ThinkCentre M93, which boasts the latest processers, innovative productivity features. M93p and adds Intel® vPro™ to optimize remote manageability.
Intel Core i5 4690K 3.5 GHz Quad Core CPU (K for overclockable) Max Turbo Frequency 3.9 GHz
Onboard HD Audio Intel HD 4600 GRFX 2 GB (on the CPU) Onboard 2 x Dual Display Port
This is a very fast capable PC. It’s actually a Business Workstation described as cutting edge computing for large enterprise by Lenovo.
I bought this to keep for myself hence some of the upgrades. I swapped out the PSU to accommodate the GRFX Card that I already had but I decided to get a SFF M93p instead so this is now surplus to requirements.
Western Digital’s ActiveScale 5.5 object storage update adds asynchronous object distribution for multisite disaster recovery and new workflow automation options for customers that have massive-scale unstructured data storage needs.
Western Digital claims ActiveScale can deliver up to 75 GB per second of data throughput and pack more data into a smaller footprint than past product versions, thanks to its newly integrated 14 TB Ultrastar enterprise hard disk drives (HDDs). The highest capacity HDD available with prior ActiveScale systems was 12 TB.
ActiveScale’s starting capacity is 676 TB, and deployments generally exceed a petabyte, according to Erik Ottem, senior director of product marketing for Western Digital data center systems. The largest customer, a hedge fund, stores about 200 PB, he said.
Object stores such as ActiveScale are designed to scale out on commodity server hardware and offer a more economical alternative to file- and block-based storage for applications that don’t require the highest levels of performance. Target workloads for ActiveScale include analytics, high-performance computing and internet of things.
ActiveScale 5.5’s new asynchronous “geo-spread” feature will give customers a “more efficient and less expensive” option to protect data than replication does, Ottem said. The common “triple-mirror” architecture for object storage replicates a full copy of a file to three locations. But geo-spreading replicates only a portion of an object and parity bits, so that any two locations have sufficient data chunks and parity to reconstruct the full object, Ottem said.
Western Digital has long supported a “strong consistency” model with synchronous geo-spreading. The addition of the asynchronous option will now add an “eventual consistency” option for customers with latency between geographically dispersed sites and distribute data in the background, Ottem said.
“With geo-spreading, you manage one system in three locations instead of three systems in three locations,” Ottem said.
The ActiveScale geo-spread feature gives customers the choice of 18 erasure code options based on the number of data center locations they have, capacity and data durability requirements, Ottem said.
Data Pipeline Service
Another key new feature in ActiveScale 5.5 is a Data Pipeline Service designed to facilitate workflow automation. ActiveScale provides real-time object notifications and connection capabilities to a messaging service, such as Apache Kafka, to trigger a chain of events to get work done, Ottem said.
Potential use cases for the Data Pipeline Service include virus checking, document analysis for fraud detection, healthcare image analysis or video transcoding for a media and entertainment application. Western Digital will provide written and video instruction materials to help users implement the new workflow automation capabilities, Ottem said.
The ActiveScale 5.5 update also adds an optional graphical user interface (GUI), patterned after Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3), to enable employees to create new object storage buckets without requiring IT assistance.
“Our traditional GUI was aimed at the IT audience, and this GUI is really aimed at end users. It doesn’t do everything. For instance, you don’t necessarily want your power user to do troubleshooting on which disk drive or which shelf needed to be replaced. But it does make a lot of sense to have your end user understanding what his bucket uses are and what versions are available,” Ottem said.
Western Digital offers two ActiveScale models: the P100 modular option for customers with their own racks and the X100 integrated system in a prepopulated rack. Ottem said channel partners set the pricing. Support for the new 14 TB HDDs — which offer higher density at roughly the same energy footprint — will increase the suggested retail price by 2.5% to 5%, Ottem said.
The latest software patch for on-premises Skype for Business eliminates bugs and adds features for users that run the Microsoft platform on Mac OS, narrowing an already minimal gap between the Mac and Windows clients.
