Marketplace Buzz at SpiceWorld 2017

Image Source: Spiceworks

“So How Can We Really Secure Our Network?”

Network security seemed to be at the top of everyone’s minds this year at the SpiceWorld 2017 Expo–how to protect your critical operations and secure your data. While we were demonstrating fault tolerant (FT) high availability servers in the NEC booth at the Expo, we met with IT pros from around the globe and had the opportunity to show more than 100 demos, and hear first-hand what’s at the top of many IT worry lists.

Repeatedly, concerns were voiced that if large Multi-National Enterprises (MNE’s) with seemingly endless resources and (we’re told) "top tier network security" can be hacked, then where does that leave smaller and mid-tier organizations?

The big question was “How do we protect our data, and make sure our business is disaster-proof?” What practices can we put into place for an actual worry-free, easy to manage IT environment?

Some specific topics that emerged were:

  1. Doing More With Less Many were interested in exploring how we can better secure our networks, and simplify our server storage administration, and still meet infrastructure needs with minimal cost. Organizations want to see a single solution to address backups, archive data, meet requirements for encryption and deliver a mechanism to move data offsite. These worries inevitably led to talks about HYDRAstor®, an award winning high-speed tier 2 data repository that will simplify administration, and save both time and money while addressing these needs.
  2. Disaster Recovery (DR) There was willingness to take a hard look at what we can do to deploy a reliable and cost effective recovery strategy—which is when the FT servers and the NEC IT ecosystem were of major interest. These kind of conversations about DR usually led to a predominant theme that week, about ways to protect our data from external attacks, like from cryptolocker, etc., and how we can efficiently replicate data off-site for DR and for business continuity purposes.
  3. Securing End Points and Mobility  Part of securing your network means not allowing your system to become vulnerable to letting viruses in. This defensive mode also touches on the deploying of technologies that secure all your end points, like smart phones, desktops/laptops, and protecting your remote and mobile work force.
  4. High Costs of Critical Ops Downtime Several manufacturing businesses recognized the value add of the fault tolerant (FT) server as it relates to the high costs of downtime, especially for avoidance of any assembly line disruption, application inconsistency or data log collection for legal purposes. We discussed the very real damages that can occur as result from a manufacture’s lack of ability to demonstrate product quality consistency through the production process. In manufacturing, it’s important to prove that data logs are collected, without interruption, so there is 100% data consistency and no chance of missing information. Yes, time is money, but so are production errors, especially when mistakes are really not acceptable–and evidence is needed to demonstrate as much.

It became very apparent that data security and ways to safeguard business continuity is a hot button right now. If some of these worries are keeping you up at night like so many at SpiceWorld this year, please check out the smart NEC data storage and operational resiliency solutions. This is real, proven data security, folks–solutions that can deliver some serious peace of mind.

To keep up with us on the latest at NEC, please join us on our NEC Spiceworks page.

For more information and to discuss your IT needs, feel free to reach out to NEC. Just let us know and we would be happy to provide you with an overview from one of our subject matter experts.

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Keeping Up with the Flow

Reliable technology important to 24×7 business continuity at Fairfield Suisun Sewer District

For the most part, we don’t give a second thought when we turn on a faucet in our homes to get a glass of water or brush our teeth. We’ve come to expect a steady, clean flow of water to be available whenever and wherever we need it. However, if recent events in places such as Flint, MI, have taught us anything, it’s that a safe, reliable source of water for our homes, businesses and industries shouldn’t be taken for granted.

In central Solano County, CA, located 40 miles northeast of San Francisco, the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District (FSSD) takes it mission of treating and supplying water to its consumers very seriously. Every day, the FSSD plant treats an average 16 million gallons of wastewater and provides water supplies to more than 135,000 residents, Travis Air Force Base and a national brewery, as well as retail businesses, light industries and manufacturers in and around Fairfield and Suisun City. With so many relying on its services, the plant can’t allow unreliable technology to cause down time.

Talyon Sortor, assistant general manager at FSSD, understands all too well how critical it is to make sure the treatment facility runs smoothly 24×7 and doesn’t experience any down time. The treatment plant, which sits on 150 acres, draws from a collection system made up of 12 pumping stations and 70-mile network of sewers throughout its service area. Reliable technology is critical to efficiently managing the operations of this large and complex operation.

Under state and federal laws, urbanized communities are required to collect and treat domestic and industrial wastes, and proper water treatment processes are an essential element to public health. The FSSD also has responsibility for protecting the environmentally sensitive Suisun Marsh, the nation’s largest brackish water marsh and the Pacific Coast’s largest wetland. Since waste water treatment systems are heavily regulated by both state and federal agencies, technology also plays an important role in recording information that demonstrates that the FSSD is in compliance at all times.

According to Sortor, any server failures or other technology issues that could affect service delivery within the plant are scrutinized by regulators. In 2015 (CK DATE) the FSSD engaged nDataStor, a long-time NEC reseller partner based in Suisun City, CA, to provide managed services for its facility. nDataStor took over the data center, which consisted of a collection of legacy hardware. But after a few server failures and a couple of long nights, the district decided it needed to upgrade its technology. Downtime costs the plant money and increases potential compliance risks, so being able to count on the technology was critical.
Drawing on its decade-long relationship with NEC and knowledge of the reliability of NEC hardware, nDataStor recommended replacing the legacy hardware with NEC products. nDataStor installed NEC’s Express5800/R120f-1M servers and M110 SAN Disk Array Storage.

