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27 Posts authored by: Sanjay Castelino

In conjunction with SANS, SolarWinds conducted a survey of IT professionals on the impact of security threats and the use of security analytics and intelligence to resolve those threats.  We isolated the 120 government responses to get a sense of how analytics and intelligence are helping with the ever-increasing security challenges in the federal space.

 

Across the responses there was a commonality in uncertainty.  From truly understanding what the budget was for “information security management, compliance and response” (44 percent said unknown), to the number of attacks, to context around normal system behavior, to the roles needed in the organization, respondents agreed most on the lack of a standard.

 

What they do know is that security events happen. About 43 percent reported that in the past two years, their organizations experienced one or more attacks that were difficult to detect. Another 28 percent answered “unknown” to this question, continuing our theme of uncertainty.

 

Documented attacks take on average one week to detect. The three greatest blocks to discovering these attacks fall into the “we don’t know what we don’t know” category:

  • Lack of system and vulnerability awareness
  • Not collecting appropriate operational and security data
  • Lack of context to observe “normal behavior”

 

So, how is this problem overcome? With data of course! The data being used most frequently in the federal space to investigate security issues are:

  • Log data from networks and servers
  • Network monitoring data
  • Access data from applications and access control systems

 

In the next 12 months, respondents say they plan to begin using the following reporting data to enhance their security monitoring:

  • Monitoring and exception data pertaining to internal virtual and cloud environments
  • Access data from applications and access control systems
  • Security assessment data from endpoint, application and server monitoring tools

 

But as we all know, the more data you get, the more difficult it is to manage and make sense of it all. For that data to be effective, there needs to be a level of analytics. There is an even split between respondents saying that they correlate threat data using internally developed methods and those that say they do not correlate log data with external threat intelligence tools at all (43 and 42 percent, respectively). For those using analytics and analytic tools, the majority reported the biggest weakness was determining and measuring against a baseline.

 

What does this all mean? In order to get a handle on security threats, organizations must focus not necessarily on analyzing outliers, but on what the normal range should look like. Determining that baseline using monitoring tools and putting effort into correlating historical data with threat information will create more certainty and pay great dividends in being able to more quickly spot security events.  

 

Full public sector survey results are available by request.

More than 700 IT managers in six countries – Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, UK and USA – across the globe agreed unanimously that network complexity has impacted their IT role over the past five years.

 

In the North America, 92 percent of those polled agreed about this, while 85 percent did so in Germany and 80 percent in Australia, Britain and Brazil.

 

IT professionals in all six countries also are in broad agreement on the main technology, IT operations and business operations challenges driving network complexity: virtualization, BYOD and security.

 

Compute virtualization scored the most significant technology driver of network complexity for respondents in Australia, UK and Germany, in the IT Professionals Survey conducted by C. White Consulting for SolarWinds. IT professionals in Brazil and North America ranked virtualization as second, behind software-defined networking (SDN) and the introduction of smarter and more complex equipment, respectively.

 

Bring- your-own-device (BYOD) ranked as the top concern in IT operations drivers for Australia, North America and UK, while German IT pro’s opted for mobility and BYOD, and Brazilians for public cloud or Software as a Service (SAAS) and mobility.

 

Security was the main driver of network complexity in business operations in all six countries.

 

Take a look at our infographic covering the North American trends (click the link to download a full-size copy) and then dive into the worldwide data in the embedded slideshares below:

NetComplexInfoGraphic.png

 

 

North America IT Pros Survey: Network Complexity

 

 

 

 

 

 

UK IT Pros Survey: Network Complexity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian IT Pros Survey: Network Complexity

 

 

 

 

 

IT Pros Survey: Brazil

 

 

 

 


We've experienced a touch of difficulty inserting the German survey SlideShare, but the following link with definitely take you there.

German IT Pros Survey: Network Complexity

http://www.slideshare.net/SolarWinds/solar-windsnetworkcomplexitydriversskillsetresearch-ger061813

We recently completed a survey on the impact and drivers of network complexity (detailed results can be found here where 80% of IT pros, based in the UK, indicated that increasing network complexity had impacted their role within the last three to five years. To any IT pro this is nothing new, but the top drivers of this network complexity, might catch a few by surprise.

