Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tech Field Day From Both Sides of the Table

A few years ago I got the opportunity to fly out to Silicon Valley and give a presentation to a group of people at Wireless Field Day on behalf of a vendor, AirTight (now Mojo) Networks. It was a great opportunity to get in front of a group of people that lean-in a bit more than others in the wireless industry.

A conversation after that event led me to start this blog and eventually led to me having a spot on the opposite side of the table: as a Tech Field Day delegate for Mobility Field Day and Network Field Day.

For the upcoming Mobility Field Day 2 event, I'm back on the vendor side of the table having just recently announced that I am now at Cape Networks.

If you don't know what Tech Field Day is, I'll try to make it simple:

Gestalt IT does a fantastic job of identifying influencers and people who take certain segments of the tech industry more seriously than others. Storage, Networking, Mobility, and more. These folks tend to ask great questions that others are interested in hearing the answers to, and they also usually blog or tweet the second they get an answer so they can share it with the world.

When you get people like this together and park 'em in front of a vendor for an hour or more, not only do they dig deep to get tough questions answered, but they feed off of each other to ask things that others might not realize. All of this ends up resulting in a fascinating live stream and recorded content that helps users understand the products, and vendors understand the users.

For Tech Field Day Vendors

From the Vendor side of the table, you get to air out your product in front of a group of people that are intelligent enough to understand what it does and how it works. The group will ooh and ahh with you over your product, but will also challenge what you are presenting to them; not to bully you, but to cut through the bullshit and get to how you can help them, the companies they work for, and the people who are watching or who will be watching in the future.

For Tech Field Day Delegates

From the Delegate side of the table, you get to see the latest and greatest in technology. You get insightful and exclusive opportunities to see the product and meet the people behind it, a chauffeured trip around Silicon Valley with Ramon, and the chance to network with peers and people you normally wouldn't meet.

The networking side of TFD is incredible and occasionally ends up pushing delegates to the other side of the table.

Such is the case for me, and why I disqualified myself from being a Mobility Field Day delegate. This is a good thing.

My Thoughts on Vendors at the Tech Field Day Table

There is a pretty strict and unspoken "no vendor" rule with TFD, and that's a good thing. My take on it is that it sets a level of comfort for the delegates where they can be free and objective about what they say, how they say it, when they say it. In the end, and in my opinion, the objectiveness is what sets the TFD series of events apart.

"Influencer" programs with vendors, bloggers, and social media takeovers are great, but they serve an agenda. With TFD, you get raw opinions not based on products, but based on technology and solutions. That's not to say that there aren't people that are huge vendor-specific customers in the groups, but they do their absolute best to keep their eye on the overall picture, and they do a great job at it.

Having vendors at the table would throw that balance off, even slightly, which is enough to cause it to spin out of control. Having been on both sides of the table, I have to absolutely compliment the entire TFD team for how they handle vendors and delegates to ensure that the balance remains.

It's not an easy job when there is a combination of alpha-nerds in the room. There are vendors who basically practice gavage with their kool-aid while delegates who lose interest try to put vendors on-tilt with snarky questions (not saying I'm innocent there either!). But what's not seen on cameras are Tom, Stephen, Megan, and Kat who are always there to herd the nerds. Without them, the heart of Tech Field Day, the whole thing would go nuts.

So, yeah, I'm  bummed I'm not a Delegate for MFD2

But it's all good. I'm not supposed to be a delegate this time. But, I'll be there, back to my spot on the other side of the table. Ready to answer questions, share some passion, and show my appreciation for this thing that Gestalt IT has put together.

A note on Gestalt IT

Image result for gestalt it logo

Stephen likes to remind us what the term Gestalt means, so I'll throw this out there.
Gestalt is defined as "the idea that natural systems and their properties should be viewed as wholes, not as collections of parts." I think that has absolutely everything to do with the event as a whole. Not just how the delegates chosen to participate are the hive-mind of a specific tech segment, but how the vendors play their part as well.

It's a great recipe that produces great results, no matter what side of the table you're on.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Cylance Steals The Show With the UNDRWRLD Live Demo at InteropITX

I know it doesn't have anything to do with wireless, but I wanted to take a moment to give some love to a great vendor demo. From time to time you come across vendors who can really nail a point and drive it home without being cheesy or too salesy.

Sean Blanton was a perfect example of this. His “Wall of Sheep” demo at AirTight (now Mojo) Networks has been duplicated by a number of partners, including me. Showing off how technology works not by explaining a dashboard, but by engaging the audience and walking them through what the problem is and clearly defining how their solution can be the fix. Doing it with personality, some flair, a few laughs, and a little bit of uneasiness goes a long way.

