TechVirtuoso

Can you have too much security?

August 29th, 2011 at 8:35 AM  No Comments

I started a new position this year and have many challenges to overcome.  There are a lot of things that have been neglected and many changes to be made.  One of the changes I was looking at implementing is enabling Windows Firewall locally.  I started on a few new servers that I was rolling out and the regional IT staff that support some of our internal systems started to disable these firewalls.  When I brought this up they thought I was nuts.  Just wait until I start restricting services by IP.

Fast Forward to today and the “Morto” internet worm is spreading via RDP.  We don’t have any RDP hosts local that are open to the dangerous world we know as the internet but I can’t vouch for the other dozen sites that are connected at the other end of our MPLS.  Now, most of our PC’s don’t have RDP enabled, but PC’s used by management and more importantly the majority of our servers may be susceptible if one PC out of thousands are infected.

I realize more security means more administrative overhead and makes admin jobs harder, but what happens when something like this hits and all of these machines are infected?  how much work is that going to take to remedy?

So, what are your thoughts?  How far do you go to keep your infrastructure safe?

A few days with a dead tablet

August 28th, 2011 at 9:12 AM  No Comments

Like many others the announcement that HP would discontinue all current WebOS devices surprised me. I knew it wasn’t selling as well as HP expected (especially with the Rumors about Best Buy wanting to return a huge chunk of their stock) but I didn’t think they would give up this easily.

I went on the hunt to get one after the $99/$149 fire sale started. Since I was traveling that Saturday I didn’t get my hands on one until this past Wednesday. I am not a complete newb to WebOS. My wife used the original Pre on Sprint for a year and after she upgraded to the Evo I swapped it to my account as my primary device a couple of times. I really like WebOS but the Pre’s hardware killed the experience for me. I was exited to see how WebOS had evolved since version 1 as well as the experience on a piece of quality hardware.

Overall the WebOS interface hasn’t changed much, but it seemed much more polished over version 1.45. The hardware seemed solid but I was surprised to experience a little lag when doing some basic tasks. I would think the Dual Core Snapdragon system wouldn’t have small performance issues like this. Even with the performance shortcomings I didn’t use my laptop for three days after bringing the tablet home which surprised me.

The HP Touchpad had potential to be a great device, but with the previous price point I can understand why it wasn’t selling as well as it’s competitors. VPN Functionality and LAN Printing are great features but without apps like Remote Desktop, no support to access network files (CIFS Support is available in a Homebrew kernal, but no file manager supports it yet) and the crazy limitation to only be able to print to HP Printers it almost renders these features useless. There were also a number of applications in the HP Market that I was surprised not to see.  No Google Voice (there was an app to send SMS messages through your Google Voice account), no LogMeIn and no Dropbox just to name a few.

Overall I am happy with my purchase.  Would I have paid $499+ for the device?  Absolutely not but I don’t think I would pay that much for an iPad even with it’s ever mounting list of applications. Will my Touchpad force me to leave my trusty Thinkpad on the charger? I am not sure, but after using the Touchpad I do know some tablet (not sure which at this point) will.

Tech Field Day 7 is on!

August 11th, 2011 at 5:00 AM  No Comments

Tech Field Day 7 starts this morning and I am excited to get to our first presenter, Solarwinds (they have Tacos!).  After we eat our Tacos and hear about Solarwinds we will move onto Symantec and then to Dell.  You can follow the action on twitter or watch it live, right after the break!

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Austin isn’t ready for this!

August 10th, 2011 at 12:49 AM  3 Comments
Photo by Steven Foskett at TFD4

When you have 13 geeks (plus a Foskett, not sure what to classify him as) transcending on a city at the same time there will be shenanigans. This is exactly what is going to happen tomorrow!

I will be joining a great group of tech bloggers at Tech Field Day 7.  It will be two days of amazing information and discussions revolving around data center technologies.  Sponsoring the event will be SolarWinds (@SolarWinds_Inc), Symantec (@Symantec), Veeam (@Veeam) and Dell (@Dell_Storage).  My fellow TFD 7 deleates are below!

