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For many, telecommuting is a life saver, but for some it can be a career killer. It often comes down to a mix of corporate tolerance for telecommuting, networking skills, how self-driven the employee is, home vs. work distractions, and finally how well the employee is equipped at home compared to at work.

Cisco has one of the strongest work-from-home programs in the market with over 20,000 employees participating. I think they showcase a best practice on how to enable telecommuting. It breaks down into three levels: Management responsibility/control, company culture and equipment load out.

There are some things I’d likely improve on what they are doing, but theirs is arguably the best telecommuting solution at this scale currently in market.

At the heart of this solution is management control. What I mean is the manager over the employee who is to telecommute has full responsibility for who can participate in the program and in both ensuring they are properly equipped and ensuring that this hardware is returned once the employee leaves or is terminated. Enabling and disabling the hardware is handled by IT and tied into the HR application to ensure that terminations don’t leave security exposures, but the manager closest to the employee is the person who controls the process.

The reason this is important is that telecommuting isn’t for every employee, job or manager. Some employees just can’t function from home. Some jobs require the employee to be present at work, and some managers can’t manage remote workers. This way, the person closest to the situation is the one responsible for ensuring the solution works, and having the manager over the employee make this decision is a best practice.

Granted, this policy should be wrapped with training and regular reviews to make sure management is able to make these decisions from a foundation of knowledge and that mistakes become learning experiences not security exposures.

Cisco is a company brought up around the idea that employees don’t have to be present, and generally, those that are remote aren’t penalized for it. This isn’t true of all companies. Some firms, particularly young firms, often devalue remote employees ,who then are left out of decisions, are passed over for promotions, or are first to be let go during a layoff.

To work, telecommuting has to be valued as a true employee/management option, and the remote employee evaluated must based on accomplishments irrespective of location. If location can’t be factored out or if the remote employees are at far higher risk, the telecommuting program is likely a failure and creating an uncaptured drag on the firm.

Companies like Cisco aggressively endeavor to engage their employees wherever they are, and often you can compare Cisco’s remote employees favorably to those of competitors forced to work in cubicles. Frequently, you’ll find telecommuting employees are not only cheaper, they are both happier (more content) and more productive than those in a cubicle farm.

Generally, I’ve noticed that this works best in highly distributed companies like Cisco because the majority of employees, whether they are in an office or not, are not co-located at the same facility. Remote, therefore, becomes the standard, and the differences between being at a remote office or a home are minimal.

Typically, the goal is to provide a full office at the remote site without a massive amount of support overhead. What Cisco provides, as part of their CVO bundle, is a manager-accessible website to order the hardware, which consists of a Cisco IZP phone/camera and the 881 router which has both trusted (VPN) and untrusted ports. This is shipped to the employee, who then typically plugs the router into their home network and becomes enabled nearly instantly. Their phone looks and behaves just like it would were it in the office, the built in VPN in the router connects their laptop to Cisco’s internal resources as if the employee were on site, and camera on the phone (or an optional external camera) connects the employee back into meetings wherever they may be.

The overall architecture has all of the Cisco 800 series routers connected into an Application Control Engine (ACE), which does load balancing and connects to Cisco’s Aggregation Services Routers, which in turn connect to Cisco’s corporate network. Network access control is part of the solution so that if anyone tries to plug in a non-authorized piece of hardware onto the secure side of the remote router, it will be pushed to the non-secure side of the solution, allowing it access to the web but not any internal Cisco resources.

Fast, easy, and relatively low cost are all major aspects of a well-done telecommuting program and all evident here.

Wrapped with heavy multi-factor authentication and a Varonis-like access control structure, the Cisco telecommuting solution should actually exceed in performance and security what most companies provide to their employees on site. But the hardware is only a part of making this all work, the managers have to own the decision and be trained in how to properly make it, and the culture of the firm has to allow for remote employees to have the same organizational benefits of on-site employees. If all of these elements aren’t in place or this results in a significant new security exposure, the telecommuting effort is likely to fail.

