A 5-Step Approach to Building an Intelligent Edge

A 5-Step Approach to Building an Intelligent Edge

Many organizations have adopted a cloud-first IT strategy to improve the way they do business. Public, private and hybrid cloud platforms maximize efficiency while allowing IT staff to manage resources, save costs, increase scalability, streamline and coordinate data management, and reduce the human error factor.

But while the cloud has many benefits, it is not always the right fit for modern IT workloads — organizations can experience performance issues when providing services to remote locations. With the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and developments in augmented reality and artificial intelligence, many organizations want to extend their cloud to edge data centers that are closer to users and IoT devices. Edge data centers provide faster access to data, enhanced regulatory compliance, and the connectivity needed to collect real-time data that can be pushed into the cloud for analysis.

Building an edge data center can be challenging. In some cases, organizations are faced with implementing an edge data center in a harsh environment with limited space and IT resources. Other times, organizations have an ideal location that allows them to follow traditional data center design practices. In both scenarios, careful planning and execution are required to create a scalable edge data center that supports business needs without impacting existing services or introducing new risks.

Rahi’s engineers have hundreds of years of experience designing, building and supporting data centers that meet customer uptime and SLA requirements. We also look at the bigger picture when choosing technology, with features that support and integrate with existing systems and applications, manage costs, and enable growth of the business.

Our holistic approach is broken down into five steps that are treated individually yet form part of the turnkey solution. The Rahi engineering team meets with each client and carries out a full discovery of requirements for each step. We take time to understand the edge location and existing technology and applications being used, and any preferences for technology vendors and features. This is followed up with a site survey to gain a clear picture of any challenges and obstacles that will need to be considered.

Step 1 – PhysicalThe physical infrastructure is the foundation layer that supports the edge data center. We will review power, cooling and space requirements to support the desired uptime SLA and mitigate risks that could cause outages and impact application or service availability.

Step 2 – SecuritySecurity is crucial to the success and performance of the edge data center. A combination of hardware and software security is needed to protect applications, data and the network from actions or events that could cause serious damage to the organization. Mechanical, electronic or software-defined controls are also needed to prevent unauthorized access to the physical IT environment. Depending on the customer’s requirements, this can be as simple as locks and keys or more sophisticated multifactor authentication with alerting when an event occurs. CCTV systems can be used to monitor the site remotely and provide record retention to support business, security and compliance requirements.

Step 3 – ConnectivityRobust network infrastructure is needed for high-performance, scalable, reliable and secure access to the edge data center. Rahi’s engineers have extensive experience in ensuring that wired and wireless LAN and telecom services support mission-critical applications and edge services. We also provide cabling services and work with innovative technology partners to provide connectivity options to future-proof the network.

Step 4 – Management and DeploymentA secure remote management platform is needed to control the entire technology stack. In most cases, this will need to be a vendor-neutral solution that seamlessly integrates with existing and new systems and addresses the critical needs of networking, in-band and out-of-band IT infrastructure. Because it’s no longer acceptable to dispatch preconfigured equipment containing sensitive information such as user credentials and network configurations, organizations need a management system that enables remote automated deployment of new equipment. Rahi’s cloud-ready solutions allow for a hands-free approach to managing and deploying infrastructure and provide visibility into the entire global IT estate from a single interface.

Having the ability to view all of your assets in a central location gives data centre managers complete control of managing the continuously growing ecosystems, by collecting data metrics from infrastructure and placing into a database that can be manipulated to produce reports to understand resource utilization and assist with capacity planning, understanding growth patterns and generate alerts to help IT teams to detect early warning signals with infrastructure faults and prevent outages happening before they occur.

Step 5 – Compute and StorageWith the huge variety of compute and storage solutions available today, it can be difficult to choose the right platform for various workloads. The edge environment creates an additional set of requirements that must be considered. Rahi’s engineers leverage converged infrastructure and software-defined systems to design an edge data center that is easy to deploy, highly resilient, and capable of operating in the environment dictated by the edge location.

Rahi Systems offer a comprehensive suite of services and solutions focused at edge data centre deployments our passion for engineering drives our team to design and build environments that will enable your business to grow, succeed and overcome bottlenecks that impact productivity. We work closely with the best of breed technology partners and educate our clients with latest innovations and trends in technology, enabling them to choose high quality, reliable solutions that are built to last and enable future proofing, scalability and availability.

Interested in learning more? Why not arrange a meeting with one of our experts to see how we can help you build an edge data center that will overcome your challenges and make your organization more productive.

