Q2 3013

The CEO’s Corner

You know times have changed when most IT organizations are well down the virtualization road. I can remember just a few years back when most were behind on their optimization goals. Many have virtualized the priority workload list and are moving further down their IT bucket list to tackle the next tier.

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Customer Spotlight

Masstech logo

In each edition of TrendSetter, the Customer Spotlight segment is designed as one way to facilitate networking by and between appropriate Datatrend clients and partners, and a way for them to illuminate their offerings to the marketplace. Networking is a great way to develop new relationships, clients, and friends, and we hope this segment is of value to our readership. In this issue, our spotlight segment features one of Datatrend’s Technology Infrastructure Solutions customers, Masstech.

[ Read the full article ]


Datatrend Run Book Service

Cloud computing has caused a paradigm shift in how IT services are delivered and consumed, and has rapidly evolved to be the new normal delivery model for IT services. Due to its overwhelming agility and economic advantages, cloud computing has become a strategic area of focus for CIOs and other stakeholders within organizations.

[ Read the full article ]


IBM Scores Again with its Acquisition of Texas Memory Systems

Founded in 1978, Texas Memory Systems (TMS) designs and sells solid state memory solutions as the RamSan family of shared rack mount systems and Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) cards. The products are designed to help companies improve system performance and reduce such critical issues in the data center as server sprawl, power consumption, cooling, and floor space requirements. Leveraging such solutions can help organizations save money, improve performance, and invest more in innovation.

[ Read the full article ]


Mobile POS: Changing the Way We Do Business

According to the National Retail Federation, on January 30,1883, James Ritty and John Birch received a patent for inventing the first cash register. Since then, fixed retail POS devices have been efficient and effective for many types of retailers.

[ Read the full article ]


Tech Tip: IBM ServeRAID Battery Backup Unit Maintenance and Care

One of the most common pieces of hardware in any type of enterprise class server will be a RAID controller. In IBM hardware, the IBM ServeRAID controller usually provides that function. Up until recently the ServeRAID controller data was backed up by a battery that provided power to the card in the event of a power failure or other failure that may have prevented the card from writing it’s cached data to the hard disk drives attached to it.

[ Read the full article ]


The CEO’s Corner

Mark Waldrep

You know times have changed when most IT organizations are well down the virtualization road. I can remember just a few years back when most were behind on their optimization goals. Many have virtualized the priority workload list and are moving further down their IT bucket list to tackle the next tier.

To assist organizations in identifying candidate workloads prime for consolidation and/or virtualization, Datatrend Technologies offers a variety of assessment and tool options to consider.

Linux continues to gain operating system share in the marketplace. Developers are comfortable with the various Linux development aids.
Given the very favorable pro developer aids with Linux, some are not aware of progress being made with UNIX in trying to attract development consideration. Take AIX for example. IBM has a section found within its website that is designed for developers that contains a wealth of information; you can visit that site here:

http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/aix/

Recently, IBM further improved price performance from 16% to 60% (depending on model) in the 710/720/730/740 POWER server line segment. These improvements are attributable to moving to the POWER 7 Plus chip set. POWER 7 Plus is also responsible for improving the performance of the 750 by 26% while decreasing cost by 21%.

Shockingly, IBM POWER is demonstrating Linux leadership in the SAP-SD2-tier performance segment; see this IBM supplied chart to learn more.

As of this writing, the next set of IBM POWER hardware platform announcements is currently set for August 6. Datatrend Technologies will shortly thereafter host a combined POWER and AIX user group webinar. We will notify all TrendSetter subscribers and Datatrend AIX/POWER user group members in sufficient time to plan and register for the webinar.

Speaking of AIX again, an important feature to highlight is the ability for AIX to seamlessly grow and shrink by leveraging PowerVM in response to workload changes. One of the most difficult (or impossible) things for IT managers to predict are workloads from day to day. AIX has had the capability since AIX 5.2 in 2001 to grow (use more resources) and shrink (use less resources) transparently without requiring a reboot or service interruption. While this AIX feature has been around for quite some time and many take it for granted, it is a stark contrast to many other platforms such as Linux on X86 which does not have this capability.

