Accidental Benefits

November 19, 2012

by Alex Osorio, Nexus Practice Manager, Data Center – End User Computing

Sometimes the best discoveries are those that happen by accident.  Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming because he didn’t clean up his workstation before going on vacation in 1928.  For one of our customers, it was that his Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) had become a strategic corporate asset.  Here’s the story.

Our customer had a problem.  He’d found this specialized application for one of the corporate departments that would help them share information and collaborate more efficiently.  It would also help everyone to measurably increase their productivity.  But, after stirring up lots of excitement about the new application in the department, our customer realized that he was in a bit of a predicament.  The application only ran in a Windows 7 environment.  Everyone in the department used Windows XP.

Implementing this wonderful new application would mean new desktops and laptops with a new operating system for every end user.  Existing applications would have to be upgraded to the new environment and end users would have to be trained to use the new operating system.  Our customer sat down and calculated that the cost would be high and that implementing the solution would take nine months.

VDI looked like a good alternative.  So, working with our team, we put together a VDI solution that enabled our customer to roll out the new application in just sixty days.  Department members were ecstatic and our customer was a hero.  But, after a few months more, our customer discovered that his VDI implementation was doing much, much more for him than he’d expected.

  • It saved him lots of money – So much money in fact, that he was able to take those funds and invest them into a new storage and server environment that improved the performance of applications used by the entire company.
  • Software upgrades become a “snap” – With only one software image to manage, upgrades that had taken weeks in the past, took minutes instead.
  • Calls to the help desk were reduced by thirty percent – Users and technical support didn’t have to worry about the idiosyncrasies of the devices and applications anymore – and the calls went away.
  • It increased the security of corporate data – Access to corporate applications and data is provided only through a virtual desktop that is centrally controlled, and the company no longer had to provide laptops to contractors to ensure the security of the system.
  • It enabled the company to provide mobile access to applications and data – VDI made it simple to integrate mobile access for tablets and other wireless devices.

In fact, our customer was so successful, that other business units within the company came to him wanting their own VDI environments!

VDI was a pleasant surprise for our customer.  Initially, it was just a solution to a specific problem.  But VDI’s “accidental benefits” have transformed it from a tactical solution to a strategic corporate asset.


What will drive “the cloud”? OpenStack!

September 4, 2012

– by Mike Heiman, VP of Engineering

Like most of you, I’ve been reading a lot about OpenStack lately.  For an initiative that is just over two years old, it has gained considerable momentum and industry support.  OpenStack membership has grown from founders NASA and Rackspace to include AT&T, Canonical, Cisco Systems, Cloudscaling, Dell, HP, IBM, MorphLabs, Nebula, NetApp, Red Hat, and SUSE.  It’s expected that in October, VMware, Intel and NEC will be added, making OpenStack a very powerful rival to competitive implementations touted by Amazon (Web Services) and Citrix (CloudStack).

However, most of my reading just left me wondering.  Why are all of these companies so eager to be part of the OpenStack foundation?  What will OpenStack mean to the companies that provide cloud services (both public and private) and to the companies that will use them?  In other words, why should we care about OpenStack?  Our engineering staff here at Nexus was happy to fill me in.  Here’s what they told me.

  • OpenStack is a framework for managing virtualized computing, storage, and networking resources in a multi-vendor environment – an essential capability for delivering cost-effective, high-availability, cloud-based applications and services.
  • OpenStack is not a virtualization engine like VMware or Citrix, it’s the glue that ties everything together.
  • Vendors like those listed above will package the OpenStack components.  (Compute for managing large networks of virtual machines; Storage includes object and block storage for use with servers and applications; Networking that provides pluggable, scalable API-drive network and IP management; Dashboard which gives administrators and users a graphical interface to access, provision and automated cloud-based resources; and Shared Services that include Identity and Image Services that span the Compute, Storage and Networking components.)  They’ll add their own “secret sauce” to the common stacks, making it easier and more cost-effective for them to provide cloud-based services.  (End user companies probably won’t utilize raw OpenStack components.)
  • OpenStack will allow companies who provide cloud-based services (public or private) to operate and manage very large, multi-vendor, virtualized environments – cost-effectively.  They can choose “best of breed” components from a variety of vendors, yet manage them as a single, consistent “whole”.  Something that is very hard, if not impossible to do today without the common APIs that are included in OpenStack.
  • Companies that are using or plan to use cloud-based services will be able to choose from a variety of services that can accommodate the mobile worker, are more cost-effective than traditional premise-based server implementations, and deliver the speed, flexibility, and accessibility they need to compete.

After listening to our staff, it was clear to me that all of the buzz about OpenStack was warranted.  That’s why Nexus is listed a participating company in OpenStack, and our engineers and architects are contributing code to the project itself.  We firmly believe that open standards and platforms like Linux and Apache fueled the explosion of the internet of today. In our opinion, OpenStack is becoming the open platform that the next generation of Cloud Computing will be built on, driving the industries growth and our growth with it.

The net impact of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

August 7, 2012

– by Tom Lyon, VP of Managed Services and Shane Roberts, Director of Managed Services

the multitude of consumer devices facing ITA member of our staff at Nexus was surprised to discover that his family of four had consumed 8.26GB of data in just one month.  After interviewing family members, it was pretty clear that the culprits were streaming and downloaded video along with Pandora radio.  But his experience got me thinking about the number one issue our customers talk about when we ask them to name the biggest network management problems they face.  Almost without fail, it’s how to deal with all of the consumer smartphones and tablets that are proliferating on their networks. 

