In the first FlexPod post I dealt with the fact that FlexPod – the converged infrastructure stack – impresses customers with its versatility. This gem among the private clouds can excel with its 170 validated designs. In the second part of my blog series, I focus on virtualization and collaboration with 3D FlexPod – a solution that literally puts our customers in the picture at various levels.

 

Whenever I hear the word “virtualization,” I can never get an image out of my head. Perhaps you can also recall Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance at a press conference Samsung held during the 2016 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Facebook’s CEO presented his perspective on virtual reality (VR) to a large congregation of Borgs. Or at least that’s how it looked: The trade visitors wearing their VR glasses seemed to have just been beamed there from Star Trek. Since then, the following questions have been on my mind: How will we use virtualization technologies in the future? And how far will these technologies divorce us from reality?

Stream, not beam, data

There are already sensible and exciting application areas: Let’s just look at data streaming. People who work in construction and production benefit from it. This technology is being used in medicine to roll out new imaging services or telemedicine. Globally networked maintenance teams also gain from data streaming, which can equally supply thousands of terminal devices with applications from a central point.

 

This is where the validated 3D FlexPod comes into play and proves to be the ideal virtualization and collaboration platform. First of all, let’s look at how, for example, an engineering workspace can be mapped with the converged infrastructure: What is needed in this case is a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) so as to deliver and run CAD/CAM applications via a central instance. In this context, the 3D FlexPod is based on data management by NetApp and on Cisco’s UCS servers, Nexus network components and graphics visualization with NVIDIA GRID. That lets design data be streamed over large distances, such as from Oslo to Barcelona. The technology enabling that is the thin client solution Citrix XenApp, which merely represents the user interface for app provision, and the TGX connection broker from Mechdyne. The bandwidth is no longer the limiting factor. That means latency hardly plays a role, which enhances collaboration in virtual teams.

Graphics experts working on site

Different CAD applications and virtualization platforms can be run on a 3D FlexPod concurrently, securely, reliably and with a high performance level. Our trained partners assume the task of designing the 3D FlexPod precisely to the company’s needs as regards resources or real-time graphics. The 3D data remains on the central instance, where it’s backed up, protected and archived. Access authorization is also handled centrally. As a result, FlexPod supports compliance by every design workspace with the GDPR. That means vice versa: the 3D FlexPod allows production companies to create location-independent workspaces that follow experts so that the latter are easier to recruit. The 3D FlexPod is also suitable for maintenance, sales support or product training. For example, an expert explains a machine or product by visualizing the data from the central 3D FlexPod platform using VR glasses.

 

Our 3D FlexPod first caught on in the oil and gas industry, where exploration and production are carried out on rigs or in remote locations. It’s normally a challenge to connect up high-quality docking stations for exchanging data in such inhospitable environments. As described, a 3D FlexPod uses a narrow-band protocol so that data can be streamed stably and processed in teams distributed around the world.

Telemedicine, operation of Windows 10 clients and cloud options

As already mentioned, the visualization options are also of interest for telemedicine. Access to X-ray images using a 3D FlexPod would be an improvement, especially if there are bandwidth bottlenecks. Controlling a VDI for hundreds to thousands of Windows 10 clients may also become a classic use case. The 3D FlexPod provides the central graphics platform for that. With its integrated snapshot technology, the system generates virtual clones for up to thousands of clients in a matter of seconds. The virtual clones use hardly any extra storage space as would otherwise be the case when images need to be copied. The snapshots can also be used for archiving in public cloud object storage. Anyone interested in related cloud services can find the right one in the NetApp Cloud Volume Service for relocating data sets in the same format to Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services or the Google Cloud. The Cloud Sync Service from NetApp can then be used to synchronize data between the FlexPod and the public cloud.

 

There does not always have to be a complete divorce from reality. In many visualization scenarios, a 3D FlexPod permits secure collaboration in distributed teams and opens up fascinating use cases without individuality being sacrificed.

 

My next blog articles will focus on how SAP HANA, container technology or analytics can be mastered with our converged infrastructure stack.

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Hermann Wedlich