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Summer 2017

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This has been an unusually busy summer. Aside from various projects with IBM Security, as well as personal changes, the most interesting professional development is that I’ve been approved to author a new book on the subject of VMware NSX and Micro-Segmentation. I’m very excited as a first-time author, it’s been a goal for some time to write a technical volume and here’s my chance at last.

Moving Forward

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Just wanted to share a brief update regarding an exciting upcoming step in my professional journey. I’ve recently accepted a role as Senior Managing Consultant in IBM’s Infrastructure and Endpoint Security group, and will be leaving my position at Dell later this month.

The past 5 1/2 years at Dell have been quite a ride, and looking back need to acknowledge that now is a time of mixed feelings as I’m leaving behind some great colleagues and a supportive team and manager. Over these past years I’ve learned so much about how IT and network services are actually managed in a large global consulting practice, and have built up a track record of planning and delivery of complex, multi-vendor network solutions along the way. There have been major changes at Dell along the way too, from the acquisitions of Force10, Sonicwall and Secureworks, to going private in 2013 and now the pending acquisition of EMC along with divestiture of Dell (formerly Perot) Services.

Having said that, I’m truly excited about the potential with IBM, which has continued to execute a smart strategy of moving away from hardware-based, transactional business towards higher value-add, as a leading player in security, Big Data, cognitive computing and cloud. IBM’s deep history in technology and leadership in innovation were also very persuasive in making this move.

For myself, this pivot towards security feels very natural and timely, in the near term giving me the opportunity to fully leverage skills and training around VMware NSX, especially with microsegmentation. More broadly, I have always been fascinated with the infosec field especially pertaining to network, and my diverse background across network, virtualization, Linux and Windows, and software should serve me well here.

On a fun side note, for the first time in nearly 20 years, with IBM I was given a choice between a Mac and Windows PC as my daily workstation. I’m now taking the plunge with a snazzy MacBook Pro with Retina display, and have to say I’m loving it so far! ūüôā

 

 

My Home Recording Studio (cross-post)

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I’ve been spending so much time (and money…) recently in my basement studio, that I thought it would be a good idea to write up a quick post and include a couple pictures. It’s finally coming together, just in time to record new material and some older songs that have been kicking around in my brain for too long.

Without further do, here’s the link, enjoy-

http://darowsmusic.wordpress.com/next-chapter-home-studio/

How Is IT Infrastructure (staffing) like a Rock Band?

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I’ve often thought about finding effective metaphors for conceptualizing IT/Data Center Infrastructure. As my professional experience really focused to networking and advanced storage about five years ago, initially I thought of a simple three-legged stool as Infrastructure, with Servers, Storage and Networking each composing one leg.

The problem with this analogy is it’s feels too inwardly directed, and posits a free-floating infrastructure which could practically exist in a void with no express purpose. But in the business world, strategists and decision makers are most interested in applications, and increasingly data (Big), which then drive supporting infrastructure requirements and not the other way around.

(Maybe the seat of the stool  = Apps and Data, however this is kind of boring!)

Outside of IT infrastructure, one of my enduring interests has been music. As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to learn several instruments passably including piano, violin, and drums, as well as participate in several bands and orchestral groups. My first forays into the early, pre-Web information technology field were a sideways step during a phase when I was teaching myself digital audio engineering, and hip-hop production…I was so comfortable setting up my mess of home studio wires (RCA, MIDI, etc.) that it felt only natural to apply myself with Coax, Cat5 and Ethernet at my day job.

Listen to this timeless tune by The Beatles, “Baby You Can Drive My Car.” Note how Ringo Starr effortlessly supports John’s lead, never intrusive yet steady and perfectly matched for the feel and theme.

This reminds me of the ideal function of a well-architected Network within a modern data center infrastructure. The Network quite literally provides the heartbeat, or pulse, to which every local device and application requires some level of connectivity.

Think of drums, which provide tempo; time signature; beat, fills…

Maybe this makes sense?

  • Drums – Networks
  • Guitars – Servers
  • Bass – Storage
  • Vocals – Applications
  • Lyrics – Data

All about SDN

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I’ve recently been coming up to speed on an innovative, disruptive new technology named Software Defined Networking (SDN). It’s likely the most significant development in the networking industry for many years to come. With the promise of substantially streamlining network provisioning, management and configuration, SDN strictly speaking is about decoupling the control (Layer3) and forwarding (Layer2) planes. There is certainly the potential for rippling disruptions in the established network industry (Cisco…) as the “brains” for the network move towards software and out of the hardware.

