What Do Intel’s Youngest Intern and NEC Have in Common?

Joey Hudy has been described as many things, including one of the 10 most brilliant kids in the world. He is a self-described “Maker” or someone who designs and builds things on his own time. Joey’s infamous “extreme marshmallow canon” made news when he launched a marshmallow across the East Room during the 2012 White House Science Fair. Another milestone for Joey is being appointed the youngest intern at Intel. At 16 years old, he has already achieved multiple accomplishments, including a solar-powered computer he submitted at another science fair. It’s that type of innovative thinking that helped Intel CEO Brian Krzanich hire Joey when they met at the Rome Maker Faire. Joey even has a personal credo that he has on business cards he passes out – “Don’t be bored, make something.” We couldn’t agree more, Joey.

Much like Joey, NEC also believes in “building something,” and we are also joined Intel recently when it released the new Intel® Xeon® processor E7 v2 product family. It’s the innovation of those chips that supports NEC’s latest enterprise server – the Express5800/A2000 (A2000) series server – providing a new class of server that manages big data projects, among others. In fact, the A2000 series server offers RISC-class availability, and is at least twice as fast as previous enterprise servers, making it ideally suited for enterprise mission-critical use.

Build with Innovation in Mind

When the NEC team makes a decision to “build something,” our standard is to empower it with innovation. The reality is that developing a new line of servers is certainly important to helping our clients’ growth, but it is even more powerful if we can help them reach new heights by combining technology for rapid transformation of their data centers, including virtualization. This is certainly the case when you combine the A2000 series server and software-defined networking (SDN).

With the advent of cloud technology and the continued need to process larger amounts of mission- critical data, it became time to rethink networking. NEC’s SDN offerings leverage the OpenFlow protocol in the ProgrammableFlow® networking suite. Combining SDN and the A2000 series server provides both server and networking virtualization that addresses the inherent challenge of inflexibility found in many IT data centers today.

Now, it is feasible to virtualize tier 1 applications with confidence. With its enhanced featured set, the A2000 series server provides excellent uptime and predictive failure analysis tools so that thresholds are continually monitored and SLAs are met.

It is this combination that intrigued NEC customer Edgenet, Inc., which collects, optimizes, and distributes data used by online retailers, search engines and consumers. Its systems process data for millions of products. Mike Steineke, VP of IT at Edgenet, had this to say:

“When you run applications that are mission critical and have high SLAs, it’s essential that hardware used in the infrastructure design mitigates the risk of downtime. NEC’s server architecture and engineering design were the biggest influence on our decision,” said Steineke. “The A2000 series server is engineered to offer advanced RAS features, such as redundant service processors or increased number of enhanced I/O slots, which Edgenet needs to provide continuous operation and performance. We are looking forward to combining the A2000 series server and ProgrammableFlow technology integrated with Microsoft’s SCVMM and Hyper-V to deliver improved management, reporting, quality-of-service, and dedicated resources for customer facing applications. It is this type of comprehensive solution offering that puts NEC at a level ahead of the competition.”

From Marshmallow Canons to Big Data

The A2000 series server offers up to 4TB of memory, making it an ideal platform for running in-memory databases. This capability supports rapid decision-making and large-scale analysis of complex data. The ability to analyze complex, robust data in minutes, rather than hours, provides opportunities for businesses to maximize profitability through greater access to important information.

There are other benefits as well, including having a smaller footprint and custom configuration options for performance requirements. In fact, there are exceptional levels of availability with this server for mission-critical applications, providing a better option over RISC. Some of the interesting technology benefits include:

  • 2 times* more powerful than NEC’s previous generation servers, with up to four CPUs using the Intel Xeon processor E7 v2 product family
  • Supports twice the memory capacity of current generation servers to support in-memory databases processing data at high speed using large-capacity memory
  • Highly efficient 80 PLUS® Platinum certified power supply significantly reduces power utilization when compared to current generation servers EXPRESSSCOPE ENGINE SP3 availability and serviceability framework delivers enhanced monitoring and autonomous operations
  • Improves efficiency through dynamic CPU core online additions when workloads increase, without suspending the system**
  • Responds to CPU and memory failures to ensure the system continues operating; memory can be added without a server reboot through a memory module hot-add feature
  • Includes up to 16 PCI-Express 3.0 slots (8x and 4x), delivering real-time analysis infrastructure that simultaneously supports network, storage and flash storage
  • Includes additional consolidation benefits (when compared to legacy two-way servers), such as: using nearly 78 percent less rack space; enabling nine-to-one conversion rate under standard test conditions, and delivering 124 percent more performance per watt.***

