro’s best friend, including the ability to:

  • Create a single pane of glass to monitor the overall health of the entire technical infrastructure
  • Provide highly customizable alerts that allow for automated features to address certain tasks
  • Integrate with other WhatsUp Gold plug-ins to help create a specific solution for your IT administration
  • Increase the ease of device configuration, auditing and configuration management
  • Enhance the ability to comply with regulations and increase the ease of internal audits

Learn How to Avoid IT Time Wasters 

Efficiency is the name of the game in the world of IT. Our upcoming webinar on February 9 at 2pm US ET will provide actionable ways for IT pros to examine their workflows and save 30 minutes a day.

Is There Such a Thing as too Much Visibility?
Sometimes broad visibility can make it hard to see

Every day, many of us commuters have visibility issues and are at the mercy of unpredictable traffic. Often I have to leave a LOT of buffer to get to work in case I had an important meeting. Luckily there are tools out there that can give me good traffic visibility at my fingertips. For instance, I rely almost entirely on Google Maps to “predict” how long is it going to take me to get to work or to any other place for that matter. This type of visibility is crucial when things go wrong, like an accident.  Google Maps would reroute me or at least give me a revised ETA so that I can make any adjustments.

Fix Before You Fail

Is there an analogy to this in the online world? You would think that service providers and large enterprises would have this level of visibility into their networks. So, when things go wrong, like a device failure, they can pin point the root cause right away and take corrective action. Better yet, they can be ahead of the game by watching any performance bottlenecks or warning signs of failures and fix the issues before the end users are affected.

BT Broadband Network Outage is a Lesson for SMBs

So, when the very large BT broadband network went down today, I wonder if there is such a thing as too much visibility. Despite the service provider level of visibility they have, it took BT almost two hours to get all their customers back on line. Now imagine if you were an SMB or a mid-sized organization faced with a similar outage. Without sufficient visibility into the problem, your network could be down for hours, costing you, your employees, and customers, significantly in terms of revenues, productivity, and reputation.

How can today’s SMBs get service provider level visibility that won’t break the bank?  Here are some pointers:

  • Invest in a network monitoring tool that can discover all of your critical infrastructure
  • Make sure that the tool can provide insight into availability, performance, and security of your infrastructure
  • Choose a tool that is broad enough to support multiple monitoring technologies (e.g. SNMP, WMI, network flows) your entire infrastructure (network devices, servers, wireless devices, applications, virtual machines, etc.)
  • Ensure that the tool can give you proactive insights as well as reactive alerts
  • Consider the total cost of ownership of the tool from when you deploy it to as you maintain it. Remember that DIY is not always free over the lifetime of owning the tool
  • Do not “under monitor” during the evaluation of the tool. Develop a monitoring configuration that reflects the entire production network, not just the subset suitable during the evaluation
In the early years of IT, data was stored on paper tapes

What did an IT position look like in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s? Far fewer mobile endpoints, for one thing. With respect to today, the history of information technology boasts some surprising differences in day-to-day tasks and the technology that was available. IT support has come a long way, folks.

How Far Back?

IT has been around almost as long as humans. If you think about it, hieroglyphics are just a script devs don’t use anymore. Mechanical devices such as the slide rule, the Difference Engine, Blaise Pascal’s Pascaline and other mechanical computers qualify as IT, too. But this particular journey begins well into the 20th century.

The 1970’s: Mainly Mainframes

Computers of this era were mostly mainframes and minicomputers, and a history of information technology wouldn’t be complete without mentioning them. IT job roles included manually running user batch tasks, performing printer backups, conducting system upgrades via lengthy procedures, keeping terminals stocked with paper and swapping out blown tubes. IT staff was relegated mainly to basements and other clean rooms that housed the big iron. System interconnectivity was minimal at the time, so people had to bridge those gaps themselves. This was the motivation behind the Internet (or the ARPANET, as it was known then).

The 1980’s: Say Hello to the PC

This decade saw the growth of the minicomputer (think DEC VAX computers) and the introduction of the PC. Sysadmins crawled out of the basement and into the hallways and computer rooms of schools, libraries and businesses that needed them onsite. The typical IT roles at this time consisted of installing and maintaining file and print servers to automate data storage, retrieval and printing. Other business roles included installing and upgrading DOS on PCs.

If you worked in a school, you saw the introduction of the Apple II, Commodore 64 and, eventually, the IBM PC. But the personal computer was more expensive, deemed for business use and not deployed in schools very much. It was the Apple II that propelled the education market forward and, if you worked support at a school in the ’80s, you knew all about floppy disks, daisy wheel printers and RS-232 cables.

