Posts Tagged ‘Cisco’

Apple, Cisco, Dell unhappy over alleged NSA back doors in their gear

January 3rd, 2014

Germany’s Der Spiegel newsmagazine reported Monday that the U.S. National Security Agency has for years compromised a wide range of hardware devices, including PCs, iPhones, hard drives, and network routers, as part of its spying activities. The NSA also installed back doors into European telecom networks and into BlackBerry’s network operations center to spy on communications, the Der Spiegel report says.

The spy agency’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit is alleged to have installed such hidden access methods in a variety of devices from Apple, Cisco Systems, Dell, Huawei, Juniper, Maxtor, Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital, among others. Although the precise methods are unclear, many seem to involve installation of monitoring software or modified firmware — some on devices intercepted in transit from vendors to their customers.

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Apple, Cisco Systems, Dell, and Huawei have all responded publicly expressing concern over the alleged back doors and promising to inform customers of any vulnerabilities found. All said they were unaware of any vulnerabilities or of the TAO program. The Der Spiegel report says the companies did not appear to have cooperated with the NSA to install the back doors, and Apple today said bluntly that it has never worked with the NSA on any such efforts on any products, comparing the NSA to hackers and saying it would “defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them.”

The purported iPhone back door has gained much attention. The NSA slides that Der Spiegel says it obtained show that in 2008 the NSA figured out how to install spyware in the iPhone, though it required hands-on access to the device. The slides claim the NSA was working on ways to remotely install such spyware. It is unclear whether the NSA succeeded in its remote-installation efforts and if so for what versions of iOS.

It’s common for spy agencies to install spyware on specific people’s devices; China’s agents routinely install spyware on Western business travelers’ PCs and mobile devices, for example, and the ongoing revelations by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the U.S. and other major powers spy on others’ citizens as aggressively as the Chinese have long been criticized for doing.

In a statement, the NSA did not deny the spying, and it said any activities it undertakes are limited to foreigners. However, some of Snowden’s revelations have shown that the spying extends to U.S. citizens as well.


Cisco, Violin Memory fund RiverMeadow Software in $12M round

September 4th, 2013

RiverMeadow Software, a startup that helps companies migrate their servers to the cloud, has raised $12 million in a funding round that includes Cisco Systems and Violin Memory as investors.

CEO Mark Shirman earlier this year moved its headquarters to San Jose from Westford, Mass., where it still operates as well. It was founded in 2009.

Cisco in April said it would use RiverMeadow’s tools to help customers move entire server workloads to public, private and hybrid cloud environments.
“This is a significant milestone for RiverMeadow which validates the enormous potential we see for our cloud migration solution,” Shirman said in a prepared statement. “The RiverMeadow Cloud Migration SaaS has already gained tremendous traction and acceptance with many of the world’s largest cloud infrastructure manufacturers and service providers. This latest funding round will allow us to continue to scale the company for future growth by expanding our engineering team and supporting our OEM’s in meeting the growing market demands for cloud migration.”


Cisco CTO Criticises Software-Only SDN

September 3rd, 2013

Noticeably absent was Cisco, which has partnered with VMware in such areas as its Unified Computing System (UCS) converged infrastructure solution, cloud computing and desktop virtualisation, as well as the creation of the company VCE. However, NSX promises to compete directly with Cisco’s Open Network Environment (ONE) SDN effort, leading to renewed talk that what had been a close relationship between Cisco, VMware and storage giant EMC – which owns VMware – is falling apart.

“For all the lip service given to [the Cisco-VMware alliance], that partnership for all intents and purposes is done,” Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, told eWEEK after the NXS announcement, adding that both companies want to be the “control points” in the data centre. “That relationship is all but over.”

VMware executives downplayed any potential conflict with Cisco, and the two companies the next day issued a press release naming several large enterprises that are using joint solutions from both vendors in such areas as private cloud, desktop virtualisation and the data centre.

Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior (pictured), in a post on the company’s blog on 29 August, also pushed back at the speculation, saying that VMware is “an important partner to Cisco, and we expect to continue our close collaboration around private cloud and desktop virtualisation”.

However, Warrior also said the two companies had different views of networking, and that there are significant limitations to VMware’s software-only approach with NSX. With ONE, Cisco is taking what executives say is an application-centric approach.

“Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is an innovative secure architecture that delivers centralised application-driven policy automation, management and visibility of physical and virtual networks,” Warrior wrote. “It’s built upon a fabric foundation that delivers best-in-class infrastructure by combining hardware, software and ASIC innovations into an integrated system. The architecture provides a common management framework for network, application, security and virtualisation teams – making IT more agile while reducing application deployment time.”

Software-based approach

There are a number of problems with software-based approaches to network virtualisation, she said. It doesn’t scale, and on its own, doesn’t provide real-time visibility into both the physical and virtual infrastructure. There’s also a lack of such features as support for multiple hypervisors and integrated security, along with other problems.

“This loosely coupled approach forces the user to tie multiple third-party components together adding cost and complexity in day-to-day operations as well as throughout the network lifecycle,” Warrior wrote. “Users are forced to address multiple management points and maintain version control for each of the independent components. Software network virtualisation treats physical and virtual infrastructure as separate entities, and denies customers a common policy framework and common operational model for management, orchestration and monitoring.”

Businesses want their infrastructures to enable them to more quickly run new services and applications, more easily manage them and to scale as the application demands. Such business needs are best met by tightly integrated software and hardware, she said.

Warrior’s comments echo concerns that some analysts also have about NSX.

“One of the limitations of NSX is that it does try to do everything in software,” Kerravala said, adding that such an approach may be good for such jobs as creating overlays, but makes it more difficult to do such tasks as security.

That is where VMware’s partnerships come in, from networking hardware from HP, Dell and Juniper to solutions with HP and Brocade that will help offer unified visibility into physical and virtual environments to alliances with security firms McAfee, Symantec and TrendMicro.

Opportunity for collaboration

Despite the different approaches of the two vendors, VMware executives said NSX represents another opportunity to collaborate with Cisco.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to continue to build the partnership we have with Cisco,” VMware chief executive Pat Gelsinger told eWEEK. “We’ve had great success in many areas with them. NSX is going to be a great platform for Cisco infrastructure. I’ll point out that the customers we had on stage [at one of the VMworld keynotes] – those are big Cisco customers running NSX in their Cisco environments.”

Gelsinger said that whatever API or SDN service Cisco offers, it will be supported in NSX.

“Because the more value that they deliver in a programmatic way through the infrastructure, the more value we can give to our shared customers,” he said.


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