For Mac users, the Skype for Business update lets delegates — users designated to receive someone else’s calls — create and edit a meeting on behalf of a colleague. Also, users can now be made a delegate even if their account isn’t part of an organization’s enterprise voice plan.
Microsoft has enabled video-based screen sharing for Mac users, the result of a next-generation screen-sharing protocol that the vendor added to Skype for Business earlier this year. The new system is faster and more reliable than the traditional method and works better in low-bandwidth conditions.
The Skype for Business update, available for download now, also fixes several bugs on the Mac client, including a flaw that prevented users from joining a meeting hosted by someone outside their organization.
Microsoft seems to announce updates to the Mac client more quickly than it does for other changes to the Skype for Business platform, and describes Mac upgrades in more detail, said Jim Gaynor, a vice president of the consulting group Directions on Microsoft, based in Kirkland, Wash.
“There are still a few gaps between SfB Mac and Windows clients, most around some of the advanced call control features, file upload/sharing, and the ability to upload PowerPoint decks for online presentations,” Gaynor said. “But they’re fairly minimal.”
Skype for Business 2015 server nears its end of life
The improvements to the Mac client were among roughly 40 enhancements released as part of Microsoft’s biannual update to the Skype for Business 2015 server.
This summer’s Skype for Business update introduces location-based routing for Skype for Business mobile clients. The feature gives businesses more control when steering calls between VoIP and PSTN endpoints based on geography.
Microsoft is expected to stop releasing feature updates and bug fixes for the 2015 server in fall 2020, the end of the typical five-year lifespan for the product.
The 2019 server will encourage businesses to host some telephony and messaging features in the cloud. Meanwhile, Microsoft Teams, a team collaboration app similar to Slack, will soon replace Skype for Business Online within the cloud-based Office 365 suite.
A LinkedIn Sales Navigator refresh adds a deals management feature, smoother search experience and mobile deal pages to the social media giant’s social sales platform.
The revamp injects an array of new ways to search, manipulate and process LinkedIn’s vast troves of personal and consumer data and data from CRM systems and puts LinkedIn in a better position to monetize the information — coming off a hot quarter for LinkedIn, which reported June quarter earnings of $1.46 billion, up 37% from Q2 2017.
These upgraded features represent the next step in AI-assisted sales and marketing campaigns in which B2B companies mash up their own customer data with information on LinkedIn.
Microsoft banking on LinkedIn revenue
Microsoft bought LinkedIn in June 2016 for $26.2 billion. While Microsoft doesn’t always announce how AI is assisting automation of sales-centric search tools in Sales Navigator, a premium LinkedIn feature that also integrates LinkedIn data to CRM platforms such as Salesforce and Dynamics CRM, some experts have noted how AI subtly manifests itself in the search.
The LinkedIn Sales Navigator refresh was unveiled in a blog post by Doug Camplejohn, vice president of products for LinkedIn Sales Solutions.
The new “Deals” web interface extracts and imports sales pipeline data from the user’s CRM system and enables users to update pipelines considerably faster, Camplejohn said in the post about the LinkedIn Sales Navigator refresh.
“Reps can now update their entire pipeline in minutes, not hours,” he wrote.
Adobe Sign connector added
Meanwhile, a new feature in Deals, “Buyer’s Circle,” pulls in and displays opportunity role information to streamline the B2B buying process. Users can see if any “key players” such as decision-maker, influencer or evaluator, are missing from deals, according to LinkedIn.
Doug Camplejohnvice president of products, LinkedIn
The vendor called another new function in the LinkedIn Sales Navigator refresh — Office 365 integration — “Sales Navigator in your inbox.”
“We all live in email,” the blog post said. “Now you can take Sales Navigator actions and see key insights without ever leaving your Outlook for Web Inbox. “
LinkedIn also touted what it called a “new search experience” in the Sales Navigator update, saying it redesigned the search function to surface search results pages faster and easier.