The 1990’s: Cubicles, Windows and the Internet

This generation of IT worked in cubicles (think “Tron” or “Office Space“), often sharing that space alongside the users they supported. Most employees were using PCs with Windows by this time, and IT support was focused on networking, network maintenance, PC email support, Windows and Microsoft Office installations — and adding memory or graphics cards for those who needed them.

Toward the end of the decade, the Web’s contribution to Internet connectivity became arguably the most requested computing resource among growing businesses. Although there was no Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn yet (Friendster would kick off that trend in 2002), employers still worried about productivity and often limited Web access. Oh, and if you could go ahead and add modems to PCs, run phone lines for those who needed dial-up access and Internet-enable the business LAN, that would be great.

Today’s IT: Welcome to Apple, Patch Tuesday and BYOD

Today, recent IT job roles have included the rebirth of Mac support, the introduction of social media (and the blocking of its access at work), constant security patches (Patch Tuesday on Windows, for instance), the advent of BYOD and DevOps automation.

The continued consumerization of IT (essentially now BYOD) meant that IT pros had “that kind” of job where friends and family would ask for help without pause. The one common thread through the years? The growth of automation in the IT role — something that will continue to define tomorrow’s helpdesk.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

ipswitch community
Join the Ipswitch Community today!

When your network goes down or your computer isn’t operating as it should, sometimes the best thing to do is reboot. It’s often the first solution to troubleshooting poblems. We took this notion and applied it to our Ipswitch Community. This month, we relaunched and combined our Ipswitch communities into one.

As IT pros know, an online community is a powerful tool, allowing folks to connect, learn and share thoughts, problems and ideas. With this in mind, we wanted to create a community where our customers and other IT pros can come together to give feedback about our products and services, ask questions, relate their own findings and build a network of other users.

Uniting Product Resources on the Ipswitch Community

The Ipswitch Community has different spaces for different products, such as WhatsUp Gold and File Transfer, but unites all these resources in one place. The Community also is connected with the knowledge base, for self-help, and links to additional support resources. So no matter how a customer wants to solve an issue, the full arsenal of tools is available.

The new Community experience has been simplified to make it much easier to use and get to where you need to go. This easy-to-use community is meant to make it easier for existing members to interact and to attract new community users.

How to Get Involved and Join the Conversation

Join the Ipswitch COmmunity
Join the Ipswitch Community today!

Come visit today and get involved. Community moderators have even provided tips on how to ask effective questions to get the most out of the community. My “Getting started with the community” post gives you useful links and tips like; how to set up an account, update your profile, remember to read the Community charter and how to create better questions and ideas using detailed descriptions, brief language and images helps get to your point quicker and get more attention.

I think our Community charter sets a few reasonable guidelines. Requiring visitors to use real names and photos ensures they are interacting as people on the site. Constructive criticism is encouraged as it can establish a productive dialogue. And we do hope that all of our community members play nicely with others.

Beyond the basic facilities of forums, question asking and connection, active community members can get involved in feedback groups and beta testing, and talk with our product and UX teams. Community member involvement is a great way to hear from our customers and others while we strive to create great products and services.

Our Community is here for folks to learn together and provide an outlet for questions, concerns and insight. Join today to find out how you can get closer to each other, my colleagues and our products.

 

IoT

In my last post on the Ipswitch blog, I described how the Internet of Things (IoT) will change the nature of the IT team’s role and responsibilities. The primary purpose of initiating an IoT strategy is to capture data from a broader population of product endpoints. As a result, IoT deployments are also creating a new set of application performance management (APM) and infrastructure monitoring requirements.

New APM and Infrastructure Monitoring Requirements for IoT

Historically, traditional APM and infrastructure monitoring solutions were designed to track the behavior of a relatively static population of business applications and systems supporting universally recognized business processes.

Even this standard assortment of applications, servers and networks could be difficult to properly administer without the right kind of management tools. But, over time most IT organizations have gained a pretty good sense of how to handle these tasks. And determine if their applications and systems are behaving properly.

Now, the APM and infrastructure monitoring function is becoming more complicated in the rapidly expanding world of IoT.

In a typical IoT scenario, IT organization could be asked to monitor the performance of the software that captures data from a variety of “wearables”. And, these software-enabled devices might be embedded in various fitness, fashion or health-related products. Each of them pose differing demands to ensure their reliable application performance.

In another situation, sensors might be deployed on a fleet of vehicles and the data being retrieved could be used to alert the service desk if a truck is in distress, or it might be due for a tune-up, or simply needs to change its route to more cost-effectively reach its destination.

