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Sunbelt W2Knews™ Electronic Newsletter
The secret of those "who always seem to know" - Over 500,000 Readers!
Mon, Dec 3, 2001 (Vol. 6, #92 - Issue #327)
How Fast Are Your Files?
  This issue of W2Knews™ contains:
    • Your Feedback
    • How Fast Are Your Files?
    • MS Releases WinXP Admin Pack Beta
    • IDC: System Infrastructure Tools Do Not Slow
    • Who IS The Weakest Link?
  5. W2Knews 'FAVE' LINKS
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
    • Hackers Challenge
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Your Feedback

Thanks a lot all of you for keeping me on the straight and narrow. Some of you remarked that Microsoft is also into Cable and TV, and that I should not forget they acquired Great Plains so they have a big presence in the vertical market of back office accounting.

I also inserted a wrong link for the fix of the recent badtrans worm. Mea Culpa. I took the one from InfoWorld but that was the wrong one too, so here is the correct link:

See what happens when you have your head in an XBOX? [grin] By the way, would you please answer the new SunPoll?

Q: Would you like to see a dedicated XBOX-news e-zine like W2Knews?

  • Naaah, no time to play
  • Perhaps?
  • Sure!
  • GIMME, GIMME! I already own one and need cheats!
You can vote on the www.w2knews.com, leftmost column: http://www.w2knews.com

Warm regards,

Stu Sjouwerman (email me with feedback: [email protected])

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How Fast Are Your Files?

You know how fast your CPU is, your drives, attached SCSI, the speed of your NICs, and perhaps ever the speed of your RAM, but how fast are your files? Isn't there something missing?

Computer performance is important, it's clear why. After all, that's the reason we keep getting faster processors, faster disk drives, more memory, faster interfaces, etc.

Files (and file performance) is a crucially important part of computers, often forgotten. Much of the actual, useful work performed by systems involves (often extremely frequent) access to files.

So, if computer performance is important, and files are an important part of computers, then maybe we should be looking into the performance of our files. And if we can increase the I/O performance of our files (especially since storage I/O is often the slowest part of the computer), then we should find ourselves with faster computer performance overall.

So, we're introducing a new category of tools here: I/O Monitors. And this is what they do: they allow you to measure and monitor the I/O performance of your files at the file level.

Sure, you can simply assume that, for instance, a faster disk storage subsystem will make your files faster. But do you really know how much faster if at all? That is, got any real and accurate and precise numbers to back up the claims? And if you're wondering, for example, whether or not the added expense is worth it (since better performance usually commands a premium price, then it's good to have the empirical numbers when deciding what to do.

So that's one practical use for I/O Monitors: determining the actual impact (with precise measurements as evidence) of computer system changes on file I/O performance (and overall computer performance). BTW, these system changes include more memory, faster processors, file system structure, etc. besides the storage devices themselves.

A few more examples and uses of I/O Monitors:

  1. How much did that defrag actually help? Given the overhead involved with the defrag, how much did it really reduce the overall response times of your files (or, perhaps better yet, a particular file)? From the other perspective, you can choose to wait to defrag until the max (or perhaps average) response time reaches a particular value. Use category: Identify files with poor I/O performance.
  2. Similarly, maybe you are thinking about purchasing/using a RamDisk, SSD or other high performance storage device. Then you'd probably want to find your hot files (including respective sizes) and place just those select files - and only those files - upon the (usually more expensive) storage solutions. Category: Identify those files requiring high I/O performance. BTW, there are several storage product vendors who are currently using I/O Monitors to help promote and highlight the use of their products.
  3. Back at our customer end of things, it seems that all of this talk about NAS, SAN, iSCSI, etc. is quite confusing to a lot of us. Besides better reliability and availability. etc., many of us just want better file I/O performance (and to take advantage of those 100MB+/sec storage interfaces). So one question is, how much does that proposed NAS, SAN, or whatever "alphabet soup" solution actually help the I/O performance of my files? Benchmarks are nice and can help, but with an I/O Monitor as a complement you can get actual performance numbers using your very own files - as you normally would - when comparing such proposed solutions. Nice if you need to compare different tools for a corporate license.
  4. I forgot to mention above the "Storage Virtualization" buzzword that everyone seems to be talking about nowadays in storage. Once you enter the "virtual storage" ether, who knows (or cares) what drive(s) your files are on? So the utility of measuring/monitoring the I/O performance at the disks becomes more limited; but you will be dealing specifically with files within this ether, so being able to measure and monitor the I/O performance at the file level becomes even more key. Almost mandatory if you are in the process of adopting emerging storage technologies.
  5. Last but not least, there is Quality-Of-Service (QoS). Especially with more outsourcing of storage. With Alert capabilities and System Event Log support, I/O Monitors can help you verify and ensure that required levels of QoS at the level of file I/O performance are being met. Also along these lines, suppose your users call to complain about poor application performance. You can use an I/O Monitor to take a quick look to see if the associated files (and, moreover, which particular files) are experiencing degraded I/O performance (e.g., excessive read and/or write activity, large data transfers, poor response times).
Furthermore, declining file I/O performance might be a hint of pending disk storage problems (and while this is a bad situation, at least you can quickly determine top-down which specific files are being impacted, as opposed to trying to figure out which files bottom-up from the devices). After all, it's really the files that count (with some files being more important than others).

