Thursday, December 27, 2012

IBM BladeCenter HS23 Server Blade Review: The Big 5

About a month ago, we spent time reviewing the IBM System x3650 M4. So, having spent time in the IBM rack server world, it’s now time for us to take a look at the IBM server blade world. Coordinated with the System x M4 release, IBM also released an updated server blade called the IBM BladeCenter HS23 that offers some significant improvements over its predecessor, the IBM BladeCenter HS22.

There are 5 key areas that the IBM BladeCenter HS23 server has improved upon:

1.    Availability – The HS23 blade offers exceptional system uptime as a result of features such as fault tolerance, built-in diagnostics, Predictive Failure Analysis (PDF), and a power-independent light path diagnostics panel.

2.    Manageability – Featuring the new Integrated Management Module 2 (IMM2) for remote management capabilities, HS23 server blades also come equipped with IBM Fabric Manager and IBM Systems Director.

3.    Performance – IBM HS23 servers are built with the new Intel Xeon E5-2600 processors for ramped-up performance, as well as offering other performance-enhancing features such as Intel Turbo Bust Technology 2.0 and Intel Hyper-Threading technology.

4.    Scalability – Able to scale to up to 512GB of memory capacity, IBM HS23 blades can also scale to up to two processors, 16 cores, and 32 threads of processing power as well as scaling to 18 I/O ports on a single-wide HS23 blade.

5.    Energy-efficiency – Equipped with lower voltage Intel Xeon processors, HS23 blade servers also offer IBM Systems Director Active Energy Manager, Intel Intelligent Power Capability, and low-voltage DDR3 memory for reduced energy consumption.

With improvements in these 5 key areas, the IBM BladeCenter HS23 blade server gives some legitimate reasons to consider an upgrade from your HS22.

- KH

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cisco Catalyst 6500: What You May Not Have Known

While the Cisco Catalyst 6500 switch is not a new product, we’ve decided to spend some time reviewing it because the price tag has dropped significantly. This has made it an affordable option for many companies that it would never have been on their radar because of its previous, more staggering price tag. Since it wasn’t on their radar, these companies never took the time to see what advantages the Cisco 6500 might have for them. So, we decided to lend a helping hand and kill two birds with one stone by letting everyone know about the price drop and advantages.

Since the Cisco Catalyst 6500 is now the least expensive way to get enterprise-level gigabit switching, some environments may find it interesting that is highly modular and can easily upgrade to 10Gb capabilities. Both cheaper and faster than standalone stacking switches, Cisco Catalyst 6500 switches are built to last and offer built-in redundancy to protect your datacenter against potential downtime. As high-performance platforms, Cisco 6500 switches are feature-rich with end-to-end security features and advanced management capabilities and easy scalability. With 3, 6, 9 or 13 slot chassis options, Catalyst 6500 switches can be custom built to fit your datacenter’s needs. 

It’s a well known-fact that no one ever gets fired for buying Cisco. But buying the Cisco reputation and performance at a significant price drop? Heck, you might even get a holiday bonus.

- KH

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dell PowerEdge R620 Review: New and Accelerated

For Round 3 of our new generational product reviews, we turn to Dell’s 12th generation PowerEdge R620 servers. Not messing around when it comes to space-efficiency, this 1U, 2-socket rack server is a perfect fit for environments where space in a hot commodity – a problem that affects both large and small datacenters.

Some potential limitations that someone would encounter when considering Dell PowerEdge R620’s versus Dell PowerEdge R720 or R720xd rack servers would be that R620 servers only support SFF disk drives, while R720 and R720xd server support both SFF and LFF disk drives. Also, R720 and R720xd servers offer larger disk drive capacities than the R620 – the R720xd can actually accommodate up to 26 HDD’s.

Yet when compared to its predecessor, the Dell PowerEdge R610, the Dell PowerEdge R620 rack server offers several performance enhancements. For instance, Dell R620 servers come equipped with Intel Xeon E5 processors for a whopping 80% performance boost as well as Load-Reduced DIMM’s for expanded memory capacity, on-board NIC’s and iDRAC 7. Dell 12th generation R620 servers even offer new RAID cards and redundant SD cards for added availability.