Also as part of the LinkedIn Sales Navigator refresh, LinkedIn added mobile-optimized lead pages for sales people working on mobile devices. LinkedIn also named Adobe Sign the fourth partner to its Sales Navigator Application Platform (SNAP). Other SNAP partners include Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and SalesLoft.
SwiftStack Inc.’s new 6.0 product release adds Universal Access capabilities to enable customers to read and write files to object storage in private or public clouds without a gateway.
The San Francisco-based software vendor originally gained a following through its commercially supported version of open source OpenStack Swift object storage. But SwiftStack object storage has steadily added capabilities and, with the version 6 release, the startup now refers to its product as “multi-cloud data management” that provides a “cloud-native” single namespace for unstructured data.
SwiftStack object storage always supported the OpenStack Swift and Amazon S3 APIs. With its 2.0 product release, SwiftStack added a gateway to enable users to put file data into an object storage system via API and take it out via file, or vice versa, noted Mario Blandini, the company’s vice president of marketing.
“The reality is, no one used our file system gateway because what they really wanted is it to be as fast as their NAS and as cool as their NAS but then cheap as in object storage,” Blandini said. “Architecturally, a gateway could not delight our customers.”
Integrated support for SMB/NFS file protocols
SwiftStack’s Universal Access now enables users or applications to access unstructured data from any private or public cloud location through the SMB and NFS file protocols and Amazon S3 and Swift object interfaces. The system can read and write data to a cloud-based single namespace in both formats. For instance, it can ingest data via file and read via object, or vice versa.
“Any workflow comprised of any number of parts works, as long as the file interfaces are SMB or NFS, and the object interfaces are Swift or S3,” Blandini said.
Mario Blandinivice president of marketing, SwiftStack
Combining Universal Access with SwiftStack’s previously released Cloud Sync capabilities enables IT managers to control the placement of data in private or public clouds based on policies tailored to specific application workloads and facilitate multiprotocol access to the information. Blandini said the true benefit is being able to “put the right stuff in the right place at the right time without having your users do it — having your IT governance control where the data is placed.”
He said the new capabilities would enable SwiftStack, for the first time, to “ask people to please stop thinking of us as an open source company,” and “while you’re at it, if you could try not to label us as an object storage company, that’d be even better, because at the end of the day, no one cares about object storage.”
“When people write to a public cloud, they don’t care that it’s object storage,” Blandini said. “One of the things that’s made object storage elusive for most users is the fact that it’s been made up to be way more complicated than it needs to be. With cloud-first initiatives coming from CIOs and the mandate to provide DR and site recovery for a lot of businesses who can’t afford a second data center, we’re seeing a lot more momentum going to these things because it’s practical to do now.”
George Crump, founder and president of Storage Switzerland LLC, said SwiftStack’s Universal Access provides “some feature uniqueness that nobody else at least at this point has delivered.” But he said it’s probably not the one feature by itself that could push SwiftStack over the edge to significant market share.
“They have really good technology. Now it comes down to can they market,” Crump said. “I’d say the jury is out at this point.”
Howard Marks, founder and chief scientist at DeepStorage LLC, said SwiftStack’s pioneering work to have a single system that facilitates access to the same data via file and object APIs means developers won’t have to rewrite file-based applications for object storage paradigms and can write new applications to the S3 object API without having to worry about support for file APIs.
“It certainly opens up a new market” for SwiftStack, Marks said. “Their market before had been people building object storage for cloud-type applications. They open it up to the people who have applications using files now that want to make the transition to object and use that as their transition to a cloud strategy.”
Stiff competition for SwiftStack object storage
Marks noted that SwiftStack object storage faces stiff competition in a busy market populated with well-established vendors, startups and open source options such as Ceph. He said the company is taking the right approach in de-emphasizing its OpenStack Swift roots.
“The general-purpose object market is way bigger than OpenStack, and they don’t want to be ghettoized,” Marks said. “OpenStack is starting to get the smell of failure on it. People are starting to look down on OpenStack.”
Torsten Volk, a senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, said SwiftStack version 6 could serve as a complement to traditional NAS. “For latency-sensitive use cases, traditional NAS can stay in place. However, you could use SwiftStack to get more mileage out of existing filers by moving off the less demanding data,” Volk wrote in an email.
