07-30-12: Dell Storage Forum Blog

About a month ago, the Dell community gathered at the Boston Convention Center for Dell Storage Forum 2012. I have just been able to digest knowledge I acquired throughout three days at an incredibly interactive event.  

Dell Storage Forum brings Dell employees, channel partners, and customers together. Based on my interaction with the Dell representatives, I would estimate that most of them were hands-on product engineers. The conference sessions were information rich, as most speakers are either subject matter experts and have written the whitepapers or reference architectures available online at Dell’s website which you should pin using this website pin application.  They were available after their sessions for further explanations and answering questions which can be addressed in a webinar, if you need to learn what is a webinar, you can go online for this. For such a large conference, the interactive environment was refreshing.

The access and interaction between myself and the Dell Product Managers gave me a chance for direct feedback on their programs. They were very interested in what we would like to see in the future, requests for changes and new product ideas, as well as positive feedback on the existing platforms. The Compellent and EqualLogic product teams provided their roadmap, and along with new product announcements, gave attendees reassurance that the Dell Storage group is headed in the right direction. 

I attended the DSF last year in Orlando, Florida.  Since it occurred shortly after the Compellent acquisition, there was a bit of uneasiness surrounding the two teams, Compellent and EqualLogic.  There was a distinct “first day of school” atmosphere, where the new students haven’t really gotten to know each other yet.  The event was great, but you could tell that most of the personnel were just getting to know each other.  This year, things have changed dramatically.  There was a sense of ‘one’ coming from Compellent and EqualLogic teams.  There were no silos in sight.  Each individual is a member of the Dell Storage Team, working on different aspects of the product set.  The change in philosophy has made Dell a strong contender in this market.

One of the coolest parts about talking directly with engineers was sharing how I wish the products could be used. As interested as I was to hear their product features, the engineers were just as intrigued hearing my needs and wants. Engineers such as myself were able to explain their needs for A+B=C.  Positive feedback like this is rewarding on both fronts.

In addition to the technical sessions and training opportunities, there were several new product announcements of the Dell Server and Storage line. There were a few that particularly interested me that I would like to mention. 

Dell EqualLogic PS-M4110 Blade Array was introduced for a fall 2012 release. The storage array is responsible for servers and switching in a single blade chassis. I like to think of it as a ‘data center in a box.’ For customers of Mosaic, Dell EqualLogic blade array will be great to implement for a growing organization’s infrastructure.

EqualLogic Array firmware  v6.0 was also announced. The new release features data protection while replicating, greater data security, and increased efficiency among snapshot borrowing and volume features.  

After being announced in January, it was interesting to talk to the product development team about ‘what’s under the hood’ of the Dell DR-4000 Disk to Disk Backup Appliance at the conference. The de-duplicated back up appliance, as a stand-alone device is a reliable, easy and intuitive approach for the data center. The DR-4000 has the ability to replicate to another DR-4000 appliance.  It allows you to replicate your backup data from the primary datacenter to another site.  After the initial seeding, only the changed blocks will transfer, reducing the bandwidth requirement for replication. For the functionality it provides in a standalone D2D backup appliance, it is a very cost effective solution.

Dell’s Storage Forum in Boston this year was a hands-on, user-friendly environment. Even though the attendance doubled in size from last year, you could never tell by Dell’s consistency to attentiveness. The Dell Storage Forum team put on a great conference, and I recommend that you attend next year in San Jose, CA and I hope to see you there.

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07-27-12: Pete Koehler on Mosaic at Lemay: America’s Car Museum

About a month ago, I was with Mosaic Technology at LeMay Car Museum in Tacoma, WA for an exclusive technology event. Partnered with Dell, SilverPeak, Veeam, Coraid and Xsigo, LeMay filled up with an enthusiastic group of IT professionals. We were able to connect over America’s long-time love affair with automobiles, and discover how technology can continue to shape the future of how organizations’ systems evolve with it.  

In my mind, LeMay was a great venue to educate the attendees about how Mosaic can continue providing flexible solutions as companies continue to grow. Automobiles in the museum showcase historic transformations cars took over the years, aesthetically and under-the-hood. Much like looking at an organization’s network framework, it is indisputable that infrastructures continue to transform by the technology of VDI.

