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Data, Big Data, and Data Field Day 1


Big Data.

Heck, it’s all the same thing.

Data Field Day One
The advent of the Internet of Things or IoT, is going to exponentially expand the number of datapoints from which telemetry is returned.

And it isn’t going to get any easier.

People, this growth will be relentless, and the data deluge is just about to start.

What seems to be lost in the hoopla is some simple fact: without analysis, dissection, and visualization of that data, it is largely a useless dump of data.

So far, at the Gestalt IT Tech Field Day series and at the in-house HP Storage Days, we have seen how hardware companies plan to tackle the storage of data

Thankfully, several companies are stepping, and technologies have been invented that are bringing innovation to this issue.

Two weeks ago, I was at Data Field Day One where a select group of companies showed us their attempts to solve data issues.

NOTE: two of the companies that presented at Data Field Day 1 were focused on the software of Big Data, which was my mission to seek out. The other two, HGST and SanDisk FlashSoft, were seemingly more focused on the hardware, despite their software bent. For this article, I will focus on Cloudera and Hedvig.

I intend to spend more time on yet another recap of the Tech Field Day video presentations on HGST and SanDisk to see if I missed their métier.

Many ways to skin a cat

Seriously though, data needs a lot of flexibility and attendant hybridization is analysis and processing.


Well, data tends to live where it is born.



clip_image002Nice explanation by Cloudera co-founder and CTO Mike Olson: there is data that is born is the data center: sales transaction, and data that’s born in the cloud, such as returned information from the ginormous numbers of connected sensors globally. Consequently, it makes sense to analyze that data where it is, rather than getting into the business of moving huge amounts back and forth from cloud storage repositories into datacenter storage.

And Mike should know. His company Cloudera, which is a pure-play big data firm located in Palo Alto, happens to be the 1,000 lb. gorilla in Big Data.

Valued at about $5 billion minimum due to a recent 15%, $750 million investment in it by mighty Intel, Cloudera is harnessing the best of open source and proprietary IP built upon open source foundations to deliver products that help users make sense of the flood of data hitting them, thereby monetizing their data.

Cloudera, as mentioned above, is largely agnostic in the use of whatever open source tech it needs to deliver that database and data analysis functionality, with names like Hadoop, Pig, and some other hipstery names flowing smoothly of the tongues at DFD1.

They even have a UI for Hadoop!Slide16

Oh yes, and most importantly, the use and retention of proprietary IP allows Cloudera to deliver a business plan that is real-worldly, and has a profitability horizon. That, I like, and approve of!

This, is what grownups do.

Cloudera has, I believe, the only PCI-DSS certificated secure compliance data store. Their flagship product is used by some of the biggest names in the financial and healthcare services fields, such as FINRA.

“I like to look at all my data”
Commonly said by a lot of people.

Actually, you don’t.

If a typical ERP database contains 15,000 tables, and if the average healthcare EMR system contains 245,000 columns, trust me, you don’t want to “look at all your data”!

For that, Cloudera added Explain.IO to their stable.

Cloudera creates an Enterprise Data Hub that determines business intent by data mining the queries against a businesses’ data store, not the actual data.clip_image004


Hedvig was another company that caught my eye. clip_image006clip_image008

Hedvig is a software-defined storage startup that lives in a VM.clip_image010

From the demo, it is powerful, fast, and get this: the first enterprise startup to actually deliver a product that targets both x86 and ARM CPUs, though, according to Hedvig, most of their sales are for x86, which is a pattern that is currently the norm. clip_image012

Hedvig’s platform is elastic, is cloud-agnostic, and works fine with commodity servers. Scaling to petabytes, it provides enterprise block, file, and object storage.clip_image014

I may have misunderstood, but I believe Hedvig is currently VMware-only.

Once they arrive on Hyper-v, I will try to play around with it.

The Data Field Day 1 homepage is here. It has links to the event, videos, and all content generated subsequent to it. It also has links to both delegate and company bios.

The #DFD1 site also has links to upcoming Tech Field Day events, which are livestreamed to everyone in this star system. For free.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Verizon VCE customer testimonial: Brandon Mawhorter, Digital Edge Learning, Inc..

This post, Part III of my series on Verizon Enterprise’s Virtual Communications Express, I spoke with Brandon Mawhorter of Digital Edge Learning, Inc. of Redlands, California.