 

We broke the drivers into three categories:

  • Technology
  • IT Operations
  • Business Operations

 

 

 

TECHNOLOGY

Within technology the top two drivers were compute virtualisation and smarter/more complex equipment. The third most popular which fell somewhat significantly behind the first two was video conferencing/telepresence. To me equipment complexity is interesting, it feels contradictory to the value proposition of smarter equipment – isn’t that supposed to make your life less complex, and save you time and money?  Perhaps the savings in hardware are being consumed by software and manpower costs required to manage the more complex gear.  Software Defined Networks (SDN) – the fourth most popular - was also an interesting trend given how early in the deployment cycle we are, it seems that many folks are projecting how they think complexity will be impacted by SDN.

 

 

 

IT OPERATIONS

On the IT operations side I was surprised that BYOD and mobility ranked #1 and #2 for adding complexity to the delivery of IT services.  The ubiquity of mobile devices and the rate at which they’ve penetrated the work environment is amazing and likely caught many IT organisations off guard. Of course when the driver for a new IT service like mobility is senior management it’s tough to say no, so many folks charge forward and figure out the operational details after the fact.

 

 

 

BUSINESS OPERATIONS

Finally from a business operations standpoint security is the standout complexity driver.  From day zero threats to SIEM, there’s no shortage of new things being added to the IT plate – and in case you didn’t know, security is every IT Pro and businesses’ concern, not just the security team!

 

 

 

GETTING AHEAD OF THE COMPLEXITY

By now you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed and understaffed, and it’s no surprise.  What is surprising is that the number one skill that is needed to address the challenges of network complexity is ‘understanding the business’, identified by nearly one-third of UK IT pros.  The context that business knowledge provides in making the right decisions is remarkable.  Throw all the technology at you that the industry can muster, but if you understand the business needs you can cut through the hype and predicted benefits and get down to brass tacks.  Shortly behind the business understanding is network engineering, and information security – in our connected world those responses that make a lot of sense.

 

So how to get at these skills? Training of course. But it seems that your management still doesn’t understand the value of training as budget and time were the top two barriers to getting the help you needed. This is a continuing trend, at a time when management will spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on hardware and software, spending the time and money to get trained right seems to require a two-thirds majority in congress.

 

So there you have it – the state of network complexity in 2013 – change is inevitable in the IT space and getting the training and development to stay ahead of the game is critical.

 

Got thoughts on this topic?  Let us know.


 

Government has always been a complex morass of differing ideals, morals and motivations…but we’re not here to talk about political nuances.  The “complexity” that we’re concerned with centers on the IT technologies that our government uses every day to serve citizens, from network infrastructure to application management and monitoring tools.

 

There’s no debate that IT networks are becoming more complex. We surveyed more than 100 government IT professionals to find out what is driving this complexity and what can be done about it.

 

For this survey, we defined network complexity as “the continuously growing, increasingly complicated nature of the network due to new technologies (such as SDN, virtualization, etc.) as well as the ever-increasing responsibilities placed on IT professionals from an IT operations perspective (by supporting new service offerings such as cloud, mobility, etc.) and business operations perspective (such as security or compliance).” Based on this definition, more than 93 percent of respondents said that increased network complexity changed their IT role/responsibilities within the last three to five years.

 

So, what is the driving force behind this complexity? Really there are three factors – Technology, IT Operations, and Business Operations.

 

On the Technology side, “Smarter Equipment” (meaning you used to need three pieces of equipment to do what a single piece of equipment can do today) was consistently ranked highest in terms of a technology driving complexity. Looking at IT Operations, this idea of “smarter equipment” continues to impact complexity with mobility and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) both ranking high on respondents’ lists of areas that increase network complexity. Both public and private cloud were included in the possible responses and both received tepid, middle of the road responses in terms of their impact putting them on par with feelings related to Voice over IP (VoIP).

