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Transforming Your Cloud with HCI


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Over the Christmas holidays, I went on the usual trek with my mother in the beautiful Slieve Bloom Mountains in the middle of Ireland. It’s something she does every week, heading out early in the morning to slip and slide in the mud, count trees and enjoy the fresh air, coming back with nothing but new blisters and 20+ km under her belt. Every time I go home, I always end up spending half a day with her on some forlorn mountain or canal path, enjoying some quality time and a respite from the craziness of Manchester. The thing about my mother is that, regardless of being an avid trekker for over a decade now, she gets us lost, every time, without fail. I knew this, even as we planned the loop we’d walk, even when she kitted me out with all her walking gear, and even as we set out on that chilly morning. It’s daunting, going out in the wilderness with her terrible navigation skills and a couple of paper maps- how old school- just knowing that those two hours we’d planned on would end up being double. Sure enough, four and a half hours later, red-faced and exhausted, we finally got back to the car, just in time for the sunset. And that was without getting lost!

It’s the exact same thing with your cloud journey. From where you’re standing now, it looks like an impossible trek, a steep trail that leads into the whiteness of the clouds. It’s so much more complicated than plucking some whisps from the air and staking your claim. There are so many different aspects to consider, from finding the right solution designer and designing it, to actually deploying your apps/desktop/files and all of the bits in between without causing your company hundreds of thousands of pounds in downtime. And you have to be an expert in every single bit. But unlike our water-logged orientation maps, getting to your cloud destination is as easy as taking out Google Maps. Or, as we call it in the world of digital transformation; Hyper-Converged Infrastructure.

When you’re looking at digital transformation by adopting a cloud operating model, it’s important to simplify your IT infrastructure- and that’s where HCI comes in. It integrates compute, storage, networking virtualisation and management from a single plane to make it easier for you to reduce administrative tasks. It creates the foundation for your modern data centre and private cloud architecture, sort of like a map on which you add the little details; a ridge over here, a cliff over there….

But how do you know if you find the right HCI solution? People always say ‘oh you always have your head in the clouds’ like it’s a relaxing thing- it’s not. We were literally walking in the clouds for a majority of those four and a half hours and all it did was obscure the view, drown my hair and dissolve my eyebrows clean off (a very scary sight, let me tell you). But when you’re in the thick of your cloud journey, it isn’t so bad. Look for a HCI solution that combines simplicity, reliability, predictable performance and scalability to turn that misty blob into a fluffy ecosystem that feels like cotton candy and tastes like doughnuts (I can’t promise on the doughnuts).

Here at Cetus, when it comes to cloud we recommend VMware’s vSAN. It offers an exceptional storage solution and it provides a sunny, clear path to an organised, modern virtual infrastructure, so that you don’t start your cloud journey looking into a dark forest of unknowns. It doesn’t require additional software and it consolidates all of your data centre functions to reduce that pesky complexity, while abstracting compute, storage and networking resources. Combining direct-attached storage devices, vSAN forms part of a vSphere cluster that creates a distributed, shared data store. Its HCI that reduce the issues regarding complexities and incompatibilities of traditional data centres while offering a software-defined approach to control and manage your virtual data centre environment.

When my mother gets lost on the rocky face of the mountain, she has no one to rely on but herself. Or sometimes me, but I’m useless without a phone signal. Starting your cloud journey doesn’t have to be a dreaded first step into the gloom, and you don’t have to do it alone. With the Cetus team behind you, feel confident that no matter what ravine lies ahead we’ll guide you around them and straight to the cloud without fail. If you want to hear more about VMware and maybe pick our experts’ brains on the best way to get your cloud journey mapped out clearly and easily, make sure to register for our Transform Your IT Strategy with VMware workshop at the end of this month, and sprint ahead of your competition in 2019.

Speak to an expert

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

Blog, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, News, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized, VMware

VMworld 2018 Keynote


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So here we are at VMworld 2018 in Barcelona for VMware’s 20th anniversary and the 10th annual VMworld in Europe. With just under 12,000 attendees, the relevance and importance of the VMware strategy in helping businesses of all sizes grow and transform is clear to see everywhere you go. Pat Gelsinger took to the stage to layout his views and VMware’s strategy highlights for the coming years. For those that have not made it to VMworld before, the main keynote is quite high level and is followed by a number of ‘showcase’ keynotes that focus on the core areas of the VMware portfolio such as Security, Hybrid Cloud and EUC etc.