In business since 2007, Digital Edge Learning is a VAR for educational learning hardware for teachers and classrooms. They deal with schools, school districts, and of course, teachers. They also provide training tools for educators as well.

I asked Brandon questions centered on the following:

Digital Edge Learning started looking at VOIP when a decision was made in 2013 to reengineer the company from a centralized single location business to a distributed operation. They were looking for a solution that had all that, with easy manageability and expandability thrown in.

Selection decision
DEL had used a PBX-type system from ShoreTel previously, but were ambivalent about it to the point where they didn’t want t deal with PBXs any longer, with memories of having to reboot the PBX box lingering.

Verizon VCE was selected because it had the desired features: was expandable, and allowed for remote configuration.

Brandon was the lead in the selection of Verizon VCE for Digital Edge Learning, and he after placing his order with Verizon Enterprise.

Phones were selected, and because of the nature of their business, an analog face-to-VOIP box was sent in to Digital Edge Learning as well.

It took a ‘short time’ to get the phones ported over, and Digital Edge Learning was in business, with Verizon VCE, I’m told.

For Digital Edge Learning, their use of Verizon VCE has been an eye-opener in the realm of versatility.

According to Brandon, VCE allows him and other Digital Edge Learning staffers to be ready for work wherever they may be.

He has set up ‘hunt groups’ that allow staffers to dynamically assist each other in retrieving calls, and helps DEL to extend their offices to any physical location staffers with their Polycom phones and a broadband connection are.

By all indications, Digital Edge Learning is pleased with this solution.

What sets VCE apart is the fact that everything about the service completely resides in the cloud: sales, hardware store, orchestration, implementation, management, pre- and post-sale configuration, and support. Apart from the vagaries possibly introduces into their environment by their broadband ISP, that is.

Cloud_Voice_160X300_bannerDigital Edge Learning is able to dynamically configure and re-configure systems according to need, the staff can back each other up seamlessly, and the service is always on wherever the are and want it to be, a statement that gives me a vision of their staff on a beach somewhere sippin’ on Mai Tai’s while a very long Ethernet cable connects them to their rooms.

In fact, Brandon is able to be productive anywhere just by plugging his Polycom handset in.

That sort of versatility is rather unbeatable.

I asked a final question: “Would you recommend Verizon VCE to other businesses?”

“Without a doubt, whatsoever. It has been very good for us”, said Brandon Mawhorter, Digital Edge Learning Systems.

I want to thank Brandon for taking the time.

More information on Verizon Virtual Communications Express can be found here.

This blog post came out of conversations sponsored by Verizon.

John Obeto, this blog, or any entity owned controlled or affiliated with John Obeto has received any compensation of any kind for this series on Verizon VCE.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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I will be at Data Field Day 1

When sharks stop swimming, they die.

For humans, the same is true, only with us, it concerns learning: if you stop learning, you die.

Well, maybe not literally, but intellectually. Once you are intellectually dead, you cease to become human.

So as to preserve my pea brain from that fate, I try to keep learning.

One of the learning resources I am privileged to be invited to oftentimes are the Gestalt IT Tech Field Day series, this time, the inaugural Data Field Day, to be held in San Francisco, California.

Storage here. Storage there. Storage everywhere!
We all know about the explosion in the amount of storage we have immediate access to.

I still remember owning a Timex-Sinclair with 2K of RAM. Or my first hard drive for my IBM PC. 20 megs seemed like infinity.

Today, Office 365 gifts you with 1 terabyte of storage per user just for signing up!

All that data
We have mountains of data.

I can assure you, that is nothing compared to the deluge of data that is about to hit us from all the datapoints coming online as the Internet of Things or #IoT, takes hold.

That conversation between your teaspoon and your kettle with your refrigerator as moderator and your trash compactor as interlocutor is going to deliver lots of data.

What are we going to do with all that data?

Saving it is worse than useless if we do not i) make sense of it, ii) make it actionable, and iii) use the data to improve both the product and the outcomes of the intelligence built into the device, and finally iv) use that data to derive predictions for future events and/or products.

When I learned through the grapevine that Tech Field Day might be holding a Data event, I immediately wanted to be part of it.


Because of the learning thing I alluded to earlier.

I have found Tech Field Day events to be insightful, the presenters knowledgeable, and resultantly, the knowledge gleaned from those events are immediately actionable, as feedback from not only my readership, but I, myself, can attest to.