Through conversations with other professionals, I was happy with the amount of people intrigued by virtualization, yet surprised with the amount of organizations that are still not virtualized. Education of technology is an important factor when transforming to a virtualized center, and I hope Mosaic’s interactive white board session not only answered any questions but also introduced virtualization beyond the data center, the next big thing.  

At the event, I was lucky enough to co-present the interactive white board with colleague, Tim Antonowicz. Our presentation featured ‘Virtualization beyond the data center’ using the tools of an iPad, Apple TV and projector. Viewers were able to follow along, as we would draft mock layouts of a virtualized center.

You have a cooperative audience with this style of a presentation rather than a PowerPoint, and informative conversations arose from viewer’s questions. Extending virtualization beyond the data center means introducing the viewers to the ideas of VDI and business continuity to allow for VM recovery. 

The idea that virtualization doesn’t end at the data center brought up questions, such as, “If I invested in this, where does VDI fit in the data center?” Tim and I explained how virtualization can be added into an existing infrastructure, and in many cases do not need a supporting one. Our attendees were from a diverse group of customers, some graphic intensive who need the high-end graphic applications, and also there were administrators looking to understand benefits of VDI. I believe it’s important that everyone understands the benefits, and I would like to point them out. 

  • Virtualization doesn’t end at the data center, it allows you to leverage additional solutions to further your efforts to provide resilient, agile, high availability architecture,
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure’s (VDI) should be closely evaluated as the cost/performance ratios continue to improve dramatically and the benefits can be significant, and
  • Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery of VM’s should be evaluated in many virtual environments, and where appropriate, included as part of the DR plan.

With technology continuously changing, it’s great having the opportunity to answer questions that served as roadblocks when IT professionals consider adopting the new trends. Our event at LeMay focused on virtualization beyond the data center, which allows greater flexibility, making your business more agile. With so many popular trends in the industry today, I’m looking forward to answering more of your questions around those topics in our next session.

Did you attend our LeMay event and want to take the next step with virtualization? Contact a Mosaic representative today – we’re ready and waiting to begin the process.

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5-30-12: Who Owns Data in the Cloud

A few months back, Mosaic expressed that cloud computing would be an industry forerunner in 2012, and so it has. Mosaic has been busy enhancing SMBs with affordable cloud solutions that saves resources and offers a mobile work environment, all while enhancing the data center’s security. At Mosaic, we want all of our customers to feel secure about their data in the cloud.

When cloud computing is foreign to a user, a trending question through out the industry includes who has access to data in the cloud which is why many prefer to download mods and vpns to protect their data from softgoza. Mosaic believes the theory behind it should be introduced, and how security can be applicable to both private and organizational use.

According to the theory – if you securely place data in the cloud, you own the rights to that data. Think of the cloud as a storage unit. The storage unit doesn’t belong to the user; they’re simply leasing it. The security of that storage unit is contingent upon how the user secures it. This is much like a user’s responsibility to protect their data center, whether it’s through a provider or their own.

Providers are not responsible for your data security. If you own it, then you are the one responsible, either as a consumer or in commercial.

Consumer based terms of agreement shouldn’t be thought of as just another thing to click before submitting your data for an upload. Where is this mainly overlooked on a consumer basis? Social media.

In social media, you could be signing your rights away to the data and information you are putting on their platform. You may think that having tailored ads for your preferences is time-saving for you, but it also means you agreed to allow that service into your data at one point or another.

Since Mosaic can’t be there to walk you through every consumer-based move on the Internet, we recommend you paying closer attention when entering personal information on the next site you visit.

On the commercial side, Mosaic is able to provide you with unique cloud solutions and security practices, or offer the services of their valued partners.

Nasuni, a leader in next-gen enterprise storage, provides a unique deployment for storage in the cloud.  They encrypt the data before it goes from a user’s location to the cloud, but Nasuni does not own it. They hand over the encryption to the user, much like a storage-unit provider would hand over that unit’s key.

That is the premise behind who owns the data placed in cloud computing. The cloud is a secure environment where you can conduct business as if it were your own data center. If secured properly, there shouldn’t be any access from the outside.

Interested in seeing how secure your data center is, or for implementing further solutions? Mosaic is more than happy to discuss recommendations and the options with you. To continue the conversation about this value-added service and receive more information, contact a Mosaic representative today!

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5-8-12: vCenter Operations Manager

Customers are always looking to Mosaic experts for tips and tricks on how to effectively manage their cloud and virtual environments. Implementing is the easy part – and only the first step. Being able to successfully manage ongoing operations within virtual environments is the most important part.

