12 Nov

The Virtues of Desktop Virtualization

Over the past several weeks we’ve had numerous requests from our clients desiring to know more about desktop virtualization so I thought it might be of interest for many of our readers to understand what some of the features are. I’ll go over the technical requirements in a future blog.

Desktop virtualization is simply a way for your organization to centralize all the various desktop PCs (typically Windows) and their data onto one or more servers. The operating system and all the user data are located on the server. The end user then boots up any device they choose – PC, thin client, tablet, smartphone, etc. – and connects to this ‘virtual desktop’.

The main reason for doing this is that it creates an environment that makes it far simpler to manage desktop PCs. Instead of having to go through the multi-hour process of re-imaging a PC every time something goes wrong or it’s time to upgrade and replace hardware, you can now manage everything through the server. All the data is located in one place so it never leaves your corporate data center, which helps with many compliance issues. Also, since all the processing is happening on a server, I only need inexpensive PCs or thin clients on the user’s desk.

From a user’s perspective, I can pick whatever device I want to connect to my ‘virtual desktop’, which may be different on any given day depending on where I’m located and what I’m doing. I can have access to all my favorite apps, configured just the way I like.

Although desktop virtualization is not a new idea (think Microsoft Terminal Services and Citrix), we do have new ways of doing it now that are very compelling, particularly if you already have a virtualized environment.

Feel free to contact us today to discuss how desktop virtualization can enhance your organization.

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02 Jul

Nimble: The Next Generation SAN

When we started selling virtualization solutions several years ago, we needed to find a good storage vendor to work with. Even though we primarily sell Cisco solutions, Cisco doesn’t have a storage offering. And you really can’t do virtualization without a SAN (at least not if you want any of the advanced features). So our quest began.

We looked at several companies including EMC, Netapp, and Dell Equalogic. All of these vendors seemed to offer the same storage solution, just packaged differently. Then we came across a newcomer, Nimble Storage. Nimble was attacking the market differently and had a very unique product.

Typically with most SANs, you lose about half of the raw storage due to resiliency requirements (RAID). So if you have 12TB of raw storage, you usually end up with only 6TB of useable. Not so with Nimble. Nimble has built-in compression that allows you to gain back all of the lost space. So if you have 12TB raw, you have 12TB useable. Nimble is able to do this through the use of multi-core CPUs on the system that enable it to compress without any degradation in storage performance.

Whenever you do virtualization, you likely will use a type of system backup called snapshots. Snapshots allow you to make a replica of an entire virtual machine at an instant in time, allowing you to easily rollback an entire virtual machine with a few clicks. The downside with snapshots usually is that they eat up a lot of diskspace. Not so with Nimble. Nimble has built into their product the ability to take a snapshot and then with each additional snapshot, only capture the data that has changed, thus significantly reducing the total storage requirements.

Nimble is also able to provide a significant performance increase by utilizing flash. Nimble was designed from the ground up to utilize a flash memory system. It wasn’t bolted on like other vendors. All read/write activity goes through the flash first and as a result provides a major performance increase. It also allows Nimble to use slower and less expensive hard drives. Instead of using 15k or 10k RPM drives, they can use 7.2K drives.

Nimble leverages the cloud and Big Data to collect information about all of their hardware. This enables their customers to easily generate reports on various types of usage or to see the performance of the system. It also enables Nimble to automatically see if there are any issues arising and to be proactive in dealing with them. And if there is an issue, there are only 4 components to deal with: Hard Drives, Power Supplies, Fans, and Controllers. All redundant, and easily field replaceable. This makes for a very simple solution to maintain.

Whether you are new to virtualization, haven’t purchased a SAN yet, or just need to refresh your SAN, I would highly recommend taking a close look at Nimble Storage for your next storage solution. Take a look at our Nimble Storage page for more information. As always, if you have questions, please reach out to us.

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12 Jun

Cisco: #1 In Blade Server Market

Cisco began selling servers about 5 years ago now, and this past quarter became the #1 supplier of blade servers in North America.  This is a pretty significant win for Cisco since their critics didn’t believe that Cisco could make a dent.  In fact, Cisco is the only vendor that continues to grow their market share, while other vendors (IBM, HP, Dell) are shrinking.
Server virtualization continues to be a very hot area of technology.  We have numerous customers that have seen their server farms go from 50 servers to 10 servers.  And with Cisco’s technology, we are seeing that halved again.   What used to consume several racks of space now barely takes half a rack.  The data center is shrinking.

So what does this mean to you?  All we ask is that when it’s time for you to refresh even one of your existing servers, that you give us an opportunity to demonstrate a Cisco solution.  Cisco has a compelling argument and is very competitive.  Even if you are not interesting in blade servers but just want to refresh standalone servers, Cisco has an offering for that.

The key difference in Cisco’s technology is how they integrate the server platform with 10gig.  Cisco looks at it not as separate components to be managed individually, but as a complete server and networking domain such that we can manage the servers and the 10gig fabric as an entire system.  This brings performance and management to a whole new level.

Cisco is able to bring 10gig solutions to the table where most competitors are still only doing multiple 1gig uplinks.  If the cost is comparable, why not invest in 10gig?  We all know how much bandwidth virtualization wants to have in order to easily move virtual machines back and forth between servers, or for fast access to storage.  10gig gets you there.  And Cisco bundles that in to their solution.

Before you make your next purchase, contact us and let us show you how Cisco blade servers could be the right solution for your network needs.

