Review Roundup: Fluke Networks OptiView XG

Today’s Review Roundup zooms in on OptiView XG by Fluke Networks. With dozens of network troubleshooting and monitoring solutions available on the market and listed on IT Central Station, it’s difficult to determine which solution is best for your needs. We’ll look at what some of our real users have to say about OptiView XG and how they’ve implemented it to fit their needs. FlukeNetworks

  • Aaron Kostyu who is Director of IT at a local government says “We have been using the OptiView XG to both monitor the network, and to take into the field when a deeper inspection of a specific component is needed. Its combination of features, easy-to-understand insight tools and reporting capabilities has made it an indispensable solution for the team.” Read his complete review here.
  • Tommy Pruitt who is Vice President at a company with 1-500 employees says “Prior to OptiView XG, we used a variety of tools and packet sniffers, such as Wireshark, to gather information. The manual correlation of data was time consuming and required highly skilled technical engineers. Now, we have one solution that automates all data gathering, presents that information in graphical format, and allows the team to drill down into more detail instantly.” Read his complete review here.
  • Trent Spencer who is a network manager at a local government says “The OptiView XG is always our starting point. It helps collaboration, gives the insights we need to make a case for upgrades or plan for deployments, allows us to test new implementations in real time, and quickly troubleshoot and fix problems as they arise. We look to this device first so we never waste time or money.” Read his complete review here.

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Suggestions for Collaboration and Tableau Server

This week’s guest blogger is Larry Keller. Larry has been involved with data visualization and analysis for over 10 years. Larry worked on a team that created Impact, the first data visualization solution. He has worked for Business Objects, SAS and Tableau before founding VIA 5 years ago. He has been a guest speaker at events and VIA’s Tableau documentation is now available in 45 countries and 46 of the 50 states.  Contact us if you would like to be one of our guest bloggers.

LarryKeller

Over the years Tableau Server has emerged as a very powerful platform by which clients can share visual analyses on an enterprise scale. There are now Tableau Server implementations with thousands of users or Interactors (web clients) as they are called in Tableau lexicon.

Years ago a CIO or EVP of IT was not typically involved in the purchase of server and desktops, as it was often perceived as a departmental purchase with the cost often posted to the user/department. Further, IT welcomed the addition of Tableau as it often lessened the burden on IT resources for the care and feeding of reporting plus another technical environment. Tableau desktop was and is considered a discovery tool with myriad data connections but over the years the game has changed. Those desktop users or authors can no longer “fire and forget” (author and publish) when it comes to creating a workbook for consumption not only by thousands of internal users but Interactors who are clients enabled to see reports via server on a scheduled basis. This is how the game of fire and forget is changing.

The acquisition of Tableau Server now involves the CIO or EVP of IT more frequently. Tableau has a sales and consulting team recruited to specifically to make Tableau a standard and not a one off choice for enterprise implementations.

The reasons are simple – Tableau has proven itself as best of breed in the field of data visualization and analysis but more importantly it is being implemented as the enterprise solution by F-2000 companies and those below that benchmark. Both Tableau and QlikView are forecasted to outpace the purchase not only of Excel but legacy business intelligence solutions that I will not name here will become passé. Read more here.

The entry into enterprise system solutions includes the consideration of trusted sources; those systems of records (SORS) that a CIO knows to be vetted and thus trusted for wide distribution. Today Tableau server includes a test, development and production environments. If I am the CIO of a financial institution and want to be 100% sure that there are no “rogue” workbooks being published to server it is necessary to invoke manual procedures. Example – Assume that Oracle is a trusted SOR and a desktop user uses Oracle and an Excel file from an unknown source. Assume further that the author using the data blending techniques and some calculations. To insure that the production version of the workbooks has been vetted, the author typically has to publish this workbook to the development environment so another employee can validate the source of the Excel file thus slowing the publication process. In essence, the dev environment becomes quarantine until the source(s) is vetted.

With the myriad data sources to which Tableau Desktop can connect, what solutions might be considered by Tableau to attenuate this constraint? When data sources that are not considered trusted are used repetitively, would it be possible to recognize and approve it systemically after vetting? Example – Assume that the author connects to Oracle and then to a corporate data warehouse in the same workbook. If that data warehouse and associated marts have past previous quality checks why delay the publication? I envision an approach where the Oracle and DW are published to the Dev environment and then automatically promoted to the production server. The author can be notified and proceed with scheduling. The suggestions above would apply to extracts as well. Data Source Validation might be the moniker for this feature.

