Monthly Archives: July 2015

Happy SysAdmin Day!!

It is the last Friday in July, and we all know what that means…yes, it’s SysAdmin Day!!

Lesson: Don't mess with us SysAdmin's!!

Lesson: Don’t mess with us SysAdmin’s!!

So, did anyone at work tell you Happy SysAdmin Day? Didn’t think so. We really are the unsung heroes. No one thinks about us at all until something breaks…then it’s “The Internet is down!!”. Like, really???…the whole Internet is down? Ugh…

But we fix the problem anyway. Everyday. Because that’s our job…and we love our job!! At least I do…I enjoy being a Network Engineer. I hope you are enjoying your job too!! And I hope someone at work today told you “Happy SysAdmin Day”, and thanked you for all of your hard work.

Have a great weekend!!

Cisco VIRL and Time for a New PC

My home PC is over 7 years old, and let me tell you…it was past time for an upgrade. I’ve been running Photoshop and Lightroom, along with an old version of VMware Workstation…talk about old and s-l-o-w! I started planning for a new PC earlier this year, but wasn’t really in a rush…just sort of waiting for something to push me over the edge…the “time to buy” edge.

Well, that edge was Cisco VIRL (Virtual Internet Routing Lab). One of the classes I attended at this years CiscoLive in San Diego concerned Cisco’s efforts in virtual network simulation. They have a commercial product (CMD – Cisco Modeling Labs), and they have a personal edition (VIRL). CMD is very expensive…as in, well…VERY. However, VIRL is reasonably priced…$200/year (it’s subscription based). VIRL is incredibly powerful and flexible; you can design and run many different types of simulated networks, all running real Cisco IOS (IOSv actually…a virtualized version of IOS). There is a limit of 15 nodes though…yes, that’s not really enough, but it does let you do a lot of testing and learning. (Visit here for more info on VIRL.)

Back to my PC. There was NO way it would ever be able to run VIRL…so I just had to buy a new one.    🙂

As you can tell, I don’t buy new PC’s often, so I wanted to make sure they last. The specs on my new PC…

  • Intel i7 Quad-core processor (3.6 Ghz)
  • 32 GB of RAM (VIRL loves RAM!!)
  • Nvidia Graphics card with 4 GB RAM
  • 1 TB hard drive
  • 256 GB Samsung 850 PRO SSD drive (I added this in myself)

Wow…let me tell you…this thing rocks! And I spent today installing and running VIRL. (This is not an easy installation…you really need to follow directions, but it’s not really that difficult. Knowing your way around Linux sure helps though.) Here is a screen shot of VIRL with 6 routers configured…

VIRL installed and running...with a simple 6 node network configured

VIRL installed and running…with a simple 6 node network configured

I have just scratched the surface of VIRL…it is incredibly complex, but that’s ok…I have a lot to learn, but the rewards will be well worth it. I will post more about VIRL soon.

RFC 1925 – Still Relevant After 19 Years

If you really need to dig into the protocols, then RFC’s (Request for Comment) are where you need to go. These “papers” are what defines protocols and other technologies, and are used extensively by engineers and computer scientists to properly program these technologies. As an example, if you need details about OSPF, then you could refer to RFC 2328 (for OSPFv2) and RFC 5340 (for OSPFv3). You will end up knowing way more about OSPF than you really want.

Now, as time marches on, technologies tend to get old and are replaced. And new RFC’s are written to define the latest technologies. However, if you have a few minutes, here is an RFC that should remain relevant for many years to come…and it was written in 1996…

The Twelve Networking Truths – RFC 1925

My favorite is 7a!  Enjoy!!

Saturday Snapshot – Working Up High

I work for a large construction company in California which also owns a number of aggregate (rock) mines. So sometimes, the phrase “onsite” can have very interesting meanings…

Working up high at an aggregate mine

Working up high at an aggregate mine

This week I had to do some troubleshooting of a microwave link from one of our plants out to a nearby mining pit (about 4 miles away). The view was spectacular! And a bit nervous at the same time…it is a steep and long climb to the top of this tower. When I took this picture, it was late in the afternoon and the plant had stopped production for the day…it was nice and quiet up here. However, I was up here several times the day before during production, and it was incredibly noisy, with lots of vibration, and a muddy mist showering down through the structure. Not a pleasant environment at all. I had my laptop wrapped up in a large plastic bag to keep it clean.

The problem ended up being related to an old switch (installed years ago by an outside vendor). I put a temp switch in place for now, but I’m going to install a proper switch, one designed for this kind of environment…such as the Cisco Industrial Ethernet 2000 series…

Industrial grade switches...much needed in my environment

Industrial grade switches…much needed in my environment

Have a great weekend!!

New Horizons – The Little Ship that Could

If you are any kind of geek or into astronomy…(and I’m both!!)….then today was a great day!!

New Horizons image of Pluto from a couple of days before flyby (Image Credit: NASA)

New Horizons image of Pluto from a couple of days before flyby (Image Credit: NASA/APL/SwRI)

The NASA probe New Horizons had it’s close encounter with Pluto, flying by the planet at a distance of only 7750 miles, and collecting a ton of data! And it survived the flyby just fine I might add. All this data though, will take about 16 months to fully transmit back to Earth…the probe is so far away from us that the data communications rate is only about 1 Kb per second. It will take about 45 minutes to transmit just one picture back to Earth. Incredible!!

Check out this story from NBC for a general update. For a really good technical story on how New Horizons transmits the data, check this out (note…it was written back in January).

Congratulations to NASA and the team at John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory!! Job well done!!

In Finland, Doing the Crime Doesn’t Mean Doing the Time

Here is an incredible story out of Finland concerning the trial, conviction and sentencing of a youth heavily involved in cybercrime, payment fraud, botnets, and even calling in bomb threats. The kid (17 years old) was given a two year suspended sentence. I’m just shaking my head in disbelief…no wonder kids think they can get away with anything…because than can!!

Here is the Krebs story:  Finnish Decision is Win for Internet Trolls.

And yes, I’ll say it one more time…you really should be reading Krebs on Security everyday. If you value network security in any way, then this website will help you better understand network security and the world we live in.

Network Virtualization with VMware and NSX-v (Oh Boy!!)

As network engineers, we all know that whenever “the network is slow”, we get the blame. Always. And then you have to drop what you are doing and prove that it isn’t the network. And in doing this, you will usually figure out where the blame really lies…typically a misbehaving server or poorly performing application.

What does this have to do with VMware and NSX? Well…let me explain. Over the years we have developed tools, applications, and procedures to figure out what is causing a network slowdown…things such as NetFlow, Wireshark, SPAN, network TAPS, MRTG, SYSLOG, SWATCH, etc. And for the most part, we have our act together. When I hear of a network slowdown, I usually have an answer within 15-30 minutes, or even quicker. We know our stuff, don’t we?

Well, over the last 4 years my company has largely virtualized all of our Intel based servers (Windows based mostly, with a few Linux servers for added flavor). We had two long rows of cabinets full of physical servers, and now we have most all of them on 6 very powerful VMware hosts. (It’s truly incredible to see.) And I have had to adjust…port-channels and nic-teaming, lack of visibility within the virtual switch, just to name a few. But now…

Things are changing BIG TIME. Next to get virtualized is the network itself. Want proof?…then read the following white paper from VMware about their NSX-v application..

VMware NSX for vSphere Network Virtualization Design Guide

Warning…this guide is big, over 90 pages. But your head will be spinning long before you get to the end.

And your mind will be blown!! Mine is. Incredible stuff is heading our way people, and we need to be ready. Or get left behind.