I should point out that being able to telecommute is fast becoming a differentiator for high-profile potential employees, so if you don’t have this sorted, it is likely already having a big impact on acquiring and retaining top talent.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Cloud Computing Allies: Cisco, Vmware, Emc

Executives at the three companies said the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition will “help organizations simplify and accelerate pervasive virtualization and the transition to private cloud infrastructures.”

The new effort includes a joint venture called Acadia, designed to help speed customer build-outs of private cloud infrastructures through “an end-to-end enablement of service providers and large enterprise customers.” In particular, the plan centers around a technology they call Vblocks, which combines virtualization technology from VMware, storage from EMC (NYSE: EMC) and networking equipment from Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO).

Cisco’s CEO John Chambers said goal is to more effectively target the large market for cloud infrastructure and services, which could be worth as much as $350 billion.

VMware (NYSE: VMW), which still maintains a significant lead in the virtualization software market despite increasing pressure from Microsoft, Citrix Systems and a handful of open source players, brings its vSphere product line and installed customer base to the partnership.

EMC, the data storage systems provider, owns 85 percent of VMware, and networking colossus Cisco Systems wants to position itself as the provider of more than just networking gear: It’s increasingly been eying the nuts and bolts infrastructure for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud-based software services.

As more enterprise customers warm to the concept of on-demand data storage, security and applications hosted by another provider instead of footing the bill for expensive self-maintained datacenters, major software vendors are locking down their dance partners to take on the likes of Amazon and Google in the cloud.

“Customers are increasingly looking to virtualization to dramatically improve the performance and flexibility of their existing IT systems,” VMware CEO Paul Maritz said in a joint statement. “Today’s announcement provides a compelling vision and set of roadmaps valuable to any company looking to harness cloud computing in a fundamentally more pragmatic and nondisruptive way.”

Vblocks: A “prix fixe” virtualization menu

Using what the trio is calling Vblock Infrastructure Packages, the alliance members aim to provide enterprise customers with a fully integrated, tested, validated and production-ready infrastructure package that includes virtualization applications, networking software and hardware, computing, storage, security and management applications from all three vendors.

Specifically, the offering includes a combination of Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS), EMC storage and security as well as VMware’s vSphere.

“Vblock is the best of breed from Cisco, EMC and VMware,” EMC CEO Joe Tucci said today during a press conference. “Vblock is like a prix fixe menu: We’ve pre-integrated the solutions and we’re removing risk. We’ll still offer an ‘à la carte’ choice where customers can choose other servers, storage or virtualization — we’re not removing anything, we’re just adding efficiency, control and choice.”

Tucci added that Vblock will be offered in three different configurations, all built for different scale. Vblock 0 is for running 300 to 800 virtual machines, while Vblock 1 will be for 800 to 3,000 machines, and Vblock 2 for 3,000 to 6,000 or more virtual machines.

Company officials also said the vendors aim to grow customer adoption of Vblock systems through a global community of systems integrators, service providers, channel partners and independent software vendors (ISVs).

Intel, which manufactures the Xeon processors predominantly used in the Vblock architecture packages, will also join Acadia as a minority investor, company officials said.

“The purpose of Acadia is to leverage the partner ecosystem that we have,” Tucci said in response to a question from chúng tôi

Industry changing partnership?

According to Tucci, the key to the effort is the fact that customers want a unified experience when it comes to building out clouds, and a simplified way to engage with the three partners.

Cisco CEO John Chambers added that the joint effort is about more than simply offering ‘one throat to choke’ for a customer. In Chambers’ view, the effort is about having a joint roadmap and vision for where cloud computing is going and about providing well-integrated solutions for rapid deployment.

Tucci added that to realize the promise of fully virtualized cloud computing, no one vendor on its own would have sufficed. In his view, only by having the three partners come together can they deliver a truly end-to-end solution.

“Will this change the industry? Time will tell,” Chambers said. “I believe that it will be the partnership that people will look back on and say it changed the datacenter and clouds forever.”

Article courtesy of chúng tôi

Openvms: An Old Dog Still Doing New Tricks

Thought by many to be long since dead and buried, the OpenVMS operating system persists inside many enterprises.