Pat showed how VMware has constantly driven to help businesses bridge gaps between innovation silos and highlighted three key ‘acts’ in the VMware history:
1. Server virtualisation
2. BYO/EUC
3. Networking
The message that organisations need to deliver both profit, as well as look after its people was clear; a fully engaged workforce will lead to innovation and transformation, which will lead to a more profitable business.

Technology should be a force for good in the world and that is what VMware is driving for in everything it does (The Mercy Ships case study was very powerful). Pat spoke about four tech superpowers in the world today (Cloud, Mobile, AI/ML, and Edge/IoT) and how each of them reinforces and drives the others. VMware sees the application as a network that requires an end-to-end platform to enable it. The VMware vision image below has been consistent across four core strategies for a number of years now;
• Modernise Datacenter
• Integrate Public Cloud
• Empower Digital Workspaces
• Transform Networking and Security
The ability for an organisation to deploy hybrid cloud and digital workspace solutions that are integrated from a single vendor drives simplification and reduces costs.

vmworld 1.jpg

At Cetus our mission is to help our customers deliver on their strategic mission by delivering hybrid cloud and secure digital workspace solutions, we believe that every organisation must embrace technology as a force for change and transformation. The VMware portfolio from vSphere to NSX onto Workspace One and out to Vmware on AWS means we can deliver on our mission from a single integrated technology stack.

There were a wealth of announcements in the keynotes, and while I’m not going to try and cover them all here, I just wanted to pick a few highlights.

Security
Pat talked about how the security solutions we deploy today are broken, as bolt-on options that are chasing a bad situation without a fundamental shift in protection levels. This is shown by record spending on security solutions, and also a record number of breaches.

VMware started to address this with NSX, moving the security enforcement from the North/South boundaries to cover the bulk of East/West traffic, and as such the micro-segmentation market emerged. While this takes security to a new level, it is still based on set policies and known interactions between services within the datacenter. VMware is taking this to the next level with the introduction of vSphere Platinum Edition that integrates the app defence solution into the vSphere licence. The combination of AppDefense and NSX allows VMware to deliver what it has now coined ‘Adaptive Segmentation’, allowing admins to deliver a step change in the security paradigm. The Adaptive Segmentation concept follows three key steps:
• Learn
• Lock
• Adapt

Rather than chasing after threats, AppDefense learns an application’s intended state and behaviour, then monitors for changes to this state that indicates a threat. When a threat is detected, AppDefense can automatically respond. Leveraging this known ‘good state’ allows policy to lock down the datacenter (NSX offering network-level automation) and then adapt as needed to changes in state. This deep integration allows for a shift in the overall security paradigm.

The focus on security across the VMware portfolio is really beginning to shine and deliver real value for customers.

Any Cloud
All businesses are on a journey to a hybrid/multi-cloud world and the need to automate and secure this transformation is key. VMware is innovating in both the datacentre and EUC spaces to ensure this journey is seamless, secure and cost-effective for all.

In the datacenter space, the need for a seamless path to and from cloud/on-premises is the key to allowing an organisation to unlock the power of its investment in infrastructure services. The ability to deploy to either on-premises or cloud and move between them seamlessly as costs and needs evolve ensures IT can meet businesses’ needs at all times. This needs to be enabled via a ruthless drive for automation, which the announcements of VMware Cloud Foundation 3.5 addresses by ensuring that enterprise IT teams can deploy private cloud with the same management and automation as cloud. Cloud Foundation underpins the hybrid cloud, both on-premises and as part of VMware on AWS- truly enabling this seamless hybrid cloud. With new VMware on AWS regions opening over the next 6-9 months, the reach will be truly global. Checkout my follow up blog from the datacenter showcase keynote for more details.

The message was clear that the future of cloud infrastructure will be hybrid and that VMware has delivered a true end-to-end solution. The acquisition and integration of Cloud Health extends this capability by providing a cloud operations platform that allows customers to understand costs and compliance across multiple clouds.

Any App
The Workspace One solution has been the stable leader in the MDM space for many years and over the last couple has evolved into a complete UEM (unified endpoint management) solution that supports mobile, Mac, Windows and Chrome end points. Providing users a simple, consistent and secure access method for all applications and data on any device, while ensuring that IT retain control of the full lifecycle of the devices. One big announcement was a joint partnership with OKTA to extend the Workspace One Identity Management solution and provide full user/device lifecycle management and automation. IT can now truly step away from the job of deploying endpoints, allowing technology to provide a simple user-driven workflow.