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At InteropITX this year I was beckoned into a booth by a loud and excited individual named Richard from Cylance. Granted, I had NO idea who Cylance was. Other than the few years that their advertisements in SJC and airports around the US had replaced Barracuda for “airport sponsorship", I had never engaged with them. I don’t know why, I mean I knew the name, I just figured they were good at what they did .. but not for me. The advertising worked is what I’m saying, kind of. I thought it was Cyclance. Whatever. Haha. I should've checked em out is all I'm saying.

So Richard belts out a “GOOD MORNING” to me and I engage. I walk into the booth and say “Tell me what Cyclance does” he says “It’s actually Cylance, but hey at least that’s one way to start a conversation”. Done. Hooked. Great job.

Yada yada yada, he hands me a ticket for an event they’re doing that evening and introduces me to Matt. They explain that it’s a history of the criminal underworld and how it’s changing with time. The event is called UNDRWRLD. I’m intrigued and interested. He asks me to come on by, check it out and grab a drink. He lets me know I’ll learn about the product and get my questions answered .. and hey, free booze in Vegas right?

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I recruit two of my friends to go with me and we roll into the Ling Ling at Hakkasan, a darkened room, big enough for the event, but small enough to be cozy. They get started.

What transpired was freaking awesome.
It wasn’t the fact that they proved a point, handed out free stuff, and had a great time with us, it was that they communicated what their product did absolutely effectively, with real-world examples and in a way that left no doubt that they had the capability to solve the problems of everyone in the room. It was nerd-goosebump inducing. The fact that I’m 6 paragraphs into a blog post about a vendor demo should tell you how impressed I was. I cannot be appreciative enough of the Richard & Matt. Well done guys.

What was the demo?

It was sick. And they do it on tour. So if you see them coming into town, I would totally sign-up to see it.

Essentially they had an audience member, a random person, in this case a female attendee come up to the front. They walked her through building a malware package using freely available tools. It wasn’t some bullshit malware package that had no teeth. It was a payload that delivered ransomware that held the computer hostage for 65 bitcoin. If you didn’t pay the ransom it scaled to 180 bitcoins over 120 days.

They took it and ran it through an online tool (Metadefender) to check how many Anti-Virus programs would identify it as malware. Out of I think 40, there were 20% or so that it could slide by. Scarier than that, they were names that you and I know on a daily basis.

So, they solicited another random audience member and had him kick it up a notch. He ran it through a stub generator program, again another freely available tool, and stuck an MS Office icon onto it. This time when they ran it through the Metadefender: undetectable. By every one of the toolsets you would normally know.

They had just produced legitimate ransomware in front of us using random audience members, paid in cash and champagne, in less than 10 minutes.

Please note on this, they were not doing this as a training lesson on how to build ransomware. They didn't provide links or software so we could do this. They didn't promote it as a session to learn how to build ransomware, they did it to prove a point. 
A point that EVERYONE got: anyone can do this now. Anyone.

So what do you think they did next?

They deployed it on a machine not running their software.
The effect? They locked up one of their own boxes in front of us using ransomware created on a website on the darkweb,. A gutsy move by anyone.
Next, they deployed it on another machine protected by their tool, and obviously it didn’t even execute the file.

What happened next was even more awesome.

In the 2nd week of May 2017 a distributed ransomware attack took Fortune 100 companies and over 150 countries by storm. It was called WanaCry. It was the largest deployment of ransomware with the largest effect of any distributed ransom based malware to date.

They had 3 variants of it on hand. It was almost the digital equivalency of playing with a vial of HIV tainted blood.

What next? What do you think?

They fired off the WanaCry executables on a machine protected with their software.
All 3 variants failed to even execute.

And the gutsiest part? They did it on their algorithm from 2015, 2 years before WanaCry even existed. Just to prove a point.

A point well taken.

To learn more about Cylance, visit them online at https://www.cylance.com/

Please Note: this post was NOT sponsored, endorsed, provoked, or even asked-for by Cylance or the crew that made it happen. I just had to show some love to some guys who put their heart into making it awesome.

My Experience at InteropITX 2017 / Where was the Wi-Fi?

As one of the last, national, vendor agnostic conferences in networking, Interop has seen itself transform over the years. Crowd sizes have varied, content has shifted, vendors have come and gone, but it has persisted.

