ZPE Systems-Not Your Dad’s Console Server

ZPE was a presenter at Networking Field Day 26 and they showed a new approach to an age old networking problem. The old problem being how we’ve had to approach out-of-band networking. A lot of network engineers are familiar with the “build a network to run a network” problem. The costs of disparate management systems have exploded over the past decade and ZPE is on a consolidation path.

Long story short for ZPE Nodegrid is, instead of buying separate firewalls, switching, and console servers — why not run it all in one box? Then let’s throw in compute, make the platform modular, virtualize the security stack, add on cloud management, and boom.. Out-of-band-in-a-box!

Of course this is a bit of an over simplification of what ZPE Nodegrid is, but I hope that helped paint the first part of the picture. Why buy and run all separate components when I can get it all done in 1RU?

Thinking back to all of the out-of-band management systems I’ve worked with, ZPE seems to have addressed some of the biggest problems. One of which is the management and security of the system itself. ZPE is using a secure cloud first approach with their management platform and that’s a thumbs up from the start. I got the impression from their presentation that they really thought with a security first approach and that’s critical for enterprise buyers. The system and solution provides access to one of the most critical and sometimes most vulnerable parts of a device.

Building a modular first platform also shows they understand that there are vast differences in the networks and racks that customers build. I like the fact I can take their Net Services Router and add USB serial ports, compute to run a virtual firewall, and LTE modem. That may be all you need for a edge deployed automation reactor.

Pivoting away from looking at this as only an out-of-band solution, the Net Services Routers are in reality, a full SD-Branch ready platform for Secure Access Service Edge. Prevalidated virtual apps include Palo Alto, Check Point, Fortinet, Juniper, and Netgate. I think it’s a great approach to provide a validated platform and you have the flexibility to bring-your-own SASE.

Adding in a ZPE Nodegrid to connect to isolated networks such as control systems, industrial automation, audio/visual/broadcast may prove to be one of the most useful ways to bring in secure automation management. Nodegrid with ZPE Cloud will connect all the dots and provide easy and secure access to those networks.

Control, security, and flexibility are the three things I keep coming back to. I haven’t seen this amount of flexibility in any device from the competitors. ZPE looks positioned very well to become the leader in this space.

Link to ZPE Systems

Airvine WaveTunnel 60Ghz Indoor Backhaul

Airvine comes to life at Networking Field Day 23! They’ve been operating for quite some time and it was NFD23 where we see their big idea moving towards the public stage.

Their big idea is pretty simple, but it won’t be an easy execution. How do I get a network backbone to places where wiring isn’t feasible or even possible? In some scenarios you could force the issue of running wires, but if I can get nearly the same with wireless, then why not do that?

The Airvine WaveTunnel product will be positioned to do exactly that. Get an indoor up-link with 60ghz radios in a dual ring configuration. It’s not mesh Wifi and in fact it’s barely Wifi at all. WaveTunnel may have more in common with Ethernet and SONET than anything else. This indoor wireless system has an open range of 100m and it should easily beam through commercial drywall. I can think of some manufacturing floors where I needed to reach remote IDFs and this would’ve made a lot of sense. Airvine should also be able to build a use case for sports arenas.

Airvine still has challenges to solve before their first customer ship. They have an RF and Ethernet stack to complete while vendor interoperability will become a sticking point. It’s going to have to interact with spanning tree at some point and that’s just one place it will get interesting. We’ll find out those details down the road.

Beaming 60ghz through materials is more of a “Science!” problem than a networking problem. I think Airvine needs to invest in some materials science quality assurance and publish many real world test cases. The customer education cycle will need real world examples to immediately push through “Can it beam through X?”. Otherwise their entire sales cycle will be talking about concrete, metal, and water.

It’s certainly an interesting road ahead for Airvine and I’m looking forward to following their journey.

Learn more: https://airvine.com/
Youtube: https://youtu.be/-AsaijS-RGM

Getting Lost at Networking Field Day

This year is certainly one for the record books and especially so on the personal front. 2020 has been full of twists, turns, overuse of the word “unprecedented”, crisis management, and modern day urban survival.

What’s in store around the corner? Networking Field Day 23! I’m super excited this go around for #NFD23 and the opportunity to be fully engaged. It’s been easy to get lost this year with everything going on around us. I’m hoping to get my brain back into high gear and NFD23 is the super-fuel rocket boost out-of-this-world content explosion we all need. Well, I need anyway, your mileage will vary.

So what in the world does this have to do with getting lost? A short while ago I update the title of this blog to Foggy Bytes. It’s somewhat odd, but a play on a few things we deal with in the context switching world of networking, information technology, and our brain-fog aftermath. Human context switching is a productivity killer and generally speaking we’re having to do it on a hourly basis. We’re dealing with new projects, support issues, business changes, technology changes, and I overheard you shout “network automation” on the other side of this screen. So we’re left in this constant fog, if you will, of bytes-in and bytes-out through the fog of it all. I also relate to the blog title with a backdrop of imposter syndrome. We get the bytes moved, but not exactly sure of all the steps we took to get there or why we were chosen.

I’m also happy to say that my former “no media” policy has expired! Yay! I can have an opinion again! Not that I ever stopped having one, but now I can blog them again. If you’re changing jobs and you’re into any sort of content creation, even casually, be sure to understand any policies you may be subject to at your new position. I may even take some time to revisit NFD21 content and do some “where are they now” hot takes.

Networking Field Day 23 has an impressive line up and I’m looking forward to hear from everyone.

NFD23 is like a fresh Computer Shopper so be sure to follow along with us September 29–October 2, 2020 https://techfieldday.com

Subscribe to the channel! https://www.youtube.com/c/Techfieldday

Follow me on Twitter for live hot takes during #NFD23