Aug 05 2011

Take Care with Automation – BizTech Quick Take

BizTech Quick Take is our weekly digital tour of the web, serving up news and notes on IT and business that you need to know — and some things you’ll simply be glad to know.

Automation Is Great, But Keep Manual Interventions Handy

The benefits of automating processes and tasks with programs, scripts or applications are easy to pinpoint. It saves IT workers time and resources, and it allows them to dedicate their energy, focus and brainpower to other important tasks.

This is particularly useful when tasks are repetitive or redundant.

But as Chris Hoff, a senior director and security architect at Juniper Networks, points out in his July 29 blog post, automation can be dangerous if there’s no manual way to make the “optimized” processes stop. Thus, when building automated processes, it’s important to incorporate a way to “fail gracefully.”

How do we engineer enough failsafe logic up and down the stack that can function at the same scale as the decision and controller logic does? How do we integrate/expose enough telemetry that can be produced and consumed fast enough to actually allow actionable results in a time frame that allows for graceful failure and recovery (née, survivability)?

Read more about automation at Hoff’s blog, Rational Survivability.

It’s Time for CIOs to Increase the Frequency of IT Reviews

As technology improves and is further entrenched in the enterprise, it becomes more critical for CIOs and chief technology officers to regularly monitor the evolution of the IT tools their organizations are using. But is that really possible when IT reviews traditionally happen on a 12-month cycle?

Robert Nachbar from Apptio raises the question in a July 27 post, pointing out that businesses need to be able and ready to pivot in this agile IT environment.

For CIOs who think Nachbar might be exaggerating the importance of strategic planning, he quotes Ovum IT analyst Mark Blowers’ five consequences for CIOs that ignore this shift in IT.

  • Escalating operational costs
  • Lost competitive advantage
  • Inflexible structure
  • Difficulties in meeting service-level needs
  • Erratic security and integrity

Read more in Nachbar’s post on the Apptio blog.

Entrepreneurs Who Ignore Social Media Are in for a Different Kind of ROI

In the span of the last five years, social media has gone from something “the kids do” to something everyone must do. This is particularly true for entrepreneurs who use social media as a tool to build awareness for themselves and their businesses. But some entrepreneurs are hesitant to devote time and energy to the medium because the return on investment isn’t always clear.

In a guest blog post for Women 2.0, Maria Sipka, founder and CEO of Linquia, argues that entrepreneurs who sit on the social media sidelines will be reaping a different kind of ROI: a “return on ignoring.”

While Sipka cautions that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all social media strategy for entrepreneurs, she also insists that the worst thing they can do is avoid social media completely.

Can entrepreneurs expect good results if their “Return On Ignoring” continues?

No, is the simple answer. Why not learn from those who have tried social media and lived to tell the tale

Read more about entrepreneurs and social media in Sipka’s Aug. 2 post on Women 2.0.

The Case for Virtualizing Citrix Provisioning Server

When IT decision-makers are weighing what should and shouldn’t be virtualized, they often overlook the Citrix Provisioning Server because it can suffer from resource bottlenecks at both the network and disk level. But times and minds are changing about whether this is really true after all.

Dan Allen, a lead architect on the Citrix consulting team, posted a thorough and detailed real-world example of a virtualized Provisioning Server deployment. Allen breaks down the environment in question and reports on specific settings made for the customer.

This leads Allen to conclude that there’s no need to have a blanket “don’t virtualize Provisioning Server” rule after all. He lays out a few guidelines for those considering a virtualized Provisioning Server:

Based on this real-world example, you should not be afraid to virtualize Provisioning Server. If you are virtualizing Provisioning Server, make sure you take the following into consideration:

  • Give plenty of RAM to both PVS and your target devices.
  • Give the proper number of [virtual central processing units] to the [Provisioning Services virtual machine] and tune the ports and threads.
  • Plan on supporting about 1,000 active targets per 1 gigabyte of network throughput.
  • Use 10Gig networking infrastructure, if you can.
  • If you are going to use NAS (CIFS) for the PVS Store, then read and follow the instructions in my blog: http://blogs.citrix.com/2010/11/05/provisioning-services-and-cifs-stores-tuning-for-performance/

To learn more about virtualizing the Citrix Provisioning Server, read Allen’s July 30 post on The Citrix Blog.