Enhancements to the Workspace One solution continues to demonstrate this market-leading position. Look out for my follow up blog from the EUC showcase keynote covering items Like Workspace One Intelligence and what COPE stands for.

So this ran on a bit longer that I expected; lots to talk about in what was actually a rather uneventful keynote by VMware’s standards. Most of this due to them splitting out 6 ‘showcase’ keynotes over the two days that focus deeper into the entire proposition. Stay tuned for follow up posts from more sessions. In the meantime, we’re delighted to announce a free webinar on the key takeaways from VMworld that I’ll be hosting. Register here to get all the highlights from VMware and what to expect in 2019.

Register for the webinar

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Check Point, Cloud, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Security, VMware

WannaCry: What We’ve Learned One Year On


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It felt like the world was held to ransom. All over the globe – an astounding 150 countries in fact -, little red boxes popped up on computer screens, causing dread and havoc. ‘Ooops, your files have been encrypted!’ they read, asking for between $300 and $600 (£230 to £470) in bitcoin for the safe release of the files. On Friday May 12th 2017 nations of the world collectively gasped as these faced the most devastating and widespread cyber security incident at that time. Over 200,000 machines were affected, with the perpetrators scamming over $112,000.

In Britain, the NHS was hit the hardest. The little red WannaCry pop-up appeared at 1pm on the screens of only four trusts, demanding the ransom. By 4pm, when the ‘kill switch’ was accidentally found, it had spread to 16 trusts. The cyber-attack threat was officially ‘stepped down’ by NHS England a week later, but not before the affected reached a staggering 80 out of 236 hospital trusts as well as 603 primary care and affiliate NHS organisations. Public health in the UK was seriously affected, since the ransomware attack resulted in thousands of cancelled appointments, infected systems and the diversion of A&E patients to other hospitals.

In hindsight, and a little bit of digging, it was a disaster waiting to happen. The NHS had been warned as far back as 2014 that their level of cyber security just wouldn’t cut it. With a failure to undertake the most basic of IT security procedures, which included patching and updating software, as well as not putting a strategy in place to properly deal with a cyber security incident, it’s a miracle that it didn’t happen sooner. But it was a huge wake-up call, not only to the NHS but to businesses globally. No longer would cyber security rest on the hopes of a flimsy firewall that hadn’t been updated in several years – this is a real risk, with significant consequences. So, in the year since WannaCry, what exactly have we learned?

It’s horrifying to think that WannaCry was a Gen-V cyber threat, while according to Check Point’s Cyber Security Generations Survey from March 2018, only 10% of IT security professionals are at Gen-IV and, worse still, only 3% are at Gen-V.

According to a recent report by cyber security firm Tanium, most organisations would still be unprepared should another incident like WannaCry happen again. The survey of 500 frontline IT security workers in the UK is shocking; 40% admit that their organisation is even more exposed than last year. Only 31% confessed that their organisation had invested in new security systems since WannaCry. As I stated already slightly higher up, it was basic IT security procedures that were the gateway for WannaCry, yet a staggering 66% of the IT security workers admitted that they still hadn’t improved their patch management process.

The results are definitive; it’s time to start safeguarding against further, potentially more devastating, cyber-attacks.

It’s all about the patching
WannaCry sneaked through a Windows weakness where there was a lack of security. Shockingly, it had been discovered and there had been a patch for the offending loophole two months before the attack. I know having to update is a major pain, but guys, it just needs to be done. WannaCry was a Microsoft Windows ransomware, a software that locked the files by encrypting them. This particular ransomware was particularly nasty because it was network enabled, which allowed it to essentially spread like a virus throughout not only the local network, but the internet as well. What your organisation needs right now is a patch management solution in place to patch for known vulnerabilities as soon as they arise, so that no little malware buggers can infiltrate your systems.

Backup, backup again, and verify
Had your organisation been hit with the WannaCry malware and you’d had all of your data backed up, you’d have been laughing – for the most part. Regardless of encrypting malware potentially hitting you, backups are critical for all things disaster recovery and business continuity. Whether it be tape or cloud (like Cetus Continuum), all of your data needs to be replicated somewhere safe. Regardless of where you store it (and we really do suggest cloud), it should all be encrypted. Security is, after all of this, a priority.

