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Volume 28, Issue 3

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Jon Seals

Wednesday, 21 January 2015 00:00

High Performance Data Storage Tips

Talk to many data storage experts about high-performance storage and a good portion will bring up Lustre, which was the subject of a recent Lustre Buying Guide. Some of the tips here, therefore, concern Lustre, but not all.

Use Parallel File Systems

Parallel file systems enable more data transfer in shorter time period than their alternatives.

Lustre is an open source parallel file system used heavily in big data workflows in High Performance Computing (HPC).  Over half of the largest systems in the world use Lustre, said Laura Shepard, Director of HPC & Life Sciences Marketing, DataDirect Networks (DDN). This includes U.S. government labs like Oakridge National Lab’s Titan, as well as British Petroleum’s system in Houston.



Whether you are planning a traditional data center build-out or all-new cloud infrastructure, the appeal of white box hardware is difficult to resist.

Provided you need enough of a particular device to benefit from economies of scale, and you have a plan to layer all the functionality you need via software, white box infrastructure can do wonders to reduce the capital costs of any project. Plus, you always have the option to rework the software should data requirements change.

But it isn’t all wine and roses in the white box universe. As IT consultant Keith Townsend noted to Tech Republic recently, white box support costs often emerge as a fly in the ointment. Large organizations like Facebook and Google have the in-house knowledge to deploy, configure and optimize legions of white boxes, but the typical data center does not. It takes a specialized set of skills to implement software-defined server, storage and networking environments, and white box providers as a rule do not offer much support other than to replace entire units, even if only a single component has gone bad. There is also the added cost of implementing highly granular management and monitoring tools to provide the level of visibility needed to gauge a device’s operational status to begin with.



Is your business prepared for IT outages? Disaster preparedness is vital for businesses of all sizes, especially for those that want to avoid prolonged service interruptions, and companies that prioritize disaster preparedness can find ways to protect their critical data during IT outages as well.

Managed service providers (MSPs) can offer data backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solutions to help companies safeguard their sensitive data during IT outages. These service providers also can teach businesses about the different types of IT outages, and ultimately, help them prevent data loss.



Wednesday, 21 January 2015 00:00

Can You Make Disaster Information Go Viral?

What role could social media play in effectively communicating information about breaking news such as natural disasters and disease outbreaks? It’s not a new question, but one that lacks an easy answer. Researchers and emergency response personnel in San Diego plan to spend the next four years exploring the topic, and what they find may eventually serve as a model for other communities looking to better leverage social media for disaster response.

San Diego County and San Diego State University (SDSU) recently formed a partnership to research and develop a new social media-based platform for disseminating emergency warnings to citizens. The project aims to allow San Diego County’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) to spread disaster messages and distress calls quickly and to targeted geographic locations, even when traditional channels such as phone systems and radio stations are overwhelmed.



In a Jan. 13 presentation to the federal Health IT Policy Committee, Annie Fine, M.D., a medical epidemiologist in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, described both the sophisticated software used to track disease outbreaks such as Ebola, as well as how better integration with clinicians’ electronic health records (EHRs) would improve her department’s capabilities.

“In New York City, every day we are on the lookout for unusual clusters of illness. And we receive more than 1,000 reports a day just in my program,” Fine said. Epidemiologists run a weekly analysis to detect clusters in space and time, and use analytics and geocoding to compare current four-week periods with baselines of earlier four-week periods.

“We get a large number of suspect cases reported, and they may be way out of proportion to the number of actual cases,” Fine said. Epidemiological investigations require hundreds of phone calls to providers and labs. “That could be made much less burdensome and efficient if we could have improved integration with EHR data.”



Now that the dust has settled on the infamous hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment, it would be prudent to take a look back at how the attack was carried out, consider what lessons IT security professionals can learn from it, and formulate a plan to counter a similar attack.

To that end, I recently conducted an email interview with Gary Miliefsky, an information security specialist and founder and president of SnoopWall, a cybersecurity firm in Nashua, N.H. To kick it off, I asked him what the likelihood is that a Sony insider assisted with the attack, and whether it could have even been carried out without the help of an insider. Miliefsky dismissed the insider theory:

While many speculate that the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment was done by a malicious insider, I believe that the DPRK carried out the attack themselves, originally initiated from IP addresses they lease from the Chinese government. I believe they initially eavesdropped on emails to learn a pattern of behavior for socially engineering a Remote Access Trojan to be installed via email of an unsuspecting employee, inside the network.