OpenVMS continues to host critical applications, and in some areas such as disaster recovery, it is even enjoying a renaissance.


Despite an avalanche of hype about unsurpassed availability, fault-tolerance and security capabilities in UNIX, Linux and even Windows Server 2003, the OpenVMS operating system is leaving them in the dust in test after test. On top of that, real world examples abound of this unfashionable operating system standing up to the most rigorous disaster scenarios.

One online brokerage, for example, had a full-blown outage right before the start of the trading day. A brand-new security guard heard an alarm emanating from a UPS device and panicked. He hit the emergency power-off button, which took down the whole site. Fortunately, the brokerage had a disaster-tolerant OpenVMS cluster and a second data center 130 miles away with a full complement of servers and complete backup of stored data.

”The company operations continued without a glitch,” says Keith Parris, a disaster recovery specialist at Hewlett-Packard Co. ”They ran through stock market trading that entire day on a single site; powered the first site back up after trading hours were over, and started the data re-synchronization operations required to restore the protection of cross-site data redundancy once again.”

A steady diet of similar stories is convincing Fortune 500 companies to either look again at OpenVMS or postpone their plans to phase out this ”legacy” system.

Surprisingly, the stats of this old OS are impressive.

According to Ken Farmer of chúng tôi the operating system boasts 10 million users worldwide and hundreds of thousands of installations. It also shows annual growth rates of 18 percent over the last few years, and cluster uptimes surpassing the five-year mark. In terms of performance, OpenVMS claims 3,000 simultaneous active users; almost 2 million database transactions per minute (with Oracle); up to 96 cluster nodes (over 3000 processors), and a full cluster capability up to 800 kilometers.

”OpenVMS has moved almost seamlessly from VAX to AlphaServer system and now to HP Integrity Servers,” says Farmer. ”It is bulletproof, genuinely 24/7, disaster tolerant, remarkably scalable, rock solidly stable and virtually unhackable.”

The unhackable claim was validated at the DefCon 9 Hacker Conference where OpenVMS did so well they never invited it back. It beat out NT, XP, Solaris and Linux, and then was graded as unhackable by the best hackers in the business.

Surprisingly, this new-found fame is being championed by relatively few vendors. On the hardware side, Parris says HP offers business continuity products and services that begin with assessing an enterprise’s needs and objectives, and run all the way to full-service data centers and partnerships with niche companies to serve target markets.

International Securities Exchange (ISE) is an HP OpenVMS customer that only adopted it a couple of years ago. It uses HP AlphaServer systems running in an OpenVMS multi-site cluster environment at its New York City headquarters, along with an HP StorageWorks SAN.

”OpenVMS is a proven product that’s been battle tested in the field,” says Danny Friel, CIO at ISE. ”That’s why we were extremely confident in building the technology architecture of the ISE on OpenVMS AlphaServer systems.”

ISE boasts the fastest trading speeds in the industry — less than 0.2 seconds in the New York area. It also has the ability to recover quickly from any failure as it has no single point of failure.

On the software side, a few companies are doing very well servicing OpenVMS clients. Executive Software continues to offer several OpenVMS utilities, such as Diskeeper for OpenVMS, I/O Express, Frag Guard and Filemaster to improve OS performance.

”Some of our Windows customers think we recently brought out an OpenVMS version of Diskeeper, but in actual fact, we built the company on Diskeeper for OpenVMS about two decades ago,” says Justin Robertson, OpenVMS sales manager at Executive Software. ”We are seeing steady sales of new licenses of our OpenVMS products.”

The reason so many big companies are adopting or sticking firmly to OpenVMS is all about the cost of downtime. The bigger you are, the more money you make. And the more critical a few minutes of downtime become, the easier it is to justify a high-end system like OpenVMS.

After all, the perils of a data center crash are horrible indeed. According to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 93 percent of companies that lost their data centers for at least 10 days filed for bankruptcy within a year. Half didn’t even wait that long and filed immediately.

”OpenVMS is probably the best designed and most robust general purpose operating system in existence,” says Colin Butcher, an analyst with consulting group XDelta Ltd. ”There are quite a few complete systems out there with uninterrupted service uptimes in excess of 15 years.”