Use all of the threat intelligence and prevention
If you haven’t heard, micro-segmentation is really in right now. Which is really great in the face of cyber security. Life may be like a box of chocolates, but your data centre needs to be more like a hotel and protect itself from east/west traffic. This next point is important; invest in some good threat intelligence and threat security. At the moment, we’re working with Check Point and VMware to highlight how merging Infinity and NSX can create the ideal security solution to protect you.

Figure out where you stand with a security posture review
There are hundreds of ways to fall foul of a cyber-attack in this day and age. With work no longer confined to the office, mobile workspaces have become all the rage – and for good reasons. Being able to work while on the field instead of having to wait to get back to the office, being able to work from home, or just simply being able to sort out an urgent matter when on holiday is revolutionary. And everyone’s trying to get into it. However, using some random Wi-Fi is always a risk. Honestly, you’ve not lived until you stand outside an O2 store trying to rob a second of Wi-Fi to send an email. In the rain. But how secure is that? A security posture review is essential to identify where your security has slipped. And it just so happens that we offer complimentary security posture reviews, where we analyse network traffic to detect a variety of security threats, evaluate end-point security, assess any threats that lurk in your infrastructure as well as other crucial little things. Have a chat with our experts to see where the danger can find a way in.

One thing is for definite; cyber security has never been so important, and making sure that your IT reflects that is the way to protect yourself as much as possible from an attack. It’s important to be proactive in your cyber security, or you’ll be reacting to a security breach instead.

Speak to an expert

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

Award, Blog, Cetus Solutions, IT Solutions, News, Uncategorized, VMware

Going Above and Beyond with VMware


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It’s been an incredible start to 2018 for Cetus. You may recall a recent blog when we announced that we earned VMware’s highly sought-after competency in Network Virtualisation– now we can proudly declare that we have been recognised as the VMware Rising Star of the Year 2018!

After being nominated and shortlisted earlier on this year, we were holding our collective breaths as a small group of Cetus elite travelled to London beneath sunny skies on the 18th of April. The prestigious VMware awards were presented at the 8th Partner Recognition Dinner in the Amba Hotel in Charing Cross- very fancy altogether.
VMware hosts the annual awards as recognition for those partners in the UK who have gone above and beyond in the field of IT solutions and are key to the growth and success of the major vendor- so of course we’d at least be nominated! That being said, we knew that we’d be up against some very tough competition. But we rose above the other nominees, having proven that Cetus are one of the best in the delivery, service and support to users of VMware solutions.

The Rising Star award recognises Cetus Solutions as a quality provider of VMware, going farther than most to design a bespoke solution to fit your business and be there for you when any problems arise. It guarantees excellent service, from the moment you start researching the answer to your IT problems, all the way through to its the implementation and beyond.

“We are delighted to win the award for Rising Star 2018 at VMware’s prestigious UK&I Partner Recognition Dinner. For us, the award celebrates what has been a fantastic year helping our customers to transform their organisations with market-leading technologies from VMware. The award recognises our continued investment to achieve and maintain the highest levels of technical competency, knowledge and experience across VMware technologies to ensure we deliver first-class solutions, service and support for our customers.” said Claire Gibson, Head of Marketing and Strategic Vendor Alliances, who went to London to collect the award.

“It is a great honour to be recognised by VMware as the Rising Star for 2018 with our focus on the NSX / VSAN solutions. Cetus have been working with VMware since the early days of GSX/ESX Server virtualisation platforms and continue to develop customer solutions based on proven technologies. The award is a great testament to my team’s commitment and this recognition is proudly received,” said Managing Director Mike English.

If you want to work with VMware’s brightest star to solve your IT solution challenges, speak to one of our experts today. Alternatively, our free-of-charge security posture review will provide you an opportunity to discuss your endpoint security challenges, as well as your wider cyber security posture with regards to perimeter, data centre and cloud components.

Speak to an expert

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

Blog, Cetus Solutions, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Security, Uncategorized, VMware

When ‘Traditional’ Approaches to Security Are No Longer Enough…


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Security attacks are without doubt increasing in sophistication and frequency. With the average time to detect a breach over 200 days(!) the damage an attack could cause is frightening… Simultaneously, for many organisations their IT infrastructure and networks are becoming increasingly complex – with 83% of businesses believing the complexity of their organisational structures and IT infrastructure is putting their companies at even greater risk for security breaches.