To complement Data Source Validation, server stakeholders could be enabled to “Tableau Tableau”. This is not typo but an instructive approach to a better understanding of the how to live with Tableau and do so with an understanding of the server database. Like any database server has views that server administrators can use. Envision a Tableau Packaged Workbook with preconfigured connections to the more critical views in server. More importantly, envision the use of the server investment by “seeing” who is publishing what and when. Are these authors abiding by the standards set by management in a manner that one might consider IT governance? This notion is not intended to quash Tableau’s tagline of “discover and collaborate”. Rather, it is intended to insure corporate information can be distributed on timely and enterprise basis knowing that data sources have gone through an approval process.

One last thought – It would be a huge help to Tableau enterprise users if there were a repository for standardized calculations. While this is not a systemic collaboration issue, it does address a common problem when multiple departments create the same calculation in three different ways. Yes this is an issue when there is only one financial model.

Review Roundup: Fluke Networks Visual TruView

Today’s Review Roundup focuses on network monitoring reviews of Fluke Networks Visual TruView. There are so many solutions on the market and it’s hard to know which is best for your organization. Today we’ll look at what several real users have posted about Visual TruView as a network monitoring solution. Here are a few highlights:

  • David Varnum who is Manager of Engineering at a retailer says “There are only two solutions I keep up and running at all times, and Visual TruView is FlukeNetworksone of them. It gives me complete visibility into the application layer and when problems emerge, I can identify the source and work to fix it before it has an impact on the business.” Read his complete review here.
  • Dermot Tobin who is Senior Project Manager at a local government says “Before deploying the TruView, performance monitoring was fairly manual….With TruView, we have a much better view of application performance, particularly from the user perspective.” Read his complete review here.
  • reviewer68994a who is VP of Network/Comms/Infra at a financial services firm says “As we bring more of the responsibility for managing our network in-house, VPM’s ability to generate utilization reports is extremely valuable. In some cases, VPM can create reports that third-party vendors cannot. And with a small team – we have just 4 people managing the network across more than 100 locations – the ability to remotely identify and diagnose problems saves on time and travel costs.” Read his complete review here.

Click here to read more Network Monitoring Software reviews on IT Central Station. If you haven’t already, sign up with IT Central Station, browse reviews, follow your favorite products, or write a review of your own!

Father Mode < ON >: the Double Life of my Tablet

This week’s guest blogger is Fabrizio Volpe, who is an experienced Network Architect with a focus on security and unified communications. He is a four time Microsoft MVP and the author of Getting Started With FortiGate and Getting Started with Microsoft Lync Server 2013. A free Lync e-book he published, Microsoft Lync Server 2013: Basic Administration, has been downloaded more than 2,800 times in less than four months. He is also an avid blogger. Contact us if you would like to be one of our guest bloggers.

While my laptop is (still) an object dedicated to my working activities, during the last couple of years my tablets lived what we could call a “double life”. I haveFabrizio a child of about four years and, although I always prefer take him for a walk in the park or play with him with more “classic” toys, games on a tablet are a great help when I need a few minutes of peace and quiet. The very wide range of educational games available also mitigates my guilt: the time spent with the aforementioned games is not totally useless for my child. On the other hand, the multimedia capabilities and the flexibility of this kind of device granted to it a space in my spare time too, with needs completely different from those of my son. This daily change of use for the same apparatus brought me to make some reflections on the current tablet market and related operating systems. And I had also to revisit some “paradigms” that I gave as given a few years ago. Let’s start profiling my expectations in the two different scenarios.

Father Mode <ON>: my Child is the King

Manage a child with a tablet stresses some aspects of the operating system that are less noticeable when the user is an adult. In my case, what I want is:

  • a wide range of educational games (if they are free, better)
  • an operating system that is as difficult as possible to compromise
  • capability to quickly isolate the device from the Internet and from external devices
  • apps (games) easy to install and uninstall leaving few or no footprint on the device

Father Mode <OFF>: I am the King (With the Permission of my Wife)

Some activities (work on documents and texts, access to certain types of information) are limited to the world of laptop / desktop. A possible exception would be a Surface Pro tablet but, borrowing the definition of a friend of mine, it is like “a laptop with an interesting form factor”. It is a device I would not give to my son, like a laptop. So what I expect from my slice of tablet time ?