Gestalt IT Data Field Day 1
Tomorrow morning, I am off to the cultural heart of Silly Valley, ‘Frisco*, for Data Field Day 1.

The following three companies, listed in alphabetical order, will be presenting:

    • Cloudera Which aims to provide the speed, scale, and centralized management needed to create enterprise hubs
    • Hedvig They have a distributed storage platform that utilized commodity hardware to provide elastic block, file, and object storage.
    • SanDisk Their FlashSoft software reduces I/O latencies in Microsoft Windows Server and other server environments by enabling server-side SSDs.

As usual, the delegates are subject matter gurus, and I look forward to being part of the dialog.

This will be fun!

* It’s a SoCal thing: I cannot bring myself to call it my it’s proper name, San ‘Frisco. Especially since in SoCal, we know it really tweaks their noses!

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Verizon VCE customer testimonial: Josh Finkle, DHI Services

This post, Part II of my series on Verizon Enterprise’s Virtual Communications Express, I spoke with Joshua Finkle of Deaf & Hard of Hearing Interpretation Services.

Company Background
Founded in 1996, DHIS helps facilitate interaction between two or more individuals on-site or remotely by interpreting their conversation with the help of certified interpreters in American Sign Language, foreign sign languages, Communications Access Real-time Translation (CART) and in spoken and/or signed English.

My interview of him was centered around the following:

Josh’s primary reasons for thinking of moving a VOIP system was cost.

His prior phone system consisted of a total of four lines, of which one was a fax line. His broadband service was brought in through a DSL line.

He decided to reduce his costs, and also expand the telephony services he could consume.

Selection decision
As we all know, only voice-over-IP, commonly known as VOIP, can deliver based on those parameters.

Consequently, he started researching and auditioning available VOIP providers, and when the dust cleared, Verizon VCE was the winner. Verizon’s VCE was selected partly because his local PSTN was Verizon there in New York City.

He then discontinued his DSL line, and went with cable broadband.

One of the really cool things about Verizon VCE is the fact that orchestration is completely virtual.

Customers are interviewed over the phone by a Verizon salesdrone, and the pertinent information: number of users, type of device, service, and features desired are collected.

In conjunction with that information, a Verizon tool called Examinet is used to query and test the speeds and reliability of the broadband service the customer possesses in order to determine if that broadband connection is able to deliver the features, service, and reliability that VCE requires in order to deliver the VOIP connections the customer needs.

For Josh, this was a snap.

He answered the questions, had his broadband queried, and sent his business information over to Verizon for the initialization of the [phone numbers] porting process. In the interim, he participated in a webinar on the entire process.

His telephone devices arrived, and over a selected weekend, the entire process was implemented satisfactorily for him.

Cloud_Voice_160X300_bannerRight now, Josh has all the lines he needs, and with that, he know he has the option to grow his telephony service on a completely ad hoc basis.

What I really wanted to know, and I am sure you all do as well, is what is/was his satisfaction level with Verizon VCE at each step of his journey, and where is it today.

According to Josh, he “really likes his Verizon VCE setup.”

It has been a very cost-efficient implementation, and he has had no problems with the service. He is able to make configurational changes to his telephony network just by logging in to his VCE account, and letting his mouse and keyboard run across the page. His selections or changes are applied immediately, an aspect I know he must surely find gratifying.

He does, however, worry about his cable broadband service going down, an issue he cannot blame on Verizon VCE.

To my final question, “Would you recommend Verizon Virtual Communications Express to anyone, everyone?”, his answer was simply, “Of course.”

More information on Verizon Virtual Communications Express can be found here.

This blog post came out of conversations sponsored by Verizon.

Neither John Obeto, this blog, or any entity owned controlled or affiliated with John Obeto has received any compensation of any kind for this series on Verizon VCE.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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The Blackgrounder: A short video intro of the new HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1

I have been using, testing, and enjoying the new HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 for a long time now.

First previewed here during it’s engineering gestation, I am now in possession of a shipping – general availability, aka ‘retail’ – unit to talk about.

I like this device, and this is the first of several short videos on the product.

In advance, please forgive my “haws” and “emms”, during my monologue in the video.


