Data Centers Eye Altoona

LightEdge was featured in a Des Moines Register article on Thursday, December 4th discussing the growing trend for companies to construct their data centers in Altoona, IA. This newfound attention has been sparked by companies like Google, Microsoft and Enseva moving their high tech data warehouses to the area. The open land, central location and access to fiber optics & power were a few attractive benefits credited for driving this movement. There is also an interview with our CEO, Jim Masterson, about what appealed to the company when building our data center there in 2006, a move that is considered the “first of its kind” by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Please visit http://dmreg.co/SxFDpX to read the full article and browse some images that provide a glimpse inside the LightEdge Data Center.

LightEdge Solutions Achieves Silver Certification from Cisco

DES MOINES, IA – October 16, 2012 – LightEdge Solutions announced today it has achieved Silver Certification from Cisco®.  To earn Silver Certification, LightEdge had to meet rigorous standards for networking competency, service, support and customer satisfaction set forth by Cisco.

“Achieving Cisco Silver Reseller Certification is yet another validation of our accomplishments as LightEdge continues to redefine itself from a managed services provider to a complete Information Technology business partner,” said Jim Masterson, chairman and CEO of LightEdge Solutions.  “Through our collaboration with Cisco and the use of Cisco routing, switching and compute platforms, LightEdge is uniquely positioned to implement and deliver high availability IT services for our customers though managed platforms within our data center, dedicated on-premise customer-owned platforms or a hybrid of the two for the highest level of reliability and elastic scalability.”

“Cisco is committed to providing tools, training and programs to help drive partner growth, differentiation and profitability,” said Surinder Brar, senior director of worldwide channels at Cisco.  “With specializations in Advanced Unified Computing, Advanced Unified Communications, Telepresence Express and Advanced Data Center Architecture, LightEdge has made an investment in delivering the integrated and customized technology solutions today’s customers demand.”

As a Cisco Silver Certified Partner, LightEdge has met requirements for attaining a broad range of expertise.  To achieve Cisco Silver Certification LightEdge was required to achieve either two from the following four Cisco advanced specializations:  Unified Communications, Routing and Switching, Security, and Wireless LAN, or the Cisco Express Unified Communications Specialization and one of the following advanced specializations:  Routing and Switching, Security, and Wireless LAN.  In addition, LightEdge was required to integrate Cisco Lifecycle Services into their offerings and maintain high levels of customer satisfaction based on independently audited customer satisfaction surveys.

The Cisco Resale Channel Program provides partners with the training required to build sales, technical and Cisco Lifecycle Services skills, and then validates their skills through a third-party audit.  Cisco resale partner certifications—Gold, Silver, Premier and Select—represent an increasing breadth of skills across key technologies and a partner’s ability to deliver integrated networking solutions.  Cisco resale partner specializations—Master, Advanced and Express—reflect an increasing depth of sales, technical and service expertise in particular technologies.

About LightEdge Solutions

LightEdge Solutions is a customer-centric cloud computing and consulting company devoted to solving the IT issues of businesses nationwide. By utilizing our economies of scale, connections with world-class vendors and our own internal passion for engineering, LightEdge allows its customers to “plug in” to enterprise-grade IT solutions that maximize uptime and performance, yet fit into their budget. For more information, visit www.lightedge.com.

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Yes or No to BYO: What’s the best approach for your business?

By Todd Wirth, LightEdge Engineer

The invitation list to the “Bring Your Own” party is expanding.  Before you RSVP, however, consider the impact…and the potential impact on your voice communications.

Most people have access to high speed Internet connections via cable, DSL, WiFi, or cellular data plans.  SmartPhone and Tablet use is growing and the costs are coming down.  Businesses are accommodating these trends with complex “Bring Your Own Device” and “Bring Your Own Bandwidth” policies.

Because of these trends, many users are now working over the Internet and on their own devices from various locations including home, libraries, airports, and hotels.  As a business owner, it makes financial sense to leverage these resources.  As much as possible, you can enhance your employee experience by allowing access to your company’s systems from whatever device they choose.

There are few obstacles accessing email over BYO networks or on BYO devices, but can corporate voice services be accessed as easily in a BYO environment?

Voice-over-IP is flexible enough to work over any high speed network including the Internet.  Technology is not the obstacle.  Much like the early days of cellular phones, VoIP over the public Internet should probably be avoided for critical calls to make sure that communication is reliable and high quality.