  • easy access to e-mail and social networks
  • high quality multimedia capabilities, both for online files and for local contents
  • e-books reading
  • a few apps related to everyday life like password management, calendar and so on

We Are All One Big Family

Surely the lists drawn up a few lines ago are very personal. Nevertheless I am sure that in all houses the scenario is the same, perhaps with multiple devices at the disposal of the members of the family. First thoughts that comes to me is that a paradigm that was true until a few years ago, now has absolutely changed. Windows is no longer the most user friendly operating system, at least in the world of tablets. Windows 8 in a “full” version has certainly a level of complexity that we have not in the two main competitors (Android and IOS). While there is a large number of “standard” programs available, the Marketplace that should give apps optimized for a tablet experience continues to be, in my opinion, an Achilles’ heel, with a limited choice and the best software almost always requiring a fee.

Windows RT: a Missed Chance

The latest news regarding the other Microsoft operating system dedicated to tablets, RT, say that it could be facing a short life expectancy. Although the fragmentation in many operating systems (including various versions of Windows Phone) has certainly not helped in establishing Microsoft in this field, RT could have been a viable alternative to the competition. It is more “closed” but also more “robust” and that is what I need, especially when I am in “father mode”. In my opinion, to kill this version of Windows is a big missed chance.  I also have to say that these sudden turns and abrupt changes of mind regarding the operating systems, with scenarios changed in a few years (or months) will not help to motivate programmers to grow the supply of apps, making the problems related to the Marketplace I have already mentioned most serious. What has been said also eliminates another old paradigm: the fragmentation of versions is no longer exclusive to Linux.

And Then There Were Two

The two remaining systems (IOS and Android) are both able to cover all the needs I have. Although they are distinct from issues relating to costs or to choices based on personal tastes, they are definitely suitable to do what is required for a device (the tablet) which is now part of the everyday life of many families. One thing that impressed me very much, is that often we see that the app “version” of some software that is more performing of the PC version (not to mention the many apps that simply do not exist outside the two operating systems just mentioned). In my list of paradigms waned, even this one has its own weight. Or I am the only one to remember that the richness and choice of programs is one of the success drivers of an operating systems?

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APM Convergence: Monitoring vs. Management

Today’s guest blogger is Larry Dragich. Larry is the Director of Enterprise Application Services at The Auto Club Group and an Expert Reviewer on IT Central Station. He has written extensively about APM and runs the APM Strategies group on LinkedIn. Contact us if you would like to be one of our guest bloggers. Larry D

APM is entering into a period of intense competition of technology and strategy with a multiplicity of vendors and viewpoints. While the nomenclature used within its space has five distinct dimensions that elucidate its meaning, the very acronym of APM is in question: Application Performance … Monitoring vs. Management.

It’s strange to think that we would not normally use monitoring & management synonymously but when used in the APM vernacular they seem to be interchangeable. This may be a visceral response, but I see the APM idiom converging on itself and becoming a matter of expectations vs. aspirations.

Application Performance Monitoring is the expectation of the tool sets themselves and the “how-to’s” to implement them.  Gartner provides five dimensions that describe these technologies which are not meant to be so “prescriptive” as much as they are “descriptive”.

Application Performance Management is the aspiration of what we want the APM space to become. It is the umbrella over the other disciplines (e.g. enterprise monitoring, performance analysis, system modeling, and capacity planning).

To illustrate this concept consider The Principles of APM which gives you a blueprint of the high-level elements to include when implementing an APM solution. Each element goes deep as a broad category, and each category encompasses specific monitoring tools that support the end-user-experience (EUE).

APMconvergence

The EUE is at the heart of it all, and has become the focal point that allows us to make the connection to the business and speak to them in a language that they can appreciate. Understandably, the technology overlap across the elements can leave even the savviest IT leader perplexed about APM and what it means.

Application Performance Management has the potential to become an IT discipline, however the overall concepts outlined here need to penetrate deeper into the IT culture in order for this to emerge as a discipline. Just as the ground will heave in a winter frost and then relinquish its state during the spring thaw, so will the monitoring technologies expand and converge as the market demands and new ideas are born.

No matter where you believe APM’s heritage has come from (e.g. BSM, BTM, NPM, etc.); monitoring and management will both have their roles to play in the APM journey. APM is the translation of IT metrics into business meaning (value). How that is actually accomplished however, is another story…

Conclusion:

It’s important to consider that APM is more than just an acronym but a journey, a movement, a new way of thinking, and a new frame of reference that is stitching together business value with IT metrics. APM is promising to become the conduit that helps IT cross the chasm of “an expense to be squeezed,” and land as a true business partner providing value.

