Juniper Seminar: Key Takeaways

Yesterday, I attended the Toronto session of a Juniper seminar focused on security and datacenter solutions.

The following are the key takeaways I extracted:

  • Juniper is standards-oriented. In the area of NAC, e.g., they are co-chairing with Symantec the Trusted Computing Group‘s Trusted Network Connect (TNC) effort. It’s not (yet) clear to me how the TCG interplays with the IETF … And speaking of IETF, Juniper’s Network and Security Manager (NSM) makes use of IETF’s NetConf standard in, e.g., simplifying the provisioning of new devices on the network.
  • Juniper has a comprehensive portfolio of offerings at the intersection of security and networking. Interestingly, Juniper’s Security Threat Response Manager (STRM) OEMs technology from Q1Labs.
  • 802.1x is a solid bet. Based on a number of trends, and a variety of requirements, Juniper promotes use of 802.1x. Even though this is a path we’ve already identified, it’s good to have it independently validated …
  • Security, and other services, can be offloaded to purpose-built devices in the core. Instead of inserting, e.g., a FWSM into a device (e.g., a Cisco 65xx) that is primarily providing routing and switching services, Juniper has recently introduced a new paradigm with its SRX series. Touted as a services gateway for the core, the purpose of the SRX is to offload from the routing/switching devices various services – e.g., firewall, VPN, etc. As I understand it, the SRX runs JUNOS with various enhancements from ScreenOS (their O/S from their firewall devices). Even if you don’t make use of Juniper solutions, it may make sense to understand and potentially apply the offloading-of-services concept/paradigm in your core.
  • Juniper allows for the virtualization of switches. Juniper Virtual Chassis (VC) is currently only available for their EX 4200 platform. With VC, it’s possible to virtualize up to 10 physically distinct EX 4200s into one. Within the next year, Juniper plans to provide VC on, e.g., their EX 8200 platform. Because vmWare’s vMotion requires layer-2 adjacency, server virtualization may prove to be a significant driver for switch virtualization. I expect that this will prove, e.g., to be particularly relevant in providing failover services (at the networking layer) between multiple, physically distinct, and geographically separated locations.

Even though the event appeared to be more of the sales-y/marketing-y variety, there was substantial technical content in evidence.

CANHEIT 2008: Enhanced Abstract

The program specifics for CANHEIT 2008 are becoming available online.
The enhanced abstract for one of my presentations is as follows:

From the Core to the Edge: Automating Awareness of Network Topology through Knowledge Representation

Ian Lumb – Manager Network Operations, Computing and Network Services (York University)

Abstract

Like many other institutions of higher education, York University makes extensive use of Open Source software. This is especially true in the case of monitoring and managing IP (Internet Protocol) devices. On the monitoring front, extensive manual configuration is currently required to make monitoring solutions (e.g., NAGIOS) aware of the topology of the York network. And with respect to managing, NetDisco automatically discovers assets placed on the network, but is unable to abstract away unnecessary complexity in, e.g., rendering schematics of the network topology. These and other examples suggest that NAGIOS and NetDisco operate in the realm of data, and possibly information, but are unable to envisage network topology from a knowledge-representation perspective. Thus the current focus is on applying a recently developed knowledge-representation platform to such routine requirements in network monitoring and management. The platform is based on Sematic Web standards and implementations and has already been proven effective in various scientific contexts. Ultimately our objective is to extract data automatically discovered by NetDisco, represent it using the knowledge-based platform, and transform a topology-aware representation of the data into configuration data that can be ingested by NAGIOS.

A visual representation of the approach is illustrated below.

Parsing XML: Commercial Interest

Over the past few months, a topic I’ve become quite interested in is parsing XML. And more specifically, parsing XML in parallel.

Although I won’t take this opportunity to expound in any detail on what I’ve been up to, I did want to state that this topic is receiving interest from significant industry players. For example, here are two data points:

Parsing of XML documents has been recognized as a performance bottleneck when processing XML. One cost-effective way to improve parsing performance is to use parallel algorithms and leverage the use of multi-core processors. Parallel parsing for XML Document Object Model (DOM) has been proposed, but the existing schemes do not scale up well with the number of processors. Further, there is little discussion of parallel parsing methods for other parsing models. The question is: how can we improve parallel parsing for DOM and other XML parsing models, when multi-core processors are available?

Intel Corp. released a new software product suite that is designed to enhance the performance of XML in service-oriented architecture (SOA) environments, or other environments where XML handling needs optimization. Intel XML Software Suite 1.0, which was announced earlier this month, provides libraries to help accelerate XSLT, XPath, XML schemas and XML parsing. XML performance was found to be twice that of open source solutions when Intel tested its product …

As someone with a vested interest in XML, I regard data points such as these as very positive overall.

Jott: An Enabler for Working Moments

During his keynote address at yesterday’s Cisco Networkers event, Rick Moran (Vice President, Market Management) referred to the concept of working moments.

In other words, rather than blocks of time, for many the reality is that they have matters of minutes to get things done.

While listening to Mr. Moran speak, it occurred to me that Jott is a wonderful enabler for those having to survive on working moments.

As a case in point …

While driving to the Cisco event yesterday morning, I thought about an email message that I needed to write and send. Once I had some clarity on the content, I Jott’ed myself. Then when I arrived at the event, I edited my Jott on my BlackBerry, and emailed the completed message.

Once done, my mental self caught up with my physical self – which was already at the event 😉

Jott’s a great enabler for working moments!

You Blinked!