In 2017, we saw Interop get a new name - InteropITX. If I told you that I knew what the ITX was for without Googling it, I'd be lying.  About 4 minutes later:
In its 31st year, Interop added ITX to its name to reflect the next generation of the Interop brand which keeps apace the rapidly changing needs of a modern IT organization. Interop ITX is about technology excellence. Interop ITX is about IT experience. Interop ITX is about the X factor – what’s needed to thrive in this rapidly changing environment. 
A change in experience. Fittingly, and totally unknowingly planned from my perspective, this was the theme of my week in Las Vegas.

It was evident that change was in the air. A new venue: The MGM Grand Conference Center. A new exhibit hall: sized perfectly for the event. Tracks that were broken out into easy to follow sections:

Although there were 6 distinct tracks, it seemed like security was the thought on everyone's mind. From the keynotes to the demos, to the conversation at the podiums and beyond there was an underlying tone of making sure the "security first" mindset. It was one of the key takeaways .. in addition to those crazy Watchguard bears.

The "User Experience" was also a common theme with some of the sessions I attended, as well as my own. How you are connected matters less than what you are connected to and when you are connected to it. The topics around SDN and SD-WAN were focused on providing the best experience for the users on a network based on their needs. Automation, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence dominated the "buzzword bingo" by talking about making your network smarter and more efficient using data from the network, sensors, and users to optimize data delivery in microseconds as opposed to taking humans thousands of years to do so.

Examples of the computer beating Kasparov at Chess or creatively taking down Lee Se-dol 4-1 at Go were side by side with how Google deployed that same technology to increase efficiencies by handing one of it's data centers over to AI.

Once again, one of my favorite booths was the NBASE-T Alliance.
Peter and the crew and brought together vendors like Spirent, Intel, Panduit, Meraki, Aquantia, MicroSemi, FlukeAukua, and the UNH Interoperability Testing Lab (IOL) to have a plugfest and show off their (gasp!) INTEROPERABILITY. This always makes me miss Interopnet. I pine for the days of a datacenter on the show floor.

It was great to see more vendors, some we didn't see last year, jumping into the multi-gig copper game. If you don't know, one of the key points of NBASE-T Alliance is to promote doing more with the investments you already have. Don't re-cable if you need multi-gig and don't go crazy with 10Gbps fiber if you only need 2.5-5Gbps. It's one of those common sense things that I love seeing product announcements for adopting the technology. Keep up the great work guys!

InteropITX Continues to Be An Important and Great Event

It's clear that the vision of InteropITX changing the "experience" was more than just a logo with 3 new letters at the end of it. This show did a great job, at the perfect moment, of signaling the changing experiences of our users via the networks we're connected to and the way we use, consume, and provide data to make our jobs and lives better. Kudos to the team at UBM for sticking with the times and showing that you can continue to roll with the industry by crafting an event that supports the future of data communications.

Also, special thanks to Madeleina and Susan for everything you guys do! Meghan, great job!

So, what was missing from this event?


Wireless Vendors in attendance: 2.5
Extreme,  2 guys from Meraki, and Watchguard.
Although I think Extreme counts as like 4 vendors at this point. 
Thank you for the support. It was great to see you there!!

Wireless sessions at the event: 4
A 3-hour workshop, Wi-Fi for High-density and Campus, Wi-Fi Gotchas to Avoid, and Artificial Intelligence for Wi-FI. There was another wireless session by a vendor, but that vendor didn't have a booth.

Here's my question:

Where was the wireless industry?

Why didn't they show up?
If there would've been more vendors who signed up, I probably could've wrangled more content. They probably would've had more room especially if a company was making a commitment. But there weren't wireless companies making a commitment. Hell, they gave away a slot to a vendor that didn't even have a booth!

Also, just sayin: Cisco should've been all over this. There must've been 300 APs in the venue!!

Got a Better Offer?

The speculation was heavy amongst attendees: Maybe Cisco really wanted to focus on Cisco Live coming up in a few weeks. Maybe Aruba has shifted to put emphasis on Atmosphere and Discover. Maybe Ruckus is still working out their stuff. Even at that, there are a few more players in the industry. Where was Mist? Aerohive? Xirrus / Riverbed? Huawei? Mojo Networks? Fortinet? Cambium? Ubiquiti? Even EnGenius didn't show this year!

I spoke last year about how important it was for wireless to have a stand-out presence at events like these. With stats like "70% of all data is delivered across wireless networks" you would think that at a show focused on connecting clients to networks would be attractive to people who make equipment in that space. I tried to prove my point at the Network Field Day 15 event this past Spring with my mic-drop burner of a question "How many of you have a cable plugged in right now?"

So I ask you dear reader, how many of you are reading this one a device that is attached to an Ethernet cable? How prevalent is wireless technology? And if your answer is anything like mine, why wouldn't the vendor community support an event with an emphasis on data delivery?