Scott Cochran ScottCochran.org
vCTC
@ScottCochran
Theron Conrey Conrey.org
VMunderground
@TheronConrey
Scott Lowe TechRepublic
VirtualizationAdmin
@OtherScottLowe
Roger Lund vRoger
vBrainstorm
@RogerLund
Frank Owen TechVirtuoso @FOwen
Bob Plankers The Lone Sysadmin @Plankers
W. Curtis Preston Backup Central
Truth in IT
@WCPreston
Fabio Rapposelli Juku
P2V It!
@FabioRapposelli
Brandon Riley virtual insanity @BrandonJRiley
Reed Robins Truth in IT
Backup Central
@TheReedRobins
Derek Schauland Technically Speaking @WebJunkie
Matt Simmons Standalone Sysadmin @standaloneSA
Matt Vogt Virtualization, Storage, Community @MattVogt

Keep an eye out on Twitter and my fellow blogger/tweeters above for information throughout this great event.  We will also have a live feed posted on the forum tomorrow for anyone who wants to join in.

Disclaimer: Travel and accommodations are being provided by the sponsors of Tech Field Day 7 (which are listed above).  My posts, and my opinions will always be my own.  I am not required to post any material to participate in this event.

Edit: I can’t believe I left Dell out!  Thanks gminks for pointing it out!

Is there such a thing as security in the cloud?

May 6th, 2011 at 5:22 PM  1 Comment

Unless you have been hiding under a rock you have heard about Sony’s PSN getting hacked.  Apparently I was hiding under a rock yesterday as LastPass, a cloud password storage company, also had a possible security breach and I didn’t hear about it until about late yesterday evening.

I am not going to act tough, although at first I freaked out a little bit.  Immediately rushing to conclusions, imagining all the passwords I would need to manually go through and change. Fortunately after reading their blog post and Last Pass CEO’s interview with PC World I felt a little more at ease.  I used a strong master password so I should be OK.  I am very impressed at how they handled the situation  and how open they were from the beginning.  I think I will be keeping the majority of my passwords with them.

It seems like every other day there is another company sending out emails notifying their customers that their personal information may have been compromised.  All of this has gotten me to think, with the growing number of companies learning everything it possibly can (looking at you Facebook and Google) is any information we give out on the computer really safe?  Do these cyber crimes continue to rise because the consumer is more at ease to post their private lives and information on the net?

Official OneNote app comes to the iPhone

January 20th, 2011 at 10:06 PM  No Comments

Microsoft has finally brought an official Office application (at least one of them) to the iPhone platform.   The OneNote app allows users on an Apple mobile device to modify and create OneNote files from their iOS device and sync them through SkyDrive.  Is this a sign of new applications to come out of Redmond to try and help combat users leaving Bill Gates’ cash cow called Office?  If so, I believe it is a smart move.  Choice and flexibility may help the fight against competitors from juggernauts Sun and Google.  Currently Microsoft is giving the way the app but leaves the door open for a future profit stream by stating the application is “free for a limited time.”

Android users are currently left in the dark forced to use third party apps like MobileNoter to get their OneNote on.

Storage Tiering vs Caching

November 12th, 2010 at 9:06 AM  3 Comments

During the first day of Tech Field Day #4 in San Jose we heard from two storage vendors who had two different thoughts on how storage should be configured.  We started out the day with NetApp who went over everything from their new OnTap 8.0.1 software, to the joint venture with Cisco and VMware called FlexPod as well as a presentation from Greg Kleimanon, Director of Marketing, on how NetApp uses caching in their arrays.

NetApp believes their Intelligent caching using Flash Cache is the best way to handle some of the hurdles that customers are facing today.  Kleimanon stated that Tiering is expensive and complicated to manage.  He did comment that there are companies (Like F5, another vendor from a previous Tech Field Day) that have created algorithms to dynamically manage tiering but he echoed that these algorithms are not proven.

The last presentation of the day was from Avere Co-founder/CEO Ronald Bianchini, Jr.  He was very passionate about his product and it showed through the presentation.  Avere uses your current “slow” storage for archive and uses a hybrid of RAM and SAS/SSD drives for faster reads/writes.  This solves the problem of speed in space by using a non traditional process of putting their box with the fast stuff (RAM & SAS/SSD) in front of your traditional SATA slow array.  It uses a algorithm to decide which items should be written/read from the RAM, the SAS/SSD drives or the SATA drives depending on the most efficient way to handle the data.

So what are your thoughts?  Caching or Tiering?

After seeing both presentations I think Tiering as implemented by Avere is the right way to implement the solution.  The way Avere breaks down the data and gives it the most efficient access path to the storage just makes sense.  Look for big things coming from Avere, especially in their FXT Series.

Update:  Here are the videos of the two presentations.  Watch and share your thoughts!

NetApp Presentation 1, 2, 3

Avere Presentation

Disclaimer:  Tech Field Day is organized by the great folks at Gestalt IT and paid for by the presenters of the event.  Even though my travel, meals and hotel accommodations were paid for my opinions are my own and it will not affect my posts.