While the A2000 series won’t be launching marshmallows inside the White House, it will launch your business to new levels of reliability, flexibility, and cost savings. You can find more information on the A2000 series at www.necam.com/ExpressServer.

Get the Best of All Worlds with In-Store Mobile

Consumers demand great experiences and desire instant gratification. Whether it’s online or in-store, consumers want information to be fast, accurate and focused on their needs. If done correctly, online retail experiences can meet all those desires. But what about in-store, where you have to access data via a computer that may be a considerable distance from the customer’s current location in your store? There is a simple answer – empower sales associates with in-store mobile devices.

In-store mobility is the most efficient and accurate way to create the type of retail experience a consumer expects. Plus, it supports associates in providing a rapid response to a shopper’s needs, ensuring that the sale goes to your retail establishment. To understand the power of in-store mobile, first let’s understand the current consumer shopping behavior.

Consumers are Mobile-Centric

Mobile Centric Consumer
Consumers have no issue grabbing their smart device to look up a competitor’s product while also shopping in your store. Online discounts, offers and coupons, and competitor pricing and products now are at a consumer’s fingertips, challenging retailers to deliver the same or better experience.

Research from comScore confirms that smartphones and tablets are an integral part of the retail shopping experience. In the third quarter of 2013, desktop-based retail e-Commerce sales reached $47.5 billion, a 13% increase over the same period in 2012. Total mobile spending added $5.8 billion to online sales results, a 26% year-over-year increase. This means consumers are very comfortable reaching for a laptop, smart phone or tablet to make a purchase.

Mobile devices also are influencing in-store buying decisions. Research from Deloitte Consulting reported that smartphones will drive 19% of brick-and-mortar transactions — or $689 billion — by 2016. Through a survey of 1,041 random consumers, Deloitte Consulting reported that 48% of smartphone users said their devices, in some way, encouraged them to purchase an item in a store. Moreover, 61% of smartphone subscribers who have used their devices to shop have done so in a store aisle.

Retailers Must Become Mobile-Centric

The linear process in many retail environments today must be better aligned to a consumer’s desired shopping experience. Today, many retail shopping experiences require the consumer to find the product, hope it’s in stock, maybe decide on a replacement (or leave if they cannot find it), or if in stock, choose the product, take it to check out and leave. If the consumer has any question about the product, they must find a sales associate, who most likely will not know the answer. Then the sales associate must traipse across the store to find the computer in order to provide an answer. This is inefficient and frustrating for a consumer who can punch a few buttons and find the answer online.

By unlocking the power of mobile technology, retailers can closely replicate an online experience for their shoppers and empower sales associates to better provide positive customer experiences. Think about the scenario outlined above. If that sales associate had a tablet, he could simply look up the information right there, provide the customer with all the answers and ensure a sale.

Retailers that embrace in-store mobility will reap many benefits, including:

1.  Increase engagement and sales: Associates can access a wealth of information on products and customers. Simply entering a customer’s name or loyalty card account number will provide instant access to past purchases and browsing behaviors. As a result, associates can offer relevant product recommendations, and in turn, increase cross-sell and up-sell results.

2.  Improve customer experiences: Mobile technology that includes barcode scanning and credit card technology will enable employees to complete transactions from anywhere within a store, leading to shorter wait times. Employees can collaborate throughout the store, requesting items from the stockroom or specialized support at the click of a button.

3.  Retain the sale: If a shopper is looking for a product that is out of stock, she will most likely visit a competitor, or purchase the item online. Using mobile technology, sales associates can quickly access the company e-Commerce site, order the desired item, and have it delivered to the store or directly to the shopper’s home, thereby saving a sale that was headed elsewhere.

