As a product manager of an integrated solution suite, it’s interesting to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between traditional systems management (OS deployment, inventory, software delivery, patching, monitoring) and its major trends (security, virtualization, cloud, efficient data centers) with network management (deployment and configuration, backup/restore, monitoring, traffic analysis, Quality of Service) and networking trends (mobile devices, cloud, virtualization, larger networking demands). There are many similarities between these two IT focus areas and I will “blog” about several aspects as I tie-in and compare systems management with network management over the next year. One similarity that is particularly easy to spot and “leaps off the page” for me relates to discovery. In fact, it ALL starts with discovery.

By obtaining a complete and accurate discovery of your networking “stuff,” you will gain immediate benefits. The first premise here is that, until you know what you have (i.e. your stuff), where it is, and how it is connected, you cannot determine the best course of action to improve services, plan for new capacity, uptime, planned outages, or anything for that matter. Performing a regularly scheduled discovery of your devices will provide benefits that trickle into every other aspect of network management, and IT services in general.

The second premise is that the discovery process should be automated. Let’s face it, we live in a day and age where automation can and should be your best friend. Automation allows an IT administrator to remove the mundane and really boring daily tasks from his/her “to-do” list and to focus on things that add value. Back in the late 90’s, while working in IT at a local private liberal arts college, we performed what I call a “clipboard” inventory 2 times a year. The fact was that our manual inventory was inaccurate the moment we left the professor’s office. Add to that the notion that we could only gather some of the most basic inventory details: CPU, RAM, Network card, Add/Remove Programs. The level of detail that can be obtained today in an automated fashion is very complete and can be adapted to gather almost any piece of electronically stored information on a device. Don’t waste any more time doing manual discovery/inventories!

The third premise is that you need a management system that provides “out-of-the-box” reporting and mapping capabilities that easily and intuitively show discovered devices, their attributes, and their connectivity.  The system should allow the flexibility to generate your own custom reports as needed. As a really cool bonus feature, the reports and maps should also dynamically update as new discoveries are performed so that you not only know how your network looks like right now but also easily visualize to how it is performing.

Imagine going from a world of clipboard inventory, 2 times a year, to a fully automated discovery complete with a dynamically updated map of your network. Does it get any better than that? Possibly not, but then again the only constant with technology is change.

As we begin our discussion on how to provide great IT services, I hope you will start to think about, and hopefully act upon, the premise that “it ALL starts with discovery”.

P.S. As a public service announcement, I am providing you with a product link that can dramatically assist with the process of discovery/mapping and meets every requirement I describe above.  Visit WhatsUpGold Network Discovery for more details.

Is the Private Cloud Right for You?

You may have noticed our recent poll on cloud use in 2011, which found that almost 2/3 of all organizations are planning some kind of cloud investment this year. Nearly 30% said they would be investing in the private cloud specifically. If you happen to fall in with this percentage, then you’re in luck. The Ipswitch Network Management Division has been hard at work, documenting the steps and best practices for implementing and managing a private cloud. But sometimes the decision to move to the cloud isn’t easy.

Before committing to an investment such as this, it is important to know what makes it advantageous. A private cloud offers:

  • Improved hardware optimization
  • Reduced support costs with self-service management
  • Reduced capital expenditures
  • Reduced time to deploy applications and services

You may also want to consider potential drawbacks and what might not make a private cloud the right option for you. It is usually an efficient and cost-effective way of utilizing IT resources when the following conditions are met:

  • The cloud provider has standardized hardware
  • The cloud provider has standardized OS and application stacks
  • Sufficient networking infrastructure is in place to support cloud computing
  • Management tools, such as server and network monitoring, are in place
  • The distribution of jobs lends themselves to distributed computing platforms

If you do decide the private cloud is a good fit for your network, there are still more steps that need to be taken before implementations. To determine your current state of readiness for the cloud you must first assess your existing infrastructure, resource utilization levels, policies and procedures governing IT operations, and reporting and cost allocation procedures.

Ready to begin the migration to a private cloud? Read our white paper on deploying and managing private cloud.

