IP Expo Manchester – Day 2 Review

Today was the second and final day of the inaugural IP Expo event at G-Mex Manchester Central. I’d spent a lot of time wandering around the solution hall yesterday, so today I wanted to spend more time in the sponsor sessions. The problem is that often I would find myself bumping into a familiar face and at the end of a catch up, 30 minutes has gone!

One thing I’d like to express before I go through the session reports is that I wish vendors would top this “avoid lock in” bullshit. Every vendor does lock in of one form or another. After all, how can you expect a good revenue stream for a product if it’s too easy for a customer to take their stuff elsewhere? I’m not saying vendor lock in is a bad thing, as long as there is a degree of interoperability which means you do have a path out if you need it. But please, don’t sell me something proprietary and then tell me it avoids vendor lock in, it makes my blood boil.

Anyway, onto the show…

Microsoft Mobile First, Cloud First Transformation – James Akrigg

Much to my disappointment, I missed all of this session bar the last 10 minutes. I’ll not go into the details as to why, but some aspects of the event organisation could be filed under “could do better”. Not all bad though. Anyway, I caught some integration with Cortana and Business Intelligence. Impressive stuff and makes you realise how much consumer tech is now appearing in “business” products as users start to expect the same experience on both sides.

One thing I will say about Microsoft is that I’ve been pretty impressed with how they’ve reinvented themselves. It’s not easy to change the path of the company that is so big and has massive cash cows like Windows and Office. In many ways, it makes me wonder how much further along they’d be today if they’d ditched Steve Ballmer a lot sooner.

The full house signs also demonstrated that Microsoft is still more than relevant in today’s IT landscape. Reports of their demise have been premature, and hats off to them for reinventing themselves as a cloud/mobile company. Yes, there are a lot of updates about Windows 10 and Office 2016, but they seem to me to be on a par with Azure and other platform announcements these days.

The true foundation for the Software Defined Enterprise – John J. Ryan – VMware


John Ryan from VMware – not walking like an Egyptian..

Next up was John Ryan from VMware to take us through a “how we got here” session and also how VMware were driving the SDDC market forward.

Key points included:-

  • We’re now in the mobile/cloud era after mainframe and client server eras
  • Cloud management platform is automation, operations,  business intelligence wrapping over “traditional” virtual infrastructure of compute, storage and  networking
  • Control of data centre automated by software (management and security)
  • Foundation of Software Defined Enterprise means handling complex tasks in a simple way
  • vSphere provides capability to virtualise applications, desktops, servers, databases etc, best general purpose hypervisor around
  • Hadoop Big Data extensions, certified support for SAP HANA amongst newer features
  • Container support in vSphere 6, integrated OpenStack
  • Instant clone for desktop workloads, radically improve your VDI provisioning
  • 4x scalability in vSphere 6 (vCPU, vRAM, etc.)
  • Photon special VMware edition of Linux to run containers, open sourced with Lightwave (identity)
  • Long distance vMotion up to 150 milliseconds latency
  • Enabled by cross vCenter vMotion, which is also new in vSphere 6
  • Use cases for long distance vMotion include follow the sun, disaster avoidance
  • Fault tolerance now up to 4 vCPU s
  • Needs 10 gig infrastructure however
  • Content library can store templates, ISOs,  OVAs.  Subscribe and replicate content (bit like System Center)
  • Recent tasks and right click improved in Web client, more intuitive workflows (i.e. a bit more like the “fat” client!)
  • Virtual SAN extended to use hybrid models, including storage arrays
  • Virtual volumes (VVols) changes the storage paradigm
  • Automated policy management
  • All industry partners will support virtual volumes, some natively in the array and some via virtual appliances with VASA

One cloud, One security – VMware / Trend Micro – Peter Bury and Stephen Porter


Peter Bury – VMware

From the previous session I hot footed it across the hall to the next session which mainly dealt with what NSX is at a high level and how that fits into the SDDC message. This was a decent presentation that illustrated the issue of applying security out on physical network devices when you might want to be able to segment VMs away from each other in the same cluster and the “old” networking model created in vSphere with standard vSwitches just wasn’t very flexible.

Key points from this session:-

  • Old design methodology meant sending VM traffic out of cluster and let edge firewall deal with it (tromboning)
  • Firewall rules get massive over time as nobody removes them when a service is unprovisioned because of the fear of breaking something. The secondary impact is slowing down the firewall as it has to churn through 100s of rules
  • Not a fluid design for agile changes
  • This design is virtual but it’s not cloud
  • Enterprises want rapid elasticity, roll out services as the organisation demands
  • If IT is too slow, company will go out to the public cloud
  • Intelligence is built into software for security, firewall etc. Physical networks become “dumb carriers”
  • Load balancing, routing, switching, firewalls, access control lists in software, as part of the hypervisor stack.
  • Context in workloads is achieved by baking in features into the hypervisor
  • New model enables wrapper around workloads to provide security
  • API allows trusted partners to provide their expertise in the micro segmentation of virtual machines
  • Anti malware,  anti virus, intrusion protection etc
  • Agent less design from Trend
  • All policy driven so policy follows VM wherever it goes
  • Moved from scheduled scan to real time security
  • Dashboard available for vCenter/vRealise Operations Manager
  • Security rules can be applied before patches are ready. Heart bleed rule available in a couple of hours, patches for the same vulnerability take days or weeks

It’s time to upgrade from backup to business continuity – Fifosys


The next session covered the topic of business continuity. One interesting point on this was that BC is not always a “site down” issue. Sometimes it can be a key LOB application that has gone for a lie down and you need to have a strategy for bringing that back so the business can keep functioning properly.