So depending on your environment and performance requirements, Dell R620 servers just might be the answer you’re looking for. In fact, if you are a space-constrained datacenter running workgroup collaboration, HPC and/or virtualization applications then I dare say even couldn’t have found a more compatible  server/environment match-up if they tried.

- KH

Thursday, December 6, 2012

HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8: The Good, Bad and Not-So Ugly

Continuing with our review of the latest product generations, this week we are going to take a hard look at the HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 rack server.  The design of the server differs drastically from the HP ProLiant DL380 G7, with the power supply being the sole shared component. HP has stated that these changes were made based off of customer feedback that they received on the G7.

While this may certainly be true, and the new LRDIMM’s definitely offer faster memory speed and doubled capacity (all the way up to 768GB!), it will cause some difficulties for customers who are used to working off of a G6 and G7 built-up supply of spares that will not be usable with the DL380p Gen8. And Gen8 servers can be incompatible with some datacenter OS's because they only run Windows 2008R2 and above.

Other generational changes that the HP DL380p Gen8 server has delivered include the Intel Xeon E5 processor family. As a brand, spanking new processor, the Intel Xeon E5 offers performance boosts, and advanced features such as reduced I/O network latency and increased energy efficiency. Another generational change includes the new HP Integrated Lights Out 4 (iLO 4). With iLO 4, the HP DL380p Gen8 server comes equipped with new automated capabilities including HP Agentless Management, HP Active Health System and HP Sea of Sensors 3D. Also, the new FlexLOM modules that the DL380p Gen8 offers is a much improved alternative when it comes to dealing with LAN on the motherboard.

With all of the new advanced features and the overhaul when it comes to system design, the HP ProLiant DL380 Gen8 may be an intimidating leap to make. But the field serviceability of the Gen8 server is actually pretty simplified with the new levels of automation it offers, easing the load of any datacenter management chores. So when it comes to performance, it’s no contest between the Gen8 and G7, but when it comes to being the right fit for your datacenter, it’s totally dependent on your set-up.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Product Review: IBM System x3650 M4 Rack Server

Recently, there have been new generational releases for many product lines including brands we carry such as Dell, HP and IBM. Because we know there’s no way you have the time to research all of the new products that have been released, we’re going to bring the product reviews to you. To kick us off, we’re going to take a look at the new IBM System x3650 M4 rack server.

The key new features that the IBM M4 generation offers include:
  • The Intel Xeon E5 processor family
  • Low voltage memory
  • IBM’s Integrated Management Module 2
  • Virtual fabric support
  • 80 PLUS platinum certified power supplies
  • Increased memory and disk capacity
Due to the new technologies and enhancements, some of the features and benefits that IBM x3650 M4 servers specifically offer include energy-smart performance, easy expandability, improved RAID capabilities, extensive I/O bandwidth, increased system and application uptime, reduced operational expenses and improved productivity.

The real reason to buy x3650 M4 servers lies in their affordability and ability to easily grow their capacity and performance alongside the needs of your organization. As a result, we see the IBM x3640 M4 as a good fit for growing SMB’s running or heading towards the path of high performance computing, cloud deployments and mission-critical applications.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Skip the Hassle, Let Us do the Dirty Work

When purchasing IT equipment, time can be a critical factor, especially if you’ve run into an issue and are dealing with a down data center. And it’s not just delivery time that you need to worry about, but the time that it will take to get the new equipment actually up and running in your data center as well. Because we understand this, we include custom system integration with all of our orders.

To us, including custom system integration means that you will receive your storage, server, and/or networking solutions pre-configured, pretested, and ready to go - saving you time by getting complete systems versus a pallet of boxes filled with different components. Even if you are typically a do-it-yourself kind of shop, the pretested aspect of our integration services will still be valuable to you given that it catches any problems such as dreaded DOA hardware, etc. before it leaves our doorway. 

