Saturday, September 20, 2008

LogLogic updates search and analysis tools for conquering IT systems management complexity

Insight into operations has been a hallmark of modern business improvements, from integrated back-office applications to business intelligence (BI) to balanced scorecards and management portals.

But what does the IT executive have to gain similar insight into the systems operations that support the business operations? Well, they have reams of disparate logs and systems analytics data that pour forth every second from all their network and infrastructure devices. Making sense of the data and leveraging the analytics to reduce risk of failure therefore becomes the equivalent of BI for IT.

Now a major BI for IT provider, LogLogic, has beefed up its flagship products with the announcement of LogLogic 4.6. By putting more data together in ways that can be quickly acted on helps companies gain critical visibility into their increasingly complex IT operations, while gaining ease of regulatory compliance along with improved security. [Disclosure: LogLogic is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

The latest version of the log management tools from San Jose, Calif.-based LogLogic includes new features that help give enterprises a 360-degree view of how business operations are running, including dynamic range selection, graphical trending, and real-time reporting. Among the improvements are:
  • Index search user interface, including clustering by source, dynamic range selection, trending over time and graphical representation of search results
  • Search history, which automatically saves search criteria for later reuse
  • Forensics clipboard to annotate, organize, record and save up to 1000 messages per clipboard – up to 100 clipboards per user
  • Enhanced security via complex password creation
  • Enhanced backup/restore and failover, including incremental backup support and "backup now" capability.
The latest release provides improved search for IT intelligence, forensics workflow and advanced secure remote access control. LogLogic 4.6 will be rolled out for the company's family of LX, ST, and MX products, helping large- and mid-sized companies to capture, search and store their log data to improve business operations, monitor user activity, and meet industry standards for security and compliance.

I have talked extensively to the folks at LogLogic about the log-centered approach to dealing with IT's growing complexity, as systems and services multiply and are spurred on by the virtualization wildfire. Last week I posted a podcast, in which LogLogic CEO Pat Sueltz explained how log-management aids in visibility and creates a favorable return on investment (ROI) for enterprises.

LogLogic 4.6 will be available later this month as a free upgrade to current customers under Support contract. For new customers, pricing will start at $14,995 for the LX appliance, $53,995 for the ST appliance and $37,500 for the MX appliance.

Genuitec expands Pulse provisioning system beyond tools to Eclipse distros, eyes larger software management role

Genuitec, one of the founders of the Eclipse Foundation, has expanded the reach of its Pulse software provisioning system with the announcement of the Pulse "Private Label," designed to give companies control over their internal and external software distributions.

Until now, Pulse was designed for managing and standardizing software development tools in the Eclipse environment. With Private Label, enterprises can manage full enterprise software delivery for any Eclipse-based product or application suite.

Plans call for subsequently expanding Private Label into a full lifecycle management system for software beyond Eclipse. [Disclosure: Genuitec is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Private Label, which can be tailored to customer specifications, can be hosted either by Genuitec or within a corporate firewall to integrate with existing infrastructure. Customers also control the number of software catalogs, as well as their content. Other features include full custom branding and messaging, reporting of software usage, and control over the ability for end-users to customize their software profiles, if desired.

Last month, I sat down for a podcast with Todd Williams, vice president of technology at Genuitec, and we discussed the role of Pulse as a simple, intuitive way to install, update, and share custom configurations with Eclipse-based tools.

Coinciding with the release of Pulse Private Label is the release of Pulse 2.3 for Community Edition and Freelance users. Upgrades include performance improvements and catalog expansion. Pulse 2.3 Community Edition is a free service. Pulse 2.3 Freelance is a value-add service priced at $6 per month per user or $60/year. Pulse Private Label pricing is based on individual requirements.

More information is available at the Pulse site.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

iTKO's SOA testing and validation role supports increasingly complex integration lifecycles

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Sponsor: iTKO.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.

The real value of IT comes not from the systems themselves, but from managed and agile business processes in real-world use. Yet growing integration complexity, and the need to support process-level orchestrations of the old applications and new services, makes quality assurance at the SOA level challenging.