Also, check out this article in the Enterprise Networking Planet on some tips on deploying your private cloud.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Although we are all familiar with budget cuts, this might ring close to home for the UK public sector, where on October 20 the government announced an intense review of public sector spending. However, given the less than ideal state of the international economy, working effectively within budget constraints is no less prevalent worldwide. Our Channel Manager, Steve Demianyk, provides some tips for the IT department under fire.

Tip #1 Make the most of the infrastructure you already own

Document port-to-port connectivity, ideally, with an inexpensive layer 2/3 discovery, mapping, and inventory tool. With a complete inventory in place, troubleshooting, auditing, and repurposing unused resources becomes easier.

Tip #2 Need more hardware? Consider moving to an internal cloud!

Ipswitch hasn’t purchased a single piece of hardware in the three years since we’ve moved to the internal cloud. Your first step in virtualization is to decide which serves to move to the cloud. Usually, supplementary servers like DNS, domain controllers, DHCP, and file and print servers are good places to start because they don’t take full advantage of the hardware on which they exist. Web servers, mail servers and small databases are also good candidates.

More complex servers can be virtualized, but this must be planned out carefully. Before virtualizing any server you should run a trending analysis and performance monitoring. You will want to measure processor use, memory use, storage, network traffic volume and disk I/O. An overloaded server should not be moved to the cloud in any case.

Tip #3 Look for ways to troubleshoot and resolve issues faster

Industries studies show that 80% of IT time and resources are spent on finding the problem, and only 20% is for fixing the issues. If you are running more than one network management solution you will have to manually examine multiple reports and interfaces to correlate information across various types of metrics. This can substantially lengthen mean time to resolution (MTTR), making the job much more difficult and time consuming. Look for an infrastructure management solution that will let you discover, map, monitor and manage the network devices, servers, applications, virtual resources, port-to-port connectivity, configuration settings and network traffic from a single console.

Tip #4 Ensure 24×7 health, availability and optimal performance of infrastructure and applications

Performance monitoring should be a routine task. This seemingly unimportant activity can minimize risks and increase the likelihood that network issues and bottlenecks are found early on. A network management solution with an all-inclusive console will make this job easier and more efficient.

Tip #5 Look for cost-effective solutions

They do exist. If you currently use one of the big four solutions you might want to reconsider your solution for the upcoming year. You can still have a solid IT management solution for a reasonable price, but you may have to sacrifice the bells and whistles. One might naturally look towards open source solutions, but configuration can be a nightmare and the risks are high: vulnerability, scalability, liability, lack of tech support.

As the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy puts it, “Don’t panic” (in the face of budget cuts). Just weigh your options and find ways to do more with less.

[blackbirdpie id=”1719513137545216″]

Want to learn how to manage and grow your IT infrastructure without having to buy another server? There is useful little article floating around the web, titled Practical Steps for Building and Managing an Internal Cloud, by one of our network managers, Stephen Dalgar, and our Director of Product Marketing, Marina Gil-Santamaria.

By now we’ve all recognized the importance of virtualization and its growing prevalence among IT professionals. Moving to a virtual environment significantly reduces hardware costs and complexity, while increasing server utilization and reducing the overall cost of ownership. Here at WhatsUp Gold, we not only provide tools to monitor your virtual environment, we also share our best practices for virtualization with you. After all, we haven’t purchased a single server in almost three years of sustained network growth, so read on to learn how we achieved this.

When making a move to virtualization, there are steps you can take in order to stay organized and maintain efficiency. According to Dalgar and Gil-Santamaria, the following checklist proved indispensible when building our cloud:

  1. Properly scope your virtualization project, objectives and goals, as well as success metrics
  2. Get buy-in from all key stakeholders (sponsoring, business and technical)
  3. Put a policy in place for how physical to virtual migrations are to be executed
  4. Put strict controls in place to allow for VM creation
  5. Closely monitor physical resources, cpu, interface, memory, and disk utilization.
  6. Use Resource pools allowing production servers to take precedence over hardware.
  7. Look for a management tool that offers single console monitoring across network devices, servers, applications, virtual resources, network traffic and events and log data
  8. Inventory your physical and virtualized environments on an on-going basis
  9. Overlay compliance and data security policies and organizational and management requirements
  10. Don’t forget to monitor, alerts and report on critical vCenter alerts, there are actually 300+ vCenter events

    You should also establish set infrastructure management strategies for when the cloud is in place.

