Our new spherically inspired testing suite is now open; and we like to think it’s a great place for folks to ’round off’ their product knowledge!!!
It’s our thinking that isolation assists concentration, and from concentration comes inspiration. We’ve always been fans of locking ourselves away for performing deep hardware or software testing. This would entail spending extended periods in a dark, hot and noisy server room, only to occasionally emerge into sunlight with squinty eyes for life’s basic necessities - in an almost troll like fashion. With an environment not really conducive to clear thinking - we needed to rethink our testing environment. It had to be light, and quiet. It had to be compact, but yet posses ’Tardis’ like qualities on the inside. It needed to ’blend in’ on the outside, but look modern on the inside.
We found a suitable architect and commissioned a unique design. It would have a clear (open-able) domed roof, the building would be almost entirely spherical, with a DeLorean type gull wing door for access of course!
The finished building is perfect.
Inside, there is a super large worktop desk along the rear, with space for two testers to work. In the central area under the worktop lives a specially acoustically baffled server cabinet which does an amazing job at screening out noise from some of the kit we test. It’s something that has to be (not) heard to be believed!
Customers can book time in the Pod if they would like to investigate / research solutions they are interested in.
New kit is arriving (and leaving) all the time and we have a ’Kit List’ published on the website so you can keep an eye on which products are ’in stock’ and available for testing. Of course if there is something you are interested in that we don’t have, we’re confident that we can get it in for you - and we’ll also aim to get you a one to one with the people that make it.
We feel that by providing you with a space away from your day to day work environment to perform software or hardware research - you will experience major inspirations too!
OK so I will put my hands up. We published an item about the Palo Alto PA 2050 a few months back, and - well let’s just say that it was a ’bit’ over the top. Just a touch... over enthusiastic. Like a rabbit on Rohypnol more like.
It’s just that every now and then you come across a ’game changer’ - something that seems to right so many previous wrongs, that you can’t help but enthuse about it.
After a few cold showers - now we’re back to re-post, and we’re going to try our best not to ’over-juice’ it.
What it basically boils down to is that these firewalls are the very first of a new generation of behavior & content ’aware’ firewall devices. Some might call them ’Full Layer Firewall Devices’ others less technically inclined would say that these firewalls don’t just base their security policies on where something in coming from, and where it’s going to - but importantly - exactly what that ’something’ is, and whether it’s behaviour is ’suspicious’ or not. Whatever you want to call them - they do represent a significant up shift in capability when compared to your average run of the mill firewall device.
This advanced capability is made even more impressive - thanks to the PA 2050s capability of being able to ’virtually’ segment sections of the firewall device off. So out of the 16 gigabit ports on the device, you can slice and dice a number of firewalls that to all intense purposes are separate firewall devices. The benefits of this feature (known as ’Virtual Systems’) to anyone running multi tier hosting facilities, and needing to conform to standards such as PCI - are glaringly obvious. Where you might have needed three pairs of firewalls, across your three tiers - now you might just need a single pair of PA 2050s.
This not only saves a heap of cash, space, and power - but also reduces the administration footprint - and of course the ’compliancy footprint’.
One of the first tasks we gave our PA 2050 - was to become, what would effectively be, a ’network condom’ for a mini-cloud style hosting environment. The PA 2050 can operate in three different operating ’modes’. ’Transparent’, &
I can think of just two situations in life that never fail to have me reaching for a sick bag, every time.
The first case, is when I’m expecting to be served up an oversized portion of delicious sautéed potato, when I discover (all too late) that what I’ve actually been given is really cleverly disguised deep fried Polenta. Oh and the other one is when a customer phones in and asks you to perform a Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 hardware migration.
So you can imagine the double gag reflex induced when we got a call asking for no less than TWO Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 migrations. One in London, the other in..... Scotland.
Lets just stop to think about what this means for a minute. Your customer is entrusting the entire digital assets of not one but two remote offices - all to you. SBS setups are traditionally single domain, so you can’t really take them down without causing some sort of office disruption. You can already sense the lynch mob of impatient staff looking over your shoulder, asking ’are we there yet?’. You are not that keen on going to Scotland to perform this risky stunt either. You recall the movie ’Braveheart’.
What do you do? You can’t chicken out - your customer needs you. You can’t fail - you need your customer (and your internal organs). It’s a bit like meeting the girl of your dreams, and after it’s been going amazingly well for 6 months, she asks you to repair the priceless super fragile 1930’s mother of perl necklace that her late ’ma entrusted to her. She reminds you it’s irreplaceable & emotionally sacred. This is absolute trust. This is absolute pressure.
Or as I like to think - ’A Polenta disaster waiting to happen’
Needless to say, on slogging through the reams of Microsoft TechNet ’best practice’ documentation - worst fears were confirmed. Migrating would be a horribly long, painful drawn out process. Install fresh copy of SBS on new server, next back up the old server up, finally restore onto the new server. Sound easy? Well - there is a checklist as long as the worlds longest Spaghetti (503 feet just in case you were interested) - detailing exactly at what time, what steps are required to put the server into what correct state for the backup and restore. And remember, while the backup
Now having worked as Technical Director for a web application vendor, for 7 special years, I can’t remember the number of times people used to ’get tough’ with us about the performance of our web application under load. The fact was, that with any web application, heavy load is always going to mean that some sort of ’special’ & ’Not-so-off-the-shelf’ configurations would be called for. And these special configurations would obviously cost time and money to develop and tailor to the customers requirements, and hence the customers disgust at discovering a painful side effect of success in Web 2.0 life.
This of course is a problem which curses any person running off the shelf web products, content management systems, shopping carts etc. Suddenly your site gets a little on the busy side, and your server turns to treacle. It’s natural to want to blame the server guys. And of course the server guys blame the software guys. Sound familiar?
And so we get a call from someone having (what we like to refer to as) ’success’ challenges with a shopping cart package called ’X-Cart’. Basically they found it slow. So slow, that for large periods of time, even viewing the homepage (forget buying) involved making tea. Lots of it. The server people say the servers fine. PHP on the server is fine. What is going on?
After a quick pop into the sickly server in question, we could see that the issues were a little to do with the Application, a little to the Server - but a LOT to do with how requests were being handled between the two. In short, we are looking at a car crash - in a traffic jam.
So we bench X-Cart up in the lab environment. s per usual, we wanted to make this a control test, which is basically load testing the application with absolutely no tweaking of the core services such as PHP & MySQL. We are testing it right off the shelf. As expected, the ’off the shelf’ test of X-Cart didn’t impress.
As you can see in Fig.1 we’re looking at some pretty ’laggy’ scores here. Our ’rush test’ which subjected the applications to almost DOS levels of traffic (100 users with 2 new users every two seconds) managed 4 pages a second, 106 hits / second, and average throughput of 191kb/s and the