SOA, enterprise integration, virtualization and cloud computing place a premium on validating orchestrations at the process level before -- not after -- implementation and refinement. Process-level testing and validation also needs to help IT organizations reduce their labor and maintenance costs, while harmonizing the relationship between development and deployment functions.

iTKO, through it's LISA product and solutions methods, has created a continuous validation framework for SOA and middleware integrations to address these issues. The goal is to make sure all of the expected outcomes in SOA-supported activities occur in a controlled test phase, not in a trail-and-error production phase that undercuts IT's credibility.

To learn more about performance and quality assurance issues around enterprise integration, middleware, and SOA, I recently interviewed John Michelsen, chief architect and founder of iTKO. [See additional background and solutions.]

Here are some excerpts from our discussion:
Folks who are using agile development principles and faster iterations of development are throwing services up fairly quickly -- and then changing them on a fairly regular basis. That also throws a monkey wrench into how that impacts the rest of the services that are being integrated.

That’s right, and we’re doing that on purpose. We like the fact that we’re changing systems more frequently. We’re not doing that because we want chaos. We’re doing it because it’s helping the businesses get to market faster, achieving regulatory compliance faster, and all of those good things. We like the fact that we’re changing, and that we have more tightly componentized the architecture. We’re not changing huge applications, but we’re just changing pieces of applications -- all good things.

Yet if my application is dependent upon your application, and you change it out from under me, your lifecycle impacts mine, and we have a “testable event” -- even though I’m not in a test mode at the moment. What are we going to do about this? We have to rethink the way that we do services lifecycles. We have to rethink the way we do integration and deployment.

If the world were as simple as we wanted it to be, we could have one vendor produce that system that is completely self-contained, self-managed, very visible or very "monitorable," if you will. That’s great, but that becomes one box of the dozens on the white board. The challenge is that not every box comes from that same vendor.

So we end up in this challenge where we’ve got to get that same kind of visibility and monitoring management across all of the boxes. Yet that’s not something that you just buy and that you get out of the box.

In a nutshell, we’ve got to be able to touch, from the testing point of view, all these different technologies. We have to be able to create some collaboration across all these teams, and then we have to do continuous validation of these business processes over time, even when we are not in lifecycles.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a customer who has said, “Well, we've run out and bought this ESB and now we’re trying to figure out how to use it.” I've said, “Whoa! You first should have figured out you needed it, and in what ways you would use it that would cause you to then buy it.”

We can’t build stuff, throw it over the wall into the production system to see if it works, and then have a BAM-type tool tell us -- once it gets into the statistics -- "By the way, they’re not actually catching orders. You’re not actually updating inventory or your account. Your customer accounts aren’t actually seeing an increase in their credit balance when orders are being placed."

That’s why we’ll start with the best practices, even though we’re not a large services firm. Then, we’ll come in with product, as we see the approach get defined. ... When you’re going down this kind of path, you’re going down a path to interconnect your systems in this same kind of ways. Call it service orientation or call it a large integration effort, either way, the outcome from a system’s point of view is the same.

What they’re doing is adopting these best practices on a team level so that each of these individual components is getting their own tests and validation. That helps them establish some visibility and predictability. It’s just good, old-fashioned automated test coverage at the component level. ... So this is why, as a part of lifecycles, we have to do this kind of activity. In doing so, we drive into value, we get something for having done our work.
Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Sponsor: iTKO.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Desktone, Wyse bring Flash content to desktop virtualization delivery

Desktone hopes to overcome two major roadblocks to the adoption of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) with today's announcement of a partnership that will bring rich media to virtual desktops and a try-before-you-buy program.

In a bid to bring a multimedia support to thin clients, Desktone of Chelmsford, Mass., and Wyse Technology, San Jose, Calif., announced at WMworld in Las Vegas that they are integrating Desktone dtFlash with Wyse TCX Multimedia, allowing companies to use Flash in a virtual desktop environment to think client devices.