John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Giving some thought to Windows Nano Server & Containers

As we wait for features in Windows Server Next to be firmed down, some new technologies have been creeping into the mix, namely Windows Nano Server, Hyper-V Container, Windows Server Container, and Docker Container technologies.

I have been attempting to lean what is new, most importantly, what is relevant to my readership and blog focus with respect to these new ‘new’.

Windows Nano Server
In early April, Microsoft’s Jeff Snover announced Windows Nano Server.

According to Microsoft, Windows Nano server is

a purpose-built operating system designed to run born-in-the-cloud applications and containers. As customers adopt modern applications and next-generation cloud technologies, they need an OS that delivers speed, agility and lower resource consumption.

Nano Server is a deeply refactored version of Windows Server with a small footprint and remotely managed installation, optimized for the cloud and a DevOps workflow. It is designed for fewer patch and update events, faster restarts, better resource utilization and tighter security. Informed directly by our learnings from building and managing some of the world’s largest hyperscale cloud environments, and available in the next version of Windows Server, Nano Server focuses on two scenarios:

  • Born-in-the-cloud applications – support for multiple programming languages and runtimes. (e.g. C#, Java, Node.js, Python, etc.) running in containers, virtual machines, or on physical servers.
  • Microsoft Cloud Platform infrastructure – support for compute clusters running Hyper-V and storage clusters running Scale-out File Server.

Nano Server will allow customers to install just the components they require and nothing more. The initial results are promising. Based on the current builds, compared to Server, Nano Server has:

  • 93 percent lower VHD size
  • 92 percent fewer critical bulletins
  • 80 percent fewer reboots

In plain English, this is a stripped-bare version of Windows Server, without the GUI, x86 (32-bit) support, and with a lot of stuff stripped out.

It is built mainly for cloud – private, hybrid and public – operations, and managed through PowerShell.

While there isn’t a lot of information available for it, and despite watching this this interview Snover had at the recent Microsoft BUILD event, my takeaway is still that.

Moreover, until more is learnt, and management schemes are perfected, I cannot get very excited about it.

SMB Impact
Minimal. Despite the potential, cogent information isn’t available. Moreover, the target demographic for this product isn’t the SMB space.

Midmarket Impact
The potential for the upper midmarket that relies on, or is moving operations to clouds, could be huge. However, managing it might be a nightmare for early adopters.

Windows and Hyper-V Container technologies
Aaah, Containers.

The rise of containerization technologies as a whole, and for Windows in particular, have caused me to devote more time to learning about it that I wanted to. \i had studiously ignored it when it was only for non-Windows platform, and even since the announcement of a compact between Docker – the primary purveryor of container technologies for those afore-mentioned non-Windows operating systems, and Microsoft was announced, I did not pay attention: we don’t do any *nix OS, nor do we support it.

However, containers are now a Windows thing, so, we’re definitely interested.

clip_image002Announced here, and expanded upon in the video below, Hyper-V containers are a new container deployment option with enhanced isolation powered by Hyper-V virtualization.

SMB Impact
Minimal, for now.

Midmarket impact
Same as above.

Docker Container technologies currently target Linux operating systems.

Apart from management concerns, I have wondered how containers differ from virtual machines. This article, Containers vs. virtual machines: How to tell which is the right choice for your enterprise, speaks to the basic differences between them.

Suffice it to say, more reading on these issues, are in my future.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Andy Marken’s Content Insider #389–Unicorns: The Fantasy World of the Billion Dollar Club


I hope you're not busy for about a month...” – Man Stoner, “Up in Smoke,” Paramount, 1978

There was a time when a couple of late teen/early millenniums would get together, max out their credit cards, borrow from their parents and anyone who would listen to them, work (and sometimes sleep) in a garage and emerge with the next great idea.

Not anymore.

Now, they see what someone else has done; give it a new twist, new coat of lipstick, an incomprehensible name and trot off to Sandhill Road and/or other VC (venture capital) organizations around the globe to collect a few hundred million so they can start out in style.

What are they worth?


What have they “sold?”

Well, they closed a few or dozen VC deals and have risen to the elite unicorn status.

Isn’t entrepreneurship grand?

Unicorn status was initially bestowed upon the category of firms valued at over $1B.

Today, the low end is $10B and entry in the club will probably rise to $100B in no time.

And just think, we can credit this all to the iNet that speeds information around town, around the globe in the blink of an eye.