    WhatsUp WhatsVirtual is precisely the tool to help with the virtualization process with one console to manage both your physical and virtual environments. Once you have WUG you simply refresh your license to get automatic discovery, mapping and documentation of the physical servers and virtual resources that make up your entire infrastructure. WhatsVirtual also integrates with VMware API to collect performance metrics, gain access to key management tasks, and oversee VMware vMotion or High Availability live migrations. When your environment is in place you have the ability to control virtual machine actions like power on, power off, suspend, reset, and backup as well. Additional capabilities include workspace reports for physical host servers, virtual machines, and virtual clusters; and seamless integration into the WhatsUp Gold Alert Center.

    Learn more about WhatsUp WhatsVirtual or download your free 30 day trial!

    Now through August 15, buy WhatsUp Gold WhatsVirtual at a Special Introductory Price!

    To learn more about building and managing a virtual environment, view the full article.

    Software should make your life simpler.

    That’s been the mantra of our WhatsUp Gold developers from year one, nearly 20 years ago.Today, this dilegence and commitment to our customers was vindicated by NetworkManagementSoftware scribe, Aaron Leskiw.

    Leskiw conducted an in-depth review of WhatsUp Gold Premium, focusing on the usability and simplicity of the product in relation to the robust feature set that it delivers.

    Leskiw’s bottom line on the review of WhatsUp Gold Premium Edition was: “The big question is: Does WhatsUp Gold deliver on its promise of making your job easier? Yes it does – and very well! All of the features tested performed superbly and the software was simple to install.

    Share in our success (afterall, it’s with your feedback that we’ve successfully developed our user-friendly IT Managemetn solution!) and check out the full review here: http://www.networkmanagementsoftware.com/whatsup-gold-premium-review

    Check out the full review here: http://www.networkmanagementsoftware.com/whatsup-gold-premium-review

    A recent review of WhatsUp Gold Premium Edition from Aaron Leskiw on networkmanagementsoftware.com poses the question: Does network management have to be complicated?

    Obviously, we think it should be just the opposite, and build our network management solutions with the goal of making the life of a network administrator that much easier. Leskiw conducted a pretty in-depth review of WhatsUp Gold Premium, focusing on the usability and simplicity of the product in relation to the robust feature set that it delivers.

    The bottom line on the review of WhatsUp Gold Premium Edition? Well Leskiw had this to say: “The big question is: Does WhatsUp Gold deliver on its promise of making your job easier? Yes it does – and very well! All of the features tested performed superbly and the software was simple to install.

    Check out the full review here: http://www.networkmanagementsoftware.com/whatsup-gold-premium-review

    WUG_Bell_300dpiWhatsUp Gold v14 Premium was recently added to the U.S. Department of Navy’s Application and Database Management System (DADMS) list. Previous versions of WhatsUp Gold have been on the list since v11. As a member of the DADMS list, WhatsUp Gold v14 Premium has been rigorously tested to ensure compliance with the Navy’s application reduction initiative.

    Other members of the WhatsUp Gold Family are frequently used by government offices and Federal agencies. For instance, WhatsUp Gold Event Log Management Suite is not only used by the U.S. Navy, but also the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Homeland Security, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and all branches of the U.S. military.

    Having the newest and most up-to-date versions of WhatsUp Gold allows government organizations to be confident in the availability, health, and security of their critical infrastructures. It is our hope at Ipswitch to continue to provide powerful network management solutions that maintain the high standard of performance and adherence to regulations the U.S. Navy and other Federal branches have come to expect. WhatsUp Gold v14 Premium and WhatsUp Gold Event Log Management Suite continue this tradition.