Adobe's Flash technology is becoming more widespread for enterprises and consumers today, for video and rich Internet application interfaces alike. A lack of Flash support on thin clients and for applications and desktops delivery via VDI has potentially delayed adoption of desktop virtualization.

Word has it that Citrix will also offer Flash support for its VDI offerings before the end of the year. It's essential that VDI providers knock down each and every excuse not to use them, to do everything that full-running PCs do, only from the servers. Flash is a big item to fix.

Introduced last year, Wyse TCX Multimedia delivers rich PC-quality multimedia to virtual desktop users. It works with the RDP and ICA protocols that connect the virtual machines on the server to the client, accelerating and balancing workload to display rich multimedia on the client, often offloading the task from the server entirely.

Desktone dtFlash, introduced today, resides in the host virtual machine and acts as the interface between the Flash player and Wyse TCX. Together they allow users to run wide-ranging multimedia applications, including Flash, on their virtual desktops.

Another roadblock to virtualization is that many companies are hesitant to move to VDI because it requires substantial commitment of resources, and the companies are unsure of the benefits. To overcome this hesitancy, Desktone also announced a Desktop as a Service (DaaS) Pilot that will allow companies to explore the benefits of virtualization without having to build the environment themselves.

With pricing for the pilot starting at $7,500, enterprises use their own images and applications in a proof-of-concept that includes up to 50 virtual desktops. Desktone uses its proven DaaS best practices to jump-start the pilot, enabling customers to quickly ramp up. The physical infrastructure for this 30-day pilot is hosted by HP Flexible Computing Services, one of Desktone’s service provider partners.

This news joins last week's moves by SIMtone to bring more virtualization services to cloud providers. Citrix today also has some big news on moving its solutions to a cloud provider value.

SIMtone races to provide cloud-deployed offerings, including wireless device support

SIMtone advanced its cloud-computing offerings last week with a three-pronged approach that includes a universal cloud-computing platform, a virtual service platform (VSP), and a cloud-computing wireless-ready terminal.

The combined offerings from the privately held SIMtone, Durham, N.C., helps pave the way for multiple cloud services to be created, managed and hosted centrally and securely in any data center, while allowing end users to access the services on the fly, through virtually any connected device, with a single user ID, the company said.

The SIMtone Universal Cloud Computing Platform enables network operators and customers to build and deliver multiple cloud services -- virtual desktops, desktop as a service (DaaS), software as a service (SaaS), or Web services.

The SIMtone VSP lets service providers of many stripes transform existing application and desktop infrastructure into cloud-computing infrastructures. SIMtone VSP supports any combination of VMware Server and ESX, Windows XP, Vista and Terminal Server hosts, multi-zone network security, and offers automated, user-activity driven, peak capacity-based guest machine management, load balancing, and failure recovery, radically reducing virtual data center real-estate and power requirements.

Pulling the effort together is the SNAPbook, a wireless-ready portable terminal that can access any services powered by the SIMtone platform. Based on Asus Eee PC solid state hardware, the SNAPbook operates without any local operating system or processing, with all computing tasks performed 100 percent in the cloud.

What was a virtualization value by these vendors -- at multiple levels, including desktop and apps virtualization -- has not struck the chord of "picks and shovels" for cloud providers. Citrix is this week extending the reach of its virtualization Delivery Center solutions to cloud providers as well.

This marks a shifts in the market. Until now, most if not all "cloud providers" like Google, Amazon, Yahoo, et al, have built their own infrastructures and worked out virtualization on their own, often based on the open source Xen hypervisor. They keep these formulas for data center and cloud development and deployment as closely guarded secrets.

But SIMtone and Citrix -- and we should expect others like Desktone, Red Hat, HP and VMware to move fast too -- are creating what they hope will become de facto standards for cloud delivery of virtualized services. Google may not remake its cloud based on third-party vendors, but carriers, service providers and enterprises may just.

The winner of the "picks and shovels" for cloud infrastructure may well end up the next billion-dollar company in the software space. It should be an intense next few years for these players, especially as other larger software vendors (like Microsoft) also build, buy or partner their way in.