What Are You Doing For Thanksgiving?: Derek Dellinger

Derek Dellinger, aka the Fermented Man, is a brewer who lives in Beacon, NY. In 2014, he lived off only fermented food for the entire year. He chronicled the experience in a book, The Fermented Man, which will be out in 2023. Dellinger is also the author of a homebrew and craft beer blog. Popular Science spoke with him about his Thanksgiving plans for this year.

What are you eating and/or fermenting for Thanksgiving?

This time last year I was on the last leg of my Fermented Man project, and to be honest I was kind of running on fumes at that point. My family used to have Thanksgiving dinner at my grandma’s house, but now that she’s getting older we’ve been going out to a local restaurant or country club to eat. I was stuck eating grilled cheese at the restaurant, because bread and cheese were the only fermented foods they had.

Later in the day I got to have some beet kvass, which is like a salty, sour tonic that you get from fermenting beets in a jar and then drinking the juice. It’s somewhat of an acquired taste, but I’m personally a big fan of beets — I find their salty, earthy flavor especially enjoyable in the winter months. I also had a fermented carrot, parsnip, and ginger pickle. I packed the ingredients in a jar and let them lacto-ferment so they got tangy and spicy from the ginger.

Beet Kvass

Carrot, Parsnip, and Ginger Pickle

This year I have a normal diet again, so I’ll be eating some of the traditional Thanksgiving things like turkey and gravy. But I have a few new things I want to try. I’ll be making a fermented stuffing with sourdough bread, cultured butter, some kimchi for spice, and maybe some shredded salami or prosciutto. I like taking recipes you’d think of as having nothing to do with fermentation and making them with all fermented ingredients, just to demonstrate how ubiquitous and easy fermentation is. I might also bring some spicy red cabbage sauerkraut home — it’s hearty and should be good for a wintry Thanksgiving meal.

Red Cabbage Sauerkraut

I’m excited about an experimental beer I’ll be drinking this year. Last fall I was fermenting squash from the farm where my brewery is, and noticed a thick film developing on the surface of the liquid. The film, which is called a pellicle, often occurs when you’re brewing sour or wild ales, and is kind of like the SCOBY in kombucha. The squash pellicle looked like the ones I’d get on my sour beers, so I took a culture from the fermenting jar and made beer with it. I didn’t add yeast or anything — I just let the squash and the microbes on them do the work. The result was a spontaneous native beer that I made just using squash from my farm.

I gave the beer about a year to ferment, so it’s ready for this Thanksgiving. It’s a weird beer, with a sour, earthy flavor. I think it’s a cool twist on pumpkin beers, which people often make just by adding pumpkin pie spices to beer. I wanted to do something different by actually using microbes from the squash to make the beer.

Fermented Squash Pellicle

I also have some fermented hard cider and apple brandy. One is a 16%-alcohol, barrel-aged cider. That was definitely one of the weirder cider fermentations I’ve done. I added honey to raise the alcohol content, and aged it in a barrel that had wild yeast in it for about half a year. It’s very dry and smooth, almost like a funky white wine — even though it has 16% alcohol, you can barely taste the alcohol in it.

Cider Aging in a Barrel

So you’re not sick of fermented foods yet?

Not yet! I definitely went to town in January when I could eat everything again, but I’m still making sauerkraut, cider, beers, beets… and I’m always trying new things as I think of them. It’s hard to get sick of fermented foods because they’re so endlessly diverse. They’re already a huge backbone of what we eat on a regular basis, and besides that, you can ferment pretty much anything you want.

Cisco Umi Hd Video Conferencing System For The Consumer Announced

Home Telepresence Product Delivers Amazingly Clear and Lifelike Video Get-Togethers Through Existing HD Televisions

SAN JOSE, CA–(Marketwire – October 6, 2010) – Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) today introduced Cisco umi™ telepresence, a first-of-its-kind consumer product that brings family and friends together in HD video, whether they are around the corner or across the country. Cisco umi connects to an existing HD television and a broadband internet connection to create a video communications experience that is so clear, natural and lifelike, that users will see and hear their loved ones, right down to the twinkle in their eyes and the tone of their voices, as if they were in the same room.

