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Risk to Reward

Be nimble, be agile, take informed risks, and apply innovation to how you’re using data in your business. That’s the strategy of Garry Whatley, VP of IT and business services for Staples Australia, and it’s been paying off.

Whatley believes that in the online retail industry, with high volume and large amounts of data, access to that data and analytics is essential. And to get this, the retailer would have to make a considerable investment in technology.

With a strong partnership in the past, Staples consulted with Cisco for expertise and implementation of a sturdy IT foundation. Together, they chose to implement the Intel® Xeon® processor-based Cisco® Unified Computing System™ and the Cisco Business Warehouse Accelerator to deliver the most effective technologies to achieve its vision.

Upon implementation, Staples began its mission to gain a strategic advantage. Regular automated reporting now allows for visibility around performance levels, and inventory management is much simpler and more efficient with data transparency.

The investment has allowed Staples Australia to become more agile and respond to the insight they receive. In addition, customer service is progressing and inventory holding has been decreasing. And there’s more to come. Staples will be integrating more functionality into its business operations, allowing for automation and breakdown reporting of sales, trends, and customer actions.

Read the full article from Unleashing IT.

 

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Working Around IT Departments

Since you’re reading this chances are that you are either in IT, wanna be in IT or you think this is some motivation “You Can Do It!” kinda post. Weird starting a blog out about telling folks how to work around our incredibility well thought out information technology policies. This is certainly not a Eric Snowden type of outing but really more of how we as the IT Crowd have to work with other IT departments that, hey let’s face it man; are just not as good as us right?! Can I get a witness up in here!!!

We’ve all made silly IT policies that at the time really seemed like a great idea…you know like password types so complicated that they had to be wrote down?? Heck at my first crack at LAN Administration way back in the Johnson Administration, I required; Unknown letter combo, numbers, mixed case, special character, map to hidden Amber Room and you best possible guess to the Riemann Hypothesis. Oh it was secure for sure…of course it was over a proprietary protocol network type called ScaNET…so that was a resume generating event.

Anyway…

How many times as an IT geek do you just get fire ant angry when a company blocks PINGs!!??! Or turning off rights inheritance; heck I’m still seeing a therapist over that event. Well, that and troubleshooting a system trust issue with over 10K user accounts…thru NAT…internal NAT!!…Yeah I know right!! oh the horror!!! Eli Roth’s next movie…

Here’s a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way to help…solve problems…

Workaround 00x01: No PING!!! Turning off antivirus and violating RFC’s 792 and 4443 should be punished by having to play the video game Desert Bus until you get high score. When I need to test a connection with ICMP blocked, I just use HPing3  http://wiki.hping.org/ It’s small  lightweight (wrote in TCL) and works great! For example;

techwisetvNIX#hping3 –S <target IP address> -p80 –c 4

This will send SYN packets (-S flag)  to port 80 (-p80 flag) four time (-c flag) instead of ICMP to test connections or even run a speed test to determine bandwidth. HPing3 has a TON of options. I use it to test firewalls too…but I’ll save that for another blog…

Workaround 00x02: “We disabled robots so hackers can’t GoogleDork us!” Aw! That’s so cute! However, if you’ve been around networking awhile you know the answer to all questions is not 42 but; “it depends” Certainly GoogleDorking is fun and an OK way to scare the crap out of analyst who think an IP address is where they go to the bathroom. Practically speaking, when I need that kinda vuln info; I’mheadin’ on over to Shodan.  http://www.shodanhq.com/  and letting my fingers do the walking. It’s a search engine that searches on metadata about machines. So the idea isn’t to search about content that’s available on the Internet like GoogleDorking can be.  For example; let say I’m looking for a vuln in IOS 15.1, well, I just type ‘er in the search bar and KA-ZOW! Global results! SHODAN uses a variety of techniques to actually determine the version. These may be through SNMP, fingerprinting, SSH, telnet, etc… But either way, it returns what it found as far as devices that are running that version of code. Very cool tool…and oh by the way…there’s a Shodan iPhone app for the; “geek on the go” I use as another tool for security auditing to tell folks to update  your code goobers…especially the SCADA folks… Why do I need to us this? It’s another great way to find info and see our network as the world sees it, other then thru Google lens… Honorable mention: Duck Duck Go.