 

On the Business Operations side, IT professionals also are being asked to take on additional responsibilities to more directly support business operations. The primary responsibility impacting complexity is Security. Security far outpaced Auditing and Compliance in terms of its impact on network complexity among government respondents.

 

Given that equipment is getting smarter and IT professionals are being asked to do more, it is not a huge surprise that our respondents want to get smarter themselves. 73 percent said that training IT staff was key to being as prepared as possible for growing network complexity. Security and understanding the business were the areas that respondents ranked as the most critical for training over the next five years. With this critical need for training 42 percent say it is difficult for them to gain approval for training from their company.

 

A SlideShare presentation is available here that highlights the full survey results in detail.


 

We recently completed a survey on the impact and drivers of network complexity (detailed results can be found here) where 92% of IT pros indicated that increasing network complexity had impacted their role within the last 3 to 5 years. To any IT pro this is hardly surprising news, but what is interesting is the top drivers of this network complexity.

 

We broke the drivers into 3 categories:

  • Technology – new technologies promise to make IT simpler/better but we all know that this doesn’t always work out.
  • IT Operations – IT is always being asked to deliver new services, sometimes based on new technology, other times based on old technology.  But every new service requires work to run it well.
  • Business Operations – IT and business?  Yes, it’s true – business needs do drive IT and some cause more pain than others.

 

Technology

Within technology the top 2 drivers were smarter/more complex equipment and compute virtualization. The third most popular which fell somewhat significantly behind the first two was Software Defined Networking (SDN).  To me equipment complexity is interesting, it feels contradictory to the value proposition of smarter equipment – isn’t that supposed to make your life less complex, and save you time and money?  Perhaps the savings in hardware are being consumed by software and manpower costs required to manage the more complex gear.  SDN was also an interesting trend given how early in the deployment cycle we are, it seems that many folks are projecting how they think complexity will be impacted by SDN.

 

IT Operations

On the IT operations side I was surprised that BYOD and mobility ranked #1 and #2 for adding complexity to the delivery of IT services.  The ubiquity of mobile devices and the rate at which they’ve penetrated the work environment is amazing and likely caught many IT organizations off guard. Of course when the driver for a new IT service like mobility is senior management it’s tough to say no, so many folks charge forward and figure out the operational details after the fact.

 

Business Operations

Finally from a business operations standpoint security is the standout complexity driver.  From day zero threats to SIEM there’s no shortage of new things being added to the IT plate – and in case you didn’t know, security is every IT Pro’s problem not just the security team!

 

Getting Ahead of the Complexity

By now you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed and understaffed, and it’s no surprise.  What is surprising is that the number one skill that is needed to address the challenges of network complexity is “understanding the business”.  The context that business knowledge provides in making the right decisions is amazing and the majority of you know it.  Throw all the technology at you that the industry can muster, but if you understand the business needs you can cut through the hype and predicted benefits and get down to brass tax.  Shortly behind the business understanding is network engineering, and information security – in our connected world those responses that make a lot of sense.

 

So how to get at these skills?  Training of course.  But it seems that your management still doesn’t understand the value of training as budget and time were the top 2 barriers to getting the help you needed. This is a continuing trend, at a time when management will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on hardware and software, spending the time and money to get trained right seems to require a two-thirds majority in congress.

 

So there you have it – the state of network complexity in 2013 – change is inevitable in the IT space and getting the training and development to stay ahead of the game is critical.

Got thoughts on this topic?  Let us know.

I know my title is a little leading, but honestly I’m not here to tell you that SDNs (software defined networks) are not useful, absolutely not.  Software Defined Networking was created to solve a real problem that exists when you have a virtual compute environment and your VMs and other network devices are in constant motion.  The amount of work that an SDN can save in a large environment like this can be considerable.  In addition, SDNs hold the potential to really revolutionize the networking space by separating out the control and data planes of the network and allowing for low cost, commodity based networking hardware to be used with a centralized control plane.  This is similar to the economic value proposition that server virtualization has brought to us.  So I’ll ask the question the way my kids would. Are we there yet? Gartner would tell you that we’re probably nearing the peak in hype for technologies like OpenFlow so naturally we at SolarWinds get asked the question – what are you doing about SDNs?  Or sometimes the more direct and flattering version – you guys have to be leading the movement on SDN management!