We include custom system integration regardless of whether you’ve purchased a single server, or a multiple rack configuration – no strings attached, no fine print or spend limit. This helps you save time, money and resources before the equipment is even in your hands. Basically, we think custom integration is just a part of good service - it's something you deserve to have, not some kind of luxury item you should be charged for.

- KH

Thursday, November 15, 2012

If It Isn’t Broke, Don’t Fix It - Legacy vs. Current

Sick of hearing about the latest and greatest? If you’re standardized on end-of-life equipment, then bleeding-edge, cloud-optimized, bells and whistles equipment isn’t likely what you’re looking for. And we’re here to tell you, it shouldn’t be what ANYONE is looking for unless they are experiencing a technology constraint due to their current equipment.

The cost of upgrading your perfectly good equipment is often way more expensive than the cost of maintaining your current equipment. For example, if I have a customer running HP ProLiant DL380 G5 servers, I can provide them with 2 of those EOL servers for under $1000. However, if they want to upgrade to a DL380 G7 server, that will cost them around $2000. And in some cases, the G7 server won’t even work right with the rest of their servers, which leads to buying even more of the costlier G7’s to make them work for the environment. At this point, the customer starts feeling like their wallet has sprung a leak.

So as you can see, there’s really no reason to invest the money for the latest and greatest equipment when you can future-proof your legacy equipment for the next 5+ years by simply buying a couple of inexpensive spares. So while the buzzwords may be engaging, the sales person charming, and the equipment shiny, just remember - if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

- KH

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A SMARTer Alternative to Cisco Maintenance (SMARTnet)

It’s not a networking industry secret – everyone in the biz knows the Cisco SMARTnet is expensive. And when you’re given an IT budget to work with, expensive is an ugly word. That’s why we propose an alternative strategy to the costly Cisco SMARTnet maintenance service. Instead of entering into a SMARTnet maintenance contract, simply purchase spares for your switches.

Keeping spares of your Cisco Catalyst switches on the shelf instead of Cisco SMARTnet offers 2 key advantages: lower costs and less downtime. Here’s the breakdown for cost. Buying a spare switch from a reseller (such as Vista) is cheaper not only through the initial buy, but also through our exclusive 3 year warranty. The warranty protects the switch you bought in the event of failure, and ensures free-of-charge replacements.

As for the decreased downtime, just having the spare Cisco switch sitting on your shelf ready to replace a failed switch eliminates the time you would spend waiting for a Cisco repairman to come around after they receive your request. On top of that, the spare Cisco switches can be pre-configured for your network, also saving valuable time since the replacement switches from Cisco would still need to be configured.

If the decreased expense and downtime offered by purchasing spares versus Cisco SMARTnet wasn’t enough to convince, just think about this. Wouldn’t you rather spend your money on something in your hands that's ready to go, instead of just a piece of paper?


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Explaining the Vista Warranty in a Nutshell

Some of our customers like to ask, “What’s the big deal about the exclusive Vista Warranty? What are you providing me that’s so awesome?” A valid question, given that we claim on the site that it’s the best warranty in the industry. So touché inquisitive customer - we should probably be able to answer that question to your satisfaction.

For starters, whether it's new or our Vista Recertified refurbished equipment, you're covered – at no extra charge. How are you covered? Well, if you’re an end user located within the United States or Canada, you get a 120 Days of Advanced Replacement Warranty, followed by Depot Repair for the remainder of 3 Years. We also have optional upgrades for 1, 2, and 3 year Advance Replacement, as well as Lifetime Advanced Replacement for networking products. If you are a reseller, or are located outside of the Unites States and Canada, you receive a standard 90 Day Warranty.

Exclusions apply to odd ball stuff such as tape drives, cache/controller batteries and consumable media. It’s not like we don’t like selling these to you, but they have high failure rates and that’s just not our cup of tea. But we understand your need for these products. So, instead of our typical 3 year warranty, we offer them with our (still better than average) 120 day warranty.