Volk said SwiftStack’s software could also be helpful for container users. “Containers notoriously are fighting with data mapping. SwiftStack gives them API access so that you don’t have to worry about Kubernetes storage drives or plug-ins,” he wrote.
Quobyte’s updated Data Center File System software adds volume-mirroring capabilities for disaster recovery, support for Mac and Windows clients, and shared access control lists.
The startup, based in Santa Clara, Calif., this week released the 2.0 version of its distributed POSIX-compliant parallel file system to beta testers and expects to make the updated product generally available in January.
The Quobyte software supports file, block and object storage, and it’s designed to scale out IOPS, throughput and capacity linearly on commodity hardware ranging from four to thousands of servers. Policy-based data placement lets users earmark high-performance workloads to flash drives, including faster new NVMe-based PCIe solid-state drives.
Software-defined storage startups face challenges
Despite the additions, industry analysts question whether Quobyte has done enough to stand out in a crowded field of file-system vendors.
Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, said Quobyte faces significant hurdles against competition ranging from established giants, such as Dell EMC, to startups, including Elastifile, Qumulo, Rozo Systems, StorOne and WekaIO.
Staimer called features such as shared access control lists (ACLs) and volume mirroring table stakes in the software-defined storage market. He said mirroring — a technology that was hot 20 years ago — protects against hardware failures, but doesn’t go far enough for disaster recovery. He said Quobyte must consider adding versioning and time stamping to protect against software corruption, malware, accidental deletion and problems of that nature.
Steven Hill, a senior storage analyst at 451 Research, said it takes more than features to gain share in the enterprise storage market. He said Quobyte would do well to forge closer hardware partnerships to provide better integration, optimization, support and services.
“Even though software-delivered storage appears to be the trend, many storage customers still seem more interested in the fully supported hardware [and] software appliance model, rather than taking a roll-your-own approach to enterprise storage, especially when there can be so many different production requirements in play at the same time,” Hill wrote in an email.
Quobyte CEO Bjorn Kolbeck and CTO Felix Hupfeld worked in storage engineering at Google before starting Quobyte in 2013. And Kolbeck claimed the “Google-style operations” that the Quobyte architecture enables would allow users to grow the system and run 24/7 without the need for additional manpower.
According to Kolbeck, fault tolerance is the most important enabler for Google-style operations. He said Quobyte achieves fault tolerance through automated replication, erasure coding, disaster recovery and end-to-end checksums that ensure data integrity. With those capabilities, users can fix broken hardware on their own schedules, he said.
“That’s the key to managing very large installations with hundreds of petabytes with a small team,” Kolbeck said.
Kolbeck said Quobyte made volume mirroring a priority following requests from commercial customers. The software uses continuous asynchronous replication across geographic regions and clouds to facilitate disaster recovery. Kolbeck said customers would be able replicate the primary site and use erasure coding with remote sites to lower the storage footprint, if they choose.
To expand data sharing across platforms and interfaces, Quobyte 2.0 finalized native drivers for Mac and Windows clients. Its previous version supported Linux, Hadoop and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) options for users to read, write and access files.
Kolbeck said adding access control lists will allow users to read and modify them from all interfaces now that Mac and Windows ACLs and S3 permissions map to Quobyte’s internal NFSv4 ACLs.
Quobyte also moved to simplify installation and management through the creation of a cloud-based service to assist with domain name system service configuration. Kolbeck said the company “moved as far away from the command line as possible,” and the system now can walk customers through the installation process.
Kolbeck said Quobyte currently has about 25 customers running the software in production. He said the company targets commercial high-performance computing and “all markets that are challenged by data growth,” including financial services, life sciences, exploratory data analysis and chip design, media and entertainment, and manufacturing and internet of things.
Quobyte’s subscription pricing model, based on usable capacity, will remain unchanged with the 2.0 product release.