Being able to count on its technology to run the plant provides the FSSD with the peace of mind of knowing that operations can be managed and monitored effectively around the clock from a centralized location, ensuring business continuity and an effective disaster recovery process. Staff at the control center are able to remotely respond to perimeter alarms, monitor the pump stations located across the county, and view captured security video throughout the complex.

As FSSD discovered, the total package of NEC technology combined with world-class support gives the district the reliability it needs to keep its operations running 24×7. And that means that the residents in Solano County can count on a steady supply of clean, safe water in their communities.

Continuous Availability at an Affordable Cost for Today’s Business

The need for processing data continues to grow as analysis and reporting needs expand with business requirements. Accommodating these data needs—while providing rapid retrieval and the uptime desired—has been a challenge for many data centers and IT organizations. Traditionally, the use of clustered solutions with virtualization software has been implemented with some success. Depending upon the uptime and storage requirements, the solutions will vary in price and TCO.

For IT organizations with mission-critical data, as well as large retailers needing to maintain and access data quickly, the requirements for server uptime and processing are even more important. Trying to achieve five nines (99.999%) of uptime is feasible in a clustered data center environment, but often these organizations are better served through the implementation of a fault tolerant (FT) server, such as the NEC Express 5800.

Fault Tolerant Servers Provide Real Redundancy

When it comes to reliability, there is no better solution than the NEC Fault Tolerant server family. According to the Standish Group, 72% of mission critical applications servers experience nine hours of outage per year. However, the continuous availability of FT servers ensures 99.999% uptime, for an average annual down time of 5 minutes 25 seconds (Source: IDC). But that is not the only benefit.

The NEC Fault Tolerant Server provides 99.999% uptime in an industry standard Intel Xeon server platform without the added requirement of expensive and complex clustering software. The real elegance of FT servers lies in a configuration that provides real redundancy. Using the GeminiEngine™, an NEC-engineered LSI chipset for fault tolerance control, the FT server series have two identical component groups called CPU/IO modules. Other than the special LSI in the center, each CPU/IO module consists of the exact same components in typical general purpose servers. Key to the unique fault tolerant functionality is the GeminiEngine. The combination of redundant hardware and redundancy control software enables the FT series servers to provide 99.999% uptime.

If repair or replacement is required, the FT server works as a true hot swap device. Using NEC’s Customer Replaceable Unit (CRU) strategy, the module needing the repair is simply replaced. Once replaced, the GeminiEngine product automatically synchronizes the data and places the Fault Tolerant Server back to the redundant configuration with no operation intervention. Processing has never stopped on the working module, meaning the FT server does not require any downtime for maintenance.

Finally, the FT server is compatible with existing operating systems and applications with a major plus – unlike clustered environments, the FT server requires a single license, providing immediate cost savings.

The benefits of the FT server are easily understood, but how would this apply in real- world environments? Let’s explore that a bit further.

Fault Tolerant Servers in the Data Center

The NEC Fault Tolerant Server provides improved, uptime, simplicity while lowering costs compared to traditional clustering. Total cost of ownership can be reduced by taking advantage of the single Operating System and application requirement of the FT Server. System availability is increased as the solution provides 99.999% uptime utilizing hardware based fault tolerant technology. The NEC Fault Tolerant Server also simplifies the server environment by eliminating the need for clustering software.

Fault Tolerant Servers for Building Security

Another use case example for deploying an FT server is physical security at a place of business, which requires high availability. Even one minor glitch can create an unsecure situation by having impatient employees prop open a door because entry door key pads are not working. The open access allows not only multiple employees to enter, but perhaps even an unwanted intruder. Having 99.999% uptime is a significant improvement and prevents degradation in the effectiveness of building security.

Beyond the uptime, replication to ensure that there is no point that building security is compromised, even for a minute, ensures the integrity of the security and safety of the building occupants. FT servers provide high availability through Lockstep, another unique component developed by NEC that ensures the CPUs work synchronously on a clock-cycle basis. Lockstep ensures that replication is in the same state so that the FT server is truly redundant.

Fault Tolerant Servers for Continuous Availability

Data centers and IT departments are being asked to do more with less, while also being expected to better accommodate data needs and business-critical applications. NEC Express FT servers can be used to create a fault tolerant platform for mission-critical applications that’s simple to manage and can be deployed in the same amount of time it takes to configure a simple Windows, Linux, or virtual server. By implementing fault tolerance at the hardware level, and presenting the Express FT as a single logical server, NEC reduces hardware and software dependencies, complex configuration and administration, and the license requirements associated with multi-node software cluster configurations, creating a cost-effective infrastructure for mission-critical business applications.

NEC has worked with independent third parties to thoroughly test its FT servers, as evidenced in these white papers that provide additional benefits of using fault tolerant servers for business critical applications. Finding a solution that provides high uptime and real redundancy will remain a priority for data centers and IT organizations.

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