Managed Network Services Offer Relief from IT Skills Shortages

Managed Network Services Offer Relief from IT Skills Shortages

The IT skills gap has plagued organizations for a number of years, and continues to increase. Gartner has reported that, “by 2020, 75 percent of organizations will experience visible business disruptions due to skills gaps, which is an increase from less than 20 percent in 2016.” This will not only impact new technology initiatives but ongoing infrastructure management. In-house IT staff are already stretched thin, creating operational risk.

Rahi Systems’ managed network services address this challenge. We have developed a world-class team of engineers who monitor and manage our customers’ networks. All of the engineers are Rahi Systems’ employees, and all have at least a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, computer science or an IT discipline. Sixty percent have a master’s degree. They are also certified by Cisco, Juniper and AWS, among others.

Our team operates out of two network operations centers (NOCs) in Fremont, Calif., and Pune, India, for 24×7 coverage. While most NOCs have Tier 1 engineers who simply create a ticket and dispatch the call to the customer’s IT organization, our NOC is capable from Tier 1 to Tier 3 — from opening the ticket to resolving the issue. Each customer is assigned a designated Program Manager who meets regularly with the customer and manages daily escalations, queue priorities and KPI reporting.

We apply state-of-the-art tools and can typically adapt to the tools the customer uses in-house. We also help customers apply best practices to their network operations. In one instance, a customer was using 14 different management tools. In less than a year we were able to reduce that to four, streamlining their operations and eliminating unnecessary work. It also reduced the number of tickets created from 400 per month to less than 70 on average.

Our managed network services are very flexible. We offer platinum, gold and silver service level agreements to meet various customer requirements. Within those service levels, there a wide range of options. Many customers come to us looking for staff augmentation rather than a fully outsourced solution. Our team supplements their in-house IT organization so their team can focus on strategic initiatives. Partnering with us also enables the customer’s engineers to take vacation without worrying about network support.

Our resident engineer program puts a Rahi Systems’ engineer onsite in the customer’s data center to handle day-to-day escalations. This person is backed by our entire engineering team, and can get assistance from our specialists as needed to support the customer. Depending on the service level, we can provide “smart hands” services for onsite hardware troubleshooting.

We also engage with vendor technical support as needed for problem resolution. Often, you’ll want the vendor involved because they may have seen the issue before and can offer a solution that we are not aware of. In addition, we can handle RMA processing for customers who share their warranty information with us. That way, the customer doesn’t have to worry about calling the vendor if there’s a hardware issue.

Rahi Systems has the scale to support large enterprise customers in demanding industries such as IT and healthcare. Our global reach enables us to support our customers’ operations virtually anywhere in the world. In addition, managed services customers can easily access our professional services and burst resources for project expansion.

Given the IT skills gap and growing network complexity, many customers are looking for help in managing and maintaining their networks. Rahi Systems’ managed network services help to relieve the pressure on in-house IT teams and ensure that network issues are resolved quickly and efficiently.

The Importance of Quality Value Engineering in the Design of A/V Solutions

In World War II, shortages of raw materials and components often forced manufacturers to look for substitutes. A couple of engineers at General Electric found that some substitutions resulted in a better product at a lower cost. This led them to develop a process called “value engineering” that they applied to product development.

You might think that value engineering would have little application in the IT field. After all, the cost of IT products has gone down steadily, and performance and functionality have greatly increased. The smartphone in your pocket is far more powerful than early mainframes that cost millions of dollars.

But it’s the “consumerization” of IT that has made value engineering important. Today, organizations can go online and buy inexpensive IT products that will do a reasonably good job. This is particularly true when it comes to A/V. With the soft-codec video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet, you don’t have to invest in proprietary hardware. Buy a PC or Mac Mini, inexpensive display, USB microphone, speakers and a webcam and — voilà! — your conference room is ready to go, for the most part.

The availability of these products coupled with the growing importance of A/V can lead to some unrealistic budgets. In the past five years or so we’ve gone from having video conferencing in about 10 percent of a customer’s conference rooms to having video conferencing in every meeting room. A customer who might have budgeted $100,000 to outfit one conference room now expects that same $100,000 to outfit 10 or 15 conference rooms. We use value engineering to help maximize that spend.

The Rahi Systems team sits down with customers to discuss their expectations and pain points. For example, customers who are accustomed to a “telepresence” experience might want higher-end cameras. For other customers, high-quality displays might be more important.

Our product knowledge and field experience come into play here. When we first started integrating A/V systems, we always tried to use commercial-grade displays. But now several vendors offer a “commercial lite” line that’s much more cost-effective with similar features. The panels are only rated to operate 16 hours a day, seven days a week, versus 24×7, but if you’re only going to use them eight hours of the day they’ll work just fine.

There’s also a huge value range in USB peripherals — everything from a $20 webcam, for example, to a $4,000 pan-tilt-zoom camera. Usually what works best is something in between. I’d avoid that $20 webcam, but there are great value-priced options.

Upgraded audio often gives you the best bang for your buck. A $1,000 microphone and heavy-duty speakers will create a much better impression than a $50 microphone.

But the most important thing is to create an effortless user experience. Consumer-grade products may work well enough for the five-person startup, but larger organizations need to consider how people are going to interact with the equipment and how often the equipment will be in use. Also, you can’t just value engineer one room — you have to look at the big picture so that the user experience is the same across the environment.

The Rahi Systems A/V team will help you figure out when to use budget-friendly devices and when to invest in higher-end equipment. Our value-engineering forward approach helps you maximize your budget and get the best experience for your users.

Software-Defined Application Delivery Controllers Provide Key Benefits

Software-Defined Application Delivery Controllers Provide Key Benefits

In our last post, we discussed how growing workload demands in enterprise data centers requires a new approach to application delivery controllers (ADCs). Traditional appliance-based ADCs are slow and costly to implement, difficult to manage, and lack the flexibility and scalability needed in today’s dynamic data center environment. Software-based ADCs are less expensive because they can be deployed on commodity hardware but otherwise have the same drawbacks as the appliance-based approach.

Software-defined ADCs overcome these limitations. A centralized controller provides automated, policy-based management of a pool of ADCs that can be distributed across multiple environments. This not only streamlines administration, but makes it possible to scale ADC services up or down according to traffic levels.

The controller receives and analyzes a continuous stream of application telemetry data sent by the distributed ADCs. This enables the controller to automatically decide on service placement, autoscaling and high availability for each application. The control plane also monitors the “health” of the system and reacts to data plane component failures or any application changes.

Because the data plane elements are deployed on commodity hardware, they can be spun up or down dynamically wherever services are needed. Active-active high availability configurations can be set up at a fraction of the cost of traditional ADCs.

Software-defined ADCs can also provide advanced functionality, including:

  • Application Performance Monitoring, Troubleshooting and Insights.The most powerful capabilities of the software-defined ADC is the ability to derive rich application insights. Administrators can troubleshoot application issues without poring over log files, and gain analytics on performance, security and users.
  • DVR-Like Function.The system records all the transactional data and plays it back on demand through the central management console. This enables administrators and application owners to view roundtrip times and analyze application issues over time.
  • Policy Repository.Many network administrators have to painstakingly document virtual service configurations (sometimes using spreadsheets) to ensure an accurate representation of their deployed services. The policy repository holds all of the system configurations, including the details of virtual services and pool members.
  • Flexible Consumption Models.The software-defined approach makes it possible to consume local and global load balancing, web application firewall, and other functionality as a service, with Software-as-a-Service as an option.

The Avi Vantage software-defined ADC platform from Avi Networks provides software load balancing and an intelligent web application firewall in a centrally managed, elastic services fabric. It consists of three components:

  • The Avi Controller for policy-based orchestration of multi-cloud application services
  • Avi Service Engines (distributed data plane) that run on x86 servers, virtual machines, containers or in the cloud
  • The Avi Console, which provides automated, self-service provisioning and advanced analytics to drive intelligent decisions

The platform adapts to dynamic environments, empowering IT administrators with next-generation tools for multi-cloud traffic management.  The Avi Controller auto-scales load balancing resources based upon thresholds, and the Avi Service Engine scales out horizontally on demand. Based upon REST APIs, Avi Vantage provides end-to-end visibility and integrates seamlessly with the continuous integration/continuous delivery pipeline for rapid application rollouts.

Rahi Systems is an Avi Networks partner with expertise in application service delivery. Let us show you how the software-defined approach provides the flexibility, scalability and visibility needed for today’s dynamic data center environments.

Overcoming the Drawbacks of Traditional Application Delivery Controllers

Overcoming the Drawbacks of Traditional Application Delivery Controllers

Half of all IT workloads still run in enterprise data centers and will continue to do so through at least 2021, according to the Uptime Institute’s Annual Data Center Survey for 2019. In fact, workload demands in enterprise data centers continue to increase, which can cause performance problems as resources reach capacity. Many data center operators are also spreading workloads across multiple data centers and the cloud to improve resilience, further increasing complexity and risk.

Data center operators use application delivery controllers (ADCs) to provide consistent application services across the data center and the cloud. ADCs perform load balancing to distribute client requests across a pool of servers, maximizing performance and capacity utilization by ensuring that no one server is overloaded. ADCs also typically provide caching, compression and SSL processing to further reduce server load and increase throughput.