Voice services over ill-prepared data networks are sensitive to connection properties such as latency, jitter, and packet loss.  The best communications solution is to have a dedicated connection to provide all of your data needs including VoIP.  This allows network controls to traffic flow and quality of service.  With a well-managed connection you can have excellent quality.

There are situations, however, where installing dedicated connections does not make business sense.  For example, there is no need to add a WAN connection to a small remote office in a complex that receives high speed Internet as a utility.  Another instance would be when working from a hotel room. In these cases, the Internet can be used to provide a simple and consistent business presentation.  Tolerance is the key as quality will vary.

Simple communication needs:

  1. One number to be called regardless of where the employee is working.
  2. One number to show on calling line identification on outbound calls.
  3. Easy (and if possible fun) solutions.
  4. “Good” quality calls*

*It is important to note again that Voice communication in the BYO world is a cautionary tale.  Voice streams must be real-time to deliver the expected conversation experience.  Any network anomalies will affect conversations. 

The Public Internet is wrought with anomalies.  The best way to use the public Internet in voice solutions is to:

  1. Know the connectivity.
  2. Have alternatives.
  3. Be flexible

When setting up VoIP on public Internet, you should get to know the connection. Test the speeds. Assess the viability of voice communication over the network throughout several timeframes.  As part of a BYO installation, LightEdge uses professional assessment tools to make sure that VoIP will work.

On good networks the best alternative is use an Internet Proxy to register your communication device (IP phone, soft phone, etc.).   Utilizing the best technology including low bandwidth codecs and encryption will provide safe good quality communications.

On networks with quality issues, there are several VoIP alternatives that utilize public telephone or cellular networks.  VoIP Anywhere features can be used with or without Smartphone apps for signaling but use a telephone network for voice quality.   This a great alternative to using expensive hotel phones, for example, when the in-room Internet is less than stellar.

Flexibility in communications over the Internet is important.  Realizing that you have different methods that can provide high quality, secure and inexpensive communications can make BYO a real party.

Back from VM World

LightEdge team members are back from their annual trip to VMworld, held this year in San Francisco.  The conference consists of keynotes, breakout sessions, hands-on labs, and a solutions exchange where vendors showed off their latest innovations.

Here are some thoughts on the high notes of the week:

  • For the past several years, VMware has been talking about “cloud” and how it is going to transform IT.  This year, it was no different but where others are still spewing the same hype about cloud, VMware is actually delivering.  2012 is bringing a new version of vSphere 5.1 as well as the next evolution of vCloud 5.1.  With the new vCloud suite, we’ll be able to bring more of the features that customers are used to having in the vSphere client available through vCloud.
  • In 2011, VMware made a push for end-user computing that included a virtual Android phone, Horizon Application manager and Project Octopus (for lack of a better term, dropbox for corporate users).   This year, they’re delivering again.  Horizon Application manager is more mature, and Project Octopus is now Horizon Data.  New View technologies make managing the desktop even easier.  VMware even brought some of the protected corporate apps to the iOS devices similar to the virtual phone for Android last year.
  • vRAM licensing model is no more!  The licensing model that had few fans is officially gone.  VMware listened to their partners and customers and is moving back to a per socket licensing model.

We hope those few highlights give you an idea of some key discussions and topics that came from VMworld last week. LightEdge brought back a host of new information and is excited to share that with their customers!

LightEdge Hires David Flagel as part of Consulting Department Expansion

New hire is a networking and security expert with Cisco CCDE, Cisco CCIE and CISSP®-ISSAP® Certifications

Des Moines, IA, September 5, 2012 – LightEdge is pleased to announce that the company has hired David Flagel as a Consulting Network Architect as part of a recent expansion of the company’s IT Consulting Department.  David’s wealth of experience, skillsets and certifications will help to expand the scope and capabilities of the LightEdge consulting team to better service customers.

David’s background includes high-level networking and security positions with Wells Fargo, Wellmark, AT&T and Cisco. His networking credentials include Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE), Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) and Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (CISSP®-ISSAP®).  Most recently David has utilized his talents in IT consulting focused positions with BMC Software and EMC Corporation.

“The consulting team is excited to have someone of David’s caliber join the company,” said Chad Gustafson, director of consulting. “David’s background will certainly elevate the networking and security capabilities for the team and raise the bar for the consulting department as a whole.”

