Thursday, August 27, 2009

Go Green With Nexsan

by Heather

Green is hot this year, and for good reason. At last, companies can be environmentally friendly while still watching their bottom line, thanks to new technologies that combine high performance and cost savings with environmental benefits.

One company that is riding on that wave is Nexsan, with their AutoMAID technology built into all of their storage disk array products (including SATABoy and SATABeast). According to an article at Processor.com and a recent U.S. Department of Energy study, idle computers are responsible for more than half of the 53 billion kilowatt hours of power that business computers consume annually. AutoMAID addresses the SAN side of that equation by placing storage drives into an idle state when not immediately in use without slowing down data retrieval times. According to Nexsan’s website, AutoMAID users realize an energy savings up to 60%.

I spoke with Bob Woolery at Nexsan this week about AutoMAID and their other green initiatives. Here’s what he had to say:

Me: Value and green are becoming more and more interconnected. Can you talk about that connection, how it has grown, and where it is going?

Bob: That’s a great question, because when people think about value, they tend to think of low cost and often, what features they have to give up. But when Nexsan talks about value, we focus on a holistic meaning—price is part of it, but it’s not the only thing. Our value involves not only less to buy, but also improved energy efficiency, space efficiency and a lower cost to operate.

A good comparison would be the Honda Accord. It’s not the lowest priced car on the market, but it is one of the best values. Likewise, Nexsan may not be the least expensive provider but we provide tremendous value like power efficiency, reliability, space efficiency, and performance.

Me: Besides AutoMAID, what else is your company doing for Green?

Bob: Our products, compared to competitive systems, are in and of themselves more energy efficient. They use less power. For instance, the SATABeast with all drives running uses 686 watts. A comparable unit from a competitor uses 1,155. We all purchase drives from the same small set of disk manufacturers, but the Nexsan team closely monitors all aspects of energy usage in our storage systems and uses a systemic approach to analyze and reduce power usage. We work with our entire supply chain to reduce the energy our components use while delivering high quality at a good price.

Me: In seven years of selling Nexsan products, we have never known a system to fail. Tell me more about what your users are experiencing with your product, especially AutoMAID.

Bob: Adoption to this technology has been pretty darn quick. Within a year of purchase, 34% of our customers have turned on the AutoMAID functionality. That may sound a little slow, but in the arena of behavioral changes, that’s really very fast. Compare that to how long it has taken our society to transition from incandescent light bulbs to energy saving compact florescent light bulbs.

Me: I still have some incandescent bulbs at my house.

Bob: Exactly. One of the challenges in changing people’s behavior is they believe, incorrectly, that “green” means slow and expensive. And while the first generation of MAID technology was that, the Nexsan Team asked “why does it have to be that way?” and designed an energy saving technology that challenged the rules of storage and provides performance with energy savings – Speed with Green. Why should you have to compromise value and performance to be green? So we developed a MAID technology that delivers value, performance, and energy savings. No compromise.

Me: What’s next for the environment?

Bob: More and more companies are going to adopt similar energy efficient technologies but Nexsan is not sitting still. There will be additional innovation in this technology segment and users are going to become smarter about how and when to use energy saving technologies.

Me: What else should our readers and customers know about MAID technology and the future of Green?

Bob: One of the objections to this specific technology is that people think they are running their disks 24/7, that their disks are never idle, so they don’t see how shutting down idle disks will apply to them. But the reality is that very few centers are actually accessing their disks all the time. In fact, on average a disk is only accessed 15% of the time. For customers who believe they are accessing their disks all the time, we say: Humor us. Just turn on AutoMAID Level 1 for one week. Most of the time, they realize an immediate 20% cost savings. Those who turn it on, rarely turn it off again.

Another objection we hear is that it’s difficult or expensive. The truth is that there is a single on-screen dashboard with simple on-off toggle controls. You set it once and forget about it. It self-optimizes according to your instructions. And since it’s already included in our products, there is no additional expense.

Me: One last thing—SANDirect has just been awarded a GSA schedule 70 for your product, which allows us to sell complete storage solutions to government agencies. Does your product carry some sort of government-sponsored approval, like an Energy Star certification?

Bob: Great question. The government doesn’t currently have Energy Star certification for storage. That is something we will be working on. We’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bringing Sky-High Technologies Down to Earth--Safely

By Jim

I was fortunate enough to get an introduction to John Secord, the COO of SouthSales Communications (www.southsales.com) located in Charlotte, NC. We met at a networking function last week and they are working on some pretty exciting data transmitting and storage technologies for “mobile resource management.”

I can't divulge everything we talked about, but it involves real time tracking and information gathering from basically anything that moves. And by moves, I mean stuff that moves really fast; aircraft to be exact. Everyone knows about the “black box” that holds the key to “what went wrong” any time an aircraft is downed. What I didn’t know before talking to John is that these new technologies are changing that paradigm faster than—well, faster than a speeding jet. Instead of locking all the information inside the aircraft, and deleting it before each new flight, now that information can stream directly to an off-board server, where it can be stored and analyzed in real time.