The Key to Successful IoT Deployments

Regardless of the specific use-case, the key to making an IoT deployment successful is properly monitoring the performance of the software that captures the sensor data. Not to mention the systems that interpret the meaning of that data and dictate the appropriate response via an application initiated command.

Therefore, an IoT deployment typically entails monitoring a wide array of inter-related applications that could impact a series of business processes.

For example, an alert regarding a truck experiencing a problem could trigger a request for replacement parts from an inventory management system. This can lead to the dispatch of a service truck guided by a logistics software system. It could also be recorded in a CRM, ERP or other enterprise app to ensure sales, finance and other departments are aware of the customer status. Ultimately, the information could be used to redesign the product and services to make them more reliable, improve customer satisfaction and increase corporate efficiency.

Monitoring these applications and the servers that support them to ensure they are operating at an optimal level across the IoT supply-chain is the new APM reality.

The IoT infrastructure is a lot more complicated than traditional application and server environments of the past. Given that, unified infrastructure monitoring solutions that provide end-to-end views of application delivery can provide significant management leverage.

Related article: The Internet of Things: A Real-World View

WhatsUp Gold
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Last week I got about halfway through writing my “deep dive” into what’s new in WhatsUp Gold version 16.4 and realized this was going to have to be a two-parter. So consider this post a “part 2 of 2” and enjoy the swim in the pool as you check out the new features and what they mean to you. Here’s a link to part 1 of this blog, in case you missed it.

SNMP Extended Monitor

SNMP  (simple network management protocol) is a fundamental part of any network monitoring product, and as you’d expect, WhatsUp Gold speaks SNMP fluently. We have active SNMP monitors, performance SNMP monitors, and Alert Center Threshold SNMP monitors.  But, keeping all your SNMP monitors straight can be a challenge for a network administrator.

To help with this, in WhatsUp Gold 16.4 we have added the SNMP Extended Monitor. This is a new active monitor that allows you to consolidate many SNMP monitors into one.  If, for example, you want to monitor 10 different SNMP OIDs (object identifiers) on a certain device, but don’t want to clutter the device with all these individual monitors, then simply add a single SNMP Extended Monitor and consolidate your OIDs there.  Within the single monitor, you get to set thresholds on each OID.  Tripping any of the thresholds will trigger whatever alerts you have setup for the device.  You can get the details of which OID triggered the alert via the State Change Log, or in an email alert.

Another great feature of the SNMP Extended Monitor is the ability to load and reuse the multi-OID configurations from a standard XML file. This allows you to re-use the OID definitions and their associated thresholds across many devices.

Application Performance Monitor

Application Performance Monitor is a powerful plugin for WhatsUp Gold. It allows you to systematically monitor servers on your network a higher up the stack, and look at critical statistics that relate directly to the performance of your running applications.  And, it comes with a bunch of pre-defined application profiles that let you get up and running quickly.  With the release of WhatsUp Gold 16.4 we have added some new monitoring profiles as we continue to add value to this product.   We’ve added profiles for Linux, Apache Web Servers, Windows DNS, SharePoint 2013, and Microsoft SQL named instances.

I’m particularly excited by the addition of Linux and Apache profiles. We already had a profile for MySQL, so now, we’ve pretty much got the LAMP stack covered.  As enterprises start to rollout Linux and other open source technologies, there’s no reason to change your monitoring environment.  Keep it all in the single pane of glass with WhatsUp Gold.

JMX Monitoring

Related to my excitement about monitoring the LAMP stack in our Application Performance Monitor, I’m also thrilled about our new ability to monitor JMX, or Java Management Extensions. JMX is a technology that is used in Java application servers, many of which are open source, like Apache Tomcat or Apache ActiveMQ.  JMX allows these application servers export various measurements and statistics related to the Java application.  Think of it like SNMP, but for Java apps.

In WhatsUp Gold 16.4, we’ve added the ability to create active JMX monitors, and performance JMX monitors, so you can get alerts when a monitor is out of threshold, as well as chart the performance over time. And, because navigating JMX can sometimes be difficult (just like SNMP), we’ve provided a JMX browser in the product, so that you can quickly figure out what measurements your app server is exporting (just like our SNMP browser).

These three new features, plus the ones I went over in last week’s post (aka part 1 of 2) make it plain that we continue to innovate and add customer value. Give 16.4 a try!

And for those of you who want a super deep dive, check out this video that provides an 11 minute technical overview of WhatsUp Gold 16.4.