And above and beyond what the Vista Warranty offers, remember that we are here to help you. So if you have an issue with your purchase (whether it’s the next day or 1,068 days later) just call us and let us know what’s going on. We’ll figure out the best way to fix your issue, whether it's to repair, replace, or what-have-you, so that in a matter of hours your RMA is completed to your satisfaction. Why do we do it? Because you bought your technology equipment from us, and that gave us some warm, fuzzy feelings towards you, we enjoy being able to help you out.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

What does “CTO” Mean?

One question that we get a lot is, “What does CTO mean?".  At Vista Computer Group, our servers are Configure to Order (CTO); this allows us to purchase en masse (getting large bulk discounts that we’re able to pass on to our customers regardless of their order size), break the systems down to the component level, and stock them in our warehouse.

When one of our clients places an order, our team of certified technicians assembles the order according to the specific configuration requested, tests it, and updates the firmware to the most recent versions.  This makes same-day shipments a bit difficult.  If you have an emergency, just let us know and we will work with you to the best of our ability. The SKU on the outside of the box may not match the exact-ordered part number every time, but new systems show up in the original manufacturer’s box just as they would from the direct channel.

So it’s not as simple as picking a handful of boxes up off a dusty shelf and putting them on the next truck out of town, but with free integration, testing, and updating on EVERY order that goes out the door, we think our customers appreciate the extra 10%.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Behind the Scenes: What Product Conditions Really Mean

Have you ever searched for a system on our site only to discover multiple options that are all at different prices, and went huh? The multiple options and price differences are a direct result of the product condition, which varies between 3 offerings: New, HP Renew or Dell Recertified, and Vista Certified Refurbished.

Having heard this situation explained to me by several different customers, I decided it was time to clear up some of the confusion. So, here's the breakdown explaining what the three product conditions that we offer on really mean:

New: We take all new, never-been-used, HP parts direct from distribution and build them into a system during our Configure to Order (CTO) process. This provides you with a customized solution that is completely contained within HP’s warranty (warranty length varies by product). For more information on our CTO process, stay tuned for next week's blog post!

Dell Recertified/HP Renew: These products are typically the result of cancelled orders, ended leases, overstock from distribution, or returns by HP/Dell customers for reasons other than being defective. Unable to sell them as NEW anymore, HP/Dell sends them through a comprehensive refurbishment and testing process. Once they ensure that they are fully restored to meet HP/Dell standards, they receive a full HP/Dell warranty (warranty length varies by product).

Vista Certified Refurbished: This is used gear that we have taken in and put through a rigorous testing, cleaning, and re-assembling process. Anything that’s scratched, dented, or even looks at us funny does not go on our shelf – it goes straight into the dumpster out back. Gear that has made the fairly prestigious cut is then covered by our comprehensive 3 year warranty (covering the U.S. and Canada).


Thursday, October 11, 2012

How to Sort Through the Online Riffraff

While you may know exactly where to go to order your next pair of running shoes, or the most recent season of your favorite TV show off of the World Wide Web, there are about a bazillion retailers that want your biz on the net for your next couple-thousand-dollar server purchase. It can be tough to figure out who should earn your business in a sea of competition, and here at Vista Computer, we understand where you are coming from.

So to help you sort through the riffraff for your next online technology purchase, here are 3 key mantras to keep in mind:

1.    We have a brick and mortar warehouse based in Grand Rapids, MI – Worried about where the product comes from? Our products come from a warehouse right here in the U.S.
2.    We offer a three year warranty – Power supply blows out after 2 years? No worries - if there’s a problem, yo, we’ll solve it.
3.    We’re real people – There are zero robots working for Vista, unless you count our desktops. Call us, email us, heck, even stop by and visit us if you want to at any time.

If you’re still uncertain how to choose where to make your next online technology purchase, remember that Vista Computer offers real people based in the U.S of A waiting for a phone call or email to tell us how to better help you.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Is this thing on? Tap…Tap…

It’s been a while. Since we’ve last written, Diablo 3 was finally released in all of its demon-slaying glory, Apple taught smart phone addicts to dream a little bigger with the New iPad, and Hollywood BA Michael Fassbender signed on to star in the Assassin’s Creed movie. Oh right, and in the enterprise technology world, new generations of servers have been released from Dell, HP and IBM. Now that we’re caught up from the last 2 years or so, let me give you a thorough introduction to two of the rockstars from the new generational server releases, the 12th generation Dell PowerEdge R720 and Dell PowerEdge R720xd 2U rack servers.