Component distributor partners with DigitasLBi Commerce and hybris to scale its commerce capabilities in global markets


LONDON – DigitasLBi Commerce, the global connected commerce specialist and hybris software, an SAP company and the world’s fastest growing commerce platform provider, have been selected by RS Components (RS), a trading brand of Electrocomponents plc, the global distributor for engineers, to implement a new connected commerce platform. This will enable it to enhance and rapidly scale its B2B eCommerce offerings to an expanding customer base and deliver a highly personalised experience to individual customers in markets around the globe.


Under the agreement, DigitasLBi Commerce will implement the hybris Commerce Suite, a powerful and scalable single-stack commerce platform capable of delivering highly sophisticated B2B features to a global user base. The solution enables RS to further enhance its online B2B functionality while seamless integration with the company’s enterprise architecture, which includes a SAP business intelligence system, will support streamlined business operations and make the faster initiation of go-to-market strategies and new business models possible.


Guy Magrath, Global Head of eCommerce at RS, commented: “eCommerce is a major driver of growth for our business and the entry point for our customers to a long term multi-channel relationship with us. By partnering with DigitasLBi Commerce and hybris we’ll gain the ability to respond faster to new market needs and further exploit the potential of our eCommerce offer to a diverse B2B customer base.”


With operations across 32 countries and a global network of 16 distribution centres worldwide, RS is the world’s largest distributor of electronics and maintenance products, shipping over 44,000 parcels daily. With around 500,000 products available for same day dispatch and serving more than one million customers worldwide, the company is dedicated to helping customers find the right product at the right price.


As a next phase, DigitasLBI Commerce will undertake the global deployment and rollout of a new connected multi-language, multi-currency, multi-site commerce platform that can be adapted fast to changing market conditions. DigitasLBi Commerce’s robust agile implementation approach will enable RS to incrementally advance its eCommerce capabilities.


With 58 percent of global revenues generated online, RS’s ambition is to build a £1 billion plus connected commerce business and DigitasLBi Commerce will support the brand in extending its ‘eCommerce with a human touch’ vision to further improve the online customer experience with innovative B2B functionality that make it even easier for customers to transact.


“With connected commerce at the heart of the company’s operation, RS has to make the online customer experience the best and most relevant in each and every market they do business in,” said Jim Herbert, Managing Partner at DigitasLBi Commerce. “As a leading exponent of global hybris implementations we’re delighted to have been chosen to support RS in extending how it connects to its global audience to reach customers locally, at the point of need.”


The new multi-device optimised commerce platform will power 29 highly localised websites, and finely tune procedures that address specific market requirements. Under the agreement, DigitasLBi Commerce will enable the brand’s global connected commerce team of 100 staff, who oversee online trading, merchandising and behavioural repurchasing (email/offline event triggers across all channels and digital devices), to become fully self-supporting in their utilisation of the hybris Commerce Suite.


“In today’s market where B2B customers expect and are demanding a B2C-like experience, companies - especially industry giants such as RS - require a new breed of solutions that consider the customer interaction across touch points and channels, including that pivotal moment in the journey where a purchase is made,” explained Rob Shaw, Vice President New Business EMEA and MEE, hybris software. “hybris makes it possible to integrate web, customer service, print, mobile and social commerce that will give RS’s customers a more seamless multi-channel shopping experience.”

For the eighth straight year, Schneider Electric has topped its competitors as the most accurate provider of precipitation and short-term temperature forecasts. The honor is awarded by ForecastWatch.com, a leading analyst of predictions and outcomes in the weather industry. 

The study, based on the weather conditions forecast 24 hours a day over 12 months, found Schneider Electric leads other top forecasting platforms in all three primary performance measures:

  • ·         Schneider Electric had the lowest root-mean-squared error (RMS) for the eighth year in a row
  • ·         The most accurate probability of precipitation forecasts
  • ·         The greatest improvement in accuracy of short-term temperature forecasts over eight years, a 12.5 percent increase. Schneider Electric was one of only two providers to improve accuracy over the last year


A critical service for the energy industry

Forecasting accuracy is vital to the health and efficiency of many industries, possibly none more so than the energy utility sector. Especially in an industry where climate change and renewable energy are having tremendous impacts, accurate weather forecasts are needed 24/7 to keep power flowing safely:

·         Weather forecasts are the main driver of electric and gas utilities’ load forecasting, which is used for generation and purchasing decisions

·         More solar and wind generation on the grid means weather impacts not just load on the grid, but also generation capacity

·         Accurate forecasting allows electric utilities to better predict and plan for outages, saving time and resources when restoring power

Schneider Electric aims to continually innovate and advance its top-rated forecasts. Current advancements are improving both short- and long-term forecasts, up to 15 days in advance. These improvements ensure that customers receive the most accurate forecasts in the industry to make critical business decisions.