Indeed, just as Microsoft is bringing its Hyper-V hypervisor to market, the value has moved up a notch to the management and desktop delivery level. The company that manages virtualization best and fastes for the nascent cloud infrastructure market may well get snatched up before long.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Systems log analytics offers operators performance insights that set stage for IT transformation

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: LogLogic.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.

Despite growing complexity, IT organizations need to reduce operations costs, increase security and provide more insight, clarity, and transparency across multiple IT systems -- even virtualized systems. A number of new tools and approaches are available for gaining contextual information and visibility into what goes on within IT infrastructure.

IT systems information gushes forth from an increasing variety of devices, as well as networks, databases, and lots of physical and virtual servers and blades. Putting this information all in one place, to be analyzed and exploited, far outweighs manual, often paper-based examination. The automated log forensics solutions that capture all the available systems information and aggregate and centralize that information are becoming essential to efficient IT management.

To learn more about systems logs analytics, I recently moderated a sponsored BriefingsDirect panel discussion podcast with Pat Sueltz, the CEO at LogLogic; Jian Zhen, senior director of product management at LogLogic, and Pete Boergermann, technical support manager at Citizens & Northern Bank.

Here are some excerpts:
When I think of the state of the art in terms of reducing IT costs, I look at for solutions that can solve multiple problems at one time. One of the reasons that I find this interesting is that, first of all, you've got to be focused not just on IT operations, but also adjunct operations the firm offers out.

For example, security operations and controls, because of their focus areas, frequently look like they are in different organizations, but in fact, they draw from the same data. The same goes as you start looking at things like compliance or regulatory pieces.

When technologies get started, they tend to start in a disaggregated way, but as technology -- and certainly data centers -- have matured, you see that you have to be able to not only address the decentralization, but you have to be able to bring it all together in one point ... [This] undergirds the need for a product or solution to be able to work in both environments, in the standalone environment, and also in the consolidated environment.

There are a lot of logs and server systems sitting out in the various locations. One of the biggest issues is being able to have a solution to capture all that information and aggregate and centralize all that information. ... Approximately 30 percent of the data in the data centers is just log data, information that's being spewed out by our devices applications and servers.

We have the Log Data Warehouse that basically can suck information from networks, databases, systems, users, or applications, you name it. Anything that can produce a log, we can get started with, and then and store it forever, if a customer desires, either because of regulatory or because of a compliance issues with industry mandates and such.

[But then] how do you bring operational intelligence out and give the CIOs the picture that they need to see in order to make the right business decisions? ... People have been doing a lot of integration, taking essentially LogLogics information, and integrating it into their portals to show a more holistic view of what's happening, combining information from system monitoring, as well as log management, and putting it into single view, which allows them to troubleshoot things a lot faster.

We have so many pieces of network gear out there, and a lot of that gear doesn't get touched for months on end. We have no idea what's going on, on the port-level with some of that equipment. Are the ports acting up? Are there PCs that are not configured correctly? The time it takes to log into each one of those devices and gather that information is simply overwhelming.

Reviewing those logs is an enormous task, because there's so much data there. Looking at that information is not fun to begin with, and you really want to get to the root of the problem as quickly as possible. ... Weeding out some of the frivolous and extra information and then alerting on the information that you do want to know about is -- I just can't explain in enough words how important that is to helping us get our jobs done a lot quicker.

I think of taking control of the information lifecycle. And, not just gathering pieces, but looking at it in terms of the flow of the way we do business and when we are running IT systems. ... You've got to know what’s known and unknown, and then be able to assess that analysis -- what's happening in real-time, what's happening historically. Then, of course, you've got to be able to apply that with what's going on and retain it. ... We've also got to be able to work with [analytics] just as the systems administrators and the IT and the CSOs want to see it.

I like to use the term "operational intelligence," because that's really intelligence for the IT operations. Bringing that front and center, and allowing CIOs to make the right decisions is extremely critical for us.