 

So what are we doing about SDN?  Well those of you who know us will take comfort in knowing that we are watching the SDN market very closely.  In addition, we are collaborating with a few of the new networking vendors around interoperability, but we’re not feeding the hype by marketing SDNs – we’re sticking to solving the practical problems of today.  These are of course the problems that you, our users, are asking us to solve – like ‘how do I do a config backup on this fancy new switch?’

 

But beyond the practical we believe that there’s a strong role for SolarWinds to play in a hybrid SDN/non-SDN network as well as a pure SDN network.  We’ve always been able to monitor and manage what’s happening at the data plane and we’ll continue to do that SDN or not.  In the control plane the problems of management are ill-defined, mainly because early adopters of the technology are willing to put up with a lot of pain for the benefit of being on the cutting edge and learning. As a result few problems elevate themselves to the point of being real management pains.  As the adoption of SDNs grows however we expect to hear from more customers about where the problems are and how they’d like them solved and when we do you can rest assured that we’ll be adding features into our products like Network Performance Monitor and Network Configuration Manager to make your life easier.  So for today we’ll stick with the basics I alluded to above (how do I backup a config), because as you all know we at SolarWinds are driven by the Market (i.e. customers) not the Marketing!

Last week at the RSA conference (see my RSA Recap) it was interesting to hear the drumbeat of security is everyone’s problem, and at the same time see posts on the staffing crisis in IT security.  In addition, I talked to so many people who told me that security tools aren’t budgeted for well and that’s one of the reasons that they have to go up the chain to get approved.  All of this made me think about the real challenge in making security everyone’s responsibility when you can’t get tools easily, you don’t have enough people, and most of the tools are hidden in a shroud of complexity. 

 

Step 1:  Getting the buy-in that you need the tools:  So ROI is everything and security tools have these magical ROIs that talk about the cost of data loss and application downtime to the business.  It all translates to real revenue impact and ultimately most of the big projects are sold like insurance – but as an IT guy in the trenches, you don’t get to buy insurance, your boss or boss’s boss does that right? 

 

Well there’s a better way to look at it if you need to justify many of these tools – operational efficiency

 

Consider this example.

  • How many firewalls do you have? 
  • How many changes do you make a week? 
  • How many people make changes? 
  • How long does a change take to plan, make, and test? 
  • How many changes need to be re-worked?
  • How many security patches do you apply in a typical month?
  • How long do you spend reading log files, or using homegrown tools to read log files 

 

For example, if you had a tool that everyone could use to analyze firewall rules and changes before they went to production, and then generated the script changes that you could put into your award winning configuration management tool then how much time would it save?  If you could automate the patching process across Microsoft and other 3rd party software you have, how much time would it save?   If you had log file analysis and automated responses to suspicious behavior, how much time and grief would it save?  How much hassle? 


Step 2: Getting your security folks on board.  While I was at RSA I spoke to a few security guys and one thing stuck with me, they all made the point that when security is part of everyone’s day job - without it feeling like security - it got done, and without complaints.  It’s like disguising vegetables in something delicious for your kids!  Well you’re not a kid and you don’t need a disguise, you can go to your friendly security guy and tell him you have a tool that you’re using to help you make changes quicker and better and it also will help generate compliance reports and prove that you are holding down the fort so to speak. 

 

You might even find yourself popular with your security folks, if you propose the tools SolarWinds provides that enhance security while increasing productivity.  SolarWinds products are typically far more affordable than comparable solutions.


Step 3: Oh that dreaded complexity. So your IT guy loves the concept and wants to know when the demo will be.  Well that’s where we come in – just download the right product for you and you’ll be up and running in about an hour.  Now you do the ‘demo’, but better yet – it’s a demo running in your environment with your data.

 

That’s it – 3 steps to making security everyone’s business.