This was also a leader into introducing us to the Datto appliance, which I must admit was new to me. There seems to be a burgeoning market now in hardware appliances that keep some data local and then move “cold” blocks out to the cloud where it’s cheaper to store. This product works along similar lines, but with backup images.

Key takeaways:-

  • Disaster recovery hampered by slow,  manual processes including getting off site backups,  restore from tape etc
  • 13 % of Fifosys survey responders don’t take tapes off site
  • 61% still using tape
  • 52% of SMB s do not have a BC plan as they don’t view IT as critical to the business
  • 45% of downtime caused by human error according to Oracle User Group
  • BC is not just failure of a site, but key business systems
  • Assign a financial cost to an outage to justify a BC plan, there are plenty of simple equations out there you can use
  • Impact time has a direct effect on the costs of an outage
  • BC should be simple and automated
  • Sub 1 hour recovery is a must
  • Reduce reliance on staff for BC
  • BC reduces operating risk, don’t see it as a cash waste
  • DR tests should not be time consuming or impactful
  • Traditional designs use active/passive or active/active data centres, which can be prohibitively expensive
  • Datto appliance performs backups and replicates to the cloud
  • Image based backup every 5 minutes
  • Can restore to the Datto appliance as it has a baked in hypervisor
  • Agent based backup
  • Screen shot verification is an automated daily DR test
  • Uses inverse chain technology
  • Datto protects 100 PB globally

Cisco’s Intercloud Strategy – Bruno Oliveira


Cisco have a “cloud of cloud” strategy called Intercloud, which is an interesting concept. By the presenter’s own admission, there are still odd pieces of it not quite ready yet (mainly the Cloud Market Place option) but again in a similar way to vCAC/vRA does it’s best to be a technology agnostic solution (with Cisco’s wrapper around it, naturally!).

Again the key takeaway is freedom of choice and the flexibility to move workloads around to internal or external clouds as economics and performance requirements dictate.

Key points:-

  • Uber now biggest taxi company in the world but don’t own taxis
  • AirBnB don’t own hotels
  • Digital disruption caused by these types of companies
  • 50 billion objects connected to the Internet by 2020
  • Unified workload management. Any VM any cloud is the essence of Intercloud
  • Keep data in country as opposed to AWS etc where you may not know where it is
  • 55% companies turning to the cloud to lower costs
  • Global cloud of clouds using VMware,  OpenStack, etc. Cisco validated architecture
  • Cisco want to wrap around all these disparate services so customer sees it as their infrastructure
  • 160 inter cloud partners
  • 60 providers and resellers
  • InterCloud fabric is the software wrapper around this environment
  • InterCloud market place coming,  both for internal and external clouds
  • Fabric provides end user and administration portals
  • Can move workloads from one provider to another (Azure to vCloud Air, vCA to AWS, etc.)
  • Cloud usage collector can be attached to physical network kit to accurately measure cloud service consumption so CIOs can “really” see what external services are being consumed

A new approach to optimising the WAN with Citrix CloudBridge – Al Taylor, CloudDNA

My final session of the conference was around the Citrix CloudBridge 11 appliance. Folks who know me know I’m not so much a Citrix guy, but I try to be as agnostic as possible and try to avoid “drinking the Kool-Aid”. At the end of the day, I don’t believe it pays to close yourself off from any vendor as you never know when they’ll have a niche product or solution that will come to your rescue.

I actually enjoyed this session the most of all the ones I saw over the two days. There was something vaguely punky about the presenter and his enthusiasm for the CloudBridge device really shone, whereas some of the other presenters went through the motions a little bit. I’m not denigrating them, but perhaps that’s the difference between a true tecchie and non-tecchie speaker.

Anyway, CloudBridge is a Citrix appliance that is intended for use over constrained bandwidth to improve XenDesktop / XenApp user experience (amongst other use cases such as video and Lync).

Key session points:-

  • CloudDNA are the only dedicated Citrix cloud networking practice in the UK
  • NetScalertaylor.com for NetScaler blog
  • ILoveNetScaler.com news aggregate and weekly newsletter
  • CloudBridge is like WAN repeater
  • Acceleration and compression, amongst other things
  • Video optimisation for Lync etc
  • HDX analysis for CloudBridge to get full visibility of all bottlenecks
  • Feeds back into Desktop Director for quick and simple performance analysis
  • 64 channels in ICA traffic
  • Prioritise channel traffic to ensure performance for the user
  • Tolly Report on CloudBridge gives WAN optimisation report of optimised vs non-optimised
  • Virtual appliance or piece of hardware
  • Branch office in a box, can run ThinPrint on the hardware if need be
  • Virtual WAN binds multiple links together and uses policies to decide which traffic goes down which link. Not bonded
  • Encrypt the paths between the two end points
  • Send packets based on application needs
  • Active bi directional probing
  • 600 applications optimised out of the box, not just Citrix centric
  • Faster time to deploy branch offices

In all, I enjoyed the event and it was nice to see this type of event in my neck of the woods as these things tend to be London only. Hopefully there was enough interest to make the show a bit bigger next year (they’ve already published similar dates for 2016) and get some “proper” representation from the heavy hitters (VMware, Microsoft) rather than being a desk on part of a partner’s stand.



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