Our customers, and our own experience here at Nexus, tell us that allowing users to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), significantly impacts the network infrastructure in three main areas:

  1. Bandwidth – If four consumers can use 8.26GB of data in one month, how much more will an executive, sales person or field technician generate that uses TelePresence to stay in touch, views high-quality 1080p video, and downloads multimedia documents like PowerPoint presentations, brochures, and comprehensive reports?  Our experience, and that of many of our customers, is that users consume bandwidth almost as fast as it is installed.  We’ve found that providing the bandwidth users need at a cost the company can afford requires an approach that includes policy (limiting devices or types of traffic), technology (bigger pipes, improved infrastructure), and operational improvements (better tools, more efficient processes).
  2. Security – It’s just a little scary to realize that the Vice President’s “business” tablet is also a toy for his/her nine-year-old son or daughter.  And, that both of them are probably making the four biggest smartphone/tablet security mistakes:

    * Downloading apps from unverified sources
    * Using an unlocked device
    * Using a device without a password or using a password that’s simple to break
    * Failing to keep the device’s OS updatedIT professionals know that it’s difficult to change user behavior.

    Therefore, it’s protecting the network that’s key.  We’ve found that single sign-on, context-based access rights, and SSL VPN’s – along with policy – can help insure that a nine-year-old’s mistake doesn’t result in a network intrusion.

  3. Storage – To users, storage is like bandwidth – the more there is, the more they’ll consume. However, all of that video, all of those documents have to be stored somewhere.  And for companies that must comply with Sarbanes-Oxley and other state and Federal laws, simply deleting all of the video isn’t an option.  We’ve helped our customers – and ourselves – to manage the storage storm by implementing robust storage area networking solutions and using virtualization to help cap costs. 

Mobile devices aren’t going away.  And, since companies can’t just stay on an unlimited data plan with their wireless vendor to cap mobile data costs (like our colleague), it’s important to prepare for their impact on network bandwidth, security, and storage.  

Information on Nexus solutions that can help solve BYOD issues is available at:
Identity Services
Network Security
Meet the Demands of End Users
Keeping Up with Bandwidth Demands
The Role of the Network in Data Center Virtualization
Overpaying for Your Communications Infrastructure
Managed Services Provides a Predictable Cost Model

Best Practices: Technology interoperability

May 14, 2012

Best-in-class companies are focusing on building that collaboration vision, understanding where they want to go, understanding what their associates need, and understanding the steps they need to take to get where they need to go. Overall, that’s going to give them more effective, happier, and hopefully long-term associates and happier end customers as a result. Click below to watch a short video for more:

3 Statistics to Make You Think – Round 3

November 21, 2011

This third segment in our statistics series will make you think again about the ever-increasing volume of data moving over your network. The cost of real estate, power and cooling (not to mention the environmental effects!) should be making us all take a closer look at the advantages of virtualization. 

Security and Availability are Job #1

August 9, 2011

Global Cash Access is a leading provider of cash access, cash handling & information services. Surprisingly, over 65% of the money wagered in casinos doesn’t walk in the door, but is accessed from within the casino itself. In 2010, GCA processed 90 million financial transactions and delivered over $18 billion in cash to casino floors. That’s $52 million per day, $2.1 million per hour, or $35,000 per MINUTE. For a company with that much cash on the line, uptime isn’t just a necessity, it’s mission-critical. And since millions of customers have entrusted their personal and financial data to the company, security is no less vital.

So when it came time to upgrade their data center, GCA sought out partners who were uniquely positioned to help them in their mission: To ensure that cash can be delivered to casino patrons in a fast, reliable and secure manner. With help from Nexus, GCA migrated its data center to Switch Communications’ SuperNAP – one of the greenest, most powerful data centers in the world. Its network and data center infrastructure now includes:

If you’re ever in Las Vegas, the 407,000 sq ft Switch SuperNAP is well worth a tour. They are the world’s most powerful and greenest data center, and have recently announced a planned  expansion to 2.2 million square feet, making it the largest commercially available and independent technology ecosystem in the world. Security is unparalleled, with armed guards and elaborate protocols required just for the tour. So while the idea of an incident ever striking the facility seems highly unlikely, GCA’s entire data center setup is replicated at their corporate offices for backup and redundancy.

In addition to 100% availability, security and reliability, GCA has realized the following benefits from their data center upgrade:

  • Gained unprecedented scalability and ease of management, freeing engineers for critical projects and reducing operational costs.
  • Saved $800,000 in capital costs and is expected to reduce database licensing costs up to 40%.
  • Reduced carbon footprint by several hundred thousand tons per year.

GCA plans to complete its IT implementation in 2011 and begin migrating its credit-card processing operations in-house in late 2011 or early 2012.

Virtual Collaboration

July 29, 2011

With the consumerization of IT in the workforce today, businesses are spending more and more time chasing down support for virtually unlimited types of devices. From iPads, to PCs, Macs to Android devices, every day seems to introduce a new device that employees want to use.

By decoupling applications from operating systems, we can deliver information securely to virtually any device today – and devices that have yet to be introduced – without significant effort. With virtual collaboration, applications can run on devices such as iPads, Cius tablets, zero client backpacks, PCs, and Macs transparently. Applications such as WebEx Connect can run in a virtual environment, yet still control physical phone devices on the user desktop.

Nexus experts understand the data center, borderless network, and collaboration elements involved in delivering applications to any device safely and securely. This demo we recently gave at Cisco Live shows you the first phases of virtual collaboration, and where the technology is headed:

%d bloggers like this: