Interop 2008 wrap-up

Aside from touring the expo floor, I attended a few more sessions Thursday and then again this morning, gravitating toward the virtualization sessions. As we’re now implementing virtual servers in our machine rooms, a lot of the material was review, but not all. I learned that Microsoft has a free hypervisor offering called Hyper-V. It doesn’t have feature parity yet with VMware but since they’re offering it for free, I would expect VMware to respond by lowering their prices on their infrastructure components. This would be very helpful for us. Having been psyched up by these virtualization sessions, I’m really looking forward to our group getting the first few servers moved to VM and machines turned off.

On the show floor I spent a little extra time talking to network monitoring/management companies and a DNS/DHCP/IP address management company. The latter gave me a blue hat with a cat logo. Guess who? We have honed our DNS and DHCP processes over the years with scripts and mastery of vi but there are better approaches.

I appreciated the breadth of the conference and being able to sample training in various areas. It was an exercise for my brain to be continually switching gears (going from session to session or booth to booth).

Interop 2008: notable Wednesday sessions

Future of the Voice Endpoint

Panel: Representatives from Avaya, Microsoft, and Siemens

There was some discussion on extensions made to SIP by vendors in order to fill in some gaps in the protocol. All acknowledge that SIP lacks what is expected by the customer. To Office Communicator/Server, Microsoft adds strong authentication (Kerberos and TLS) and implements SRTP by default. Avaya (like Cisco) extends SIP to match features that its native protocol has. Sending individual digits immediately to the PBX as they are dialed is another example. (KPML is an extension that allows this.)

Will soft phones replace desk phones? These guys in the industry say “no;” Avaya says fewer than 10% will ever abandon the desk phone for a soft phone; it’s most useful in conjunction with a primary desk phone. People just want to pick up the always-on device and dial the digits. This matches with my own personal experience using soft phones (home & trial at work). Again, no one says that soft phones aren’t useful (especially me–I love the idea) but they don’t, and may never, stand on their own.

Enterprise 2.0: Evaluating the current “2.0” technologies

Blogs, wikis, social networks, tagging, mashups, modern portals. A good review of what’s out there and some commentary on the usefulness of each in the enterprise. Implement them with a purpose, not just because they’re the current thing. Confluence was highlighted as a good business-oriented wiki for its overall usability, file sharing and access controls. (Kudos to those who selected it for use at Penn State!)

Interop 2008: Wednesday keynotes liveblog

Part 1: IBM and Web 2.0 / collaborative technologies. Presenter was using Lotus Symphony to present his slides; claims it’s free to download and at least looks to be on par with Powerpoint.

Current iteration of Notes is slick and is incorporating the technologies that we are trying to smash together–directory services, blogs, wikis, social networking (Face/Space, Twitter), IM, the whole works. Still looks a bit like a clunky IBM product.

Look for a beta of their new Web 2.0 product, Bluehouse. Demo wasn’t clear whether this was the name of the suite or a component.

Part 2: Cisco and virtualization. Why virtualize? (We’re talking about virtual presence, and virtual servers/VM.) Costs, large campuses, multiple locations, globalization.

Speaker is promoting virtualization as a way to multitask more efficiently (argh!). Need to upgrade human brain first.

Now getting into a real issue about virtualization: IT silos and individual resource pools make it tough to get buy-in. Q: Would PSU be able to bring computing resources together out of the individual departments/silos? PSU Cloud in the future?

In many virtual server setups the weakest link is the hypervisor. Admins leave big security holes here. Beware!

Virtualization shifts mindset from server-centric to services-centric. A good shift.

Interop 2008: Network Troubleshooting Using Open Source Tools

Today I attended an all-day training session with the aforementioned title. I already have some experience using open source tools: we use Smokeping, Cricket/RRDTool, Multicast Beacon, and others. I have some experience with Wireshark. The value in today’s training was hearing an experienced network professional (Mike Pennacchi of Network Protocol Specialists) talk about how he uses these tools. Understanding the concepts and seeing an expert use the tools in certain ways is more helpful than just reading the documentation.

Aside from an extended session on Wireshark, which really helped me get a better grasp on its usefulness, the speaker presented a few other tools that were new to me. nTop can use Pcap or Netflow data to describe network usage. Nagios works well on its own but becomes a super power when combined with Centreon. I’m not trying to start a link farm here. These links will be useful when I get back to the office and find some time to start digging in.

Because this was a session on open source tools, there was a brief discussion about the “support” issue: who supports open source tools? One comment that I liked is that, even though there’s nobody on the line to yell at, with most large open source projects, the answers you get from searching Google are better and faster than what you’d get from phone support, anyway. I hate to admit this, because it makes me the last stop of responsibility in troubleshooting, but it’s pretty accurate.

Interop New York 2008

I’ll be attending Interop New York this week and hope to have some interesting notes to publish here. Interop offers workshops and conference talks on a wide variety of systems administration and integration topics, including VoIP. I’ve got plenty of diversity in my planner for the week; this is my opportunity to learn some new things outside of my usual focus. CIPTUG, which is all-VoIP (but not all-Cisco, never mind the “C” in the acronym), is coming up in November.