Related Links:

For more information on the basic Principles of APM and how it can be applied to any monitoring initiative or strategic discussion about application performance refer to webcast on BrightTALK.com:  Solving the Performance Puzzle: A Simple APM Methodology.

 

Visit the APM page on IT Central Station to read reviews of HP, Oracle, Riverbed, New Relic and other APM solutions. Have experience with an APM solution? Share your experiences with the community by posting a quick review today!

The Certification System is Sick (and No One Wants to Cure It)

This week’s guest blogger is Fabrizio Volpe who works with the Iccrea Banking Group as a network and systems administrator. For 3 years running he’s been awarded the Microsoft MVP Directory Services Award as recognition for his practical expertise and for contributing to technical communities worldwide. Fabrizio

Every time we use our company’s money (or ours), we have to ask to ourselves whether the expense makes sense or not. This is what I did recently when I had to renew one of my IT certifications. I have to admit that the answers that I found were unpleasant.

I sit there, I select the answers and I am done.

In more than ten years, in which my profession has seen many (often-dramatic) changes, one thing that has remained unchanged is the mechanism of certifications. You reach an authorized testing center, you answer questions on a terminal and a small or big part of your certification path is complete. Repeat the previous step for all the necessary certificates and you are all done until the next renewal. The fact that the procedure is virtually unchanged, the same procedure I faced to certify myself on NT4 (!) should make it clear that the mechanism has something wrong with it. A simple question and answer as the sole method of assessment is a limited way to measure the skills of a professional. Knowing the specific individual entry in a menu (many questions do not go beyond that), has almost no use. Over the years, the utility of the procedure has fallen further, dramatically.

The Age of Brain-Dumps

Over the years, the number of sites or resources that allow you to memorize the questions and the correct answers before the test have increased tremendously. The use of brain-dumps is not allowed, but how do you check during the test if someone, at home, used this material? The result of this is that those who face the test honestly, has a good chance of failing, while those who use unlawful instruments will pass with minimal effort.

Is an Employer Interested in Certification?

Companies realized long ago that the certifications were no longer a useful tool to select candidates. In some specific areas, a minimum number of certified individuals is required to ensure the maintenance of partnerships with software and hardware companies. Of these spaces, certification could be recognized (at best) as a small positive signal. But some companies may see a certification as a negative achievement. They may think that a candidate has not been able to do anything more significant than to certify himself / herself.

If you are Able to do Something, Prove it.

With the dawn of the Internet, ways to demonstrate your competence have increased exponentially. You can answer questions in technical forums, publish articles on a blog, participate in local professional communities and contribute to “open” projects presented on the Net. The list is potentially infinite, and addressing at least one of these activities demonstrate unequivocally your value. A smart company will be more interested in this type of demonstration, rather than a certification that could be “a paper cert”. Yet there are valid certifications. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) and the Microsoft Certified Masters (MCM) certifications are (were) requiring complex practical and verification tests. A credential of this kind is an achievement for the few and requires commitment and competence (and a lot of money too). A company can look at them as a good sign of competence and passion for your work.

Is it so Difficult to Change the certification system?

The short answer is no. It is not so difficult. With up-to-date tools, you could ask a candidate to address practical tests on virtual machines, to correct code simulating a real development environment and dozens of similar activities. Certifiers could increase the database of possible questions to the point that a brain-dump becomes extremely difficult to create and they could change often the questions proposed, to make it difficult to create documents with questions and answers.

You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

The question of why things are not changing is legitimate. A first reason is that a change requires investments by those who create the certificates and by those who provide the tests. The suspicion is that that even certifiers do not believe in their training courses and do not intend to invest in that direction. A more stringent certification would attract far less test-takers and even that would be a financial loss. Finally, marketing would also be required to make it clear to companies that certifications have entered a new era. Again, it seems that no one is investing in this direction.

So You Are Saying That You Will no Longer Take a Certification Path?

For some years now, I have been following only the renewal of existing certifications, with little or no interest in new paths. While using products from many vendors, I am hardly interested in their training courses. Which is already a bad sign, whereas in previous years, at my expense, I had obtained certificates of three or four different companies at the same time. I wonder, if I were to start today a long series of certification exams, if I would invest my time this way? My answer might surprise me.

