Tuesday, December 15, 2009

360is Flourishes In 2009

Where has this year gone?

We have acquired many new clients in 2009, some in new sectors such as Biotech and Scientific Research (outside of our historical finance and telecoms verticals). We have seen increasing crossover between our security work and the data centre practice, as clients seek to protect their estates "post-consolidation", and vendors introduce virtual versions of traditional hardware appliances for Email, Web, and Network security.

Positive Numbers:
  • New client intake up 25%
  • Average engagement size up by 30%
  • 25% of engagements were with existing clients
  • No bad debts

Looking Forward
2010 is already shaping up to be a busy year.
    Security Assessments & Investigations
    Much of the large scale fraud and corruption which flourished in the global boom is now being brought to light under greater scrutiny and regulation. This has lead to an increase in inquiries for our post-incident clean-up services. The impact of the downturn on organised crime was the subject of a recent Wilton Park Conference hosted by the Home Office.

    Early adopters of Virtualization are now looking to maximise their firepower through increased VM density and dedicated virtual appliances. Microsoft's (Hyper-V) entrance into the market, and continued focus of Citrix (XenServer), is putting this technology within reach of the small to medium enterprise, and small departmental projects in large companies. Both products are now completely free. Of course VMware is not going away, and is still present in about 80% of our clients estates.

    Desktop Delivery
    Microsoft has announced that from July 13, 2010, it will close down the support for Windows XP SP2. That's only 7 months away. Some security critical patches will be made available for XP up to 2014, but it is Microsoft's intention to upgrade all business users to Windows 7 that did not previously adopt Vista (so...everyone then) as soon as possible. At 360is we suggest clients give very serious consideration to whether or not they bother attempting a traditional roll out of Windows 7 to physical desktops, or whether they adopt a virtual desktop strategy for the new OS. Deploying Windows 7 as a virtual desktop has many benefits:

    • No hardware refresh necessary
    • No loss of end user productivity
    • Easy swap-over, parallel running, rollback
    • Reduced risk of application incompatibility

360is Business Model
Our roots in IT security always kept us vendor neutral. It's widely acknowledged that a multi-vendor, multi-technology strategy is best when securing large complex infrastructures. We are still convinced that vendor-neutral is the right way to be, not just for security projects but also for our data centre practice. Whether its VMware, Citrix, Microsoft, or a technology embedded in the next generation of CPUs. Our focus remains on professional services and expertise above software and hardware sales. Clients work with us because of what we know, not because of our position in the hierarchy or because they are forced by distribution and purchasing restrictions.

In 2010 we shall continue to deploy our capabilities in the sole interest of our clients to find the right solution to their challenges.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas & a Happy (and prosperous) New Year.

Monday, November 16, 2009

360is Represented at Microsoft Virtualization Round-table

360is were delighted to be able to take part in this months virtualization round-table, held at Incisive Media's central London offices. We spoke alongside representatives from Microsoft and Computerlinks. The panel debated the mainstream adoption of virtualization occurring now the software is mostly free, virtual desktop infrastructure, and the skills gap that exists in many IT/MIS departments around this new wave of software and hardware infrastructure.

The panel concluded that virtualization and the abstraction of "nuts and bolts" was already fundamentally changing the nature of conversations between Vendors, VARs, and clients, and would likely change hiring practices as companies sought business technologists over traditional IT skills.

The full text of the article is available online.
A copy of the print magazine is available on our site.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Autumn Virtualization Seminar, London & Cambridge (NOW FULL)

We are holding an invitation-only seminar on mission critical & production systems virtualization in November. Some of you will have already received the invite directing you to register.

Choose the date/location below to book your place and receive the calendar appointment and PDF agenda via Email.

19th November: Royal Mint, Royal Mint Court, London, EC3N 4HJ.
26th November: Trinity Centre, Milton Rd Cambridge, CB4 0FN.

Registered attendees will receive further information on the event and a full agenda.


09:30 Arrival & Tea/Coffee

10:00 Welcome & Introductions - 360is Ltd

10:05 Running Citrix Virtualized In Production - Citrix Systems Inc
  • Netscaler VPX, XenDesktop, XenApp.
  • Best practice advice for reliable virtualization of Citrix software.
  • Citrix end-to-end virtualization strategy for agile infrastructure.

11:00 Break

11:10 Virtualization Hardware - The Virtual Machine Company Ltd
  • How customer requirements shaped virtualization hardware.
  • How to achieve ultimate VM density and lowest TCO.
  • A post-server approach to virtualization.