VMware vCenter Operations Manager, also known as vCOPS, is an automated operations management solution that provides integrated performance, capacity, and configuration management for highly virtualized cloud infrastructure. We’ve outlined three reasons why this solution could benefit your environment.

1. vCenter Operations Manager provides a visual dashboard that shows you whether or not all of your machines are running correctly. Within this dashboard, machines are color -coded in green, yellow, or red depending on how well they are performing.  vCOPS is a simple, easy-to understand representation of your entire virtual environment that allows you to recognize malfunctions within the machinery early-on and nip them in the bud.   

Additionally, all of the different components of your virtual environment are monitored and presented in the dashboard. These components include things like storage capabilities and memory capacity.  Based on the virtual environment’s current growth rate, this internal planning feature gives users the ability to project when the next changes should be made and when additional storage or memory will need to be added to the system.

These are just some of the unique and interesting value -adds that vCOPS offers customers.

2. The Chargeback Manager, which used to be a standalone feature, now allows users to place a value on a particular assessment so it can then show how much that assessment is actually costing them. Using this feature is a great way to ensure that you’re sticking within confines of your IT budget -something we all know is appealing to customers.

Exploring deeper levels of this program allows for the ability to expand multiple datacenters directly from the data in your virtual centers and bring it all together on one simple playing field.

This product is a virtual appliance that is simply downloaded from the VMware website and installed in the existing infrastructure with no real installation required.

3. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of VMware’s new service is its ease of use. Not only does vCOPS make life much easier in terms of monitoring your virtual environment when moving to the cloud, it is also offers a free 60-day trial. It is a perfect solution for customers who don’t have a management solution or monitoring program in place and is sure to add significant value to your virtual environment.

Interested in the 60-day trial? We’re more than happy to further discuss the options with you. We’ll even come on site and install it for you! To continue the conversation about this value-added service and receive more information, contact a Mosaic representative today!

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04-06-12: Mosaic at VMware Partner Exchange – What happened in Vegas didn’t stay there

Just over a month ago, VMware held its annual VMware Partner Exchange in Las Vegas. It has been such a busy spring that this is the first opportunity I’ve had to reflect on what I consider one of the industry’s annual guideposts. As you can tell by the timing on this update, there is a lot happening in the virtualization marketplace.

By my estimation, 2012 marked one of the largest turnouts I’ve seen in recent years, with VMware estimating that there were more than 4,300 attendees. The VMware Partner Exchange brings the ecosystem together to share insights and learn about new technologies or strategies. The main takeaway was – the move to a virtualized environment is continuing full steam ahead.

The technical side of me has to throw in a few statistics to underscore this observation:

With so much happening in the market, it is no wonder that the VMware Partner Exchange has grown steadily. I continue to be amazed at how much information VMware is able to pack into three days. There were more than 190 unique breakout sessions, 20 hands on laboratories, and over 91 sponsors and exhibitors in the Solutions Exchange.

One of the noteworthy developments discussed during the event was the new specialization for the small and midsize business (SMB) vertical. The conference unveiled new competencies, programs and incentives for SMB partners. These are designed to prove to a company and its customers that VMware partners are offering the best possible virtual solutions. At the show, VMware acknowledged that one competency does not fit all markets, so they created a specialization for partners that sell to the small business market. As a VMware partner that works with small and midsize businesses every day, we are excited that VMware is investing in the SMB market. We can’t wait to utilize these new VMware tools and training to deliver and a better and more targeted experience to our customers.

Many of the sessions discussed virtual desk infrastructure. At Mosaic Technology, we have been talking about virtual desktops for a while, and how it opens up the possibilities of not only how your users work, but where. We have helped many of our customers set up VMware View 5 Desktop Virtualization. We recommend VMware View to our customers because it intelligently delivers data and applications on a wide variety of computing devices, web applications, and computers.

Network World predicted that virtual desktops would be one of the major trends of 2012, and we agree. Desktop virtualization provides a stable operating system for workers across a company, while decreasing overhead. When you manage your desktop virtualization in one central place, it requires less maintenance and administration by your IT staff, allowing more flexibility when patching, updating, or upgrading desktops. Employees can travel or work from home and use their desktop, without compromising their company’s security. VDI reduces office power utilization by as much as 70% and the cost of desktop ownership up to 50%.