And yes, you may have guessed by now, Sunbelt will come out with such a tool in the near future.


MS Releases WinXP Admin Pack Beta

MS is pushing out Beta 3 of their admin pack for WinXP Pro. It lets you manage W2K Server and Windows .NET Server systems from your XP console. They provided an admin pack called adminpak. e x e for W2K Pro as well, included on a bonus CD that shipped with W2K Server. It is expected that the new Win .NET Server also have one of these puppies. We'll see these Q2, 2002 at the earliest.

As you know, W2K Pro tools do not work well on WinXP, if you are using WinXP in your W2K environment, this needed to be fixed. So, here is the new Beta 3, which likely was ripped out of the Win .Net server code base. Final version? End of this year.

The pack allows you to monitor server event logs; start and stop server services; manage licensing and connections for integrated terminal services; administer Active Directory domains and trusts; administer clustering and load-balancing services on W2K Advanced Server and Windows .NET Advanced Server; and mess with DNS, RRAS and various other admin stuff.

NOTE, this puppy will only properly install on WinXP Pro, Build 2600 nothing else!

IDC: System Infrastructure Tools Do Not Slow

So now that the Pundits have declared the recession official, the recent reports about the computer industry seem more logical. IDC though provided a silver lining to the doom and gloom.

Unlike some of the hardware markets, software sales growth is expected to just slow, not shrink. Companies will still spend more money on software this year than last. IDC claimed that the software market will grow by 6.8 percentage points, a change from its projection of 12% growth for this year. They say the slowdown is caused by the global economic conditions and the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Next year should even be better for software companies. IDC projects that the market will grow by 11.8% - less than the 15% it originally projected ? but better than the 6.8% this year.

If you drill down into market segments, IDC believes app development and deployment software will slow down a bit more than the rest. That category will grow just 4.7% this year versus IDC?s original estimates of 15.2% growth. Applications themselves are a bit less impacted. They will grow 9.4%, rather than 12.7%.

The good news is that IDC believes growth in system infrastructure software growth should approach its original projections next year. It says system infrastructure tools will grow by 11.8% next year. Pretty good news for us admin-types, and great ammo you can use for cost justification requests. It's like I said before, in times like these, tools is what you CAN get budget for!


Who IS The Weakest Link?

Mike Hager, vice president of network solutions and disaster recovery at Oppenheimer Funds Inc. in New York City knows! "Corporations have spent about 80% of their security dollars to protect against outside threats when in fact 80% of ALL attacks come from the inside".

That number may be perhaps between 60 and 80%, but it's the lion's share for sure. Why is such a high percentage of all attacks from the inside? Because, as John Dillinger said, "That is where the access is." The ease of guessing or cracking passwords was demonstrated to Mike Hager recently when he was able to use a common tool off the Internet to crack over 800 of the companies passwords in 3 minutes and all 27,000 in less then 36 hours.

Knowing that hackers can get into your network, and all your employees and contractors are already inside, makes user password security the last and most important line of defense for your valuable company assets. True password security can be achieved only if at the time a password is chosen each is screened in real-time and vulnerable choices are rejected.

Now that you know the scope of the problem what can be done to close this "human" security hole? Unfortunately native Microsoft Window NT and 2000 does not offer a solution. Human nature dictates the people will choose password that they feel are easy to remember. The same features that make the password easy to recall: repeating characters, words or names, user ID, reuse of a favorite, also make these passwords very easy to crack.

Running a password-cracking tool against the company passwords, as Mike Hager did at Oppenheimer, will highlight the severity of the problem, but does nothing to ensure that user passwords are not vulnerable to simple hacking. Users need to be prevented from even selecting weak passwords in the first place.

The brand new Password Bouncer proactively monitors all password changes on your NT/2000 network. Any password selected by a user that does not conform to the highly configurable rules will be rejected. Password Bouncer includes the ability to filter out common words in four languages, over 4000 proper names and a company defined custom dictionary. Password Bouncer installs easily, does not alter the user interface or experience and instantly starts to increase the security of your network. Download a 30 trial version at:


This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

  • Want to hook up your XBOX over the Internet? Way before MS' own planned release for summer 2002. The clincher? It's using a Linux box to do it!
  • If you need to panic, now is a good time [grin] Good security article.
  • Studying for your Accelerated W2K MCSE 70-240 Exam? Here are the latest experiences. You can also subscribe to the Sunbelt MCSE-List which is abuzz with this topic recently. This is the second link.

    Hackers Challenge

    Mike Schiffman has hit upon a great formula for Hacker's Challenge. Rather than try to research, fully understand, and adequately explain attacks that have taken place on other people's networks -- the approach taken by too many writers of books about computer security -- Schiffman lets network administrators and security experts tell their stories first-hand. This is good. What's better is that he has edited each of their war stories into two sections: one that presents the observations the sysadmin or security consultant made at the time of the attack, and another (in a separate part of the book) that ties the clues together and explains exactly what was going on. The challenge in the title is for you to figure out what the bad guys were doing--and how best to stop them--before looking at the printed solution.