AIX can add processors, memory and I/O on the fly and just as easily remove them when no longer needed. This capability, along with PowerVM virtualization, provides a tremendous capability for Power Systems/AIX clients.

In contrast to the AIX advanced functions lure, many want the hardware platform independence of Linux. Hardware platform independence sounds great; I think we all want it. At the end of the day, certain platforms are a cut above the mainstream of server offerings and TCO is where it’s at. Applications that provide required functionality, that perform well, that scale, are secure, are easy to maintain and are rooted in platforms that will be supported long term are most desirable.

IBM’s POWER server line is the ultimate system for COMPUTE INTENSIVE workloads including transaction processing, operational analytics, structured data, unstructured data, business processing-ERP, cognitive analysis, data warehousing and mobile/social business. If your organization would like assistance in diving deep into a review of POWER for the above referenced workloads or would like to discuss the possibility of a proof of concept, please drop me a line at mark.waldrep@datatrend.com or contact your Datatrend representative.

Collaboration with our end user clients and ISV partners is something your Datatrend team wants to invest in. From white boarding sessions to architectural reviews to focusing on minimization of project risk…whether the subject is infrastructure, structured cabling or enterprise services, we would be happy to engage with you during the formative or planning stages of your next key IT project.

This edition of TrendSetter includes contributions from all our divisions; I hope you enjoy this issue.

Respectfully,

Mark Waldrep
CEO Datatrend Technologies
mark.waldrep@datatrend.com

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Customer Spotlight

Masstech logoIn each edition of TrendSetter, the Customer Spotlight segment is designed as one way to facilitate networking by and between appropriate Datatrend clients and partners, and a way for them to illuminate their offerings to the marketplace. Networking is a great way to develop new relationships, clients, and friends, and we hope this segment is of value to our readership. In this issue, our spotlight segment features one of Datatrend’s Technology Infrastructure Solutions customers, Masstech.

Masstech Group is the leading provider of powerful tools for media asset management and transcoding. From global media companies to corporate video production departments, organizations of all sizes around the world rely on Masstech for file-based workflow solutions that have a tangible impact on their efficiency and productivity.

Masstech’s industry reference standard technologies for automated file-based archiving, transcoding and content management form the bedrock on which innovative, practical applications are deployed to solve today’s content retention, production and distribution challenges.

Masstech Emerald™ integrates seamlessly with hundreds of popular content production tools to provide media departments with effortless archiving, retrieval and low resolution proxy from directly within the tools producers rely on the most. Fully optimized HQS™ transcoding technology, built by Masstech, ensures the highest quality HD output for any application, from mobile to the big screen.

At the enterprise level, Masstech Topaz™ provides the scalability to transform medium and large broadcast and post production operations through efficient file based archiving and content management that integrates within and across playout, production, and other workflows.

For more information about Masstech, click here.

Be In the Spotlight

Any Datatrend client or partner can drop us a line (trendsetter@datatrend.com) and include an authorized communication that overviews your business, target market, and related information, plus your company logo. We will happily put all such qualified submissions into a review queue with the plan of publishing one each quarter.

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Datatrend Run Book Service

Written by Warner Schlais, President of Technology Services, Datatrend Technologies, Inc.

Cloud computing has caused a paradigm shift in how IT services are delivered and consumed, and has rapidly evolved to be the new normal delivery model for IT services. Due to its overwhelming agility and economic advantages, cloud computing has become a strategic area of focus for CIOs and other stakeholders within organizations.

Organizations today have many different applications with very specific sets of requirements. Some requirements stem from legacy infrastructure spread across multiple data centers that are based on industry standards or customs, but have different compliance requirements.

Determining what should move to the cloud or not requires an evaluation and inventory of the applications. Leveraging the traditional consultant based approach is impractical, too time consuming and expensive, and often error prone.

Datatrend is pleased to share its run book updating service.

This service helps you articulate business and IT alignment down to the individual application level. We first take stock of the inventory and assess the applications you have, and the ones you want to move to cloud. We then map this information into the Asset Management/CMDB tool currently deployed within the environment to make it near 100% accurate and complete.

