Where’s the promised agility?

The world of technology solutions integrators has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Customers are more educated than ever before through access to a world of information available on the Internet. It is estimated that 80% of customer decision-making is made online before they even reach out to us. This is not just true of our industry. The Internet is now woven into the fabric of society and clients now go to the veterinary clinic with the belief that they already identified their pet’s disease since “the Internet” provided them with a diagnosis!

agility380w_0What about the promises of industry giants? Simplified IT, reduced OPEX, increased budgets for projects instead of maintenance, etc.?

How can we explain that we don’t witness this in our conversations with customers? How is it that we still see today clients who have embraced those technologies also admit they are now faced with greater complexity than before? Perhaps the flaw comes exactly from the fact that 80% of decisions are made based on well designed and manufactured web marketing strategies…

Regardless of the technological evolution, the key it seems is still architecture design, thought with a business purpose and IT integration strategy tailored to your specific needs with the help of professionals. Just as a veterinarian is certainly a better source of information than the Internet to look after your pet…

For over 20 years, ESI designs solutions that are agile, scalable and customized to the specific needs of organisations. ESI works closely with customers to bridge the gap between business needs and technology, maximizing ROI and providing objective professional advice.

Review of NetApp Insight 2015

Logo NetApp Insight 2015

The 2015 Edition of NetApp Insight was held in Las Vegas from October 12 to 15. The event is comprised of general sessions, more than 400 breakout sessions, the Insight Central zone with partner booths, hands-on labs, a “meet the engineer” section and offers the possibility to complete certification exams onsite.
The general sessions were presented by different NetApp personalities, CEO, CIO, technical directors, engineers, the NetApp cofounder Dave Hitz, as well as partners and guests (including Cisco, Fujitsu, VMware, 3D Robotics).
Last year, the “Data Fabric” term was unveiled to identify NetApp’s vision of cloud computing. This year, most of the presentations were intended to make that vision more concrete, through examples, demonstrations and placed in context.
For NetApp, Data Fabric is synonymous with data mobility, wherever it resides, whether in traditional datacentres or in the cloud. The key to this mobility lies in SnapMirror, which should soon be supported by various NetApp platforms, FAS, Cloud ONTAP, NetApp Private Storage (PS), AltaVault, etc. and orchestrated by global tools such as OnCommand Cloud Manager and the adaptation of existing tools.
Still on the topic of cloud, a Cisco speaker presented the current issues and future trends: with the exponential use of devices (tablets, smartphones and connected devices) and the increasingly frequent move of data (and even of the compute) to the edge, accessibility, availability, security and data mobility therefore becomes an increasingly important issue. In short, the cloud trend belongs to the past, we now must talk about edge!
NetApp has also put forward its All-Flash FAS type entreprise solutions which, thanks to new  optimizations can now seriously compete in high performance and very low latency environments.
The number of breakout sessions was impressive and in four days, one can only expect to attend about 20 of the 400 sessions available.
Insight is open to clients since last year, but some sessions remain reserved for NetApp partners and employees. Some information are confidential, but without giving details and non-exhaustively, we can mention that a new generation of controllers and tablets are to be expected soon, that SnapCenter will eventually replace SnapManager (in cDOT only) and that new much more direct transition options from 7-Mode to cDOT will be made available.
Other sessions also helped to deepen knowledge or to discover some very interesting tools and features.
In conclusion, NetApp Insight is a must, to soak up in the NetApp line of solutions as much as to find out what NetApp’s vision and future direction will be.

Olivier Navatte, ESI Storage Specialist

The greatest IT confusion ever?

Does it even beat Y2K? It’s been a year now since I rejoined the IT integration industry. When I left it in 2003 to focus on PKI technologies, it was still the good old days of client server IT infrastructure right after Y2K and the dot-com bubble burst. For a year now I have been trying to understand clients’ challenges to see how I can help. For a year now I have observed my clients trying themselves to understand the mutations that appear to be changing the IT industry and how it affects them not only on a business level but also on professional AND personal levels as well. I find them fearful and closed. Witnessing this, I told a colleague of mine “it seems our clients are capable of telling us what they don’t want but rarely have a clear vision of what they’re aiming for”!Trending concepts
Big data, the internet of things, stuff called cloud, anything anywhere anytime on any device, the software defined companies etc. – all these new terminologies are being bombarded to our clients and are supposed to showcase the many new trends in the industry. I have recently been to a seminar where the audience was separated in three categories: traditional IT folks who resist these changes and new trends because they reshape traditional IT infrastructure and thus may even jeopardize their job definition or security, new line of business managers who embrace change and are shopping for apps that get the job done and high management who talk the numbers’ language (growth percentage, market share and other measurable KPIs) with whom you need to be able to prove ROI (not TCO this is the IT folks’ concerns).