Once Cisco umi is connected to an HD television and a wired or wireless broadband connection, a remote control provides access to an on-screen user interface, through which users can make umi calls, access video messages, manage contacts, and customize their profile and settings. Users can also record their own umi videos, which they can share on Facebook™, on YouTube™, or via email. Users can even keep in touch with people who don’t have umi by placing and receiving video calls from any computer with a webcam and Google video chat.

“Cisco is bringing people together, driving new video experiences that change the way we communicate, connect, and enjoy entertainment — in the home, at work, and on the go,” said John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco. “Cisco umi will bring the unique telepresence experience into living rooms and change the way we are able to be together with family and friends. We envision a future where technologies like this will play a role in connecting consumers with businesses to enable the delivery of new services, ranging from education, to health care, to financial services — to the home.”

“Cisco umi is the ultimate way to capture the simple joys of being together with our distant friends and loved ones, whether they are around the corner or across the country,” said Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of Cisco’s emerging technologies business group. “From singing happy birthday every year to reading bedtime stories every night, umi lets friends and families experience life’s special moments together.”

Cisco is also working with Verizon to bring the umi experience to Verizon FiOS customers early next year. The two companies have been conducting successful trials of Cisco umi over Verizon’s 100 percent fiber-optic network, which delivers what a 2010 chúng tôi reader’s survey rated the fastest Internet speeds in the United States.

“Verizon’s high-IQ networks are incredible incubators of innovation that connect our customers to the things and the people they care about, how and when they want,” said Eric Bruno, vice president, of consumer product management at Verizon. “We plan to be the first service provider to offer Cisco umi to our customers, delivering an amazingly clear and lifelike experience that brings family and friends into your living room.”

Cisco umi Key Features and Benefits

Users enjoy amazingly clear and lifelike full HD experience.

An existing HD television and a broadband Internet connection are all that is needed.

Cisco umi is easy to set up and simple to use — users can be together at the touch of a button.

Video calls can be placed and received on any computer with a webcam and Google video chat.

Users will never miss a umi call with video messages.

Cisco umi videos can be created and then shared on Facebook, YouTube, or email.

Video messages can be checked on-the-go with a laptop.

New video message notices arrive via text on a mobile phone.

From the comfort of the couch, users can pan the room and even zoom in to get up close and personal, or pull back to include the whole family.

Privacy features like call screening and blocking, and a camera shutter that closes, keep users in control of their privacy.

Personalize with a unique video greeting, ringtones, and calling favorites.

The stylish design is a perfect match for the living room and HD television.

Opportunities to see Cisco umi

This fall, Cisco will kick off a major marketing campaign that will offer many opportunities for consumers to see the umi experience:

“The Oprah Winfrey Show” will bring people together on the show via Cisco umi.

A Cisco umi mall tour begins November 10 and travels to more than 20 major malls across the United States, during which consumers will be able to experience live umi demonstrations.

Pricing and Availability

Cisco umi is scheduled to be available for preorder on October 6 from chúng tôi and October 18 from chúng tôi It is scheduled to be available to consumers on November 14 in Best Buy/Magnolia Home Theater stores, chúng tôi and chúng tôi for the suggested retail price of $599 with a monthly fee of $24.99 for unlimited umi calls, video messaging and video storage.


John Chambers discusses the impact of new video experiences like Cisco umi

Cisco umi video overview

Supporting Resources

Cisco umi photos and images

Visit The Platform blog to learn about Cisco umi

Check out the CiscoHome blog for knowledge from Cisco’s umi experts

Search #ciscoumi on Twitter for real-time updates on umi

“Like” Cisco umi on Facebook and enter to win a system for you and a friend

Additional information on Cisco umi™ telepresence

Visit chúng tôi for information on how to pre-order Cisco umi

Galaxy 16 C-Band

Orbital Slot: 99 degrees West Longitude

9 MHz Bandwidth MPEG 2 Digital

4:2:0 Chroma Profile

Transponder 10, Slot A

Downlink Frequency: 3886.5 MHz, Vertical Polarization

Symbol Rate: 6.1113 msps

FEC: 3/4

Vyvx/Level 3 Steele Valley TOC: 800-922-4424

About Cisco

Cisco, the Cisco logo and Cisco Systems are registered trademarks of Cisco Systems, Inc. in the United States and certain other countries. A listing of Cisco’s trademarks can be found at chúng tôi All other trademarks mentioned in this document are the property of their respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company. This document is Cisco Public Information.