    In early March, Alessandro Porro, our International Sales Director, traveled throughout Asia to visit some of our WhatsUp Gold partners.  The first two stops of this tour were Japan and Korea, where Alessandro met with Vinetech.  Next, he visited our partner ZeroOne Technology in both China and Taiwan.  ZeroOne Technology, recently named “Distributor of the Year” in Taiwan, hosted a reseller event in both China and Taiwan.  Alessandro was able to share the product management strategy, roadmap, and provide details on our exciting upcoming releases with resellers in these regions. Finally, Alessandro wrapped up his travels in Hong Kong with a visit to Asiasoft.  Also while in Hong Kong, Alessandro met with representatives from AsiaVAD (from Singapore) to discuss current business.  We are so fortunate to have dedicated partners who are committed to making our APAC visit successful!

    This trip was a great opportunity to visit our partners at their offices.  It is always exciting to visit with partners and hear from their customers; it helps achieve our mutual success. This was a great trip and we look forward to future visits!

    Alessandro Porro during his presentation

    Twenty years and counting in business and WhatsUp Gold just keeps getting better!

    We’re excited to announce our largest release in the history of Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold today – v14.2.

    We couldn’t have done it without our customers – literally. You guys are responsible for the development and inclusion of four new major features:

    –       Business hour reporting was the #1 requested feature

    –       Blackout summary notifications was the #4 most requested feature

    –       Errors and discards monitoring was the #6 most requested feature

    –       PDF scheduled/email reports was the #9 most requested feature.

    We are also releasing two new plug-ins:

    WhatsUp Gold WhatsVirtual – Now you can monitor and manage both physical and virtual VMWare environments from a single console!

    WhatsUp Gold Failover Manager – Keep your peace of mind that your WUG data will be safe with this secondary WUG Server in the case of a primary server failure.

    In addition we’ve made many improvements to three of the four other plugins, WhatsUp Gold Flow Monitor, WhatsUp Gold WhatsConnected and WhatsUp Gold WhatsConfigured.

    But I’ll let you hear about it from the Guru. Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for a complete set of tutorial videos for this release!

     

    AtlantaLogoWUGi

    As President of Ipswitch Inc.’s Network Management division I have had the opportunity to speak with many of our customers about their experience using WhatsUp Gold.

    Now, because WhatsUp Gold can be deployed and utilized in a variety of ways, each new story I hear varies from the last. But I have noticed a few common themes over the years. One such theme sounds like this:

    “The phones stopped ringing as soon as it was deployed on the network.”

    In fact, a few weeks ago I had a new customer call up our sales team and rave about the silence he and his team have enjoyed since they implemented WhatsUp Gold on their network. No more phone calls about the network being slow, that this server is down, that the Internet isn’t connecting, etc.

    Because of the powerful systems and performance monitoring WhatsUp Gold delivers, these guys are finally the first to know when something is wrong on their network. They can now fix an issue before it affects their users.careerbuilderweb

    This latest customer interaction reminded me of our history with job-search-giant, CareerBuilder. As a longtime user of WhatsUp Gold solutions, our product has literally grown along with CareerBuilder’s company.

    In its early stages in 2003, at a point when the job search site was just one-fifth the size of the market leader, they brought in WhatsGold to solve their basic monitoring needs. As they’ve grown and matured, becoming the nation’s largest online job site, WhatsUp Gold has stayed a step ahead to continue to provide them the tool-set and functionality they need to manage a network that now includes close to 1300 devices.

    Despite the evolution of technology and the increasing complexity of networks and managing solutions, we know that with most of our customers it is still the little things that make such a big difference. Mark Fouraker, Technologist at CareerBuilder, touches on just that in a favorite quote of mine from this customer story:

    “My favorite story about WhatsUp Gold is when I was in an important meeting and was getting silent alerts on my pager about an impending issue on our network. I was sneaking out at breaks to troubleshoot and address the matter, eventually resolving it. The bottom line is that no one outside of a few people in operations had any idea there was even an issue at all. It’s just a beautiful product.”