Schneider Electric’s team of over 50 meteorologists are available to write and provide commentary on a wide array of topics, including increasing weather volatility and its impacts on critical industries from energy to professional sports. Please contact me if you are interested in a contribution.

New program provides partners resources and support offerings in response to increased demand for hyper-converged solutions 

SUNNYVALE, Calif. – Maxta®, a leading provider of hyper-converged and software-defined storage solutions, today announced an expansion of its Maxta Value-Added Partner (MVP) Program that enables partners to capitalize on the increased adoption of virtualized platforms by providing customers with hyper-converged solutions that dramatically simplify IT and reduce cost by leveraging standard hardware. In addition to opportunities reselling and providing products and services based on Maxta’s flexible MxSP™ software-defined storage into virtual server environments, channel partners can now provide customers with MaxDeploy™ preconfigured and pre-validated hyper-converged solutions that deliver simplicity of ordering and deployment, as well as predictability of performance. MaxDeploy reference architectures have been established for all major server vendors in addition to Intel and SuperMicro “white label” servers for companies looking to leverage the full cost benefits associated with using standard hardware. MaxDeploy reference architectures deliver the ability to combine best-in-class technology for compute, storage and networking, and are also designed to run on existing x86 servers providing additional infrastructure ROI. Tweet This: .@Maxtainc expands MVP Partner Program providing enhanced resources and support for MaxDeploy #hyperconvergence Reference Architectures #storage Maxta has a deep commitment to the channel, with a strong channel-centric/co-selling model. The MVP Program encompasses a comprehensive set of resources through which partners can create, promote and sell their Maxta-based solutions and services. The company’s goal is to enable partners to take advantage of the sales, marketing and technical benefits that Maxta offers to support sales of hyper-converged and software-defined storage solutions, build skills and foster new market opportunities, as well as increase revenue and profitability.
The pillars of the program include • Market Opportunity: Storage to date has lagged the agility, simplicity, availability and cost-effectiveness of compute in the virtual data center. With the introduction of Maxta MaxDeploy reference architectures, partners are able to provide an integrated infrastructure that will bridge the gap between compute and storage, simplify IT and reduce IT cost thereby presenting an opportunity for partners to increase their profitability. In a recent survey by 451 Research, 86% of midmarket companies that were surveyed forecasted they were likely to adopt hyper-converged infrastructure. • Technology: Maxta provides competitive software-defined storage and hyper-converged solutions that deliver the greatest choice in servers, flexibility in hypervisor support, and enterprise-class data services that provide the ability to eliminate the need for storage arrays in the virtual data center. • Channel Commitment: Maxta is committed to a strong channel co-selling model and is providing its partners with enhanced profitability opportunities with MaxDeploy reference architectures and with MxSP software-defined storage for custom configurations and for service offering infrastructure. Maxta offers two partner levels in the MVP Program: • MVP Partners – Maxta MVP members are recognized within the industry for their technical virtual data center expertise and rewarded for their efforts in helping customers integrate software-defined storage and providing hyper-converged infrastructure for virtual data centers. Partners are expected to invest time in becoming competent in Maxta solutions and are authorized to sell the full line of Maxta solutions. All MVP partners can participate in the Maxta deal registration and sales incentive programs. MVP Partners will have access to Maxta sales and SE’s for assistance with opportunity identification and deal closure. • MVP Elite Partners – Maxta MVP Elite members must meet a minimum set of requirements, including the completion of Maxta sales and technical training and the ability to demonstrate Maxta solutions. MVP Elite Partners are eligible to deliver Level 1 and Level 2 support for Maxta solutions and may receive joint marketing funding from Maxta. Partners looking to become Maxta MVP members or Maxta MVP Elite members can register online at http://go.maxta.com/l/32852/2014-06-04/rcvr Quotes “Our MaxDeploy solutions offer partners a unique opportunity to capitalize on hyper-convergence and the growth in virtualized environments while allowing them to maintain their partnerships with existing server vendors. Partners may also increase their profitability by running MxSP software-defined storage on commodity hardware or by incorporating it into service-offering infrastructure. Whichever approach a partner chooses to take, the Maxta MVP Program is designed to provide them with the support resources required to help identify opportunities and close deals.” Carolyn Crandall, Vice President of Marketing, Maxta “With access to the people, tools and support we need to grow our business, becoming a Maxta MVP has allowed us to offer customers complete solutions specifically designed around the virtualized data center. MaxDeploy pre-validated reference architectures provide the predictability of performance and provide us the flexibility to configure hyper-converged solutions based upon customer preference. The ability to use commodity hardware has also increased our competitiveness and provided us new margin opportunity. We’re finding that the ability to simplify our customers’ IT infrastructure with software-centric hyper-convergence is a powerful selling point for customers looking to increase the value of their virtualized environment.” Mike Kinion, VP Sales, Amysys Innovative Solutions About Maxta Maxta maximizes the promise of hyper-convergence. Maxta software-defined storage solutions provide organizations the choice to deploy hyper-convergence on any x86 server, use any hypervisor and any combination of storage devices. The simplicity of Maxta’s VM-centric solution reduces IT management to further maximize cost savings. Hyper-scale, enterprise-level data services and capacity optimization, empower organizations to hyper-converge, eliminating the need for SAN or NAS devices. Think outside the storage box. For more information visit http://www.maxta.com.

