Downtime by the numbers

January 17, 2008

Browsing around, I found this piece in India New England (yes, that’s the name of the publication) called Network downtime can be big expense for business. Tim Hebert is definitely singing our song. To wit:

Unplanned downtime is what keeps IT professionals, executives and business owners awake at night. Natural disasters and utility failures only account for three percent of all outages. Hardware failures account for less than 10 percent of all network failures. Systems errors account for less than eight percent of failures; application errors, 19 percent.

Industry experts estimate that almost 60 percent of network failures are caused by human error. This problem can be attacked through better training for IT organizations and end-users, better network documentation, better change-management controls and processes and better network monitoring and management.

Sixty percent of network failures caused by human error? Wow. There’s no citation to back that up, but it has the ring of truth. After all, if downtime came from more controllable sources, there wouldn’t be so much of it, right?

In any case, Tim’s piece makes clear the case for effective network management and network monitoring. I hope IT managers take heed and make a small investment in protection against what could be a huge loss.



January 15, 2008

I’m proud to report that the geeks here at The Daily Network Monitor did not tune in to the liveblogging or the live video of Steve Jobs’ MacWorld keynote today. We were out eating sushi. But to ignore Apple makes no more sense than to ignore open source, to ignore Windows, or to ignore Cisco. I’ll leave it to the Apple fanboys to slobber over the latest iPhone enhancements, the new 8-core Mac pro and the frighteningly thin MacBook Air. I want to talk about the Time Capsule.

which_wifi_timecapsule20080115.jpgThis is classic Apple. They didn’t invent the category or particularly innovate the technology, but they put together a set of existing technologies in a beautiful package that’s beautifully integrated with their other offerings. The Time Capsule is a wifi base station (seen those before) that allows USB print sharing (been there done that) and boasts up to a terabyte of network storage (yawn). So what makes this more appealing than, for example, Iomega’s StorCenter? How about out of the box integration with Apple’s Time Machine, a Vista-busting backup feature of the latest cat-themed Mac OS X? (Also, the StorCenter costs a little more, has one more USB port and RAID, and is very, very ugly.)

Sure, home network storage and backup are child’s play (sometimes literally) to the average networking pro. But ask yourself, network dudes, why can’t it be this elegant and easy at work, too?

Social Network Topology Mapping

January 10, 2008

It’s good to stretch the ol’ brain once in a while. To that end, I popped in to MIT’s winter term to check out a workshop called “Coolhunting and Coolfarming through Swarm Creativity.” I don’t pretend to understand all of what was discussed, but I was struck by the analogies between the social network mapping shown, and the data network mapping performed by tools like WhatsUp Gold.

cin2jpg.jpgProf. Peter Gloor showed off a tool that takes input from email records or online communities to create maps of social or business interactions, and Chandrika Samarth showed a real-life case study of how such mapping can lead to real process improvements in a real workplace, in this case a hospital. Characteristics like “betweenness,” “connectedness” and “sharing” are important attributes of social network nodes, also known as people. The charts show the communication between people as lines of length and thickness corresponding to the frequency and intensity of the interaction. Interesting data visualization, indeed.

Blogger predicts the death of death

January 8, 2008

Well, it’s not all as earth-shaking as that, but I’m getting tired of grabby headlines that loudly announce or predict the death of this or that.  Starting with disco, hardly anything is as dead as people like to say.  Cultural trends and technologies alike are much more prone to mutate and evolve or get reborn or remixed than to actually die. (Has anybody else noticed that the Apple Newton didn’t quite die, but got reborn first as the Palm Pilot and then the iPod Touch, and you can bet next week’s MacWorld will give birth to more…)

So you can understand my mixed feelings at Carolyn Duffy Marsan’s well-reasoned but poorly-headlined piece in Network World, The IT department is dead, author argues, which reviews Nicholas Carr’s book of the moment, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google.  You may remember Carr for asking Does IT Matter? in his 2004 book of the same title.

IT isn’t dead, IT departments are not dead, and IT professionals are not dead.  Far from it.  In fact, I think they’re all feeling much better and might even get up and go for a walk.