In addition to his technical knowledgebase, David is also certified in Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).  Simply put, ITIL is an industry model for managing IT services and operations based on widely accepted and dynamically changing best practices.  LightEdge Solutions has strategically migrated support and operational practices to ITIL-based standards over the past two years to better support its customer base.

For more information about LightEdge Consulting Services, see http://www.lightedge.com/productsservices/consulting/microsoft-solutions.html

About LightEdge Solutions

LightEdge Solutions is a customer-centric cloud computing and consulting company devoted to solving the IT issues of businesses nationwide. By utilizing our economies of scale, connections with world-class vendors and our own internal passion for engineering, LightEdge allows its customers to “plug in” to enterprise-grade IT solutions that maximize uptime and performance, yet fit into their budget. For more information, visit www.lightedge.com.

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What is Hybrid Storage?

By Matt Breitbach, LightEdge Engineer

What is hybrid storage and why should you be interested in it?  Traditional spinning disk-based storage arrays require large numbers of disks to generate high performance and low latency.  This tends to result in significantly more storage being purchased than is actually needed, just so you can satisfy the performance requirement.

Hybrid storage is the merging of RAM, Solid State Drives, and traditional hard drives to deliver better performance from storage arrays while keeping costs down.  Newer Solid State Drive (SSD) storage arrays perform significantly better than tradition spinning disk based storage systems, but lack the capacity that hard drive based systems can offer without significant budget modifications.

Hybrid storage systems work by keeping the bulk of your data on spinning hard drives and then storing the most frequently used data on the SSD for higher performance.  Typically the “working set” of data is less than several hundred gigabytes.  This means that the storage system can watch for the most actively accessed and most recently accessed bits of data, and keep those bits of data instantly available on the Solid State Drives.  When additional requests for that data come in, those requests are serviced from RAM or SSD, at a significantly higher performance level than if the data was coming from traditional spinning disk.  We still get the ability to store data that is less frequently accessed on the same storage system and write that data out to spinning disk, reducing the need for expensive SSD and RAM.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on hybrid storage arrays, and the knowledge that is out there could fill, well, a large hybrid storage array.  If you have any questions about hybrid storage, or would like to talk to someone about moving to a hybrid storage array, please contact our team at info@lightedge.com.

Microsoft’s head is in the clouds, but for providers, that’s a good thing!

By Rod Newcomb, LightEdge Engineer

“Providers, Providers, Providers!” was the chant at Microsoft’s TechED 2012 session, and everything I have read, the webinars I have watched and the training the Redmond company is delivering, tells a simple story of Microsoft’s interest in dominating the service provider space by not only delivering cost effective platform solutions, but the tools and training required to help service providers, like LightEdge, bring those services to market.

I’ve seen several examples of that over the last few months, and the ones I find most interesting are:

Hyper-V 3.0 -  This new Hypervisor ships with Windows Server 2012.   The technical excitement over this product, along with the cost savings has both CTO’s and CFO’s talking.

SQL 2012 - It’s not just for Databases Anymore.  Ok, so it’s still mostly about databases, but with Multitenant capabilities (i.e.  Constrained Data Bases and Enhanced Security Segregation) makes DaaS (Database as a Service) a much more plausible solution.  Add in Hosted Business Intelligence, and multi-site SQL DR backup and you have more service offering possibilities than you can imagine. Did I also mention they are including resource management for Memory and CPU?

SCCM/App Manager – Imagine being able to manage your on Premise and Cloud based environments (Hyper-V and VMWARE) all in one application?  Microsoft is making that a reality now, along with the hints of expanding into Citrix/Zen and even Amazon as well.  SCCM also brings Providers the tools necessary to provisions customer systems from Bare-Metal to fully installed Operating Systems and Applications, SLA Reporting to SharePoint, and Application level Monitoring that brings proactive monitoring to both Providers and clients as well.

Active Directory AZURE Single Sign on – Imagine being able to project your Active Directory into the cloud?  With Microsoft’s Active Directory AZURE technology, service providers may actually achieve what I like to call the “Holy Grail” of Enterprise Single Sign on at a fraction of the cost of the third party offerings out there today.