My approach to rapidly familiarizing with any new technology is to read and absorb as much as possible, while at the same time getting hands-on exposure. Accordingly, here are some suggested resources-

1. Network World offers regular coverage of SDN-related updates, here is a recent overview. For a less technical viewpoint, read this article from Economist magazine. For networking techies, go to the¬†Open Networking Summit¬†, and check out their Video archive of conference sessions. Nick McKeown’s keynote¬†video “How SDN Will Shape Networking” is an excellent introduction.

2. Register for the free¬†OpenFlow¬†Tutorial¬†to learn about the primary SDN protocol, OpenFlow. You’ll get to build a real SDN switch, capture OpenFlow packets and maybe get into some Python.

Another useful free online course is the SDN class offered by Coursera , taught by Dr. Nick Feamster of Georgia Tech. Keep in mind this class is highly technical, and assumes a prior advanced knowledge of network engineering.

Enjoy and Happy Fourth!

P.S. On Twitter, here are my favorite sources on SDN  Р@etherealmind @openflownetwork @sdn_news @openNetSummit @openflow @nicira

DMZ is not only for network security

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I find it more than ironic that my professional duties as a network architect and engineer regularly involve designs with a “DMZ” to present externally-facing hosts in a segregated zone apart from internal hosts.

After all, my stage name is “DMZ,” referring to the actual De-Militarized Zone separating South and North Korea. I launched a musical project “DMZ//38” several years ago partly to draw attention to the state of the current divided Korean Peninsula.

Yes, I have visited the actual DMZ.

I wish I had more time and energy for this project, on the other hand I have a loving family and solid career which take precedence these days.

Having said that, I am glad to announce that the¬†Kickstarter project for¬†reissue of the DMZ//38 album “No Man’s Land” is now open-

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/878280160/reissue-dmz-38-album

I’ve never reissued a record before, and think it’s probably a good sign somebody out there is listening if I’ve run out of CD’s.
Here’s a preview of the new cover-
For more info, take a look at this short video , or visit the DMZ//38 website.
Thanks for allowing this brief diversion from cloud and IT infrastructure.
Next post I promise to discuss recent fun explorations with OpenStack.

Building an iSCSI SAN for VMware for Under $300

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In recent months, I’ve been assembling a lab to provide a test-bed for various network and infrastructure applications. My current role at Dell often involves multi-vendor networks, so having an easily accessible test bed including Cisco, Dell, Juniper and HP devices can be very useful for interoperability troubleshooting such as Spanning Tree Protocol.

I wanted to provide a robust virtual infrastructure, and in my experience that usually means VMware. I’m fortunate enough to have extra ESX Enterprise and Plus licenses from VMware partner registration. To utilize all the most useful VMware features like Vmotion and HA, a shared storage system is required. In addition, I wanted to incorporate as many iSCSI “best practices” such as using dedicated infrastructure, dedicated VLAN and Jumbo Frames without breaking the bank.

Without an extra $1-2 K on hand to go out and purchase a full-blown iSCSI SAN such as EqualLogic or Compellent (shameless Dell plugs), and already having a home NAS set up, my goal was to assemble a SAN utilizing as much extra or existing hardware as possible and of course limiting new expenses.

For my purposes, performance took precedence over storage capacity, and redundancy was not as important as keeping costs down (and streamlining design).

Ingredients:

Configuration:

  • I was able to re-purpose an unused PC for the iSCSI Starwind server, w/dual core CPU, 3 GB RAM, and Windows 7 Home. Starwind Free Edition doesn’t require a server OS so that was helpful.
  • The Intel GigE NIC was installed into the PC for a dedicated NIC to the iSCSI network, separate from the LOM.
  • The SSD was installed into the spare PC, and presented as a new iSCSI device.
  • I thought I had a 9 pin F-F cable already but didn’t…not common these days, anyway got lucky finding the last one in stock at Fry’s ūüôā

Caveats:

  • For the SAN server, ideally this should be a Windows or Linux server O/S, however my hardware was more than adequate.
  • Starwind is a good option for Windows users, OpenNAS is an option for Linux folks.
  • JUMBO FRAMES are a MUST!! Jumbo Frames must be enabled end to end for optimal performance, and must be supported on the physical switch for starters. In addition, you’ll need to update VMware components for Jumbo frame support including vSwitch, port group, VMkernel, and guest OS NIC adapter. Here’s a great article on configuration for VSphere 4.
  • It’s always a good practice to create a separate VLAN for iSCSI as well.
  • LAN cables not included

Results:

  • I’m very pleased with my new iSCSI-based shared storage system, supporting VSphere 4 on (2) Dell SC1425 64-bit 1U servers. Responsiveness is snappy within VI Client, as well as within RDP for Windows guest VM’s.
  • VMotions on shared storage: 20-30 seconds, not bad compared to Enterprise-class SAN’s which I’ve observed at 10-20 seconds.