This service will maintain a customers application and server source information. This information is critical in the problem identification and resolution phases of problem management. Often, in many computer operations environments, this information does not exist or it is obsolete. This will elongate the time required to solve technology problems that occur on a day to day basis.

Datatrend’s run book service will create, update, and/or maintain the currency of information required to quickly identify application and server procedures required to take corrective action when problems occur, or involve the right people to do so.

As a result of this service, Datatrend will provide the following information:

1. Server Hardware Inventory
2. Local Storage Hardware
3. Software Components including OS information
4. Server Dependency Mapping
5. Server Owner Information
6. Application Inventory
7. Application Dependency Mapping
8. Database Information
9. Database Dependency Mapping
10. Application Workflow Diagrams

The final deliverable from this effort will include the above information and will be made available in the following reports:

1. Server Inventory and Utilization Report
2. Server Dependency Report
3. Application Inventory and Dependency Report
4. Application Functionality Report

In addition to these reports, Datatrend will help import this data into an existing or a new CMDB repository source. This CMDB will help in achieving improved efficiency and effectiveness within the IT Operations including (but not limited to) areas such as:

• Release Management
• Problem Management
• Change Management
• Configuration Management
• Availability Management
• Information Lifecycle Management, etc.

Our Run Book Service will reduce the total cost of ownership of applications by reducing downtime through eliminating wasted hours from each outage or problem. What follows is a detailed overview of our service.

Datatrend’s proven methodology is comprised of three (3) primary stages as depicted in the picture below:

Run Book illustration 1

The project workflow is comprised of the following key stages:

Run book illustration #2

1. Automated Data Collection – Our digital data discovery tool is an agent-less, non-invasive tool that has a rich feature set including server devices, topology of applications, software, host infrastructure, network & storage devices, etc., performs application dependency mapping and provides a robust visualization capability (i.e. Dashboards and Reports).

This tool provides in-depth configuration and utilization data capture for network attached IT infrastructure devices and their components. The tool is easily configurable (can be deployed on single or multiple machines, and can be utilized in one location or can be distributed across a global network from a single location).

Here is an overview of the automated data collection process that Datatrend will leverage during this project:

  • Perform a roll-out of the discovery tool leveraging the existing customer IT management policies and administration mechanisms.
  • Perform Audit & Verification – Interrogation based on deep analytics and iterative approach (not just snapshot or ping sweeps) to capture nearly 100% of all applications and software installed on the servers identified within the scope of this project.
  • Review the customer’s IT service requirements, leverage current MDRs (Management Data Repositories), IT management policies and processes.
  • Customize the data gathering scripts and instructions (scripts are readable, typical instructions would describe how to use customer’s management tools already in place such as SMS to run the data gathering scripts).
  • Work with customer to execute the scripts according to the instructions on the known servers/devices (customer might have some incomplete inventory of the servers and other devices).
  • Customer system administrators initiate the automated data gathering – in a non-intrusive mode.
  • Built-in analytics engine will process the data and identify existing servers and other devices that were not covered by the data gathering scripts.
  • An iterative approach – Work with customer to execute the tool and gather the data on the missing servers if necessary.
  • The tool will be deployed in a totally non-intrusive manner. The tool requires no security credentials for assets to obtain the information.
  • The tool will inventory virtual and physical infrastructures including:

Servers, storage, software, network components and dependencies
– Up-to-date configuration detail
– Hardware, OS, versions, firmware
– Installed software
– Virtual instances
– Analyze discovered configuration items and device dependencies
– Virtual and physical dependencies
– Applications, application dependencies, service pooling, virtual workloads, and groups etc.

  • The tool will generate Application Dependency and Application Functional Reports.

2. Manual Discovery – The baseline inventory and application data including dependencies and functional information will be reviewed with the customer’s IT staff to determine the accuracy, identify gaps, procure additional information and finalize the data gather efforts. During this phase, Datatrend will conduct workshops and/or interviews with the application, database and infrastructure owners within the customer to gain a better understanding of the specific usage of applications and databases, its qualities of service requirements including availability, reliability, security etc. The primary purpose of this effort is to gather incremental data (e.g. usually application dependency mapping, ownership of software/applications etc.) that were not captured during the Automated Discovery phase.