So I spent a day at the RSA 2013 conference this week , primarily talking to all the vendors, learning what was new.  Like every conference there’s a vibe you get on the floor, is it a good year? Are vendors hunkering down for a drought? I’m pleased to say that this year’s conference had a sense of euphoria, maybe it was the big shining spotlight that Mandiant and the White House have put on cyber security problems in recent days and weeks, or maybe it’s just that with the market growing everyone’s growing with it.  I can’t say for sure, but it was a happy place (at least as happy as you can get for a bunch of security guys packed into one place with an equal number of vendors trying to pick them off )

RSABlog.png

 

Ok, here’s the bad part, and maybe it’s all big conferences, but it seemed particularly noticeable at RSA, buzzword bingo.  It didn’t seem to matter what a company did, but everyone was either talking about big data security (what is that anyway?) or mobile security (ok, but really what does that phrase mean) with a few zero-day threats thrown in for good measure.  I wish everyone’s marketing came with a secret decoder ring, maybe there’s an app for that?

 

After wading through the big data I will say that the thing that surprised me the most is that every vendor was targeting the large enterprise, the Global 2000, the Fortune 1000 – what about the rest of the world folks?  In addition, it seems that complexity was the name of the game, how complex can I make my product sound?  After all, complexity sells.  I even had one vendor (whom I shall protect) tell me that they hadn’t focused on making the getting up and running experience easy because they wanted to get their teams in there to ‘work’ with the customer?  Seriously folks – please tell me that’s not what you want (well I know it’s not what you want, you’re here at SolarWinds right )


I give the state of the security market a solid ‘C’, and we plan to be a part of making it an ‘A’. It’s time to actually do what the security folks have been harping on – make security everyone’s problem, get the IT Ops teams to implement security tools in their day job because it helps them, not because it’s shoved down their throat.  We’ve started with a portfolio of products that help solve every day practical problems, and we’ve made them…wait for it….easy and affordable!

  • A full and complete SIEM product:  Log & Event Manager – if you’re considering LogLogic, LogRhythm, Splunk, Q1Labs or are just tired of ArcSight this is the product for you.
  • Got Firewalls? Do you or others in your team change firewall rules? Check out Firewall Security Manager (FSM) – if you’re considering AlgoSec, Tufin, FireMon or others you’ll want to look at FSM.
  • Do you have to deal with patching your systems?  Then Patch Manager is for you.
  • Do you have compliance regulations that deal with data access but still need to transfer files around?  Then managed file transfer is for you


It’s an exciting time to be in security and it’s time for us to get serious in every business not just the large enterprise, and we  are here to provide options that solve problems you have without the cost and hassle that most security vendors want to put you through.

Your IP Infrastructure is like oxygen for your network--you don’t see it or pay it much attention, but take it away and nothing works.  For years now, DHCP and DNS have been integrated into network and server infrastructure.  But because these services have been freely available in network devices and server operating systems, vendors have had little incentive to make any significant improvements or enhancements to the end-user experience. Although things may functionally work, management has been a pain.  And, it’s becoming an even bigger pain due to the rising complexity of modern networks and the fact that businesses are still using cumbersome, error-prone spreadsheets to manage their IP space.  Spreadsheets may have worked in the past because there weren’t that many IP addresses to manage and the IP addresses didn’t change that often. However, that is no longer the case.  New trends in today’s enterprise networks, including virtualization and BYOD, have led to a rapid proliferation of IP addresses, and as such, the ever-increasing need for a better IP management solution.

 

Of course, when faced with a poor product experience, technology entrepreneurs responded with the creation of sophisticated tools like those from InfoBlox and BlueCat, which got the job done but at a hefty price.  These solutions, however, require you to replace a perfectly good working DHCP/DNS infrastructure and install a dedicated proprietary appliance if you want to reap the advanced features they tout.  This might be a fine solution for businesses where the infrastructure itself is a limiting factor, for the rest of the market, it might be more than what they need. Further, they are not practical solutions for small to medium sized business, may provide more features than desired, and may simply be overkill for most businesses.