Sophos Issues Mid-Year Security Threat Report

It’s a dangerous virtual world out there, but Sophos is helping to make it just a little bit safer.

The IT security company’s Naked Security blog recently shared a few highlights of Sophos’ Mid-Year 2011 Security Threat Report. The report reveals, among other things:

  • A 60 percent increase in malware over 2010, with Sophos seeing more than 150,000 new malware samples every day — that is one every 0.5 seconds.
  • 19,000 malicious webpages are now identified daily, with 80 percent being pages on legitimate websites that have been hacked or compromised.
  • 81 percent of people surveyed by Sophos said Facebook posed the biggest social networking risk.

The full report can help IT workers stay on top of the latest and most widespread threats to better police their company networks and inform security policies.

To read more about Sophos’ Mid-Year 2011 Security Threat Report, check out this Aug. 2 post at Naked Security.

iOS + Mac OS X: When 2 Become 1

Apple has made history in the mobile computing space with its iPhone and iPad product lines, and the charge toward its widely praised iOS mobile operating system seems poised to spill over to its desktop operating system, Mac OS X.

OS X Daily reports on a rumor that Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems could be combined into a single, unified operating system across all of Apple’s computing devices. The latest version of Mac OS X, Lion, already takes several steps toward iOS, so there could be something to this.

Quoting Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek, OS X Daily reports:

“We believe Apple is looking to merge iOS (iPhones/iPads) with OS X (Macs) into a single platform for apps and cloud services starting in 2012–13.” Specifically, Misek sees the Macbook Air gaining Apple’s next processor, the “A6,” as he calls it, in the second half of 2012, or sometime in 2013, following the debut of the chip in the “iPad 3” in the first quarter of 2012, and in the “iPhone 5” next summer.

Misek thinks MacBook “Pro” models and Mac desktops will stick with the current software and Intel processors in order to maximize 64-bit application compatibility, but that they, too, will switch over to an iOS platform by 2016.

Read more about Apple’s possibly combined OS of the future at OS X Daily.

Intel IT Identifies 5 Reasons to Move to the Cloud

When it comes to technology, the most successful companies don’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk. Intel IT has proven itself in this regard with its aggressive and forward-looking approach to the cloud.

Ajay Chandramouly, a nine-year veteran of Intel, lays out the following five reasons why other businesses should consider implementing a cloud solution, given the successes IBM has had with its private cloud initiative:

  • Agility: Server provisioning time dramatically reduced from 90 days to three hours, and is on a path to minutes.
  • Efficiency: Server consolidation ratios up to 20:1. We reduced our server count from 100,000 to 75,000. In addition, we consolidated the number of data centers from 150 to 90.
  • Business Intelligence: We are able to measure what is used and report that back to business units.
  • Elasticity: Scaling resources based on user demand, as needed.
  • Cost: Our cloud investments have already paid for themselves AND returned $17 million in cash savings (this does not include noncash benefits like employee productivity).

Read Chandramouly’s Aug. 3 post explaining his rationale for embracing the cloud on Data Center Knowledge.

Guidelines for a Solid Business Continuity Plan

According to a recent Ponemon Institute study, six out of 10 businesses don’t feel confident that they could survive a disaster. Which side of the fence is your business on?

Not having a thorough and tested business continuity plan is dangerous, since no one knows when or how disaster will strike. IT workers should instead plan for the extreme worst in their business continuity plans. That way, if the unthinkable happens, business can carry on as usual.

Learn the basics of building a solid business continuity plan in this article from BizTech.

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