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12 May

Performing Server Virtualization Cost-Benefit Analysis

In my past two blogs, I’ve covered some of the benefits of implementing server virtualization and a SAN (Storage Area Network). A common question that is raised is, “How can I determine if server virtualization makes sense for my organization?” I’d suggest that you perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine your potential savings.

In order to do this analysis, I’d suggest creating a spreadsheet to contain all your data. If you are uncomfortable creating this on your own, you can download a sophisticated spreadsheet here: http://bit.ly/1iEOC8i With a simple Google search, others can be found as well.

First, you need to determine your current costs which can be broken into two categories: hard and soft costs. Your hard costs are easier to determine and include anything that you currently pay money for, such as power, server maintenance contracts, and outside services. Electrical costs can be determined by researching power draws for each of your current servers or in the worst case, use a power meter to measure the kilowatt usage over a typical day. Soft costs are the second category of costs to determine and are more difficult to obtain. You will need to ascertain personnel time directly involved with the servers in question for machine administration. Part of this administration is the time spent backing up the servers (such as manually changing tapes).

The next step in the analysis is identifying the costs for implementing the virtual server solution, which typically will involve new hardware and some additional software costs (such as VMWare or Hyper-V). You will also need to factor in the expected hardware costs for replacing aging servers you currently own and deduct this figure. There will be soft costs associated with the new virtual solution. A good “rule of thumb” is that the time spent will be 30-40% less than separate servers (something you already calculated in determining your current costs).

The last step is identifying the financial benefits of server virtualization in the two areas: cost savings through not having to spend money that you you’re currently spending on your existing infrastructure AND cost savings through more efficient operations. This can be factored over a 5 or 7-year period using the total cost savings to determine the ROI (return on investment) for the money potentially spent on the virtualization project.

Telcion would love to help you determine if server virtualization has cost-benefits for your organization. Please contact me at drodrigues@telcion.com to help you make this evaluation.

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13 Nov

Need Data Center Virtualization? Cisco Does That, Too

In one of my previous postings, I talked about the basics of data center virtualization and why most organizations would benefit from it.  Once you’ve decided to take the plunge into virtualization, you have to decide which manufacturer you want to partner with. In this article, I want to talk about data center virtualization from a Cisco point of view, their approach to the marketplace, and why it matters.

First of all, as many of you know, Telcion has been a dedicated Cisco partner for many years.  Our approach has been to focus on our client’s communication needs and then bring Cisco solutions that will meet those needs.   About 5 years ago, Cisco decided to get into the server market with the specific intent of being a key component of server virtualization.   They could see where virtualization was headed, and with a solid market share in data center networking, could also see how they could provide technology that would benefit this market.  And so they dove in head first, and began taking market share.

If you know Cisco at all, they do not enter any market if they cannot become the #1 or #2 player.  Just recently, they had moved into the #2 position in North America for blade servers.  This is very substantial and they continue to gain in market share.

Because of our long standing relationship with Cisco, and because we’ve already been using Cisco virtualization hardware with our voice solutions, it was only natural that we would offer Cisco server solutions to our clients as well.

Here are several reasons we believe Cisco is a great company for your data center virtualization needs:

  1. Cisco is one of the top providers of data center computing in the world with over 16,000 customers.
  2. Cisco provides the world’s only stateless rack servers.
  3. Cisco holds world record performance benchmarks.
  4. Cisco technology reduces the number of network and storage cards, along with cabling, by 50%.
  5. Cisco is already a trusted partner in your network.
  6. Cisco won’t be beat on price.

What I’ve always enjoyed about Cisco is that they don’t follow, they lead.  No matter which technology they get into, they want to be leaders in that market.  In the server market, they are doing it again.  They are leading with new technologies, and the competition is playing catch up.

As you take the next step into virtualization, we believe you should take a good look at Cisco and what they have to offer.  With Cisco technology and Telcion as your solution provider, we can help you make data center virtualization a reality in your organization.

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08 Oct

Telcion Expands Cisco Virtualization Practice

We’ve been providing virtualization systems to our clients for many years now, mostly in the form of virtualizing Cisco Voice Applications – Call Manager, Unity, Contact Center, etc. Instead of having multiple separate physical servers, we put all of the voice applications on a single server and virtualize each application. This saves a lot of money in server hardware and makes what is already a good solution even better.

However, during the last few years we have noticed that many of our clients are still very hesitant to use virtualization in their environment when it comes to other types of servers and applications. As a result, Telcion has decided to expand our offerings to do virtualization beyond voice applications. We are now offering solutions that can encompass all of the servers in your data center.

Telcion has long been a Cisco Partner, providing Cisco solutions for our clients. As Cisco has expanded into the virtualization market, they have taken on a leadership role and are innovating new technologies. Telcion has expanded our certifications to allow us to sell a wide-range of Cisco server hardware, including the award-winning Cisco Unified Computing System. The UCS portfolio consists of single servers and blade-chassis servers, and is at the center of how we create solutions that will save our clients money.

Additionally, we have teamed up with VMware to provide the software that is loaded onto the Cisco UCS platform, and enables virtualization to happen.

At Telcion, our number one concern is providing technology solutions that bring benefit to our clients. We believe that expanding our offerings around virtualization will allow us to bring more value and save you money. We value your partnership with us, and we are looking forward to serving you in an even greater capacity.

If you have interest in virtualization, but don’t know how to get started, contact us for a free consultation.

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