Collaborate in the Cloud

Posted in security, f5, big-ip, cloud computing, silva, exchange, data center, owa, office 365 by psilva on November 19th, 2014

Employee collaboration and access to communication tools are essential for workplace productivity. Organizations are increasing their use of Microsoft Office 365, a subscription-based service that provides hosted versions of familiar Microsoft applications. Most businesses choose Exchange Online as the first app in Office 365 they adopt.

The challenge with any SaaS application such as Office 365 is that user authentication is usually handled by the application itself, so user credentials are typically stored and managed in the cloud by the provider. The challenge for IT is to properly authenticate the employee (whether located inside or outside the corporate network) to a highly available identity provider (such as Active Directory).

Authentication without complexity

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Even though Office 365 runs in a Microsoft-hosted cloud environment, user authentication and authorization are often accomplished by federating on premises Active Directory with Office 365. Organizations subscribing to Office 365 may deploy Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) on premises, which then authenticates users against Active Directory.

Deploying ADFS typically required organizations to deploy, manage, and maintain additional servers onsite, which can complicate or further clutter the infrastructure with more hardware. SAML (security assertion markup language) is often the enabler to identify and authenticate the user. It then directs the user to the appropriate Office 365 service location to access resources. SAML-enabled applications work by accepting user authentication from a trusted third party—an identity provider. In the case of Office 365, the BIG-IP platform acts as the identity provider.

For example, when a user requests his or her OWA email URL via a browser using Office 365, that user is redirected to a BIG-IP logon page to validate the request. The BIG-IP system authenticates the user on behalf of Office 365 and then grants access. The Office 365 environment will recognize the individual and provide their unique Office 365 OWA email environment. The BIG-IP platform provides a seamless experience for Office 365 users and with the federated identity that the BIG-IP platform enables, the IT team is able to extend SSO capabilities to other applications.

The benefit of using the BIG-IP platform to support Office 365 with SAML is that organizations can reduce the complexity and requirements of deploying ADFS. By default, when enabling Office 365, administrators need to authenticate those users in the cloud. If an IT administrator wants to use the corporate authentication mechanism, ADFS must be put into the corporate infrastructure. With the BIG-IP platform, organizations can support authentication to Office 365 and the ADFS requirement disappears, resulting in centralized access control with improved security.

Secure collaboration

Because email is a mission-critical application for most organizations, it is typically deployed on premises. Organizations using BIG-IP-enhanced Microsoft Exchange Server and Outlook can make it easier for people to collaborate regardless of their location. For example, if a company wanted to launch a product in Europe that had been successfully launched in the United States, it needs workers and contractors in both locations to be able to communicate and share information.

In the past, employees may have emailed plain-text files to each other as attachments or posted them online using a web-based file hosting service. This can create security concerns since potentially confidential information is leaving the organization and being stored on the Internet without any protection or encryption. There are also concerns about ease of use for employees and how the lack of an efficient collaboration tool negatively impacts productivity.

Internal and external availability 24/7

To solve these issues, many organizations move from the locally managed Exchange Server deployment to Microsoft Office 365. Office 365 makes it easier for employees to work together no matter where they are in the world. Employees connect to Office 365 using only a browser, and they don’t have to remember multiple usernames and passwords to access email, SharePoint, or other internal-only applications and file shares.

In this scenario, an organization would deploy the BIG-IP platform in both the primary and secondary data centers. BIG-IP LTM intelligently manages all traffic across the servers. One pair of BIG-IP devices sits in front of the servers in the core network; another pair sits in front of the directory servers in the perimeter network. By managing traffic to and from both the primary and directory servers, the F5 devices ensure availability of Office 365—for both internal and external (federated) users.

Ensuring global access

To provide for global application performance and disaster recovery, organizations should also deploy BIG-IP GTM devices in the perimeter network at each data center. BIG-IP GTM scales and secures the DNS infrastructure, provides high-speed DNS query responses, and also reroutes traffic when necessary to the most available application server. Should an organization’s primary data center ever fail, BIG-IP GTM would automatically reroute all traffic to the backup data center. BIG-IP GTM can also load balance the directory servers across data centers to provide cross-site resiliency.

The BIG-IP platform provides the federated identity services and application availability to allow organizations to make a quick migration to Office 365, ensuring users worldwide will always have reliable access to email, corporate applications, and data.