Microsoft Orchestrator – Bringing PowerShell to the masses.  With Orchestrator, you can  develop “Run Books”, which are PowerShell scripts designed to address thousands of Administration Tasks.   With a growing PowerShell community, you will be able to share or even purchase these scripts to help build Provisioning and Management and Maintenance systems internally.

The message here is clear – Microsoft has seen the future, and Service Providers are a large part of it.  They have pledged to make all their platforms (Active Directory, Exchange, Lync and SQL just to name a few) Multi-Tenant capable and priced in such a way to help LightEdge not only roll out compelling solutions, but price them in a way that is compelling for all of our customers.

Should you backup data or entire VM?

By Matt Breitbach, LightEdge Engineer

With the rise of virtualization, there is a persistent question that comes up when people evaluate backup platforms. That question is: should I back up my data (documents, emails, databases) or my entire VM?  This is a great question from many perspectives. Below are some tips to help you decide what the correct backup strategy should be for your use case.

Today, we run virtual machines for all types of workloads.  Some of those are webservers, some are fileservers, and some are SQL servers.  Each one of these systems is going to have different requirements for RTO (Recovery Time Objective) and RPO (Recovery Point Objective).  These requirements will strongly influence the backup strategy that you choose.

Backing up an entire VM can be resource intensive, but companies like Veeam, Quest, and EMC have come up with solutions that allow you to take full system state backups of your VM’s on a daily or hourly basis (depending upon the activity of the system).  This lends itself very well to disaster recovery situations where if a system crashes, you can be up and running with a recent backup in a matter of minutes, in some cases.  It simplifies restoration to the point that in 5 clicks of a mouse, you can have a fully functional copy of your VM up and running from your most recent backup.  This is great news for your webservers, fileservers, and SQL servers that need to be online at all times.

There can be drawbacks to full VM backups. Granular restoration of filesystem objects can be a bit more painful.  There are no simply interfaces inside your VM to say “hey, I want to grab the backup of this file and restore it to its original location”.  File level recovery can be done, but it involves invoking a management interface on the backup server, mapping network drives, and then copying the backup file over the network to the VM that needs the restore.  Self-service is nearly impossible in that situation.

Backing up files using traditional backup software typically allows you greater access to granular file restores since there is an agent running inside the VM.  For a fileserver or webserver, you can simply open the backup agent, select the file that you want to restore, and restore it.  The backup agent handles all of the background tasks for you without forcing you to interact with the backup server.

Many times the correct answer for your backup needs is to use a combination of both technologies.  Full VM backup for disaster recovery purposes (ie. “Oops. I just crashed the registry on my server.”)  and file level backups for individual file restores.  The first step in assuring recovery from a disaster, however, is having a qualified person look at your infrastructure and your RTO / RPO requirements. For more information about backup and recovery solutions at LightEdge, feel free to contact sales@lightedge.com.

Questions to ask before moving to the cloud

By Matt Patterson, LightEdge Engineer

Everyone is talking about Cloud these days? Are you in the cloud? Is your infrastructure cloud ready? What the heck is the cloud? You may already be using the cloud and just don’t know it.

With all the talk of the cloud of what it is and what it isn’t, there’s a general agreement that at some point, you’re going to have a conversation about moving your infrastructure out of your four walls and what that really means to your organization. Whether you’ve taken the leap already or are planning to in the near future, it makes sense to fully understand certain considerations that help lead to a successful platform.

Questions to ask

When evaluating a shared cloud provider, you should be asking some of these questions (and many more pertaining to your particular needs) to make sure that you are prepared for various scenarios that can develop. Even the well known names have the occasional issues. It’s best to, at a minimum, consider what your plan is for different situations to make sure you are making the best decisions for your company.