COLUMBUS, OhioEmerson Network Power, a business of Emerson (NYSE: EMR) and a global leader in maximizing availability, capacity and efficiency of critical infrastructure, today identified six data center trends that will grow in importance in 2015 as data center operators seek ways to respond to dynamic market conditions as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“Data centers are undergoing fundamental changes as management shifts their focus to issues such as speed of deployment, manageability, scalability, efficiency and security,” said Steve Hassell, president, Data Center Solutions at Emerson Network Power. “They are seeking innovations that give them the agility they need to respond to changes both in the data center ecosystem and in the markets they serve.”

Below are the six trends that are shaping the decisions data center designers, operators and managers are making.

1.     Cloud comes of age
Cloud computing has become established in the data center ecosystem as most organizations already use some form of software-as-a-service (SaaS). Now cloud is poised to expand from that foothold and become an engine of innovation. Forward-thinking organizations are combining cloud-based services such as analytics, collaboration, and communication to better understand their customers and bring new products and services to market faster. The result is that a growing number of organizations will be managing hybrid environments in which on-premise IT resources are supplemented with strategic use of cloud and colocation services to enhance utilization, resiliency and flexibility. For their part, cloud providers must demonstrate the ability to scale quickly while consistently meeting service level agreements, in order to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment. Cloud providers will drive innovation in the industry as they adopt technologies and practices that achieve high reliability at the lowest possible cost.

  1. Technology systems aren’t the only things experiencing a convergence. The telecommunications and IT industries are moving closer together as voice and data services are now routinely consumed on the same device. In fact, more than half of the participants in the Data Center 2025 project predicted that at least 60 percent of telecommunications network facilities will be data centers by 2025, and 79 percent expect at least half of telecommunications companies to make colocation facilities part of their networks. This convergence will drive more standardization in the technologies used to support voice and data services and break down the silos that have traditionally existed between these two critical functions.

4.     Software paves the way for more software
Virtualization marked one of the most significant trends in the data center industry in the last twenty years. The impact of this development will continue to drive change for the foreseeable future as virtualization extends beyond computing to networking and storage. One of the key challenges in this virtual revolution is going to be hardware management. Most organizations lack the visibility to manage virtual and physical systems in concert, and that gap must be closed to pave the way for the software-defined data center. Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) has emerged to fill this gap and early adopters are proving its value: data centers with DCIM recover from outages 85 percent faster than those without it, according to a 2013 study of data center outages by the Ponemon Institute. 

  1. The edge gets stronger
    After years of consolidation and centralization, IT organizations are turning their attention to the edge of the network to
    improve interactions with customers and applications. As organizations grow their use of analytics, location-based services, and personalized content, edge of network facilities will become critical in achieving competitive advantage. Capitalizing on this opportunity will require standard, intelligent and high availability infrastructure deployed close to users. Just as organizations struggled to keep pace with computing demand in the first decade of this century, enterprises that don’t address the networking issues related to the edge will find themselves unable to keep pace with the explosive growth in network traffic.

  2. Security becomes the new availability
    When it comes to risk mitigation, data center managers have long had a singular focus: prevent downtime. Downtime hasn’t become any less of a risk, but a new threat has emerged in the form of
    cyber security. When one of the highest profile security breaches in the last 18 months was traced back to the HVAC system, data center managers and IT security specialists took notice. Increasingly, data center and facility managers will have to work with their IT security teams to audit the technology and software of data center equipment to ensure security and evaluate the security practices of the contractors and service providers that have access to that equipment.

“What we are seeing is a more holistic, intelligent and integrated approach to data center design and operation, and that is resulting in a new generation of facilities that make more effective use of capital, can respond faster to changing requirements, and that enable simpler management and more accurate forecasting,” said Hassell.

For more information on Emerson Network Power and its data center infrastructure solutions, visit www.EmersonNetworkPower.com.