4.  Employees that are better informed:With real-time access to inventory data on the selling floor, associates can be equipped with the information they need to sell effectively. This translates to a much better customer experience.

Consumers still have a desire to shop in-store so they can see the product first-hand. Online shopping will not fulfill this need, requiring shoppers to rely on recommendations from others rather than their own judgment. By improving in-store customer experiences, retailers continue to have an edge.

Choosing to meet mobile consumer demands will make or break the in-store shopping experience moving forward. NEC’s Retail Mobility solutions provide these major benefits to the shopping experience, as well as enabling store managers and staff to have greater access to data, improve communications and increase productivity.

To get more insight into retail mobility as our team prepares for National Retail Federation’s annual convention, check out Microsoft’s blog and http://www.necretaildirection.necam.com/WellConnected. Also, visit us at Booth # 351at NRF’s Big Show Jan. 12-15, in New York. Make in-store mobility part of your 2014 success strategy!

Reporting from PlugFest: OpenFlow interoperability testing successfully conducted at InCNTRE

Some of you may have heard of the new SDN Interoperability Lab at Indiana University, a key initiative of the Indiana Center for Network Translational Research and Education (InCNTRE)where they are focused on training, education, research and collaboration to encourage the adoption of OpenFlow and SDN technologies.   NEC is proud to be a charter member of InCNTRE, helping to support the unit financially and with test hardware and software from our ProgrammableFlow® network suite.   InCNTRE last week hosted the second semi-annual PlugFest, sponsored by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF).

I am happy to report OpenFlow interoperability of the entire ProgrammableFlow portfolio was successfully confirmed with all the venders represented at InCNTRE. Testing included both the award-winning ProgrammableFlow PF6800 Controller and our complete line-up of ProgrammableFlow Switches: the award-winning PF5240 and 10GbE PF5820, in addition to our newest PF1000, the first OpenFlow virtual switch to be marketed.

PlugFest participants noted that NEC was the most interoperable vender and with our technology and engineers presented strong leadership during the event. Use cases included:

1)     Setting up OpenFlow network flows for L2 and L3 switching

2)     Failure and recovery of OpenFlow flows, where the controller automatically re-routes traffic after detection of a switch fault

3)     Multi-path routing with the ProgrammableFlow Controller PF6800, whereby ProgrammableFlow incorporates business policy to forward flows over different paths based on prioritization

4)     Virtual machine live migration, where the Controller relearns the new position of the migrated VM and automatically maps it to the specified virtual network without any additional configurations.

NEC Openflow PFlow use case from PlugFest

OpenFlow Controllers have expanded from the announcement of the ProgrammableFlow Network Suite in May, 2011, the first commercially available OpenFlow controller.  Included at PlugFest was:  NEC, HP, BigSwitch, Huawei, NTT-Data, and NTT-Communications (MCL) and the NOX open-source based controller from Indiana University, OESS.

We successfully tested the ProgrammableFlow controller with all OpenFlow Switches present, including:  NEC, IBM, HP, Brocade, Juniper, Extreme, Huawei, Intel, Broadcom, Centec, and Ciena.

Our ProgrammableFlow switches successfully operated behind all OpenFlow controllers present.  Also included in the PlugFest were OpenFlow Testing devices from Ixia and Spirent, which simulated the environments, and OpenFlow Configuration vendors Infoblox and Luxsoft.

PlugFest was great event for all OpenFlow venders invited to participate.  There are always different understandings of standards and some vendors may implement in slightly different ways.  For the benefit of OpenFlow customers everywhere, now we have tested step-by-step, command-by- command, packet-by-packet.

There was heated discussions about which implementation is correct or not, and what is the most exciting part of testing interoperability. Thanks go out for the excellent coordination and fair independent judgments provided by our third-party hosts, Indiana University’s staff. It was a great learning experience for all the vendors participating, and a number of issues were encountered and addressed.

All and all the week was a bit tiring, but most valuable.  There is nothing more satisfying than the  “Ping” successes after several hours debugging!

Learn more about NEC’s Programmable Flow today.