ADCs have traditionally been offered as appliance-based or software-based solutions. Appliance-based ADCs consist of proprietary software running on hardware with specialized processors. They require upfront capital investments and are administered manually on a box-by-box basis. Designed in the client-server era, they are unable to scale up and down elastically to meet changing workload demands. Operators tend to overprovision appliance-based ADCs so that they don’t have to wait to buy more hardware to support new applications.

Software-based ADCs are somewhat more flexible in that they typically run on commodity hardware or even in a cloud environment. However, even virtualized ADCs lack the agility, elasticity and distributed architecture needed in today’s dynamic environments. Neither software-based nor appliance-based solutions incorporate security services such as web application firewalls and distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection.

A better approach is to apply software-defined principles to ADCs, separating the control plane from the data plane. This would allow for centralized management of a distributed pool of ADCs. Load balancing functionality could be scaled up or down in response to real-time traffic, accelerating application rollouts and enabling multi-tenancy for internal groups without buying more appliances.

Policy-driven self-service could even allow for automated provisioning of application delivery services for line-of-business applications and dev/test use cases. Roll-based access control would enable internal customers to monitor their applications.

Security services such as dynamic DDoS protection, app isolation and micro-segmentation could be incorporated into the ADC software. Software-defined ADCs could also integrate with software-defined networking protocols, public cloud APIs, container orchestration platforms and DevOps tools.

Service delivery in software-defined ADC architectures is provided by a distributed data plane. The ADCs in the data plane sit in line with application traffic and continuously collect and relay application telemetry data to the controller. The software can be deployed to deliver services close to the application or even on a per-application basis. This approach also enables services for east-west traffic among applications in addition to the traditional north-south transactions between users and applications.

Advances in the processing power of x86 servers have made it possible for software-defined ADCs to provide elastic, high-performance and highly available services at a lower total cost of ownership than traditional solutions. In our next post we’ll dive deeper into software-defined ADCs and take a look at the Avi Vantage platform from Avi Networks.

The Rahi Approach to Data Center Migration

The Rahi Approach to Data Center Migration

There are a number of reasons why an organization might need to relocate data center equipment. As IT demands increase an organization may run out of data center space and need to move to a larger facility. Conversely, consolidation projects may free up space, enabling the organization to rearrange equipment to optimize power and cooling or operational efficiency.

Mergers and acquisitions can spur data center relocation, as can changes in corporate structure. As its global footprint expands, an organization could see the need to move equipment closer to users, or to capitalize on the power, cooling or connectivity advantages of another city.

Data center migration projects also come in all shapes and sizes. An organization could move equipment between racks, between rows of racks, between different server halls within the same building, between buildings in the same campus, between different campuses, different cities, countries and continents.

Rahi Systems has completed migrations in all these scenarios. In our largest migration project, we moved 500 racks and 5,000 physical pieces of equipment from one city to another.

We perform migrations in three phases. First is the needs analysis. We meet with the customer to discuss why they are migrating, what portion of infrastructure they are migrating, and where. How many servers are mission-critical? How much downtime can they tolerate? What is the impact if something goes wrong? This helps us determine what kind of resources are required.

Then comes the pre-activity assessment. We label the devices and document where each one is located at the source and where it needs to go at the destination. We document the power, power redundancy, fiber and copper connectivity, and management ports, and the types of cables used. We take rack elevations. We assess the physical movement of the equipment. We can also decommission equipment that is no longer needed.

Stage three is the actual move. The customer’s IT team ensures that every system has been backed up and that there aren’t any active user sessions. Once they bring down the systems, we then disconnect all the cables, unmount the equipment and pack it for transport. At the destination we receive the equipment, unpack it, mount it in the racks and cabinets and connect all the cables. We then power it on and work with the local IT team to ensure that all the services are up and running. If something goes wrong we perform troubleshooting at the agreed SLA.

It may sound simple but it requires significant expertise. You need a vendor who understands data center equipment and all the connectivity and dependencies. You need someone capable of physically disconnecting and moving the equipment. You need a transportation vendor. And if your move spans more than a short distance, you need a separate vendor at the destination to reconnect that equipment and ensure that it works properly.

Rahi does everything from end to end. We perform the three phases and arrange shipment with our transportation partner. We obtain transit insurance on behalf of the customer. And because of our global footprint, we are able to provide these services virtually anywhere in the world.

If you’ve outgrown your data center space, or need to move your IT equipment to another location for business or technical reasons, we invite you to give Rahi a call. Let us plan and implement a turnkey relocation project that minimizes headaches and risk.