And there we have it: widespread confusion and fear. Y2K all over again? People forget, BI has been around for a while, so has the Internet, thin client environments, databases etc. It’s just happening on a different scale and the challenge remains to bridge the gap between corporate and business objectives as defined by high management, finding the right tools and processes to get the job done by line of business owners and IT that still has an important role in solution selection, integration and support be it on site or off site.

My challenge over the last year has been to overcome those fears so as to allow my clients to have open discussions on their business objectives and avoid the use of buzz words to refocus on “where do you want to be in three to five years as a company, what IT tools will be required to help you get there and what are the ones I can help you with”.

Charles Tremblay, ESI account manager

SDN- The Mystery Uncovered

As I continue to attend conferences and sessions with many of our core partners, I continue on my quest for data centre innovation. Most recently I visited the sunny coast of the Bay Area to visit Brocade Communications, Hitachi Data Systems and VMware specifically the NSX division.

Within my role “Office of the CTO” I am always exploring new trends and innovation in designs and solutions for our clients, in particular how Software-Defined Everything becomes a part of our clients’ data centre evolution. For many years we have been speaking about the cloud and its adoption in main stream IT. We have new technologies appear and some just take a new face. Today, I would like to explore the concept of Software Defined Data Centers (SDDC) or in this case specially Software Defined Networks (SDN), with an overview of some of the most interesting solutions on the market.

Like many of you I have experienced the virtualization becoming more and more common of the compute platform. It just seems like yesterday that my manager at the time asked me to assist in SAN connectivity with Microsoft version 1 of Virtual Machine management! Today we are experiencing the continued evolution of virtualization. Server and storage virtualization are common place within the data center. We are seeing Canadian companies 100% virtualized within the compute space. These same companies are looking for the next step in consolidation, agility and cost containment. That next step is network virtualization. But what is SDN? Software defined networking (SDN) is a model for network control, based on the idea that network traffic flow can be made programmable at scale, thus enabling new dynamic models for traffic management.

SDN image

VMware NSX – a product purchased by VMware to add to their virtual network strategy. The product is sound and provides a close coupling with VMware and the networking and security of East/West traffic within a VM. The NSX Data and management plane provides an excellent framework to allow the SME hypervisor to lock down the VM traffic, and virtual properties such as a vRouter, vVPN, vLoad Balancer, all of which work within the VM construct.

Brocade Vyatta – A technology acquired by Brocade 2 years ago. Today we see the vRouter and Vyatta OpenDaylight controller lead the pack. Brocade has v5400 and v5600 additions of the predefined Vyatta OpenFlow controller. The Vyatta implementation provides vRouter, vFirewall, vVPN and has also developed a vADX load balancer as well.

Cisco ACI or Nexus 9000L – Cisco announced in 2014 the spin-in of the ‎Insieme product to provide an ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) platform. The first release was a 40 Gb Ethernet switch with no real ACI functionality. Today we see the product with enhanced port/policy control strategy using the Cloupia Spin-in Technology (UCS Director) policy based engines to control the various functions within an ACI architecture.

‎The real mystery of software defined networking starts with the basic understanding of a business need for a “programmable network” based on X86 architecture within the virtualization layer.

Nicholas Laine, Director Solutions Architect – Office of the CTO

Don’t fall for marketing blurb

While watching a pickup truck commercial on TV lately, I couldn’t help but ask myself “How can all pickups have the best fuel efficiency in their category?” In a funny way, I hear the same in our industry with “most IOPS or terabytes per $”. It seems everyone’s the best at it. In one case, a client got the most IOPS per dollar he could get and he ended up having to change his whole data centre infrastructure because the IOPS he got were not of the right type!

IOPS

In the storage industry, it seems that IOPS is the equivalent buzzword to horsepower (HP) in the automotive industry. So you’re going to try to get the most horsepower per $ when you purchase a car. You can get 350HP out of a small sports car or a pickup truck. Just don’t try to race with a pickup truck or tow something with the sports car! There’s a reason why you won’t see a Ferrari with a hitch! Though they both have 350HP, one has torque, the other one doesn’t. One is built for performance and speed, the other for heavy workloads. The same goes for data centres. Manufacturers will give you the IOPS you asked for and they can usually prove it! But do you know what IOPS type you’re looking for (sequential, random, read or write)? Why are you requiring those IOPS? Performance or heavy workloads? If you’re not sure, it’s an integrator’s core business and value to help you make sense of all the marketing blurb thrown at you, to help you choose wisely and protect your investment.

Charles Tremblay, ESI Account Manager