It's all about getting that improved service delivery, so that we can eliminate downtime due to, for example, mis-configured infrastructure. That's what I think of in terms of the value.
Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: LogLogic.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

ActiveVOS 6.0 helps extend SOA investments to the level of business-process outcomes

Active Endpoints has propelled business-process services to the forefront with the general availability release today of ActiveVOS 6.0, an integrated solution designed to free companies and developers from complexity and fragmentation in assembling business processes.

ActiveVOS, a standards-based orchestration and business process management system, permits developers, business analysts, and architects to collaborate across IT and business boundaries through an integrated visual tool.

The latest product from the Waltham, Mass., company includes integrated process modeling; a design, testing, debugging, and deployment environment; reporting and consoling; and a tightly integrated complex event processing (CEP) engine.

CEP helps extend services-based applications, but until now, it has required users to integrate yet another server into their applications and to manage the complexity of integrating the application with the CEP engine. ActiveVOS eliminates this challenge by providing a fully capable CEP engine.

Users select which events generated by the execution engine should trigger CEP events. In addition, these selections are made at deployment time, meaning that developers can easily add or modify CEP capabilities to running applications at will.

Standards implemented in ActiveVOS 6.0 include Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) and human task management via the BPEL4People and WS-Human Task specifications.

Analysts can import models and documentation of existing applications, including Microsoft Visio drawings, directly into the graphical BPMN designer to document existing business processes and create new processes using a standards-based designer.

BPMN models are automatically transformed to executable BPEL, allowing developers to provide the implementation details necessary to turn the logical model into a running application. BPEL processes can also be transformed into BPMN, allowing the developer to document existing processes for analysts.

ActiveVOS permits developers to reuse plain old Java objects (POJOs) as native web services, and processes can be thoroughly tested and simulated, even when there are no actual services available during the testing phase. Because ActiveVOS is standards-based, it can go from design to execution without the need for custom code at execution time.

Dashboards, integrated reporting, and a universal console support the needs of operations staff and management.

Active Endpoints' latest packaging and integration, along with the emphasis on the business analyst-level process and visualization tools, strikes me as what the market is looking for at this stage of SOA and BPM.

The way they package and their tools helps reduce complexity in a unique way. I'd say that they have a fuller package as a solution than what I've seen elsewhere. And the depth of ActiveVOS OEM use testifies to the technical capabilities and adherence to standards.

ActiveVOS 6.0 is available for download, and has a free, 30-day trial. Pricing is set at $12,000 per CPU socket for deployment licensees. Development licenses are priced at $5,000 per CPU socket.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Red Hat buys Qumranet, adds gasoline to the spreading VDI bonfire

Open-source giant Red Hat has upped the ante in the PC desktop virtualization market with its acquisition of Qumranet, Inc. in a $107-million deal announced this week.

This acquisition clearly ups the ante in the race for Desktop Virtualization Infrastructure (VDI) solutions. I used to call VDI "desktop as a service (DaaS)," and still think that works pretty well. Anyay, the Red Hat purchase comes on the heels of HP's major virtualization push announced this week, which includes a large VDI component. [See a sponsored podcast on HP's virtualization solutions.]

The Red Hat purchase of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Qumranet's kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) platform and SolidICE VDI solution is targeted at enterprise customers seeking to cut the total cost of providing applications, web access and runtime features to the client edge.

The acquisition of Qumranet gives the Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat a more comprehensive portfolio of virtualization offerings, including:
  • An open-source operating system with built-in virtualization.

  • An embedded hypervisor that supports major operating systems.

  • A consistent management platform for both virtual and physical systems.

  • A cloud and grid management solution.

  • Advanced, high-speed inter-application messaging.

  • An integrated security infrastructure.
SolidICE debuted in April, just weeks before Citrix unveiled its updated XenDesktop, putting Qumranet -- and now Red Hat -- head-to-head with Citrix and VMWare in the desktop virtualization arena. Microsoft may well take is forthcoming Hyper-V in a VDI direction, but for now seems content on partnering with Citrix on VDI. Sun Microsystems should own this market, but opted to hand over Java to the world and buy a tape drive company instead.

SolidICE is a high-performance, scalable virtualization solution built specifically for desktops, and not, Red Hat says, as a retrofit from server virtualization (slap!). It is based on the Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments (SPICE) and enables a Windows or Linux desktop to run in a virtual machine hosted on a central server or datacenter.