 

Fortunately, the market has evolved and the freely available DHCP/DNS infrastructure has gotten better, covering 99% of the scenarios for most businesses. As such, the number of businesses that actually need dedicated/specialized appliances for their IP infrastructure has gone down.  However, the need for effective management tools to maintain, control, and scale existing infrastructures has gone up. Businesses today need a powerful, yet simple-to-use IP management solution that won’t break the bank.   For example, at SolarWinds, we have evolved our IP address management product into a full featured DHCP, DNS, IPAM (DDI) solution that seamlessly overlays onto your existing DHCP/DNS environment. So now, if you have Cisco or Microsoft IP infrastructures, you can layer SolarWinds IP Address Manager over it for a complete and affordable DDI solution for companies of all sizes.

 

So what’s left for Infoblox and BlueCat?  Unfortunately, it’s likely a shrinking pie.  The complex value propositions around orchestration and automated network control might be appealing if you’re on the very bleeding edge of technology and have the luxury of deep pockets to pay for such functionality. The fact is that most IT folks don’t need all this extra stuff to ensure the smooth running of their IP infrastructure.

 

So are these dedicated appliances on the way out—a victim of market evolution?  Tell us what you think.

Don’t you sometimes wonder why network management isn’t a bigger focus for equipment vendors?  All network engineers and admins want their stuff to be easier to manage but it seems like no one is listening.  Ultimately better management makes your life easier and saves your company money so how could you go wrong?  But here we are on the precipice of the cloud era and network management’s wagon is still hitched to the tired old SNMP pony, are all network equipment vendors evil?  Is there a giant conspiracy with network management software vendors and equipment vendors to perpetuate the status quo?

 

Alas, the truth is likely far more mundane, and you’re not going to like this, but you asked for it. No really.  You asked for it.  I know, you’re thinking – when did I ask for less and crappy management?  Well you asked for it when you agreed to buy the equipment with the minimum of management features, when you agreed to renew the software and support subscriptions for that hardware without a view into what was being worked on or with a view that didn’t include management. Equipment vendors are like all of us, they build what the customers ask for and that is hardware features, management instrumentation and software always plays second fiddle because customers allow it to play second fiddle.  Of course, there’s the added complication that hardware vendors aren’t really software experts and hardware sales really drive the top line growth for them so there’s little incentive to develop great software beyond what’s needed to make the sale.

 

Ok, so now you’ve asked – “May I have more management please sir?” (my twist on Dickens famous words, no pun intended).  But really, it’s not more that you need is it?  What problems are you trying to solve that you can’t with today’s instrumentation?  It’s not to say that there haven’t been times where more management instrumentation was the answer.  You will all recall a time when you needed more insight into traffic and SNMP was not sufficient and so a myriad of flow protocols were developed and for the most part they’ve addressed the needs of the many – so needs will get addressed by the market.  So with today’s challenges what problems are you trying to solve that you can’t?  And if you can’t is it the instrumentation in the hardware or is it that old heavy weight management framework that you’re still trying to get to bend to your will.

 

Remember you may say you want things, but if you behave like you don’t need it your vendors and partners will listen to those cues.  So if it’s better management software that you want, then put your $ where you mouth is and let’s make decisions that reflect those priorities.

I’m excited to announce a new SolarWinds product today, Firewall Security Manager (FSM).  To say that firewalling is a critical part of any modern network is an understatement, but managing the rules that determine whether your network is secure and whether your applications actually perform as expected can be daunting.  This is especially true if you are the second or third person to do the job, since there’s often little documentation on what rules exist and why.

 

FSM is all about addressing concerns that you’ve all told us are important to you around firewall change management.

  • Giving you the ability to test rule changes offline before they’re pushed to production
  • The ability to report on whether changes to rules create security problems
  • The ability to analyze all the rules on an existing firewall and determine whether the rules are used, are effective, or are just taking up space

What’s better for all of you Network Configuration Manager (NCM) users out there is that FSM already integrates with NCM so you can import device details over to FSM easily.