With technological innovations like Intel’s Xeon E5-2600 processors and the new iDRAC7, Dell R720 and R720xd servers are pretty freaking sweet if you’re into the latest-technologies-on-the-market kind of thing. And the buzz doesn’t stop there, PowerEdge R720 and R720xd rack servers also feature new Broadcom and Intel-based NIC daughtercards, 10GbE ports with FCoE offload, and a new PERC H710P mini card. Yet when it comes to a showdown between the two of them, the R720xd server emerges victorious as king of the datacenter with 26 hard disk drives in a 2U server for a whopping 36TB of internal storage capacity (for real). But you definitely can’t go wrong with either server, available from Vista Computer in recertified and refurbished options.


IBM’s Roadmap Calls for the End of x3650 M2

In a recent, internal document, IBM marked the end of the x3650 M2 line as being December of 2010.  Some IBM users will remember when the manufacturer ended the production of their x3650s in 2009.  By ending a popular product so early, they essentially create a demand on their new, more expensive and more restricted products.  That’s typically when most people will go to market with their needs.

What IBM doesn’t realize is that not everyone needs the latest product immediately after it’s announcement.  In fact, companies that specialize in end of life hardware really have a chance to show their value in these situations.


Dell Blade Users Spend $15,000 Less Per Year

A press release by Dell shows that a recent study between Dell, HP and IBM blades, shows that Dell’s M610 blade servers will consume up to 20% less power per blade over their competitors’ blades. I’ve listed a few highlights of the article (Click here for full article) below:
  • If a customer were to deploy 160 PowerEdge M610 blades in 10 fully populated Dell M1000e chassis versus a 160 blade server solution from HP and 140 blade servers from IBM, over the course of five years they could expect to save up to $60,902.80 when compared with a similar solution from HP and up to $20,391.40 when compared with a similar solution from IBM.
  • The energy saving only on one fully populated Dell M1000e chassis is enough to power a home for one year.
  • Both fully populated, the Dell M1000e used up to 24 percent less power at idle and up to 13 percent less power at 100 percent CPU utilization than an HP C7000
For more information on Dell blades and to start saving money by adding Dell blades to your business (shameless plug!) contact your Vista Computer Sales rep – which is me, Justin Bush.


Why Buy New ProCurve?

Trying to decide whether to spend the money for a brand new HP ProCurve switch?

What many people don’t know is that HP’s Lifetime Warranty on their ProCurve hardware is valid regardless of the where the unit was purchased from. 

What this means for you can purchase refurbished HP ProCurve from Vista Computer at a fraction of the price and still have the lifetime warranty intact.  So is the cardboard box it comes in really worth the additional money?  We think not…


Custom Designed Dells

Vista Computer Group is breaking into Dell’s popular PowerEdge servers with great deals on pre-configured and custom built systems. With Tower, Rackmount, and Blade servers; each customer is sure to find the right system at the right price. Our new online configurator is a great way for customers to plan out exactly what their requirements are and how they’d like to meet them.

For customers who are looking to upgrade an existing Dell Server, Vista Computer has refurbished components in stock. Every component is tested to make sure it works like new and for the month of August, we will be offering a free 8GB stick of memory with the purchase of 3 sticks – it’s a great way to get the most out of a server, without spending an entire budget.

Whether it’s a customized server, an extra hard drive, or a few more DIMMs of memory; all Dell products come with Vista’s 3 year warranty. If you’re interested in learning more about our warranty or the Dell product line we offer, please contact your Vista Computer Group Representative.


IBM x3650 M2 On its Way Out?