Now, that said, this certainly doesn’t mean that IT departments are going to be able to sit around and do what they’ve always done for years and get away with it.  They will adapt or they will in fact die.  To borrow one of Carr’s analogies, just because few if any businesses today generate their own power on-site does’t mean that there’s no market for power or people skilled in generating it.  Those professionals just had to make some adjustments in their skills and career paths.

What Carr and many others – notably Google – are getting at is that lots of parts of IT are getting commodified (that means made into a commodity, not thrown in the commode), getting turned into utilities and getting outsourced or shared.  The role of a small or mid-sized business IT pro is going to evolve in two ways because of this:

1. In-house IT will have to get skilled at managing the IT utilites: they will have to select, monitor and integrate rather than provide these kinds of services themselves

2. In-house IT will become more and more concerned with applications and business results and less concerned with infrastructure and connectivity

I think you’ll agree that neither trend will do much to reduce the demand for in-house IT.  Web-based software sold on the ASP model hasn’t put IT managers out on the street, it’s just given them new and even more interesting and valuable responsibilities.  If that’s dead, then I’ve got a deathwish, for sure.

The Net Admin’s Family Has No Bandwidth? Au Contraire!

January 4, 2008

Doubtless you’ve heard the phrase, “The cobbler’s children go barefoot” which means that sometimes professionals neglect their own families with regard to their profession.  As the marketing director with out of date business cards, I sympathize, but I think this is seldom true with networking professionals, or even IT types in general.  I bet half the readers of this blog have more bandwidth in their homes than at their office desks, and have probably wired up their in-laws and other relatives homes, too.

With CES firing up in Vegas this week, our thoughts turn from the cool tools at work to the cool toys at home.  Whatever Santa didn’t bring you can be seen – if not purchased – at CES.   On the home front, check out this news of home networking from CES – does your wired home do this?

In the HANA Home, consumers will be able to watch TV, time-shift their viewing, record live TV and push content from room to room within the home by using the HANA menus on any wired to wireless connected HDTV — all with guaranteed 400 Mbps guaranteed quality of service. The demo will illustrate how HANA uses whatever cabling they have in their home, be it coax, CAT5 or plastic optical fiber (POF), to interconnect their entertainment systems. Additionally, HD content will be transmitted wirelessly via a Wireless HDMI solution — with no loss of quality and full use of the HANA menus.The HANA Home at CES is sponsored by Samsung, Pulse-LINK, Oxford Semiconductor, Newnex, Firecomms and the 1394 Trade Association. These companies will showcase their home networking technology during the show.

That’s a lot of HD, with QoS, too no less!

For its birthday, does TCP/IP get a 7-layer cake?

January 3, 2008

Ok, that was bad.  I freely admit it.  But that doesn’t change the fact that good ol’ TCP/IP is in fact 25 years old, as I was tipped off to by Jeff Caruso’s Network World blog.

It was Jan. 1, 1983, when Internet precursor ARPANET switched over fully to TCP/IP. TCP/IP is so well-known that it’s one of those acronyms we no longer spell out at Network World, but in honor of the date, we should address this underappreciated and taken-for-granted bit of engineering by its full name, Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol.

As I like to say, you learn something new every day.  I wonder if future generations of network types look to us old folks and ask, “Do you remember where you were when TCP/IP was born?”

Oh My, MSP Monitors Medical Machines

January 2, 2008

This item via the MSP Mentor blog points out yet another way for smart VARs to get out of commodity selling and deliver sustainable service revenues by specializing.

Heyer’s new Advanced Remote Management Services (ARMS) provides customers with proactive remote monitoring and maintenance of Heyer [ventilation, anesthesia and inhalation] equipment — while complying with network security and regulatory practices … Heyer ARMS leverages the ComBrio Virtual Service Infrastructure (VSI), a virtual, secure IP infrastructure used for the continuous transport of real-time remote device monitoring data and on-demand access for remote device management.

Talk about a life-or-death SLA.  I’d be a little worried leaving my ventilation up to the average VAR, but I’m pretty sure that the ones who figure out how to do this well will be very well off indeed.  I’d even go so far as to predict some kind of IP revolution with all kinds of equipment getting network attached and coming under remote network monitoring.  What a wonderful world that would be.