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Are Environmental Regulations On Mars Doing More Harm Than Good?

Astrobiologists Alberto Fairen, and Dirk Schulze-Makuch have beef with environmental protection policies. Not here on Earth, that is, but on Mars, where rigid regulations from NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection are holding back potentially life-discovering research, according to the pair’s paper in Nature Geoscience today.

While humans can’t make it to Mars just yet, it’s possible that some microbial spacecraft hitchhikers can survive the journey and make their home on the Red Planet. In fact, it’s probable that they already have. Some Earth life might have also been transferred naturally through meteorites.

Clean Curiosity

NASA engineers work on the Mars rover Curiosity in a clean room to prevent cross-planetary contamination.

NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection would like to minimize the risk of bringing more life to Mars than we bargained for. Its goal is to “promote the responsible exploration of the solar system by minimizing the biological contamination of explored environment,” which seems like a pretty noble goal–the first rule of interplanetary camping is leave your site less Earth-y than you found it.

But Fairen and Schulze-Makuch take issue with the fact that missions exploring “special regions”–places that the Office of Planetary Protection determines could theoretically support either Martian or Earth life–face extra sterilization requirements to ensure that there’s no cross-planetary contamination. These strict guidelines–including working in clean rooms with special airflow requirements and sterilizing spacecraft using dry heat microbial reduction–they argue, make the search for life on Mars too expensive, and curtail exploration. (It’s unclear what kind of extra expense we’re talking, though this clean room price calculator from 2001 makes them seem fairly pricey, at least to build.)

Thus, the scientists recommend, we should cut back on the regulations governing sterilization for orbiter missions and some surface missions, and re-evaluate the sterilization requirements for rover missions seeking to discover life on a case-by-case basis.

“If Earth microorganisms can thrive on Mars, they almost certainly already do; and if they cannot, the transer [sic] of Earth life to Mars should be of no concern, as it would simply not survive,” they write.

Essentially, they say that it’s likely Earth life has already contaminated Mars through meteorite impacts over the past 3.8 billion years, or through past spacecraft visits before sterilization requirements were put in place.

NASA’s spacecraft sterilization began with the launch of the Viking landers to Mars in 1975. Before being sent off into the great unknown, they were cleaned and then placed in essentially a giant casserole dish and baked for 30 hours at 233 degrees Fahrenheit to kill off any lurking microorganisms. But it’s uncertain if the unmanned Soviet missions to Mars and Venus during the period underwent any kind of sterilization. Some scientists say the missions probably deposited some organisms from Earth on those planets. More recently, the Mars rover Curiosity might have brought some Earth microbes on accidentally contaminated drill bits or on its wheels.

If the microorganisms that came to Mars over the past few billion years or during the Space Race didn’t survive, Fairen and Schulze-Makuch write, any new microorganisms probably wouldn’t either. If they did survive, well, the cat’s already out of the bag, and “it is too late to protect Mars from terrestrial life.” A little bleak. They still encourage cleaning spacecraft to prevent confusion between what microorganisms might be earthly in origin and which could be Martian.

And like any good argument, they make the case that scaling back requirements is all about your tax money: “As planetary exploration faces drastic budget cuts globally, it is critical to avoid unnecessary expenses and reroute the limited taxpayers’ money to missions that can have the greatest impact on planetary exploration,” they write. Fewer requirements, cheaper missions.

On the one hand, we’re all for making greater Mars exploration as easy as possible. But then again, we’re already pretty good at contaminating our own planet–maybe we should be strict about what we bring to another.

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