Virtualization has been around for decades, mostly on mainframes. It's foray into the desktop market was originally hampered by reliability and security issues. However, recent technological advances have ramped up interest and given virtualization a new head of steam. Such vendors as HP are seemingly confident that the performance issues are no longer an inhibitor, just as the economic drivers for virtualization (like energy conservation) are mounting fast.

Red Hat says that it doesn't expect the acquisition to contribute any substantial to its bottom line in the fiscal year that ends February 29, 2009, but after that the company is looking at $20 million in added revenue the following year.

In a nutshell, Qumranet and VDI fit Red Hat to a "T" -- with the service and maintance of centralized server-based clients just gravy on the already robust Red Hat infrastructure support business. VDI allows Red Hat to take its model to the PC, without leaving the datacenter. And it allows the promulagation of Linux for the client OS in much more expedient fashion than taking on Redmond on the desktop.

As I told NewsFactor Network, the market for VDI could be in store for a large growth spurt. VDI simply solves too many problems while providing very little disruption for end users to be ignored.

VDI, somewhat ironically, may also work well for market mover Microsoft as it seeks to slow the momentum to outright web-based and OSS/LAMP-supported applications and services for large businesses. Microsoft must realize that enterprises have had it with the high cost of maintaining and managing the traditional Windows OS in all its client-side permutations.

Not even a $300 million ad campaign for Vista can stop the addition and subtraction that spells this fact out. The math simply does not lie. Help desk costs to fix user config-type and malware issues are killing IT budgets.

Yet (just in time!) VDI allows Microsoft to keep the apps as Windows apps, retains the desktop OS license fees -- even if they are virtualized and server-based -- and VDI on Windows keeps developers and ISVs writing new and updating old apps to run on ... Windows. VDI allows converting client-server apps into Windows Server apps, without turning them into web apps.

Essentially, at the same time, virtualized and server-based VDI delivery of Windows apps and Windows desktop functionality allows enterprises to cut total costs, reuse aging desktop hardware, streamline updates and migrations, and slash security and privacy/control concerns (by maintaining management at the datacenter).

Help desks can actually be pared back, folks. Sorry, Ashish. Data can be kept safe on servers, not out in the strange world of lost hard drives and corporate espionage. Indeed, the U.S. Dept. of Defense (DoD) and other three-acronym spy agencies use VDI extensively. Nothing on the client but chips and dips. If you can do it there, you can do it anywhere.

Now, as Red Hat (and it's partner IBM?) seek to enter the VDI space aggressively and perhaps add Linux as the spolier runtime, Microsoft will need to accelerate its VDI initiatives. I expect MSFT to become the leader in VDI (perhaps via major acquisitions), as a hedge against Google, Red Hat, FOSS, the web, compute clouds, Amazon, IBM, and the far too high cost of traditional Windows clients.

Speaking of IBM, VDI offers Big Blue a way to play to all its global strengths -- infrastructure and services (green IT) -- while moving back into the client solutions (and end-to-end) value business in a potentially Big, Big, way. There's no reason why HP and IBM won't be huge beneficiaries of VDI, even as Microsoft makes it easier for them based on its own need to move quickly in this direction.

Here's a dark horse thought: If you can inject search- and web-based ads into web/SaaS apps, why could you not inject them into VDI-delivered apps? There could well be an additional business model of VDI-delivered desktops and apps supported by targeted ads. Telcos, cable providers, and service providers might (if the were smart) give away the PC/MID hardware, include the VDI/DaaS as part of triple-play connection or premium service fees, and monetize it all through relevant ads embedded intelligently in virtualized apps delivery. Nawwww!

Trust me, keep an eye on VDI, it has the potential to rock the IT market every way as much as Google/Yahoo/Amazon/ -- only this trend hits the enterprise directly and fully. Incidentally, cloud computing as a private enterprise endeavor hugely supports the viability and economic rationale for VDI.

It's nice when IT megatrends align so well.