We are looking forward to the new focus on SMBs and the upcoming VMware products this summer, and helping our customers utilize their technologies. We will be at the NEVMUG Spring Break in Newport, RI on April 19th, and VMware’s flagship event, VMworld 2012, in August.

Did you attend this annual event? Have a favorite VMware show? I’d like to hear your experiences and what you are thinking about for 2012. Post a comment below or send me a “tweet”.

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2-3-12: Making the Move to vSphere 5

For the past few months, we’ve been busy at Mosaic implementing vSphere 5 upgrades for many of our customers. This late adoption of the newest version is not uncommon, as this is the way it goes in terms of new technology. In most cases, any new version of software is not very popular until four to six months after it’s been released. This is because most IT professionals follow the mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If you do – that will cause hate and discontent in your department and ultimately, you’re the one who has to fix it.

Sure, there will always be a small subset of people who want to have the latest and greatest versions of anything, right away. Those on the fleeting edge will occasionally find bugs in the programs, or find that the new version just doesn’t interact the way the older version did. This creates a learning curve and an additional knowledge base for the early adopters. Typically in four to six months, the new version has had time to be flushed out and an improved solution is ready to be adopted.

That is the wave that we find ourselves in right now. Everyone is ready to upgrade, and for good reason. When vSphere 5 was first released, I wasn’t pushing my customers into an upgrade simply because I’m of the same mindset – “Let’s sit back for a while and let things stabilize.” Now, moving forward, performance has dramatically improved in version five. There are a lot of high-end features to vSphere 5, but it’s the basic features that will impact the everyday VMware admin – and those are the ones that will make the difference.

vSphere 5 has three key benefits that make upgrading worth your while:

  1. Data protection – vSphere 5 can now support virtual machines up to four times more powerful than previous versions. This allows for a much better overall end-user experience. With version five, you can have bigger file systems that allow you to put more of your data together in a consistent format. Additionally, you can now thin provision the data that you don’t need, allowing for the proper interaction between the software and the array itself.
  2. High Availability – The high availability of protection in version five is much improved and allows for better resilience in the environment. In the event of a failure, high availability is the feature that would automatically start from a virtual machine somewhere else. In order to make this possible, version five was reloaded completely from the ground up and is now far more robust. Different methodologies make sure that the server is really down, as opposed to just having lost its network connectivity. There really are no metrics to measure its efficiency – it just works better and has a lower chance of failing.
  3. Storage Optimization – In vSphere 5, storage optimization is much better and more efficient. You can now set the storage policy of your virtual machine and automatically manage the balancing and placing of the VM across your storage resources. IT personnel are no longer needed to monitor or control your storage capabilities.

Do you think it’s time to look at upgrading your vSphere environment to version five? So do we. There are three key things to do ahead of an upgrade to be sure you’re optimizing your existing infrastructure as well. First, do an assessment of your environment – make sure it’s healthy and capable of handling an upgrade. Next, based on those results, optimize your environment as part of ongoing structural changes to make it more efficient along the way. Finally, check to make sure your environment is configured correctly.

Upgrading to vSphere 5 is a great starting point and foundation, especially if you want to roll out VMware View or Site Recovery Manager, or looking to extend out into the cloud. All of these things integrate with version five, so just making that first step puts you in a good position for future upgrades and enhancements to your virtual environment.

Does it sound like vSphere 5 could be right for you? We’re ready to come in and perform that assessment of your environment. We can take you through the upgrade and ensure that it’s both quick and painless. At Mosaic Technology, we’re here to make sure you’re getting the most out of your virtual environment. Contact us today to get the ball rolling.

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Tim Antonowicz
Tim Antonowicz
Senior Sales Engineer

Tim has over 15 years of experience in Enterprise storage and backup, Virtualization, Disaster Recovery, Messaging, and cross-platform integration.

Tim is nationally recognized in the fields of Virtualization, Disaster Recovery, and Security, frequently speaking at national conferences such as VMWorld, HP Technology Forum, EduCause, Gartner MES and FinSEC.

He is also a charter member of VMWare's SMB Customer Advisory Panel and sits on the New England VMWare User Group's Steering Committee.

Tim has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and holds various industry certifications including the VMware Certified Professional, Microsoft Exchange 2003, and has been a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer since 1998.

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