 

For a more detailed description of how FSM can add value to your network management tools check out Francois Caron’s product blog post and the Firewall Management page on Solarwinds.com.

So VMware picked up a product called Log Insight (from a company called Pattern Insight) today, another in their recent run of acquisitions.  What makes this acquisition interesting is the tacit acknowledgement that management can’t be done using data only extracted from the vSphere API.  Historically VMware and others have focused their data center management approach on the VM, host, network, and storage data available through the API, but anyone who’s managed an IT environment knows that’s like running a race with one arm tied behind your back.

 

SolarWinds has long believed that managing a data center environment is about collecting and correlating data from many sources, from the storage arrays, from the hosts, from network devices, and the application components themselves.  Sometimes you gather this data via logs, other times via direct APIs and where you have common bottlenecks you build management applications around the problem.  For example if you have a real cloud data center environment you know that from time to time you may run into I/O bottlenecks.  These may be at the host, or the array controller or at the disk, and when troubleshooting storage I/O issues it’s beneficial to have management software that can map the path from the VM all the way to the spindle.


On the log management side the problems tend to be more about looking for the needle in the haystack and the reality is that’s hard.  Log’s tend to be machine friendly but not user friendly, but often when you find a problem you want to make sure that problem either doesn’t happen again or you’re notified and you can run corrective action before it spirals out of control.  In dynamic data center environments waiting for a log management system that’s going to collect data, write it to a database, then run its alert and rules engine, and then send an alert without taking any automated action is like waiting an eternity.  Real-time log analysis and response is the right approach to tackling this problem – event log correlation happens in memory and the log management system can execute automated actions and then notify you of the problem and actions taken.


So it’s great to see VMware get in the game – operations is definitely about more than the data in the vSphere sandbox, and I know I didn’t need to tell all of you that.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away….well you know the rest of that story, but SolarWinds, another name from the cosmos, has some interesting history behind it and I thought today, with our Q3 network management news release update I would take a look back and a look at what’s next.  For those of you who are new to SolarWinds first a few stats about our networking business that you may not know:

  • Over 75,000 customers around the globe use SolarWinds network management products
  • Millions of downloads of our community based free-tools
  • All of our tools that have evolved based on what you, our customers, have asked for

 

Our first set of tools were bundled together in what is today known as Engineer’s Toolset, it’s a collection of over 50 of the tools every network engineer and aspiring IT pro needs.  It’s holds a special place for many of us here because it represents the start of the journey to deliver an unexpected level of simplicity for network engineers everywhere.  It was also one of the drivers for creating the original SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) product – our flagship network monitoring product.  Over the years we’ve heard a lot of great stories about how NPM has helped make your lives easier and we’re always excited to hear more so if you have a great story please let me know (sanjay.castelino@solarwinds.com).

 

But most folks don’t know that in addition to Engineer’s Toolset and NPM we actually have a whole bunch of other useful tools.  I can’t cover all of them here, but the key ones are listed on our website here.  In addition, there are some products you may use every day that you may not realize came from SolarWinds – Kiwi Syslog and DNSstuff.com are 2 of the best known.

This quarter we’re continuing the evolution of our network management tools with 4 new product releases that I wanted to talk about.

 

First, our new VoIP and Network Quality Manager product is going to be shipping soon.  The product combines both IPSLA operation data that provides visibility into WAN performance with call detail record metrics from Cisco Call Manager to give you a quick way to troubleshoot VoIP and WAN performance.  This is something many of you have been asking for and we’re excited to be shipping the product.

For those of you doing something with BYOD, or just rocking back and forth wishing it would go away, we’re shipping an updated version of our User Device Tracker product (UDT) that adds support for controller based wireless access points.  Now you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where wired and wireless devices are on your network and who’s logged into them both in real-time and historically.

Third in line is a new version of NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA) that will deliver some exciting new charting tools, making it much easier to drill into your traffic data.  In addition for those of you looking to monitor traffic in your virtualized data centers, NTA adds support for flows from VMware vSwitches.