  • Access to the VM. Do you have a remote console access? Do you need to VPN in to then RDP or SSH? What level of security is offered by default to your VM?
  • Backups! Even though your workloads are now virtualized instead of running on a physical server, you still need to be able to both successfully back up the data and successfully recover in a timely fashion. Test your backups and make sure that you can recover the necessary data to be up and running within your recovery window.
  • Access to support. One of the tricks to use when checking out cloud providers is to see how fast they will respond to a phone or email inquiry. When you call their support number, are you in a long queue before you get a real person? If you leave a voice mail, do you get a return call that day? How about email? What’s the response time? Do they have an online chat that you can use? How comfortable are you with the response you received before you have an actual issue?
  • Brick and Mortar. For the truly tech savvy folks out there, you want to know that the physical facility that your virtual bits are going into can stand up to the various outage-causing issues that may come its way. Not everyone is going to be able to take a data center tour based on your geographic location. But hopefully you can find information about the facility on a web site or with a quick chat with someone from sales. Mother Nature has a habit of taking out the biggest of the power grids. Is the data center prepared to run for a while without power? What happens when the generators run out of fuel? Is the facility on multiple power grids?
  • If you are a high end site that can’t handle much downtime, then you’ve probably made the investment to have your workloads in multiple data centers. One thing you’ll want to make clear – If datacenter A goes down, is there any limitation either of your application or the data center itself that relies on the other data center. You should be fully separated and able to run active/active if you truly want to mitigate downtime. This is often an area that can haunt a company who has put a lot of hard work (and money) into making their environment as redundant as possible.

Is this a fully comprehensive list of everything you need to ask your cloud provider? No, but it does give you a good starting point. Physical servers and cloud servers…they’re not that different. Ask the right questions and be comfortable with your level of risk.

Happy computing!

LightEdge Solutions Achieves Gold Level Status as a Polycom Choice Partner

LightEdge broadens its expertise in implementing unified communications solutions within today’s complex customer environments

DES MOINES, IA – July  9, 2012 – LightEdge Solutions, an industry leading cloud IT services provider, today announced it has been named by Polycom, Inc., the global leader in open, standards-based unified communications (UC), as a Gold Level Polycom Choice Partner. Now organizations seeking to implement world-class UC platforms can turn to LightEdge for customized solutions that address their immediate and future business needs.

The Gold Level designation indicates that LightEdge has made the investments in its technical expertise and go-to-market capabilities required to address the complex needs of today’s UC customers. Gold Level Polycom Choice Partners also must have met the program’s exacting standards, including achieving and maintaining specialization in multiple areas.

Customers can be confident that, in alliance with Polycom, LightEdge has the expertise to handle all their UC project needs, from concept to installation through ongoing support and management.  Polycom provides open, standards-based UC solutions for telepresence, video, and voice powered by the Polycom® RealPresence® Platform. Polycom® RealPresence® video solutions interoperate with the broadest range of business, mobile, and social applications and devices.

“LightEdge has used and continues to use Polycom to meet the increasingly complex voice and video needs of customers,” said Mike McHenry, vice president of engineering for LightEdge Solutions.  “As Voice-over-IP technology continues to be adopted in the business sector, we feel that our relationship with Polycom will keep LightEdge ahead of the curve, both in terms of the voice and video technology but also the technical training our teams will require to ensure our customers the best communication experience.”

“The Polycom Choice Partner Program gives customers the confidence that, by choosing LightEdge and Polycom, they’re selecting a world-class team to help them design and implement a world-class UC solution,” said Ron Myers, senior vice president, Global Channels at Polycom. “By collaborating with Polycom as a Gold Level Choice Partner, LightEdge can deliver UC solutions that power greater productivity and smarter conversations, transforming lives and businesses in the process.”

Winner of CRN Magazine’s 5-Star Partner Program Award, Polycom’s Choice Partner Program emphasizes skills development, specialization, and other value added activities that help partners support the needs of their customers and improve the customer experience.

 

About Polycom

Polycom is the global leader in open standards-based unified communications (UC) solutions for telepresence, video, and voice powered by the Polycom® RealPresence® Platform. The RealPresence Platform interoperates with the broadest range of business, mobile, and social applications and devices. More than 400,000 organizations trust Polycom solutions to collaborate and meet face-to-face from any location for more productive and effective engagement with colleagues, partners, customers, specialists, and prospects.  Polycom, together with its broad partner ecosystem, provides customers with the best total cost of ownership, interoperability, scalability, and security for video collaboration, whether on-premises, hosted, or cloud-delivered. Visit www.polycom.com or connect with Polycom on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

About LightEdge Solutions

LightEdge Solutions is a customer-centric cloud computing and consulting company devoted to solving the IT issues of businesses nationwide. By utilizing our economies of scale, connections with world-class vendors and our own internal passion for engineering, LightEdge allows its customers to “plug in” to enterprise-grade IT solutions that maximize uptime and performance, yet fit into their budget. For more information, visit www.lightedge.com.

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