After wrapping my 3-hour session about Emerging Wireless Technologies and Services, and attending the other standing-room-only sessions for Wi-Fi a few things became absolutely clear:

1. There is an ENORMOUS demand for wireless information from a vendor-agnostic perspective. 
I had around 150 people in my session and about another hundred that were turned away because there was nowhere for them to sit. Over the course of the session, some would leave but get immediately replaced by someone waiting outside. The other sessions discussing wireless were the same.

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2. The people looking for the information are seriously, honestly, thirsty for the knowledge. 
And they are not you regular wireless people. I canvassed just my group and found 4 hands go up when asked "How many of you consider yourself good at wireless?" 4 out of 200.

3. Understanding basic principals of design, functionality, and troubleshooting are in great demand.
"If I just buy the most expensive stuff, it does all that for me, right?" was actually a question at one of the events.

4. Everyone is talking about security, but few are looking at the connection medium.
Wireless attacks are going to get more pervasive as IoT takes over. It's a given. Wi-Fi is wide-open when it comes to being a threat surface, but if the industry continues to focus on the user and the network, who's watching the air?

All 4 of those points are things that I would imagine an industry that provides access points, hardware, and software would say "Hey, I can point them in the right direction" but the wireless industry was a no call, no show.

In the same fashion that I would pen a letter to an employee that is having a rough time at their job, I want to write one to my beloved Wi-Fi industry:

Dear Wireless Industry,
Hey, help me out here guys. I love being a wireless nerd. I love the industry, the products, the services, and all the amazing advancements. You guys are killing it when it comes to getting great product to market, listening to feedback, and improving feature sets. 
However, by not representing what you do and helping the customers that need you the most except when it's on your terms, it's really getting tough to show the love. Without your support in places where people are turning up to find answers unaccompanied by sales pitches, customers will continue to have issues they don't understand because they need help and direction in addition to data sheets and part numbers.
Your shows, like Atmosphere and Cisco Live, are great and full of awesome information, but not everyone can justify attendance to a single-vendor event. 
Please help me, as a VAR/Integrator and a consultant, help you. Please get involved in events like InteropITX that are trying to give the industry a place that everyone can attend to see how their networks and management are supposed to work together. They're trying to figure it out from a big picture perspective that involves more than just the products from a single vendor. These guys really need our help, now more than ever. 
I hope you feel better soon and I look forward to seeing you when you're ready to get back to work. The customers are waiting for us too and the longer we wait to help them, the more trouble they're going to get themselves into. See you soon.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Embracing an Opportunity to Provide Better Wi-Fi

I did something today that I didn't think I would do again, or at least for a pretty long time.
I accepted an offer to work for someone else.

As of today, I have accepted a role in Business Development for Cape Networks.

When I started my company, Frontera Consulting, 5 years ago, it was so that I didn't have to work for anyone else. The beauty is, I still don't have to.

I want to.

Lemme explain...

Having followed what's happening in the industry closely for so long, I realize (as I'm sure you do) that time and time again Wi-Fi and wireless networks get this terrible rap. No matter how many times its proven to not be the access points, the controller, or the config, everyone blames the wireless. Part of the problem is that there aren't many options in the way of providing a decent way to replicate user problems to see what's happening from the client's perspective.

When I started looking into this a few years back, a name popped up that was not only doing it but doing it, in my opinion, way better than anything I had seen: Cape Networks. That continues today.

So when the opportunity arose to help spread the word about what was going on, I jumped at it. Some of you have already received calls from me talking about this long before this post, and I even put together a write-up of it a few months back.

Why Did I Make the Jump?

Because I honestly believe that it can help everyone who uses it.
From friends who have mission critical networks, to companies providing Wi-Fi in hotels, to Managed Service Providers trying to make sure their customers are constantly online, this product can help.

Over the past 20 years, I have built-up a network of people that rely on the wireless industry to put food on the tables of their families. I think this product can help do that. Right now I am lucky enough to be in a position that I can help spread the word about this and help this company get to the people that can use it the most.

What About the VAR?

Frontera Consulting will continue to operate as one of the premiere VARs in South Texas with the team of experienced, trusted, and dedicated individuals.
As for my other project, the Wi-Fi Stand .. well, Wix is awesome, so it's gonna keep on keeping on.

What Can I do to Help?

Give me a chance to show you what this thing can do. That's all that I ask. If it fits, awesome. If it doesn't, tell me what it needs to do to meet your needs.

You can't be a super hero without a Cape! - drew@capenetworks.com 

Here's to the future!