The latest version of Data Dynamics’ StorageX file management software adds a single-view analysis portal, support for Amazon S3 API-compliant object storage and expanded application programming interfaces for DevOps environments.
With the StorageX 8.0 release, the Teaneck, N.J., software vendor continues to extend the product’s capabilities beyond the original data migration focus. Data Dynamics StorageX enables users to set policies and move files from one storage system to another without a gateway, file virtualization, global namespace, stubbing, sharding or agents.
Newly added support for Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) API — which has become the de facto standard for object storage — lets customers move files from an NFS or SMB layer to cloud-based object storage, such as Amazon cloud storage, NetApp StorageGrid, IBM Cloud Object Storage and other S3-compliant object stores.
Data Dynamics StorageX stores file natively in the S3 object format, enabling users to attach metadata tags to ease search and management. The native S3 object format also lets applications running in Amazon directly use and work on data that StorageX 8.0 has migrated. The updated StorageX 8.0 includes a new portal to enable users to retrieve S3-archived data in an SMB file format.
File analysis capabilities
StorageX 8.0’s new analysis capabilities rely on the product’s universal data engine (UDE) to collect information on a file’s owner, size, type, access, modification and other metrics to help users make more informed decisions on data management and migration. The UDE can run on the same server as StorageX or on virtual machines (VMs) in local data center servers with management rights to access the storage, according to Data Dynamics CEO Piyush Mehta.
Piyush MehtaCEO, Data Dynamics
“What we’ve found through our experience over the last five years is that customers just don’t know what they have,” Mehta said. “If you don’t know what you have, how are you making a business decision on what to do with the data?”
After analyzing the data, StorageX customers can use the product’s VM-based central console to set policies to enable the UDE to manage and move the data out of band. Mehta said the product is most useful in storage environments in excess of 100 TB, and the majority of the company’s 80 customers have multi-petabyte deployments across multiple data centers and geographic regions.
Mehta said all functionality provided through the Data Dynamics StorageX web-based user interface is accessible via API for management from a DevOps standpoint. An application developer can write to the StorageX APIs and gain access to the file management features and automate them based on application needs.
“You can actually integrate an application to manage storage using us as a middleware to then downstream manage the data within those storage tiers,” Mehta said.
Data Dynamics acquired the StorageX technology from Brocade Communications Systems in 2012. The company’s 80 customers span industries such as financial, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, media, oil and gas, and consumer retail, according to Mehta. He said many use StorageX with storage from NetApp, Dell EMC, IBM, Amazon S3 and traditional file servers with direct-attached storage.
Data Dynamics competitors
Mehta said competitors in Data Dynamics’ management space include Avere, Panzura and Primary Data. But he claimed they use gateways, stubbing, sharding or other mechanisms that tie customers to their products to gain access to data.
“If you go with a Primary Data or ioFabric, once you allow something else to start moving your data, generally you need to keep that other [product] running so you can get to your data,” said George Crump, founder and president of Storage Switzerland LLC.
Crump said Data Dynamics StorageX doesn’t do “all the things that would set up a transparent recall,” as some of the other products do. He said StorageX moves data and then essentially gets out of the way.
Scott Sinclair, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass., said the analysis portal and native S3 object support represent another key shift for Data Dynamics StorageX, as the product expands beyond its file migration roots.
“They’re assisting beyond just the move to give you a better understanding of what type of content you have. This functionality is incredibly important when you’re looking at a hybrid cloud environment,” Sinclair said. “With the cloud, you really want to know what you’re moving because of security, compliance, performance requirements and anything else [to get] a better idea of what stays on premises versus off.”
Pricing for Data Dynamics StorageX 8.0’s new and existing capabilities is as follows:
$40 per terabyte for analytics;
$72 per terabyte for replication;
$100 per terabyte for file archive — SMB or NFS conversion to S3;
$200 per terabyte for file retrieval — S3 conversion to SMB or NFS;
$150 per terabyte for application modernization and transform file to S3; and
$500 per terabyte for file migration, for one-time use, security transformation and file-system restructuring.