3. Analysis and Report Generation – Once all the required data is discovered and agreed upon by both the customer and Datatrend, the efforts will be focused on analyzing this data and generating the desired reports. The primary objective of this phase will be to generate the following reports:

a. Application Dependency Report (MS Visio format or other)Cloud Technology
b. Application Functional Report
c. Application Inventory Report
d. Server Inventory Report
e. Server Dependency Report

In addition to these reports, Datatrend will provide the following information to customers that would be pivotal in establishing and/or calibrating a master CMDB instance for the IT Organization.

Datatrend will develop a run book that will contain the following information to help customer staff perform routine operational tasks and respond quickly and efficiently to data center emergencies:

  • Contact Information — Detailed information about each database administrator (DBA), the building facilities staff, utility companies, and all hardware and software vendors.
  • Hardware Components — Detailed information about hardware components of the data center.
  • Software Components — Detailed information about software components of the data center.

Keeping this critical resource information current and readily available to your staff reduces downtime when disaster strikes.

As a reminder, Datatrend offers a variety of services surrounding Run Book and other applications. For more information, please contact Warner Schlais, President of Technology Services, at 952-563-2193, or warner.schlais@datatrend.com.

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Another Ball Out Of The Park….
IBM Scores Again with its Acquisition of Texas Memory Systems

Written by Debi Riedel, Director of Technology Resources, Datatrend Technologies, Inc.

Founded in 1978, Texas Memory Systems (TMS) designed and sold solid state memory solutions as the RamSan family of shared rack mount systems and Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) cards. With the acquisition, IBM has rebranded the products as IBM FlashSystem, and renamed the RamSan products FlashSystem 710, 810, 720, and 820. The products are designed to help companies improve system performance and reduce such critical issues in the data center as server sprawl, power consumption, cooling, and floor space requirements. Leveraging such solutions can help organizations save money, improve performance, and invest more in innovation.

IBM has become serious about enterprise-grade computing in more ways than one over recent years, with acquisitions and developments including XIV, Storwize v7000, EasyTier and PureSystems. And now FlashSystem, best known these days for its extra-quick SSD cards, will augment IBM’s Smarter Storage initiative.

“Flash technology is a game changer for our clients and IBM is committed to delivering industry-leading Flash-optimized capabilities as a cornerstone of our Smarter Storage strategy,” said Brian Truskowski, General Manager, IBM System Storage and Networking. “The TMS solutions extend our broad portfolio of Flash-optimized storage arrays and flash optimization software, providing our clients unmatched value.”

As you’d anticipate, that fast yet lean storage is the focus — IBM wants servers that aren’t limited by their drives, or which just use less power than traditional spinning hard disks and tape devices.

Why IBM is so high on FlashSystem (Formerly TMS)

  • TMS has proven its Industry Leadership over the past 34 years; with 30 plus patents and compiling a worldwide customer base in excess of 300 customers, in over 50 countries.
  • IBM FlashSystem supplies the highest performance, highest reliability, lowest latency, and lowest power SSD solutions on the market today.

IBM expects enterprises to achieve up 50 % OPEX savings and 3 Month ROI as the FlashSystems solutions are rolled through the IBM Smarter Storage portfolio including:

  • Accomplishing similar or better performance in <50% of the space or power.
  • Saving 50% or more of database/application license costs by removing bottlenecks.
  • Scaling to twice the number of users that can currently access the system.
  • Decreasing user response time by an order of magnitude.
    “Microseconds not milliseconds”

IDC estimates the amount of solid state storage solutions being shipped into the enterprise will grow significantly, reaching nearly 3 exabytes by 2016. (1)

Why Flash in the Enterprise

Clients want to run faster, scale further, consolidate infrastructure, and create more value from data.

All those factors contribute to higher storage performance demands.

  • Flash storage is much faster than disk storage, particularly in response time (latency), but also bandwidth and I/O’s per second (IOPS).
  • Flash storage is now available at enterprise reliability levels.
  • Flash brings a strong efficiency for high performance versus traditional disk storage, including space, power, and cooling for a given amount of capacity.
  • Flash optimized systems are evolving to be less expensive than earlier technology.

Make an Impact with Flash

Business Impact

  • Improves application efficiency
  • Unlocks scale of users or processes
  • Faster analytics and batch jobs
  • Provides best end-user experience

Financial Impact

  • Maximizes CPU efficiency
  • Reduce licensing cost by reducing number of cores required
  • Extends useful life of existing storage assets
  • Major power, cooling and “rack-estate” savings
  • Life expectancy of system is 5+ years

Operational Impact

  • Time saved is time invested
  • Decreases time to operation results (gets it done faster)
  • Lower latency than competition, Hardware vs. Software
  • Free up database and system administrators to work on other business needs
  • Highest density and lowest latency

The world’s fastest flash technology. The world’s fastest ROI. That’s a Home RUN!

1. According to IDC, Taking Enterprise Storage to Another Level: A Look at Flash Adoption in the Enterprise, Aug. 2012

For additional information on how you can benefit from IBM’s FlashSystem storage solutions, contact Charlie Cox, President of Technology Infrastructure Solutions at Datatrend, charlie.cox@datatrend.com.

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Mobile POS: Changing the Way We Do Business

Written by Bill Roberts, President of Network Services, Datatrend Technologies, Inc.

According to the National Retail Federation, on January 30, 1883, James Ritty and John Birch received a patent for inventing the first cash register. Since then, fixed retail POS devices have been efficient and effective for many types of retailers. Retailers know how to use fixed POS terminals and customers know what to expect, but there are limits to what they can do. Retailers now need to spend the money on Mobile POS to keep up with their competition and with their customers who are bringing new mobile technologies into their stores.

Retailers are recognizing Mobile POS as a customer-centric solution with many benefits:mobile pos

  • Help reduce customer queues
  • Improve returns management, stock allocation and stock identification
  • Enhance the collection of customer information for loyalty programs
  • Maximize seasonal demand transactions
  • Allow associates to assist customers where fixed registers are not available
  • Increase basket size by improving the customer experience

Mobile marketing, mobile payment, and mobile commerce rely on the presence of a robust, Wireless LAN. The mobile user requires the same access, security, quality-of-service (QoS), and high availability enjoyed by wired users. Wi-Fi, the infrastructure on which many wireless networks are constructed, is a network technology based on IEEE Standard 802.11 that enables secure, reliable wireless connectivity to a local network and to the Internet.

Wireless LANs can provide a number of benefits within the retail environment. A robust wireless LAN can enhance the in-store customer experience, providing consumers with access to product, promotional, and store information through wireless enabled tools. For example, a retailer can implement targeted consumer marketing, delivering content and rich media to a customer’s dual-mode device when that device is connected to the in-store wireless. A LAN guest network can include such content as loyalty information, shopping list information, and targeted promotions.

In order to capitalize on these benefits and opportunities, an investment needs to be made in the upgrade of the existing Wireless LAN network infrastructure. After determining how much bandwidth will be needed to be brought into the stores, a complete design of the new network infrastructure to support that bandwidth is required.

  • Identification of building layout and construction
  • Identification of potential difficulties for installation
  • Complete RF Survey to determine location of Access Points and other HSIA devices
  • Cable plant design – Fiber optic, Category 5E or Category 6 cable requirements

The Network Infrastructure design should not be limited to Mobile POS considerations. The opportunity at this time should be taken to prepare for the installation or upgrade of other services including:

  • Voice-over-IP
  • Energy Management Systems
  • Digital video on-demand
  • IPTV
  • Video Conferencing

Building a quality network infrastructure for the future that leverages all of these technologies helps justify the more immediate investment required for Mobile POS.

Learn more about Wireless Network Infrastructure assessments and installations from Datatrend, or contact Bill Roberts at bill.roberts@datatrend.com. You can also consult with a Datatrend representative by calling 800-367-7472.

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Tech Tip: IBM ServeRAID Battery Backup Unit Maintenance and Care

ServeRAID
Written by Rick Davies, Senior Technical Specialist, Datatrend Technologies, Inc.

One of the most common pieces of hardware in any type of enterprise class server will be a RAID controller. In IBM hardware, the IBM ServeRAID controller usually provides that function. Up until recently the ServeRAID controller data was backed up by a battery that provided power to the card in the event of a power failure or other failure that may have prevented the card from writing its cached data to the hard disk drives attached to it.

One of the functions that helped to make sure that the required battery level was within the desired parameters was the “Battery Recalibration” routine built into the ServeRAID controller.

This was an automatic routine that would run in the background of the card at preset intervals. This helped to make sure that the battery would be able to supply the requisite 48 hour retention of data in the event of a failure. The only problem with this cycle is that, since it was automatic, it could begin the learn cycle at any time throughout the day based on a multitude of factors. This could be problematic because as part of the learn cycle the battery is drained and subsequently recharged.

The ServeRAID cards are set to switch all volumes to Write-Through (WT) when the battery is drained past a specific level to ensure that all data gets written to the disk in the event of a power failure.

While this is great in theory since there would be very little, if any, data loss, you lose the benefit of having the Write-Back (WB) cache buffering writes to the disk. When Write-Through is turned on every write to the disk has to be acknowledged to the controller before the next write can occur. This can have a significant impact on system performance and cause your application performance to suffer as a result.

Thankfully there is a way to mitigate this from happening at random times. Using the MegaRaid Storage Manager Command Line Interface (MRCLI) you can disable Battery Calibration and run a Battery Calibration command via scripts once a week when your systems are minimally utilized.

The commands to do this are as follows:

To disable the battery calibration feature:

megacli -AdpBbuCmd -SetBbuProperties -f -aX (where X is the adapter number to execute the command on)

filename refers to a plain text file where you can insert the following command to run:

autoLearnMode=1

For reference, this is the syntax and options:
autoLearnMode=0 – Enabled, 1 – Disabled, 2 – WarnViaEvent.

This will prevent the adapter from initiating an autoLearnEvent in the middle of the processing day. However, given that a battery backed cache is critical to the integrity of the data it is highly recommended to setup some recurring command to initiate a Battery Learn cycle at a time when it is convenient to do so.

To force the ServeRAID controller to perform a Battery Learn cycle you would execute this command from MRCLI:

megacli -AdpBbuCmd -BbuLearn –aX (where X is the adapter number to execute the command on)

This will force the controller into a Battery Learn cycle and make sure that the battery capacity is sufficient for 48 hours of cache data retention.

Next Generation Controllers:

The next generation of RAID controllers from IBM take a drastic (and much better) approach to the retention of cache data. The IBM ServeRAID 5016 with CacheVault technology uses Solid State NAND memory to store data in the event of a power failure. IBM’s RedPiece describes it as: “CacheVault flash cache protection uses NAND flash memory powered by a supercapacitor to protect data stored in the controller cache. This module eliminates the need for a lithium-ion battery commonly used to protect DRAM cache memory on PCI RAID controllers. To avoid the possibility of data loss or corruption during a power or server failure, CacheVault technology transfers the contents of the DRAM cache to NAND flash (CacheVault flash module – CVFM) using power from the CacheVault power module (CVPM). After the power is restored to the M5016 RAID controller, CacheVault technology transfers the contents of the NAND flash back to the DRAM, which will eventually be flushed to disk.”1

By removing the battery and using a supercapacitor the most fragile part of the RAID backup system has been eliminated which means that battery monitoring, degredation and replacements are a thing of the past. Moving forward this method will be the preferred method for ensuring data integrity on enterprise grade RAID controllers offered by IBM.

Source: 1 – ServeRAID M5016 SAS/SATA Controller – IBM Redbooks Product Guide – http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/abstracts/tips0847.html

If you are interested in IBM products or services, or have questions for us, please contact Charlie Cox, President of Technology Infrastructure Solutions at 952-563-2173, or charlie.cox@datatrend.com.

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