With some of IBM’s popular x3650 M2 models discontinued and more expected to come to an end soon; their cost and availability is sure to go up in the near future.  Much as we’ve seen with previous generations, IBM will slowly turn off the faucet, creating longer lead times and higher prices for their loyal customers.  Before long, the manufacturer will only offer the new, “bleeding edge” servers that cost twice as much and only offer a portion of the usability your organization has come to rely on in the previous months.

By stocking up on these systems while they’re still available in the market, we’re able to support your datacenter long after the manufacturer has deemed it “obsolete.”  Combine that with a 3 year warranty that covers every piece of hardware we sell, regardless of make or model, and it’s easy to see how we’ve become a reliable technology source for thousands of happy customers all over the world!

If you’re interested in more information on getting more out of your hardware long after its end of life date, please contact a Vista Computer Group Representative.  We’re firm believers in the theory that an educated customer is a happy customer!


Some Assembly Required?!

Is your vendor charging you an “integration charge?”  Why? Since when is making sure your equipment is working before it ships considered a billable service? The next time you make a purchase, why not have everything configured and tested prior to shipping without any additional fees… Now there’s a concept!


Is your old IT gear worth anything?

One question we often get from customers is, “Is this old stuff worth anything?” And believe it or not, more often than not, the answer is yes! As a company that specializes in used and refurbished servers, storage and networking gear, we’re always looking for used equipment. Granted, the majority of our sales are the new, latest and greatest servers or switches but we pride ourselves in our ability to support end of life technology. One of the ways we stock up that technology is by buying from customers like yourself!

If you’ve recently upgraded your IT environment and would like to see if your old stuff is worth anything, give us a call.

Typically, we’ll ask for as much information as possible in order to get you the most accurate offer possible. Once we’ve got your information, we take it to our product managers who evaluate it and come back to us with a number. We then shoot that number back to you; if you’re interested, we then send over a purchase agreement and start making arrangements to have the items picked up. Once we’ve received the product and had it tested and approved by our technicians, our accounting department will either cut you a check or have the amount applied to your account.

So before you take that old server out to the dumpster, give us a call or shoot us an email. Maybe it’s worth a little more than you think!


Do You NEED New?

What’s driving your hardware purchases? If your company is like many of the companies out there, you’re constantly being pressed to buy the latest and greatest technology. Your business partner is talking up a product one week and calling it obsolete the next without any regard to your current needs or requirements. When it comes down to it, isn’t warranty what really matters?

All equipment is used as soon as you open the box so if you have a decent warranty and you save 40% isn’t that worth it? From generation to generation, across all hardware lines, most improvements are incremental at best, not to mention the fact that new “bleeding edge” systems will often only perform as well as the oldest server in your datacenter. The next time you’re getting ready to purchase, ask to see a similar quote from a previous generation with warranty; you might be surprised.


The Dangers of Buying Engineering Sample Processors

Are your processors on the up and up? If you’re like the thousands of companies out there that are seeking new ways to save on your IT budget, you might be purchasing equipment from the market.  First of all, that’s great! Companies that limit themselves to their typical distribution channels are finding it more and more difficult to keep up.  The internet is a thriving market place full of vendors aggressively vying for your business and there’s no reason to avoid it if you know what to look out for.

Specifically ES or Engineering Sample Processors. If you’re shopping around, looking for the right processor at a discount make sure you follow the golden rule of online shopping: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”  Companies like Intel and AMD will mark their confidential prototypes or samples with an “ES” or “Engineering Sample” so that these cannot be sold.  They are the property of the manufacturer and should be treated like stolen property.

Make sure you’re asking the questions before you purchase! People get burned all the time by assuming that the picture in the listing is of the item for sale; it never hurts to ask.  Also, ES processors are often cheaper than the legit processors, making them even more likely to get picked up by some unsuspecting victim.

Get your money back. If you find that you are one of these unsuspecting victims, demand your money back.  If the seller claims that the deal is done, fair and square, let them know that you’ll be contacting the manufacturer and letting them know where you picked up one of their confidential processors.  Also, hit them with bad feedback!  Most sellers would rather take back a bad processor and try to unload it on someone else as opposed to getting a negative feedback rating.