    A story like this is really powerful, in my opinion, because it shows how technology can evolve and customer needs can change, forcing us to continually adapt and innovate our product to meet those changing needs. It also shows that business relationships can certainly last as long as it remains mutually beneficial, with a bit of give and take from both sides.

    sony-playstation-3I had a few free hours yesterday afternoon inbetween Sunday obligations so I did what many people do when blessed with extra time; I powered on my gaming console and sank into my couch for a quick game or two.

    I’ve been trying to wean myself from my “Little Big Planet” so I thought I’d download “Heavy Rain,” just to see what all the hype was about.

    Unfortunately for me my gaming console of choice is PlayStation 3. (Don’t think I don’t hear you Xbox fanatics chuckling to yourselves that owning a PS3 is indeed unfortunate, but let’s save that argument for another post.)

    Instead of “Heavy Rain,” I received this message:

    8001050F Registration of the trophy information could not be completed. The game will now quit.

    I tried three more times before I broke out my computer and did a quick Google search to see what the heck was going on. It didn’t take long for me to find other users experiencing the same frustration.

    It was official; the PlayStation Network was down.  Network outage. Bummer.

    And the outage seemed to be only effecting the older versions of PS3. Meaning Double Bummer for me. I don’t yet own one those new “slim” PS3 models.

    Sony acknowledged the technical issue on their blog Sunday night and said it was working on a fix.

    “We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you, and genuinely appreciate your patience while we work to resolve this,” Sony social media manager Jeff Rubenstein posted on the PlayStation blog.

    I wondered what, if anything, they use to monitor their network. I wondered if they had deployed WhatsUp Gold on the PS3 network whether or not I’d be sitting on my couch wondering what to do now.

    I can’t help it. It’s the first thing I think about in these situations. I thought about the flood of phone calls those in charge of PSN must be drowning in at that moment.

    In this world where nearly everything happens online network management software is no longer a Nice to Have. It is definitely a Need to Have.

    If PSN does not have a Network Management solution in place I’m willing to bet they will have one in the very near future.

    In the meantime they’ve released that the source of the problem has been identified as a bug in the clock functionality incorporated in the system. Sony says it hopes to resolve the issue in the next 24 hours.

    If you, like me, own an older PS3, Sony advises we keep our consoles turned off until further notice.

    Join Our 14.2 and WhatsVirtual TTP

    Ipswitch’s network management division takes pride in developing software that keeps our users on the cutting edge of industry standards. You need a network management solution that will continue to evolve as the industry evolves.

    The latest product we’ve been developing, WhatsVirtual, is an answer to the growing industry trend toward virtualization. It is now essential for IT professionals to have a tool that allows them to effectively monitor and manage their virtualized environments.

    Join our WhatsVirtual Technical Preview Program and be the first to give us feedback on this new tool. We view our TPP participants as an integral part of WhatsUp Gold’s product developement.
    ———————

    The success of WhatsUp Gold’s Traffic Analysis tool late last year was without doubt due in part to your feedback and participation in our Flow Publisher TPP.

    Netflow ScreenFlow Publisher is a lightweight complement to WhatsUp Gold Flow Monitor (Flow Monitor provides detailed insight into how your network bandwidth is utilized by collecting NetFlow, sFlow and J-Flow data) designed for those networks that don’t support flow data.

    So cross Budget For Costly Upgrades and New Hardware off your To Do List: Flow Publisher; enables flow monitoring for every network segment and for every device whether or not they natively support flow monitoring. Flow Publisher captures raw network traffic and converts it into standard NetFlow records.

    Here’s a quick 101 of network traffic analysis terms you should be familiar with in order to effectively get a handle on your network’s performance

    * Top Offenders: The top offenders are those users, applications or hosts that are consuming your network bandwidth.
    * BitTorrent: This is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol used for distributing large amounts of data, which allows large files to be downloaded without affecting the performance of the network.
    * WAN Data Traffic: This refers to traffic slowing down the performance of the wireless environments, usually consisting of FTP or copying files between sites.
    * Security: Proper network traffic and performance monitoring allows you to detect DOS attacks and other rogue activity directed at your network.