 

And last but not least is a new version of Network Configuration Manager (NCM).  Network configuration management is often one of those things that you think you can live without, but in reality a large % of network problems are still caused by unintended configuration changes and if you’re an NPM customer NCM data can be automatically put into alerts giving you a quick view of config issues.  This new release adds greater scalability to NCM through the use of our scalability engines as well as support for new vendors in the Japanese market (Alaxala and Apresia).

 

So, it’s a busy few months ahead of us, we hope you enjoy what’s coming, and before I sign off I’ll add my thanks to all of our customers and community members for being loyal supporters and vocal critics – we wouldn’t have the leadership position we do without your support, so thank you and as always questions and comments are welcome.

So it’s no grand surprise that VMware was going to buy someone in the SDN (software defined networking) space, but $1.26B for such a young company?  Anyway, shock aside, software defined networking is here to stay and VMware’s acquisition certainly gives the space another boost, not that it needed one given Cisco’s recent moves and the broad industry support behind OpenFlow.  For those of you wondering what the heck I’m talking about, you can check out this whitepaper.

It’s clear to me that software defined networks are going to be in the future of networking and will likely move beyond adoption in just big networks to also play a role in the mid-market and smaller networks.  Of course, the penetration into the mid-market will take much longer, but there’s too much inherent value that will be created by the shift for the move not to happen.

Today SDNs are being touted in the high end data centers because they solve a real problem in terms of what it takes to create a network fabric that works in tandem with the speed of the cloud.  The folks at VMware did a post that describes the strategy behind the acquisition and I think it articulates the problem well.  But the promise of low cost commodity networking hardware with specialized software that runs on top of it is an appealing one.  Think about what it would have cost Google to run their data centers on IBM hardware versus what they’ve done with commodity hardware. Now replicate that on the networking side with Cisco hardware versus commodity hardware. 

If you’re in a mid-size company you might think that this doesn’t apply to you because you don’t have the data center scale that Google has, but don’t be fooled.  Software defined networking will mean lower hardware costs and a more flexible network.  You get to buy commodity hardware and really just manage the controllers (software).  Now SDNs have a long way to go, they don’t offer all the network services that traditional networking technologies offer today, but those will come.

For our part, we are constantly looking and listening to the feedback you give us on when you’re adopting these new technologies and the challenges that you’re having with them. Some of our customers are already leveraging our products to do some work with products from companies like Vyatta (see the device template on thwack), but many of you may not have started.

So, when will software defined networks make it in to your business?  Let us know.

Those famous words from one Rowan Atkinson from the Blackadder series (if you don’t know Blackadder, please go to youtube) have been front of mind in recent days.  The reason?  Well, as we compete for your business there are inevitably requests to compare our products to those of our competition.  Whether it’s Splunk vs Log & Event Manager or InfoBlox vs IPAM, or VMware vCenter Ops vs Virtualization Manager you as IT consumers always want to know what’s the best choice for your situation.

 

Of course as marketers ( AKA ministers of truth J), we are always looking for the angle that communicates why we believe our product to be the best for you, but sometimes we forget that we should let the products do the talking.  One thing that I love about the way we market and sell at SolarWinds is that ultimately the products actually do “speak” for themselves.  It’s a model we’ve all gotten used to over here, but for those of you who buy IT products I forget that the model is still somewhat unique. How often do you get to take a product you’re evaluating, put it in your business – or your home for that matter – and keep it there for 30 days, to decide if it works for you?  Of course in those 30 days we will ask you to buy it because we hope you like it, but if you wanted the full 30 days to think about it, the time is yours to use.

 

Some folks call what we do freemium (since we have free tools), but it’s not really.  Our free tools are completely separate and disconnected products from those we sell.  There are companies that use the freemium model, like Splunk, who give you a product free up to a point and then charge you for it.  But our belief is that free is free, and if you have a paid product then we’re going to let you try it, but ask you to pay for the value you receive after you’ve tried it and like it.

 

So, it’s back to my competitive plotting, but there you have my cunning plan – it’s not so cunning after all – see a product, try a product, and then buy a product – that is how I like to win. 

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