11:40 Case Study, “Virtualising A Billion Dollar Database” - 360is Ltd
  • Maximising VM density without compromising performance & availability
  • The virtualization experience, one year on.

12:00 Finish and Q&A.

12:15 Tour (Royal Mint only) followed by light lunch.

Cancellations & Additional Invitations

Places are limited, if you are subsequently unable to attend then please let us know so that we can move someone else up from the waiting list. If you did not get an invite and would like to attend, or wish to recommend a colleague, please contact rob.gilson@360is.com.


Update 16-11-09: The seminar is now full and there is a waiting list for those unable to get in this time around. Please notify Rob Gilson (above) if you have registered but are now unable to attend.


Update 20-11-09: Thanks to all who attended the Seminar. For those who were unable to make it, or who want copies of the presentations, please see the following links:

Friday, September 18, 2009

360is Awarded Platinum Partner Status by The Virtual Machine Company

360is are delighted to be the first UK reseller awarded Platinum status in recognition of their achievements as the partner with the highest unit shipments in 1H 2009.

360is continue to see strong growth in the hardware virtual appliance market, fueled by tightening operating expenditure, increased hosting/colo costs, and growing adoption of virtualization in business critical infrastructure. Since their launch in early 2008, Virtual Machine Company appliances have provided superior VMs-per-watt and VMs-per-square-foot to enterprises, hosting providers, and compute-intensive industries, when compared to general purpose x86 servers.

In a recent press release, Steve Barnett, Virtual Machine's Managing Director said "The 360is team consistently over-deliver, their mixture of expertise, execution and customer service means we're proud to have them as a platinum partner".

About The Virtual Machine Company
The Virtual Machine Company manufacture the worlds most powerful & energy efficient virtualization appliances, offering the densest VM ratios of any comparable platform. Led by Steve Barnett, the former Managing Director of Check Point Software Technologies. Their appliances are designed from the ground up to provide ultimate performance and return on investment in a virtualized environment, and each is backed up by enterprise quality support and services. Each device benefits from performance monitoring, capacity management & planning tools that ensure the optimum configuration of your virtual estate, and access to free In-Cloud services that take estate management to a new level.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Winner of June TomTom Give Away

Back in June we gave away a new TomTom GO 530 SatNav system. We can now announce the lucky winner as Ms K.Pavitt, who registered an opportunity with us for a virtualization project beginning in August. Congratulations!

Monday, August 17, 2009

360is wins Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Contract at Wren Academy

Wren Academy is a new 1000-place secondary school in the London Borough of Barnet. The Academy, specialising in Design and the Built Environment, offers state-of-the-art ICT facilities. Over £1 million will be spent on hardware and infrastructure supporting the aspiration that every student will have plentiful access to Information Technology.

360is is rolling out a complete campus-wide VDI solution for students and staff. The Citrix XenDesktop solution is based upon a mixture of thin and thick clients, and virtualized server-side. 360is drew upon prior experience of implementing complex VDI projects in the public and private sector to win the contract.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Virtual Iron Scrapped!

The acquisition of Virtual Iron was announced by Oracle on the 13th May this year. Oracle already had its own OracleVM product and can now add Sun's xVM software to the pot. Both of those products are (like Virtual Iron) based on open source Xen.

While this consolidation is good for customers in the long term, providing 3 strong competitors to the incumbent VMware, in the short term it was hard to see Oracle maintaining so many similar components to their stack. Sure enough something had to give and last week Oracle wrote to partners confirming that there would be no new sales of Virtual Iron, and that its features would eventually be subsumed into OracleVM. Virtual Iron customers should update themselves on the situation here.

Although we have already been contacted by an unhappy Virtual Iron customer looking to mitigate the risks in operating a platform whose development has been ceased, at least Oracle made their decision to melt-down Virtual Iron quickly, limiting any uncertainty.

If you are a Virtual Iron customer, and need to migrate to a supported, Xen-based platform with a future. We can make the transition as painless as possible. Given that most Virtual Iron customers have tight cost constraints, we are currently recommending Citrix XenServer as a replacement. There is even a completely free version that offers enterprise features like live migration, shared storage integration, and OS templates.

