Lee H. Badman

Network Computing Blogger

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Where the Cloud Touches Down: Simplifying Data Center Infrastructure Management

Thursday, July 25, 2013
10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET

In most data centers, DCIM rests on a shaky foundation of manual record keeping and scattered documentation. OpManager replaces data center documentation with a single repository for data, QRCodes for asset tracking, accurate 3D mapping of asset locations, and a configuration management database (CMDB). In this webcast, sponsored by ManageEngine, you will see how a real-world datacenter mapping stored in racktables gets imported into OpManager, which then provides a 3D visualization of where assets actually are. You'll also see how the QR Code generator helps you make the link between real assets and the monitoring world, and how the layered CMDB provides a single point of view for all your configuration data.

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A Network Computing Webinar:
SDN First Steps

Thursday, August 8, 2013
11:00 AM PT / 2:00 PM ET

This webinar will help attendees understand the overall concept of SDN and its benefits, describe the different conceptual approaches to SDN, and examine the various technologies, both proprietary and open source, that are emerging. It will also help users decide whether SDN makes sense in their environment, and outline the first steps IT can take for testing SDN technologies.

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ZigBee: A Different Wireless Technology

In a world where even the least tech-savvy of users is starting to understand terms like gigabytes and SSID, there are still wireless frameworks that are far from mainstream. ZigBee is a utilitarian and somewhat different wireless technology that isn't on most people's radar--yet.

Back in the late 1990s, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were getting off the ground as adventurous clients rapidly latched on to the power and portability that comes with cutting the cord. Both have evolved as mainstays in the consumer and business worlds alike, and the future continues to look sunny for each. At roughly the same time, another group of wireless-minded folks had sensor networks and building controls in mind. For various reasons, neither Wi-Fi nor Bluetooth were a good fit, and ZigBee was born.

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I recently caught up with Bob Heile, who chairs the ZigBee Alliance. Like his colleagues at the Wi-Fi Alliance, Heile's organization is charged with both interoperability testing and certification, as well as driving its part of the wireless world forward. Heile shared the skinny on ZigBee's roots, what makes it advantageous in the right situation, and why consumers should develop an awareness of this oddly named wireless technology.

From a technical perspective, ZigBee's core strengths are the use of very low power, the ability to dynamically form large (sometimes huge) wireless mesh topologies and ridiculously long device battery life, compliments of IEEE 802.15.4 underpinnings. Low cost and low complexity have made ZigBee a solid fit for home automation, building systems' management and medical instrumentation and control. Behind the ZigBee gateway that can interface the topology to a "regular" IP network lives a curious realm of 64-bit MAC-addressed devices that communicate using standards-based protocols that are elegant but unknown to most networkers.

Heile explained how ZigBee may not be flying under the radar for very much longer, now that the Internet of Things gets a fair amount of media mention and machine-to-machine connectivity pushes wireless in new directions. Smart energy is one of the main growth markets for ZigBee devices, and there has been some penetration into the consumer electronics space. (The Sony Bravia television line may be the most well known.)

Right now, ZigBee systems are mostly spun up by professional installers and service providers. As lighting controls and HVAC systems are provisioned in commercial spaces, wireless control has become fairly common. Cable companies are using ZigBee for remote diagnostics and programming of in-home components (unbeknownst to most customers). But Heile also predicts a day when consumers are better in touch with smart energy and self-installed ZigBee home devices, to the point where a bigger market drives down prices, hooks more device makers and raises ZigBee's overall footprint in the wireless world.

Though ZigBee does work in the same 2.4 GHz spectrum as 802.11g/n Wi-Fi devices, it is built to be non-contentious. This is as important as any practical functionality that ZigBee provides, as the 2.4 GHz space continues to be flooded with devices that chip away at Wi-Fi's performance in this busy band.

Sure, a ZigBee dimmer switch may not be as sexy as an Amazon Kindle or some other wireless device, but it has the market cornered on name cuteness. And as residences and commercial buildings alike get smarter, ZigBee will continue to play a leading role.

Disclaimer: I have no business relationship with the ZigBee Alliance.

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