Softcat Tech Update: February 2015

Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2015
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In its third instalment the Softcat presales team takes a look at some of the significant product and industry news to cross their desks in the last couple of months. It’s been a few months since the last update so lets get stuck in straight away…

HP have released Gen 9 servers, and they offer a much greater degree of flexibility than Gen 8, with DL 300, 100 and 0x0 lines all available, plus ML 150, 350 being introduced, and the ML10 continuing. The only line to be dramatically simplified is in BladeSystem, where the BL460c Gen9 is the only Gen 9 blade currently available, but the WS460c and BL660c are expected to join it soon to complete the Gen 9 blades.

In storage HP have also released new 3PAR 7000 arrays with the ‘C model’ controllers. 7200 and 7400 have received updated controllers, and there is a new, super scalable 7440c, with loads of room for SSD and HDD alike. This also heralds the arrival of file persona to the 3PAR, allowing the array to serve file and block straight from the controllers.

Dell have released their Gen 13 servers, giving the E5 gear an upgrade to the latest and greatest intel platforms, the new kit all has an ‘x30’ model number. Interestingly Dell seem to be the first to advertise the availability of 64GB DDR4 memory, at least it’s on the premier page. They have also released the SC4020 all in one storage array, AKA ‘Baby Compellent’.

Lenovo have officially closed their acquisition of IBM’s System X business, and have crossed the t’s and dotted the lower case j’s on OEM partnership agreements to keep the product lines consistent and available across storage etc.

2015 Tech Predictions

2015 looks set to be the year of the chip. Intel will launch Broadwell, and the new Atom SKUs along with Broadwell M offer great potential for new form factors in computing - expect to see more lines like Intel’s ‘compute stick’ recently launched at CES, not to mention grunty, low cost windows tablets such as the brilliant ‘Linx’ tablets. Intel, along with micron and others are also promising the arrival of ‘3D NAND’ offering much greater SSD densities by stacking NAND chips, as well as performance and durability improvements over the current planar designs. DRAM is getting in on the act too, with memory capacities looking set to reach 64GB, 128GB and possibly even greater as DRAM stacking makes production.

Server SAN and Hyperconverged systems could well establish a strong foothold this year, with most of the big vendors jumping on the EVO:RAIL and EVO:RACK bandwagon, plus homebrew systems from HP, Nutanix (with a Dell OEM deal), Simplivity et.al. We can’t see these replacing bigger SANs in the datacentre environment, but smaller shops may well take to this simplification.

At the other end of the scale, cloud continues apace, with Microsoft placing huge weight on Azure and Office 365, plus google, VMware, HP, IBM, Oracle, Amazon and more all continuing to pour resource into public/hybrid cloud services. Technologies pioneered in the cloud including VxLAN, OpenStack, Docker etc still remain niche, but aren’t going away any time soon, either.

What’s going to die off in 2015 we would hope that the last bastions of fast ethernet will depart, even on the edge. Other than that, we can’t see anything fully dying. We’ve been told for decades that tape is dead as a storage medium, and more recently that SSD will kill off HDD, but neither will happen soon. HP may finally get round to porting BCS over to x86 and axing itanium, but we doubt that will be in 2015, though the launch of SuperDome X (formerly DragonHawk) could well mark the beginning of the end.

Microsoft

The resurgence of Microsoft continues, with loads of new hotness coming out of Redmond.

Windows 10 is now at the preview stage, and marks the biggest push yet towards ‘One Microsoft’ as they unify the code base across Desktop, Tablet, Mobile and Xbox. The start menu is back with a vengeance, and there is a lot more adaptability built into the OS to enable different use cases. One of the biggest headlines is that Microsoft are working on a new browser called ‘Spartan’ for Windows 10 that could replace IE. The codename may also hint at some cool Cortana integration, with the clever AI assistant being rolled out across all Windows 10 devices.

Microsoft Lumia is now the standalone brand for windows smartphones. A slew of new devices have come out recently, both at the high end and lower down the price/functionality range. Windows phone 10 is not in preview at time of writing but won’t be far off, given the indications made at the event on the 21st Jan.

Finally, Windows 7 has ended mainstream support although the official end of support scheduled for January 14th 2020.

All other business

Amazon are offering us a glimpse into the future, as news emerges that their new AWS machines use a custom-built Xeon chip, rather than the off the shelf E5-2666 units in previous iterations. Custom chips and cores look to be the direction Intel is heading towards, particularly for Hyperscale deployments, and further down the line, specialised cores for next-gen compute such as HP’s THE MACHINE

CES happened recently. Highlights included:

Intel’s compute stick had its tiny cover ripped off and it looks really cool; a sort of grown-up chromecast slash thin client slash logic board from a tablet. Simply plug it into a HDMI enabled panel, fire it up and boom, full fat windows 8.1, with a surprising level of grunt.

HP’s Stream mini PC takes the concept of the windows chromebookalike already on sale and turns it into a desktop ideal for light-use consumers.

Dell’s Venue 8 7000 Android tablet is sleek, clever and beautiful, a really lovely bit of kit, though personally we hope they will put Windows 8.1 or 10 onto the platform due to the management issues that ‘droid presents.

Lenovo’s LaVie notebook takes the ultrabook form factor to the extreme, producing the lightest 13” convertible notebook ever, and sitting on a broadwell platform.

Nimble have released Fibre Channel support into the wild, as the impressive Flashy upstart continue to add features. There are some restrictions to the integration piece, so speak to the Softcat DCI team for all the info.

Dell’s FX2 chassis caught our interest recently. A part hyperconverged part baby blade chassis, it takes some of the cool bits from the M1000e, VRTX and Poweredge-C lines and brings them all together.

Thats it for this installment, thanks for reading. Please contact your Softcat account manager to discuss any of the topics or products we have mentioned above.

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