During this difficult period, we offer a free consultation with one of our engineers, to scope the size and shape of any possible migration from Virtual Iron to XenServer, or to consider other options. Simply get in touch.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Security Assessment & Penetration Testing Case Study

360is has been operating since 2002, our consultants have been advising UK companies since the early 90's. Over the years we've been asked many times for case studies on Security Assessments, Penetration Tests, and Post Incident Investigations. Up to now we have always resisted, for reasons of customer confidentiality and because most of our clients are still referred to us by word of mouth.

We are pleased to announce the first of several Security Services case studies. While based upon a real engagement, some details have been changed to ensure confidentiality and each case may draw upon information from more than one project.

Can you see anything of your current situation reflected in these stories?
Are the benefits gained by our clients interesting to you?
Have you thought about the ways we can help you this year?

Monday, May 11, 2009

TomTom GO 530 To Give Away

If you register your Virtualization or Security Service, support or training requirement with us before the end of June 2009, and attend a meeting with one of our consultants, you will be entered into a prize draw for a TomTom GO 530 Sat Nav system.

To register your project and to arrange a meeting, email your contact details and an outline of your requirement to Rob Gilson. Details of the lucky winner of the TomTom will be announced on our site on the 30th of June.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Citrix XenServer Case Studies

Over the last 3 years, our consultants have delivered about 50 virtualization projects for clients as far away as India. We have worked with all the major hardware and software vendors to solve real business problems. A few of these experiences were captured as case studies and can now be made available to you.

What makes these documents a little more interesting than an average case study is that they have been written up-to a year after completion of the project, and include an update on how the new infrastructure is performing, and how accurately the technology delivered on promises. First out of the trap are several Citrix XenServer success stories, watch out for VMware and Hyper-V later.

Multimedia Distribution & Switching, virtualizing difficult workloads.
Financial Data Warehouse, how to virtualize a billion dollar database.
Multilingual Call Center, navigating the vendor jungle.

Can you see your current situation reflected in these stories?
Are the benefits gained by these clients interesting to you?
Have you thought about the ways we can help you this year?

Monday, March 30, 2009

XenServer Administration Poster

Since XenServer was made freely available for download a few weeks ago, there has been a surge in companies new to virtualization, taking their first steps into this area. As you would expect, this has resulted in lots of questions on the user forum and calls to our help desk.

360is have produced a XenServer administrators poster, in A4 format, for both new and experienced admins to download for free. Do let us know what you think, and make any suggestions for improvement via the normal channels.

UPDATE: 28-04-09
The response has been overwhelming, with more than eight hundred downloads. For those of you that asked for more glitz, and as part of 360is "printer toner industry stimulus package", please check out the new "midnight edition".

Thursday, February 26, 2009

360is XenServer Support, for free!

Many of you will already be aware that Citrix has just announced that XenServer Enterprise (the version of Xen many of our clients run) is to be made available free of charge. A new enhanced version of XenServer called "Essentials" is being launched. Essentials has sophisticated Lab-Manager, Orchestration, and Workflow functionality along with integration to Hyper-V and the Microsoft stack. It is only this enhanced edition that will carry a price tag.

This is great news!
Click here to download almost £2K of software for free.

It is particularly good for Small to Medium sized companies who might otherwise have been unable to deploy enterprise grade virtualization in this years "zero CAPEX" environment. You can now virtualize an estate for zero pounds spent on software (unless you need the "Essentials" version). What should you do with this unexpected windfall? The money saved from as few as 4 free XenServer licenses could buy one of our Hardware Appliances, allowing you to replace tens of aging physical servers with a single, low power, high performance, 2U dedicated appliance with one-stop-shop support.

One good turn deserves another...

360is are offering 60-days free standard support to new clients sourcing their XenServer software (free or Essentials) though us. In order to secure this support we will need to register a number of details about you in Citrix systems and our own, please get in touch before we change our minds!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Find us at...

You can now find us more easily in the following online business directories:

Yahoo UK, under IT Consultants.
Google Local, under IT Consultants in London.
London Directory.
ITNerd, under IT Consultants.
The UK Business Directory, under Independent Consultancies.

Friday, February 06, 2009

V for Virtualization, XenServer vs Hyper-V vs VMware

The recent availability of Microsoft Hyper-V has generated an enormous amount of interest and inevitable questions for our sales engineers. If you have a project on plan this year and want to discuss it in person with one of our consultants then contact us. Meanwhile I'd like to take this opportunity to dispel some myths and inform a few truths about this triumvirate facing IT managers in 2009.