Tech Field Day starts on Wednesday!

November 9th, 2010 at 12:32 AM  2 Comments

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It is going to be a crazy couple of days as myself and 10 other bloggers converge on San Jose for the 4th Tech Field Day presented by Gestalt IT.  Over the two days We will be hearing from 7 sponsors, from storage providers to chipset giants and enterprise monitoring leaders.

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This will be the first event that will be streamed live from Gestalt IT, the events organizer.  I am expecting two action packed days full of tweeting, blogging and good discussion.  If you have any questions you want asked to the sponsors post your questions in the comments or message me on Twitter.

Disclaimer:  Tech Field Day is organized by the great folks at Gestalt IT and paid for by the presenters of the event.  Even though my travel, meals and hotel accommodations were paid for my opinions are my own and it will not affect my posts.

Cable Management and You

November 8th, 2010 at 10:48 PM  No Comments

Picture this (since I didn’t think about takeing pictures three years ago)… walking into an amazing laid out Data center. Raised floors, redundant CRAC units (back then I had no idea what a CRAC was) and UPS’s that stood over 6 foot tall. I was in heaven until I arrived at our cage.  Equipment scattered everywhere, servers on a fold up table that bowed in the middle…. it was like an alternate universe inside of a perfect one.  The worst part of it all…. the data for the whole network (at the time 350 desks) ran through a single 2950 switch.

I dove in and found that the worst was hiding underneath the floor.  The main rack, that housed the two redundant routers (plugged into that single 2950 switch) and the DS3’s had everything plugged into 3 daisy chained surge protectors.  I tore apart the floor panels and took out miles of old left over cables.  Over time I found items to use (even found a 4 post rack) and eventually got everything so it looked like it belonged in this monstrous data center.  We made a lot of changes when the Avaya was implemented and with our customer wanting to audit our center, I was able to justify a few more purchases to get us to where we needed to be.  With the help from Neatpatch and RackSolutions I think we did a pretty dang good job.

Before:

We chose the Neat Patch solution for our horizontal cable management solution it is different.  Most cable management solutions just enable IT’ers  to get lazy and hide their cable mess inside of them.  The Neat Patch solution enables you to easily take a mess of cables and work them into something beautiful.  With short Fluke tested Cat6 cables provided it is easy to setup and to trace back your cables.  How many of you can say it takes less then 3 seconds to trace back any of the cables from a patch panel to a network switch?  I now can.  Customer service is just another thing that sets Neat patch apart from their competitors.  I received 96 grey cables with my order.  One call to NeatPatch and they sent me out exactly the color combination I needed, no questions asked, no extra charges.

As I said earlier in the post I stumbled across a Rack Solutions 4 post rack in our basement that allowed me to get the servers off that fold up table and over to a new home.  Luckily for me Rack Solutions also provides some industry leading cable management ideas as well.  I was able to order a huge vertical patch panel that could house up to 88 ports in a single rack.  This will allow us to no longer need to string cables up (or if we wanted to make our lifes hell, under the floor) whenever we added a new server or piece of equipment.  All we needed to do was cross connect a cable through our Neat Patch solution and cross connect another cable through the Rack Solutions product and BAM, we are ready to go.

Through this process I have learned a lot about cable management and server placement inside of a proper data center environment.  Here are a couple of key points I will leave you with.

  • Run as few cables through your raised floor as possible.  It becomes Tarzan’s favorite place in no time.  Not to mention the difficulty it ads when trying to trace or run cables.
  • Unless you are running in a shop with no maintenance windows, cable managers on the back of servers are a waste.  They block airflow and they make cable management harder.
  • Just because it looks good, doesn’t mean it is done right.  Sure, you can hide tons of cables inside some of these cable management solutions but that doesn’t mean you should.
  • LABEL YOUR CABLES.  I cannot stress this enough.  Over label your cables including power cables.  You will thank me later!

Google’s ‘best deal ever’

October 28th, 2010 at 7:58 AM  1 Comment

David Lawee, vice president of corporate development for Google, stated  at the 16th annual Stanford Accel Symposium that acquiring Android Inc. was Google’s “best deal ever.”  It is hard to argue with him with the rumored acquisition cost of $50 mil, especially with the market share the OS has gained in the last year.

With as many acquisitions that continue to happen at Google it may be a hard statement for Android to keep up with.  With Microsoft revamping their Mobile OS, HP brining Palm to the new level, RIM deciding it better get moving and Apple sitting on it’s laurels who knows what will happen in the coming years in the mobile space.

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