Here are my two Dell SC1425 servers, each with (2) 3 Ghz Xeon CPU’s and 6GB RAM, with dedicated 1 GB NIC’s for the iSCSI network.

New Year = New Smartphone

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I just ordered my Samsung Galaxy Nexus, from Amazon Wireless (beta) . Didn’t even know that Amazon sold smartphones, and had stumbled on the site recently while searching for Galaxy Nexus discounts.¬† I was a little bummed that currently you cannot apply Amazon gift cards,¬† anyways I was still able to purchase for $229 with upgrade pricing. I’ve been pleased with Verizon to date as far as service quality (mostly), and certainly have become a seasoned user and advocate for Android.

There’s also a new Trade-in site on Amazon, where you can quickly find trade-in values on electronics, books, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and video games. My old HTC Incredible should fetch about $50 for trade-in, leaving my Net pricing on the Nexus around $180.

Will share first impressions once I’ve had a chance to get my mitts around the Galaxy Nexus. 4G here I come…

Happy New Year!

Android Smartphone Matchup: Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs. Motorola Droid Razr

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The smartphone market has matured dramatically since the last time (spring 2010) I was in the market for a new phone. Earlier this year Android surged into the lead for smartphone OS nationally and globally, ahead of IOS, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Symbian. The increased volume gives us a wider range of choices on the Android platform, including niche devices with improved social networking or multimedia features.

I will be upgrading from my current HTC Droid Incredible on Verizon Wireless, which has exhibited remarkable reliability and burrowed into a comfortable spot in my front pocket. The Droid Incredible, which arguably helped launch the most recent Android wave along with the Motorola Droid, , has been showing its age lately. Looking at my wife and stepdaughter’s new HTC Thunderbolt, I marvel at the rapid response and 4G LTE speeds, and envy their shiny 4.3 inch super AMOLED displays.

The two current Android smartphones which I’m evaluating are the recently-announced Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Motorola Droid Razr. It’s ironic that the Samsung Galaxy device is named “Nexus” since last year I was originally planning to purchase the Google Nexus One, which eventually only saw limited release. (Too much Nexus – have been working with lots of Cisco Nexus switches this year too)

(Pictures not to scale)

The Motorola Droid Razr is currently available, and lists for $299 at Verizon. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus will be available first from Verizon Wireless, but pricing and availability has not yet been announced.

The devices match up very closely to each other, with Samsung Galaxy Nexus distinguished as the first smartphone installed with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), and the Droid Razr coming in lighter and thinner though with a smaller screen. Having handled the Razr, I can attest that it’s very comfortable in your hand, however for me the tie-breaker will likely be Ice Cream Sandwich.

Here’s a chart comparing the primary features:

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Motorola Droid Razr
Screen 4.65″ HD(1280 x 720) Super AMOLED 4.3‚ÄĚ Super AMOLED
CPU 1.2 GHz dual core processor 1.2GHz dual core processor
Memory 1GB RAM 1GB RAM
Storage 16GB or 32GB 16 GB microSD card pre-installed
Camera(s) 5 MP (rear facing camera), 1.3MP Front 8 MP (rear facing camera), 1.3MP Front with 720p HD
Android OS Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread)
Weight 150g 127g
Dimensions 135.5 X 67.94 X 9.47 mm (LTE) 130.7 x 68.9 x 7.1 mm
Interfaces Micro USB,¬† 2 Mics, HDMI via Micro-USB adapter Micro USB, HDMI¬ģ Micro, 3.5mm
Battery 1850mAh 1780 mAh Li Ion
Data CDMA800, CDMA1900, LTE B13 700, WiFi, Bluetooth

CDMA800, CDMA1900, LTE B13 700, WiFi, Bluetooth

New Music Workstation

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I finally have my new studio workstation completed and running…took most of the summer (and fall) obtaining the components:

The performance is incredible, web pages jump off the screen and wakes from Sleep in less than 2 seconds. Importantly, the entire workstation is whisper quiet, I can barely tell when it’s powered on, and apparently is rated at < 20 dBA . The Intel 320 is my first SSD drive, and I’ve been suitably impressed with its speed.