In recent years, the number of high-profile data breaches compromising sensitive information has continued to rise. Although breaches were achieved in different ways, the majority exposed the fundamental weakness of the perimeter-centric network security model: after all, once the perimeter is breached, it is difficult to stop threats from moving laterally (east-west) throughout the data centre. These attacks have proven that investing in perimeter firewalls is insufficient and that more investment is needed to secure east-west (server-to-server) traffic.

One solution is virtualisation. Virtualisation abstracts the underlying infrastructure from the applications running on top of it, giving IT departments full visibility into the data path. Abstracting applications from the infrastructure provides the ideal enforcement point to compartmentalise applications through micro-segmentation of the network. This allows simplified security-policy creation and management. It also helps reduce the overall application infrastructure attack surface and provides the ability to effectively prevent threats from breaching the data centre. Leveraging abstraction in the data centre also protects the infrastructure from any compromise.

In our attempt to help more organisations improve their security posture, we are proud to announce that last year Cetus Solutions earned VMware’s highly sought-after specialist competency in Network Virtualisation. VMware, who pioneered the term software-defined data center (SDDC), awarded Cetus with the accolade after demonstrating technical competency, experience and expertise in delivering NSX solutions.

VMware NSX is the network virtualization and security platform for the software-defined data center. VMware NSX brings security inside the data center with fine grained policies tied to the virtual machine they protect. Essentially, with NSX, IT departments can programmatically create, snapshot, store, move, delete, and restore entire networks with the same point-and-click simplicity and speed of a virtual machine—delivering a level of security, agility, and availability never before feasible with hardware-centric or traditional operational approaches.

Our Managing Director, Mike English, had a few words on the achievement;

“We are delighted to have secured the Network Virtualisation competency from VMware. In the last twelve months, we have seen an uplift in conversations centred around data center security and particularly micro-segmentation. VMware NSX’s capabilities makes this level of protection economically and operationally feasible for the first time for a lot of customers. By gaining this competency, it shows our commitment to helping customers define, deliver and manage their security strategy in line with their business requirements.”

With the threat landscape increasing ‘traditional’ security approaches are failing to effectively secure a modern organisation. Now is the time to revaluate your approach to security. Our free-of-charge security posture review will provide you an opportunity to discuss your endpoint security challenges, as well as your wider cyber security posture with regards to perimeter, data centre and cloud components.

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Blog, Our Upcoming Events, Security, Technology, Uncategorized, VMware

Micro-segmentation; As Easy as Stealing Candy From a Baby


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I often feel that trying to come up with a good metaphor is a bit like herding cats. I know; I’ve used a simile to describe the difficulty of creating a metaphor; but that’s kind of my point. As is the case with my latest blog requirement: Micro-segmentation. You see; VMware have already nailed it with their ‘Hotel & Castle’ metaphor for VMware NSX.
It just works…

It goes like this:

1. Think of your perimeter security as your ‘castle’. A solid wall of impenetrable protection with only one way in and out (your firewall). This is your ‘North/South’ traffic protection.

2. Think of what happens when your castle walls are breached: burning, pillaging, looting; all sorts of terrible things. That’s because your protection is facing ‘outwards’. Once in; your internal (East/West) traffic is unprotected and susceptible to pillaging. Now I’m not sure what ‘pillaging’ is, but the metaphor implies that your servers are now vulnerable.

3. Now think of a hotel. You can stroll in without being challenged (usually). But once you’re in you can only access public areas. If you need to get into staff areas, rooms, gyms or whatever; you’re going to need a keycard that grants you access to a particular subset of private areas.

That’s what micro-segmentation does – well, metaphorically at least. In theory, I now only need a short statement to align the metaphor with your data centre; so here goes: Micro-segmentation provides hypervisor level, layer 4 protection for east/west traffic within your data centre; preventing cyber threats from spreading once they’ve breached your perimeter security. Clever stuff!

I think it’s fair to say that my description above is somewhat simplistic. The good news is that our VMware NSX certified experts can explain it properly to you. Our free-of-charge security posture review will provide you an opportunity to discuss your endpoint security challenges, as well as your wider cyber security posture with regards to perimeter, data centre and cloud components.

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Directors-9619Paul Kiveal – Business Development Director
Paul works with business leaders, helping combine strategic objectives with innovative technical solutions, developing inspirational new IT platforms that transform the way technology powers organisations.