Firstly, although there are many more than 3 companies offering similar "whole system" x86 server virtualization, there are only 3 that are significant at this point, expect the rest to be acquired or fold as they fail to achieve critical mass. This leaves us with:
  • VMware, the market leader, indeed the market creator.
VMware is by far the most mature, as one would expect, having several years head start in the tough world of large enterprise data centers. To borrow a phrase from one of our own articles any fragile bits have long since broken off. VMware has its sales channels, OEM technology partners, and end user support network humming along nicely. VMware was also the first to introduce high availability and enterprise management features, and through it's large installed-base has the broadest support for guest operating systems (but all 3 vendors still support the majority of OS found in a typical business). For a long time VMware was the only game in town and priced the product accordingly, recruiting a large number of value added resellers, consultancy firms, and integrators to their flag. However being the first-in does have its disadvantages, its very expensive to break a new market and this pushed up the price of the product to the end user. VMware was founded in 1997 and although the product has been regularly updated there are still vestiges of its 90's heritage, particularly around the relative cost (then versus now) of CPU, RAM, and the need for a separate management server to hold the cluster database. 360is consultants have been deploying VMware in one form or another since the late 90's and are experts in its application to datacenters.

Xen took a fresh look at x86 virtualization in 2002/3, starting out as a research project at Cambridge University, spawning a commercial entity (XenSource) acquired by Citrix in 2007. The approach taken by Xen, and used in the XenServer product is to have an extremely thin virtualization layer between physical hardware and guest OS, and to do the minimum required to allow those guests to run safely together on a system. This approach was made possible by advances in CPU design by Intel and AMD around the time of Xen's formation. Indeed, CPU vendors are still among Xen's largest backers. XenServer has a number of enterprise features like High Availability, Live Migration, and integration with enterprise storage vendors, while still lacking some depth compared to VMware. Our experience is that most XenServer installations are bought on a combination of price and performance. XenServer costs between one half and one third the price of a VMware setup, and this is before staffing is considered. Performance remains a differentiator particularly where extreme consolidation is desired, or where the applications are particularly demanding. 360is staff have been working with XenServer commercially since 2007 and are the UK's most experienced partner.

Hyper-V is free. It is Microsoft's 2nd crack at virtualization after MS Virtual Server which was a disappointment. Hyper-V is a ground-up rewrite and like VMware ESX and Xenserver is a Type-1 or "native bare metal" hypervisor. As such it is loaded onto the physical hardware of the server and all guests run in a layer above it. Early on in the products development, Microsoft tapped XenSource for expertise on running Linux guests and managing scheduling. Hyper-V currently lacks most of the enterprise features of either of the other 2 products, including lacking live migration/vmotion. That said, Hyper-V will become ubiquitous though its low price and wide distribution channel. Our initial testing has Microsoft's product in 3rd place behind XenServer and VMware for performance, particularly with memory-access-intensive workloads, but no-doubt this will be improved upon in future releases. We have yet to see a client using Hyper-V in production but we have many running it in test and development.

So what's an infrastructure manager or CIO to do? Is there such a thing as the right hypervisor? Or a wrong one? After all, you wouldn't want to have been the person who cabled up his building for token ring only to switch to ethernet 2 years later.

Of course we are talking about a false dichotomy, no matter what the vendors say.

Providers of the core hypervisor technology will continue to play a game of technical leapfrog with one another for at least a couple of years, while those with a management, enterprise framework, or suite will claim more strategic long-term positions around "liquid infrastructure" or something else suitably bendy. What is most important right now is that you have the right information processing architecture, not any one particular product within it. What am I talking about when I say this?
  • Tiered, shared storage
  • Network that scales at an acceptable cost
  • A capacity planning model correct for your particular setup
  • Accurate and appropriate information on performance
...where failure (hardware, software, or the human sort) is accepted and planned for, after all, there are no certainties in life besides death, taxes, and the failure at some point of an IT system. As someone once said, "There are only two kinds of storage devices - those that have failed, and those that are about to fail".

Ultimately, virtualization is about making more efficient use of hardware and of the man-hours spent managing it, mostly through resource sharing and the enablement of faster provisioning and tear-down (or migration) of new services or workloads. Like most advances in technology, the real barrier to benefits are more likely to be your ability to accept virtualization into the core of your operation and to adapt your behavior and ways of working around accordingly.

360is helps our clients adapt IT operations to a fully virtualized infrastructure no matter which of the 3 dominant hypervisors best suits their purpose. Remember, a good IT infrastructure impresses, a great one is invisible.