Show your knowledge by going to IT Central Station and sharing your experiences with other IT decision makers. Read what other experts have to say about Big Data, Cloud and other products, then post your own review!

Review Roundup: Incapsula

Today’s Review Roundup is all about security and performance. In this post we’ll highlight several of the real user reviews of Incapsula posted on IT Central Station. Each of the reviewers chose to implement Incapsula for it’s DDoS protection, web application security and CDN. Here are some of their key points:incapsula

  • Chip Correra who is CTO at a tech company says “…we decided to choose Incapsula as our DDoS protection service. The main reasons being: PCI Certified Service…It’s an “Always ON” service…does not add latency…Straightforward implementation…Support was timely and competent…”
  • David Vander Elst who is a Developer at a retailer says “Since activating Incapsula on our sites, we have solved our DDoS problem and couldn’t be more pleased with our overall website performance and security. Equally important, Incapsula’s technical support and commercial teams have been very responsive throughout the initial rollout phase.” Read his complete review here.
  • Maxim Blagov who is CEO at a tech company says “Incapsula’s ability to allow human and legitimate bot traffic to access the website with no interruption, while filtering network and application level DDoS traffic, allowed us to put our DDoS problems behind and focus on what we do best…” Read his complete review here.

If you haven’t already, go to IT Central Station to read the full reviews of Incapsula, and other security and performance solutions. You can also browse other reviews and write a review of your own.

Review Roundup: SiSense Prism

Today’s Review Roundup highlights a business intelligence solution called SiSense Prism. With so many BI products on the market, it’s hard to know which one is the right choice for your organization. Today we’ll look at what some of our real users have to say about their experiences using SiSense for their organization’s BI needs. Here are a few highlights direct from IT Central Station:

SiSense

  • Andrew Vignuzzi, who is COO at a travel company says “Within a few months of purchase, we had what we needed: a near real-time dashboard that didn’t bog down the company’s servers no matter how many data sources it accessed, and a solution, intuitive enough to allow non-technical users to create their own reports.” Read his complete review here.
  • Matt Pithan, who is Head of Data Analytics at a retailer says “Prism offered the Elasticube Manager, which gave our data scientists the ability to compile data from multiple sources quickly and easily–a major advantage over other BI solutions.” Read his complete review here.
  • Lee Eckersley, who is a Business Analyst at a travel company says “I’d say that the greatest benefits of SiSense Prism are usability, rapid time to insight, no need to read a manual or learn a lot, no requirement for outside consulting, low-IT overhead, very fast processing speed and low total cost of ownership.” Read his complete review here.

Visit IT Central Station to read more full real user reviews of SiSense Prism and other BI tools including QlikView, Tableau, Microstrategy and many others.

These are just a sample of the many in-depth reviews you’ll find on IT Central Station. If you haven’t already, sign up, browse reviews and write your own review.

Review Roundup: SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

IT Central Station covers a gamut of technology products and services that are used every day to power the business of Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 enterprises. In today’s post, we’ll give you a taste of several real user reviews that have come in for SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, one of the many network monitoring tools listed on IT Central Station. Here are a few highlights:

SolarWinds

  • User NetmonGuy, who is a Network Engineer at a software r&d company says “Solarwinds NPM has lots of features not found in some other network performance monitoring tools e.g. seamless integration with Microsoft Active Directory.” Read his complete review here.
  • User meu1124, who is Senior Manager of IT at a government organization says “Because data availability is critical to our decision makers and business operations, my team leverages SolarWinds as a central management platform for tracking all the connected resources on our networks and as an Asset Management capability.” Read his complete review here.
  • User nicodiablo, who is a Network Engineer at a manufacturing company says “We are very happy with the performance, features, and pricing, The company is very pro-active, as in adding additional features and being responsive to customer requests.” Read his complete review here.
  • User Aaron Leskiw who is a Network Engineer at a tech consulting company says “NPM is a powerful, scalable network monitoring tool. It has a vast range of features, and a large number of expansion plugins that can add functionality for almost any need.” Read his complete review here.

On IT Central Station, you can read the full reviews of SolarWinds NPM, and other Network Monitoring tools including Zabbix, Nagios, Wireshark, Microsoft SCOM and others.

These are just a sample of the many in-depth reviews you’ll find on IT Central Station. If you haven’t already, sign up, browse reviews and write your own review.