Have a look at this:

Even if you don’t know what Cisco TelePresence is, you’ll definitely get a feel for it from this deceptively simple, yet highly effective commercial!

A relatively recent offering:

Cisco TelePresence is an innovative, new technology that creates unique, in-person experiences between people, places, and events in their work and personal lives—over the network.

And according to what I heard today at a local Cisco Networkers event, all you need is 6 Mb/s!

Very cool!

Will I be trading in my Blackberry for an iPhone?

I love my BlackBerry. It does exactly what I expect it to do. After years of disappointment with technology, this is as strong an endorsement as I can think of.

I have the same feeling every time I use my Apple MacBook Pro. I can see my daughters having the same experience every time they use their Apple iPods.

Coming from this perspective, the anticipation I have for the Apple iPhone is nothing short of spine-tingling. It’s all anticipation at this point because all I know about the iPhone is what I can read online.

Of course, that won’t stop me from compiling a list of considerations on whether or not I will trade in my BlackBerry for an iPhone:

  • Physicality – RIM nailed the physical aspects of the Blackberry. Apple nailed the physical aspects of the MacBook and iPod, but what about the iPhone? For example, I’m concerned about trading in the highly tactile experience of my BlackBerry 7290’s real keypad for a touchscreen-based, soft keypad. I’ve had the soft-keypad experience via various Palm devices, and that’s precisely why I know I prefer the real keypad on the BlackBerry.
  • Footprint – RIM nailed device footprint. So did Palm. So did Apple with the iPod. In my estimation no handheld representation of a PC, based on some pared-down version of Windows (WindowsCE, aka. “WINCE”), even comes close. Device footprint is the cumulative effect of the operating system, applications, data, etc. In the case of the BlackBerry, Palm, or iPod, there is minimal bloat. The iPhone has to deliver a low-bloat device footprint. Although I like Apple’s chances here, the challenge will be significant as the iPhone is based on Apple OS X. It’s not clear whose CPU will be inside.
  • Propriety – According to one source:

    Apple has long preferred to develop products built on closed, proprietary technologies rather than open standards. Its proprietary iTunes music software, which will not work with devices other than Apple’s iPod, is one example of such a system.

    To some extent, of course, this is true. To a greater extent, however, it is a red herring.

As RIM has demonstrated with the BlackBerry, integration is the real issue. The BlackBerry is proprietary hardware. Because the operating system and applications are all J2ME-based, third parties can and do develop for the Blackberry platform, and RIM facilitates this. This is only the handheld portion of the picture, as integration with enterprise-scale messaging platforms (Microsoft Outlook, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) is also key to the BlackBerry’s overall delivered value. Given that the iPhone is based on Apple Mac OS X, there are clearly prospects for integration.

  • Software
    • Office software – Like the Blackberry, office-productivity software is absent on the iPhone. Although this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find such software for your iPhone, it does underscore the fact that office apps are not a focal point. From one perspective, this is an omission. From another, it is highly consistent with closing the expectation/experience gap I raised at the outset.
    • Chat software – RIM provides its own chat software (BlackBerry Messenger); it works well between BlackBerry’s. However, it’s the third-party chat applications that amplify the integration of the BlackBerry with enterprise-messaging systems (via the RIM BlackBerry Enterprise Messenger, IBM Sametime, etc.) or with Internet messaging systems (Yahoo! Messenger, GoogleTalk, etc.). Frankly, I’m surprised that some variant of iChat wasn’t included with the iPhone. Even from the non-business perspective, iChat would be a phenomenal way of further capturing the mindshare of the iPod generation that is currently umbilically tethered to MSN Messenger. I predict Apple will address this oversight before product release.
  • Legalities – The impending legal battle between Cisco and Apple is generating almost as much attention as the iPhone itself. As someone who lived through the RIM vs. NTP situation, while traveling extensively in the US, settlement of this legal matter will be a precondition of purchase.
  • Connectivity – I’ve used BlackBerry’s on CDMA and GSM-based cellular networks. With today’s expectation of IP everywhere, one wonders when an IP-ready version of the BlackBerry will become available. (Today, I only care when I run a Web browser on my BlackBerry.) The iPhone will grok both cellular and IP-based wireless networks on release. Even more, the iPhone is ready for next-generation wireless networks based on the emerging IEEE 802.11n standard. From the connectivity perspective then, the iPhone presents a phenomenal convergence play. RIM has less than six months to ensure it retains mindshare on this increasingly important front.

So, will I be trading in my BlackBerry for an iPhone?

It’s too early to say, but I’m definitely keen to learn more.

In-situ Investment in India: A Key to Cisco’s Globalization Strategy

globeandmail.com reports:

… chief globalization officer at Cisco Systems Inc., [Wim] Elfrink is taking his wife, two daughters and the family dog from suburban Silicon Valley to Bangalore, India.

Why?

I just tell people that I want to be where the innovation is.

Elfrink and Cisco’s decision seems have support:

International business experts say Cisco’s executive migration is a shrewd move that should give high-ranking employees critical insight into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

This announcement is interesting on a number of levels:

  • It’s a gutsy move by a senior executive at one of The Valley’s most-prominent companies. And it follows on the heels of US concerns about outsourcing, and specifically to India.
  • It bears testimony to India’s rapid arrival on the technology scene in a very substantial way.
  • And though I’m no economist, it also underscores a shift in innovation from The Valley to Asia.

Even though Cisco isn’t the first to make moves like this, it will be interesting to see how this develops.