Workaround 00x03: Internet access is filtered! There could be many reasons IT departments block access to certain sites. It could be security issues, it could be State/Government issues, maybe someone doesn’t like you looking at cats walking in socks wearing trucker hats. Heck man, I have no idea. I do know this, when I was in the United States Navy before we pulled into a port, the Skipper would tell everyone were not to go and places to avoid. Those were the first places we hit! It served as a tour map for some rockin’ great stories later on!  Folks are gonna find a way…

TOR (The Onion Router https://www.torproject.org/)  Is the true Magsaysay Blvd of the Internet. Tor is basically an anonymizer. Many apps will over over TOR too. Rule of thumb, if it runs on TCP it’ll work.  TOR bounces your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world. This multi-branch routing prevents folks from snooping your Internet activity. Why would you want to do that? Well, if you’re traveling or a citizen of a country and you have get out info in a crisis but are being blocked; TOR is your exit.  I’ve been to 36 different countries and tested in all countries and it worked great! Oh it’s slow for sure. But if you came from; “Pshhhkkkkkkrrrrkakingkakingkakingtshchchchchchchchcch*ding*ding*ding” welcome to flashback city home slice.

As side note…man alive TOR can be the Terentatek of the Internet. Be careful messing ‘round with .onion URL extensions in this universe.

What did I miss? Share some of your IT workarounds with the TechWise Guyz community here. Hey it’s kinda like hitting a virtual off limits bar online! Kick back crank up some Daft Punk and twist the top off your fav hack! PROST!!!

Jimmy Ray Purser

Trivia File Transfer Protocol

The phone keys One and Zero do not have numbers because they are “flag” numbers and kept for special uses like emergencies or operator services.

 

The We’re Listening Blog Series: Faster Contract Updates with New RMA Front-end Swap Process

Cisco continues to listen to our customers’ feedback, and make improvements that address your biggest pain points. In a previous post, Jim Fuller, Senior Director of Technical Services focused on entitlement, joined us to talk about improvements that simplified the overall Services Entitlement process, and hinted at future improvements that were underway.  Jim’s team recently completed changes to our Return Materials Authorization (RMA) process, and as promised, he returns to the blog to walk us through those changes, and what they will mean for your experience working with Cisco.

jafuller By Guest Contributor Jim Fuller
Installed Base and Contract Data Quality are a consistent challenge for customers. Customers and partners use contract data to manage both their services with Cisco and the information they need to renew service contracts. Cisco wants to make this experience easier for our customers, so we’ve been making improvements to the tools and systems our customers need to maintain their installed base and contract data -- starting with our Return Materials Authorization (RMA) process.  Read More »

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Converge OT with IT for Business Benefits in Manufacturing

At the recent Cisco Live 2013 event in Orlando, I talked about the business value of converging operations technology (OT)—used for industrial automation systems—with IT business networks, in order to create more secure, end-to-end, standard communications and control.  Regarding business value of IT/OT convergence for machine builders/integrators and consequently their manufacturing customers, I referenced a case study involving Comau Group that Al Presher from DesignNews recently picked up in a blog entitled “Connectivity Enabling Smart Manufacturing.”

Automotive welding

Automotive welding

Comau is a leading supplier and partner for most global automakers, integrating welding and assembly lines that coordinate dozens of robots and ancillary automation across multiple stations.

The order-to-engineering sign-off cycle requires months and the consequent build and commissioning to full production adds many more months for a new or refreshed manufacturing line.

Multiple fieldbus protocols at the device level complicate both design and implementation, requiring more integration services—time and money—to make the system work.

By designing a converged IT/OT “Connected Machine” solution that utilizes IP-standards-based, off-the-shelf modularity with a network architecture validated for both business and controls topologies, Comau has been able to reduce engineering cycles and cut integration time by more than two-thirds.  Quoting an Engineering Manager from the company, “Installation, commissioning and debugging for 10 stations with 12-15 robots takes a couple days, rather than 1-2 weeks.” Read More »

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Partnering with Apple on BYOD and Great User Experience

Mobility extends beyond devices. Yet, having the right devices and choice of devices allows us to work the way we’d like. In fact, Cisco is one of the world’s largest enterprise users of Apple products. Employees have purchased 33,000 iPhones and 16,000 iPads as part of Cisco’s BYOD program, and almost half of our regular employees are using Macs.

Recently Cisco’s Sheila Jordan, Senior Vice President of Communication and Collaboration IT spoke with Apple about BYOD, as part of Apple’s Tech Talk series. Here she and Brett Belding, Senior Manager, Cisco IT, discussed what’s behind Apple’s popularity at Cisco. They also address what enterprises like Cisco can emulate  what Apple has created for consumers in terms of user experience and bring that into today’s mobile enterprise.

Check out Sheila’s blog “Partnering with Apple on BYOD and Great User Experience” where she discusses the Apple Tech Talk and Cisco’s mobile and collaboration strategy.

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