IBM System Networking Supports Industry Standard Open Data Centers with Interoperable Networks

SDN-architecture-openflowThe modern data center is going through an unprecedented transformation, as customers attempt to deploy new applications in a highly virtualized, cloud-based environment.  What is clear is that traditional networks are not suited to handling the traffic patterns and volumes created by these more agile cloud-computing environments.  What we also know is that centralizing network intelligence through software-defined networking (SDN) has emerged as the preferred approach to solving the Big Data / network bottleneck conundrum.

Today the IBM System Networking released a series of technical papers that further support and underline industry standards unfolding around SDN and OpenFlow, a protocol developed at Stanford University offering an open-standards approach to SDN.

Both IBM and NEC are strong supporters of industry standards within the data center network, and we’re pleased to endorse the series of technical briefs known as Open Datacenter Interoperable Network (ODIN).  In addition to OpenFlow, the IBM papers will cover other standards such as IEEE 802.1Qbg and FCoE.

Casimer DeCusatis, Ph.D., an IBM Distinguished Engineer, wrote the ODIN on SDN architecture.  In it, he points to the logical view of the SDN architecture, using a diagram developed by members of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF).  NEC was a founding member at ONF, and participated in developing this view of SDN.  We strongly support IBM in their discussions around this standardized network architecture, depicted here.

You can read the full texts of IBM ODIN papers at on the IBM System Networking website.   You can also follow Casimer DeCusatis on his blog  or on Twitter for further updates.  And, of course, you can read and learn more about ProgrammableFlow at www.necam.com/pflow.  In January, NEC announced its SDN collaboration with IBM.

NEC and IBM announce co-marketing of first high performance OpenFlow ecosystem

NEC and IBM are together transforming the networks of old, as they announce today the industry’s first high performance OpenFlow ecosystem, complete with customer references.  These include early innovators Selerity, furnishing real-time data for global financial markets, Tervela, who provide a high-speed messaging fabric, and Stanford University, the birthplace of OpenFlow.  These organizations join over two dozen other institutions and enterprises who have  deployed ProgrammableFlow, choosing the integrated NEC/IBM OpenFlow solution, which aligns with the OpenFlow standard and fulfills the promise of open networks.

We are excited to be co-marketing with IBM the first high-performance OpenFlow network solution, including our ProgrammableFlow controller, our PF5420 1GbE ProgrammableFlow switch, the new PF5820 10GbE switch, and IBM’s OpenFlow-enabled G8264 top-of-rack 10GbE switch.  This ecosystem, bought into by the companies mentioned above, begins to reveal the true promise of OpenFlow.

Enterprise Strategies Group: Challenges of Managing a Data Center Network

In related news, Jon Oltsik blogged in NetworkWorld earlier this month about a circumstance he calls “Network Discontinuity”.  This is a condition he equates to the demise of dinosaurs, which he says ESG research has uncovered in many large enterprise data center networks today.  Jon outlines all of the factors including cloud and virtualization that are changing the data center, but the network has been slow (like the dinosaur) in adapting to all of the changes.  As a result, he says “the data center networking dinosaur is adapting but we are rapidly approaching a breaking point.”  Jon graciously gave us permission to use the following chart, which outlines ESG’s recent findings on problems with data center networks today.     Do you see your issues reflected here?

We are observing gathering interest around SDN and the OpenFlow standard.  Big Switch Networks made an announcement recently, providing their controller, Floodlight, to open source.  Of course, NEC’s own Helios controller was added to the open source OpenFlow controller list back in November of 2010.  With Helios, now known as Trema, we provided an open source modular framework for developing OpenFlow controllers in Ruby/C.

NEC is at Joint Techs, this week, a conference for Network Engineers put on by Internet2in Baton Rouge.  We presented an update on SDN at NEC and January 25-tomorrow-at 8:50 CST will participate in  a panel discussion on Software Defined Networking: Industry Involvement, led by Matt Davy of Indiana University.

Finally, we’d like to give a shout-out to one of our favorite Network bloggers, Ivan Pepelnjak, who just put up a new sitewe think you may want to visit.  Ivan has been following OpenFlow and SDN closely, and is offering a three hour overview of SDNon February 7.  We plan to attend, and you may want to check it out, as well.