John is an interesting guy, a pilot and a military veteran, so he knows what he’s talking about. He’s actually personally made use of this technology. Orange County, California, not too far back, he and some friends were coming in at about 1200 feet, when the engine quit. No power, emergency situation. The story has a happy ending of course—they made it in safely, coasted in on momentum and the skill of a former military pilot (John himself, as a matter of fact). Thanks to their own technology installed in the aircraft, they analyzed the engine data over a glass of wine that night. Discovered the problem, transmitted details to the mechanic, got it fixed. Then transmitted the pertinent data to the engine manufacturer. Manufacturer used the data to find a flaw in the engine design, which they were then able to correct for future iterations of the same aircraft. Technology applied, lives saved.

And here’s what I can’t say much about but--They’ve recently completed some successful testing with Lockheed-Martin. Look for more about that soon.

John is himself an interesting individual with some great experience in varied industries ranging from movies and lighting, to software to communications. And of course, he’s a pilot and a military veteran (“We’re all aviators, and that’s what sparked this business,” he says). Being fairly new to the Charlotte area, he is on a quest to find out more about the businesses and opportunities we have here.

SouthSales has been in operation here for over twenty years and specializes in mobile data transmitting technologies for emergency services, hospitals, and governments. The company was founded by Tim Rock, who has now resumed his Sales leadership role within the company and working closely with John to develop new markets and products. Traditionally they have worked primarily within North and South Carolina, but are now moving to a national model with an emphasis on Government and the Military. They will do well because of their unique innovative leadership.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tech gurus know how to party too

By Mark

Upscale BlackFinn Saloon and Restaurant in the Charlotte epicenter was hopping with happening tech gurus last night. XO Communications hosted about 50 attendees over drinks and apps (no, they weren’t giving out free software for mobile devices—just very tasty edibles) in the lux environment of Blackfinn’s wood-paneled second floor.

Over seared ahi and classic beef sliders (Blackfinn’s signature mini burgers), reps gathered from more companies than I had time to meet. Among those I did get to meet were Steve Schwartz, Pivod Technologies; Philip Ciccarello, Nascar Plaza; Tim Rock and John Secord, SouthSales Communications; Lee Bellinger, American Lantern Press; Al James, Netview; and Braden Gracey, Charlotte Colocation Center.

Of course, XO Communications came in force, including Senior Account Executive Bob Larkin, who is currently working on transferring SANDirect’s communications network over to XO’s services; as well as Josh Brant and Laura Watkins who were responsible for organizing the event. XO took advantage of Blackfinn’s large screen televisions to prominently display their logo, and Larkin says the event originated as a way for their company to generate leads. However, he adds, it’s evolved into an opportunity for everyone to benefit from new contacts and leads. I agree.

Thanks, XO!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Infiniband VS 10GB Ethernet--Which Does What?

by Heather Head

There’s no doubt that speed and performance are hot topics among data storage and retrieval users and manufacturers today. But for consumers, the question of where to invest can be daunting, especially when it comes to interconnectivity protocols.

June’s finalization of an FCoE standard excited some industry analysts, and shows promise for growing that end of the industry. However, with Cisco pushing 10GB Ethernet products, most companies are investing in this standard for their Windows-based connectivity. QLogic, Chelsio, and Mellanox are among the producers of 10GB Ethernet. Users include Boeing, as well as email hosting and archiving provider, LiveOffice.

Then there’s Infiniband, offering four times the speed of already-speedy Ethernet, at lower cost. According to a May press release from the InfiniBand® Trade Association (IBTA), three independent trade analysts confirmed continued market growth of InfiniBand products in the HPC and data center server and storage markets. According to Tabor Research, for instance, “HPC-using organizations that are considering converged fabric strategies are more likely to consolidate on Infiniband than Ethernet.”

Unlike Ethernet, however, Infiniband doesn’t prefer to communicate with top-heavy servers running on a Windows OS. Shunning the mass market in favor primarily of high-end performance shops, Infiniband likes Unix or Linux equipment. Implemented with high-speed data storage and processing, it provides unprecedented performance for high-speed computation.

Mellanox and QLogic (with the purchase of NetXen) offer Infiniband products, and organizations like the National Institute for Health are using it.

Bottom line: If you’re running Windows servers, Ethernet currently provides easier connectivity. But if HPC performance is your game, you’ll get more for your dollar with Infiniband. Some companies run both, depending on factors beyond the scope of this discussion. If there’s any doubt as to what your company needs, contact someone who understands both and can give you tailored advice (that’s our shameless plug—866-463-3372—we’ll fix you up with just the right thing). Whatever you decide, the latest products will provide you with faster access than ever before possible.