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AWS re:Invent 2014: LineRate to the Rescue (feat Rafii)

Posted in f5, silva, video, aws, linerate by psilva on November 12th, 2014

Cyrus Rafii, F5 Director of Business Development, gives us an update on all the cool, new stuff happening with F5 LineRate. He talks about the new F5 LineRate Amazon EC2 beta and explains some of the differences between BIG-IP and LineRate and in what scenarios an organization might deploy each. A Tale of Two Proxies! He also discusses a recent customer case study from HOSTING.

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AWS re:Invent 2014: BIG-IP Test Drive on AWS (feat Stathatos)

Posted in security, f5, big-ip, cloud, silva, video, sharepoint, aws by psilva on November 12th, 2014

Jeff Stathatos, F5 Solution Architect, shows how easy it is to test drive BIG-IP for SharePoint on AWS. With a few clicks of a mouse, organizations get high availability of the SharePoint Cluster along with SSL offload for top notch performance. Jeff explains how organizations configure the service along with some of the benefits of deploying BIG-IP with SharePoint.

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AWS re:Invent 2014: Find F5

Posted in f5, big-ip, cloud computing, silva, video, infrastructure, aws by psilva on November 11th, 2014

Sporting a cool LineRate t-shirt, I show you how to find F5 booth 303 at AWS re:Invent. AWS re:Invent is a learning conference that offers 3 days of technical content so attendees can dive deeper into the AWS cloud computing platform. F5 storylines this week include an offering of a BIG-IP Test Drive for SharePoint, a Free 30 Day Trial for all utility-based BIG-IP services, F5 LineRate Amazon EC2 beta along with F5’s Silverline DDoS Protection…which you can deploy alongside AWS! Learn how you can maximize your Cloud investment. Reporting from Las Vegas!

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CloudExpo 2014: The DNS of Things

Posted in f5, silva, humans, iot, things, sensors by psilva on November 5th, 2014

With Levi's Stadium as a backdrop, I share a bit about the Internet of Things and the strain it will place on the Domain Name System (DNS) along with a preview of his DNS of Things session at CloudExpo/ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Reporting from Silicon Valley.  Check out F5's DNS solutions at https://f5.com/solutions/architectures/intelligent-dns-scale

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The Digital Dress Code

Posted in f5, silva, privacy, byod, dns, predictions, iot, things, sensors, clothes by psilva on November 4th, 2014

Coming to an office near you.

If you thought the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) craze was a headache, just wait until button cameras, smart watches, and spy glasses (already here) are a daily occurrence in the office. Workplace #Wearables will be a huge challenge in the coming years as more devices, clothing and pretty much any 'thing' with a chip or sensor become commonplace in our society. The device explosion with IoT (Internet of Things) will be much larger than any of these mobile phones we carry around.

A couple new reports examine the impact of IoT on businesses.

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PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released a report on wearable technology after surveying 1,000 consumers, 314 of which use some form of wearable, as part of "The Wearable Future" report. Some key findings included that 77% of respondents thought that a top benefit of wearable technology is the potential to make employees more productive and efficient. Honestly, when I read that I immediately thought of my boss's hologram standing behind me in my home office watching my work. 70% expect that their office should allow the use of wearables...probably the same folks who wanted to bring their own tablet and 46% felt that organizations should fund wearables rather than the dreaded BYOD. The idea is that if the technology is simple to use and integrates with other devices, that should boost productivity and lift profits. Even so, there needs to be significant investment to ensure the camera shirt buttons can talk to Exchange, ya know.

The biggest concerns, according to PwC, include the risk of security breaches, invasion of privacy, tech dependence, having too many devices and on a more human level, not being able to relate to others or simply looking silly with all those attachments.

PwC also looked at the industries that will capitalize on the wearable market. Entertainment will be more 'immersive and fun'; Social Media gets more real time updates from your clothes; Gaming can be more visually and physically engaging; Advertisers will want the space on your back; Healthcare will track your vitals; and Retail could offer “pleasant, efficient” shopping experiences.

Business Insider recently released a report looking at the device growth They feel that by 2019, IoT devices will more than double the size of the smartphone, tablet, PC, wearable and connected car combined. That's huge. All the software, hardware, maintenance and management of IoT could add $1.7 trillion to the global economy by 2019. They also feel that the main benefit of IoT will be the efficiencies and cost savings by giving the user more control. But, there are sill few standards and even less compatibility so that needs work, not to mention the security risks inherent in these nouns. The processing power, storage, cameras, sensors and everything else will far surpass the USB-stick risks of years past, plus the potential of all this corporate data getting stored in personal clouds could spell big trouble.

And how are all these nouns going to found on the internet? DNS of course! Once all these various wearables hit the office, DNS will be the thing that allows us people to find them threads. I truly feel that DNS will be one of the most strained technologies as more connections happen in the office and will be discussing this trend at the ThingsExpo - which is part of SYS-CON Media's CloudExpo in Santa Clara this week.

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Available Applications Anywhere

The path to successful application delivery has been a long and winding road for many companies.

Back in the days of Y2K and the dot-coms, applications were often delivered out of a physical data center. This usually consisted of a dedicated raised-floor room at the corporate headquarters or leased colocation space from one of the web hosting vendors—or both.

Soon, global organizations and ecommerce sites started to distribute their applications and deploy them at multiple physical data centers to address geo-location, redundancy, and disaster recovery challenges. This was an expensive endeavor even without the networking, bandwidth, and leased line costs.

Enter the cloud

When server virtualization emerged and organizations realized that they had the ability to divide resources for different applications, content delivery was no longer tethered 1:1 with a physical device. Content could live anywhere. With virtualization technology as the driving force, cloud computing formed and offered yet another avenue to deliver applications.

As cloud adoption grew, along with the software, platforms, and infrastructures enabling it, organizations were able to quickly, easily, and cost effectively distribute their resources around the globe. This allowed organizations to place content closer to the user depending on their location, and provided some fault tolerance in case of a data outage. Cloud also offers organizations a way to manage services rather than boxes along with just-in-time provisioning rather than over provisioning, which can be costly. Cloud enables IT as a Service and the flexibility to scale when needed.

Today, there is a mixture of options available to deliver critical applications. Many organizations have private, owned, on-premises data center facilities. Others lease resources at a dedicated location.

Staying a step ahead

In order to achieve or even maintain continuous application availability and keep up with the pace of new application rollouts, many organizations are looking to expand their data center options, including cloud, to ensure application availability. This is important since 84 percent of data centers had issues with power, space, cooling capacity, assets, and uptime that negatively impacted business operations according to IDC. That translates into application rollout delays, disrupted customer service, or unplanned expenses for emergency fixes.

Many organizations have found that operating multiple data centers is no easy task. New data center deployments or even the integration of existing data centers can cause havoc for visitors, employees, and IT staff alike. Public web properties, employee access to corporate resources, and communication tools such as email require security and back-end data replication for content consistency. On top of that, maintaining control over critical systems spread around the globe is always a challenge.

Simplify. Scale. Secure.

The BIG-IP platform provides organizations with global application services for DNS, federated identity, security, SSL off-load, optimization and application health and availability. Together, they create an intelligent, cost-effective, resilient global application delivery infrastructure across a hybrid mix of data centers. As companies simplify, secure, and consolidate across multiple data centers, they mitigate the impact to users or applications, minimize downtime, ensure continuous availability, and have on-demand scalability as needed.

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The Internet of…(Drum Roll Please)…Band-Aids?!?

Posted in f5, silva, humans, big data, iot, things, sensors by psilva on October 22nd, 2014

Last week I told you about my family's experience with an under the skin glucose sensor that tracks blood sugar levels. While this Internet of Things trend often takes the form of a thermostat, light bulb or coffee machine, the medical field has been using sensors for a while and it is about to get even more connected with your skin.

We're talking skin tags of a different kind.

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First up is a sensor filled smart bandage. Ed Goluch, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Northeastern University is working on a smart band-aid that will monitor infections and alert the person. He was investigating how individual bacteria cells behave by using a sensor. The sensor measured the produced toxins and how cells reacted to antibiotics when the idea hit. Next they build an electrochemical sensor with computer chips to detect Pseudomonas aerug­i­nosa, a bacteria that commonly takes advantage of people with compromised immune systems. For this particular bacteria, it can detect of an infection is starting before symptoms show and the patient can put an antibiotic on the wound to heal it. So far the testing has only occurred in the lab and the next step is humans and animals. Pretty Cool.

In Japan, University of Tokyo, in cooperation with JST, has introduced the world’s very first flexible wireless organic sensor. This paper-thin, water proof sensor can also be used for band-aids but also a few other health situations. Like urine. OMG! Did he just write the word for pee in a blog post?!? Yup, we all do it but back to the story. The idea is to be able to detect the chemical compound for health related matters. The circuit was actually tested on a wet diaper where it was successfully able to transmit the needed data and receive power from a nearby source. The cool thing about this sensor is that they wanted to develop something that is easy to make, use, dispose and replace. Instead of expensive components, they went for simple detectors for thing like humidity and air pressure. Being small and low cost, they could be used for such disposable things like diapers or bandages.

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Next up is a microchip that can now be printed directly on the skin. Originally designed for sports physicians, MC10 has created a health sensor that is formed with spray-on bandage material. Since it is essentially a second skin, it can detect hydration levels and temperature of the wearer. It lasts about two weeks on the body even while bathing or swimming and it is 1/30 the size of previous sticker sensors.

Lastly, the iPhone 6 and it's NFC (near field communications) chip has been one upped by a human. Robert J. Nelson has had a NFC chip implanted in his hand! We've seen stories the past couple years about body modification with chips so he isn't the first but for $99 he picked up a chipset and got someone to implant it. In his story he states,

'I should make it clear that I am not trying to become a cyborg or anything like that. For me, getting this implant came down to having a strong interest in technology and the connected space, and more to the point is that I am someone who likes seeing technology integrated into life. Or in this case, my body'

Seriously, wouldn't be cool if you twisted your ankle and your sock would tell you how bad the sprain was? And then sent the data to your doctor for an appointment if it was serious? Or just quickly cooled down so you have ice around the sprain? Dizzying, all the applications for this.

Forget about the internet being this thing we use to look up stuff and email...soon we all will be part of the internet with our connected bodies. The Internet of You!

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My Sensored Family

Posted in f5, silva, control, iot, things, sensors by psilva on October 14th, 2014

The Important Things

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Lately I've been writing a bunch about the Internet of Things or IoT. You know, where everyday objects have software, chips, and sensors to capture data and report back. Household items like refrigerators, toilets and thermostats along with clothing, cars and soon, the entire home will be connected. Many of these devices provide actionable data - or just fun entertainment - so people can make decisions about whatever is being monitored. It can also help save lives.

Recently my daughter became a robot, at least according to her.

My daughter has a rare genetic disorder called HI/HA GDH - Hyperinsulinism/Hyperammonemia Syndrome in the Glutamate Dehydrogenase gene. Say that 3 times fast. Basically, she produces too much insulin (extreme hypoglycemic) and too much ammonia. She gets blood work done every couple months and recently we've had some concerning numbers on those reports. While we certainly check her blood multiple times a day, the doctor wanted to get a more precise reading over the course of a few days to determine a plan of action. Enter the sensor.

The doctor installed a Medtronic Sof-Sensor Glucose meter which measured her blood sugars every 5 minutes and stored it on a chip. They also have models which transmit the BSL to a base for instant readings. Out of the package, the device has a needle almost tented over the sensor. You put it in an apparatus which punches the needle and sensor into the skin. You remove the needle and the sensor stays. You then connect it to a clam shell looking thing which houses the microprocessor. Tape over it, go on with your daily routine and the sensor does the rest. While she had hers in for 3 days, there are some that can be inserted for longer term measurements. After our three days, we pulled it out and retuned it to the doctor. Pulling the tape off her skin hurt more than yanking the sensor out.

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They connected the storage to a computer and retrieved the data. We could match the charted times and readings (along with a daily food diary) with the regular meter readings to get a great overall picture of what might be causing some of the recent abnormalities. From that, we got our medical marching orders and so far it seems like things are moving in the right direction. The parental worries have also dwindled now that we know what's going on. That anxiety is part of the challenge whether you're a global business or a parent...the data and context to make informed, knowledgeable decisions about a path forward. Sometimes sensors can provide that.

This Internet of Nouns trend is still in the early stages and many of our already connected gadgets do provide human benefits over the typical infotainment. While IoT is certainly interesting and the wave is building, I'm not particularly rushing to get everything or everyone connected like that...except for our micro chipped dog. But in this instance, installing a sensor in my daughter's side for a few days made all the difference in the world.

And gave us some uncensored peace of mind.

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Oracle OpenWorld 2014: That’s a Wrap!

Posted in f5, cloud, silva, video, oracle, trade show, oow by psilva on October 10th, 2014

Peter Silva wraps it up from #OOW14. Special thanks to guests Dana Gauthier, Jonathan George, David Wallace and Rubyanne Deang along with Natasha, Robert, Jonathan & Courtney for their spectacular camera work. And of course, thanks to you for watching. He also gives a quick update on the Shellshock vulnerability and how to find information on f5.com. Reporting from San Francisco, that’s a wrap!

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