Global Contact – The Internet may have been designed as a means to help engineers, academics and scientists to exchange information more rapidly; but it has quickly become the tool of commerce and the way folks communicate across the table, across town and across vast oceans. In no time, you can exchange news, data, images; buy/sell goods and make a fool of yourself or insult/abuse people you don’t even know with a click of the mouse. It’s fantastic.

If it weren’t for the used, abused, misused Internet; there would be utter silence.

Instead, every minute:

    • 10M ads are displayed
    • 500K tweets are sent
    • 7M messages sent
    • 3.5 pieces of content shared
    • 100 hours of video uploaded
    • 6.9M Facebook messages sent
    • $134K Amazon sales made
    • 1,572,877 GB of IP data transferred

And in two years, there will be 3x more connected things than people on Earth.
We’ll be driving 13x more mobile traffic and it will all produce more than 5ZB (Zettabytes) of data that has to be stored.

When Pedro was asked how long it would take, he said; “A week. I mean a day. A weekday.”

All on the lowly global backbone and technology that the US government initially funded.

No wonder every government feels entitled to listen in and see what’s going on.

Except for the underappreciated hardware, software and service providers; it’s a regular money-making machine, so why not invest big!


Up, Up and Away – New start-ups get funded almost every day because they have a new idea, new way to interest/attract people that will make all of the early stage investors (and early employees) amazingly rich for only a few hundred million dollars invested. Funds are rushing to get on the table early before the stakes go up.

Of course, not all of them will survive to go public; but VCs don’t care, which is why they invest in 10 or so of the same thing.

If the company burns through the paltry $40 - $80M too quickly, no problem … they simply go back and dip into the money well with an even bigger idea and they’re good for another couple of years.

After all, look at their valuation.

Besides, they’re private firms so they don’t have to play by the same rules public companies have with things like quarterly filings, SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) documents like audited numbers of real users (not deceased, one timers), real traffic (not bots), revenues and burn rate (how fast you’re going through the stash of cash).

That’s one of the perks of being private vs. public.

You don’t have to tell them a **** thing if you don’t want to!

So folks can let their imaginations go wild … and they do.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so get in before this sucka’ goes ballistic.

None of them heard Man Stoner’s warning, “Hey, hey don't take those, man.”

Of course, it may not take off because history has an ugly way of repeating itself in business.


That’s So Yesterday – While the industry may have experienced a bubble/burst situation a few years ago, there’s no reason to think the rapid advance of unicorn firms will encounter the same disaster. Of course, there’s no reason to think it won’t happen again either.

Back in 1999-2000, we had this thing called the bubble.

It was a beautiful thing – pixie dust, rainbows and good times that would go on forever.

Until they didn’t.

Back in those days, people were betting huge sums of money on young companies run by folks with no track record in business who found it fun and easy to spend the chunks of cash people gave them.

Talking about today’s environment but sounding a lot like the ‘90s, Bill Gurley, a VC, told the SXSW (South by Southwest) folks, “There is no fear in Silicon Valley right now. A complete absence of fear.”

Of course, there are entrepreneurs who didn’t take the easy route to getting their ideas off the ground and growing their firms.

Take Daymond John, of Shark Tank, and Larry O’Connor, of OWC.

John, of Shark Tank, started a clothing line called FUBU (For Us By You) with a second mortgage on the house he and his mother shared. He likes to look at boring things like COG (cost of goods) and sales, margins instead of nebulous numbers like somehow getting one percent of a $50B market.

He doesn’t think the idea of dropping $1M on 100 untested/unproven companies or management teams is a really swift move.

Being in line with comparables in the market (revenues and spending) doesn’t mean much when the market correction comes … and it will come.

Actually, he calls it “dumb money.”

Like most successful entrepreneurs today, both John and O’Connor had an idea, believed in it, and found a way to make it happen.

When he was “tuning” Apple computers back in 1988, O’Connor thought improving systems was too expensive and something most users could do themselves with the right “stuff.” He started OWC (Other World Computing).in his folk’s kitchen and barn.

He continued growing the product lines for the Apple, Apple II and beyond systems. Today, he and his team focuses on good products, customer value, customer service and … oh yeah, retained earnings.

Fortunately, there are a lot of great firms like FUBU and OWC today that have deep roots and resist the temptation of the fast/easy money route. They always remember their first sale, their first customer that launched the company.

Private or public, they know it’s about the customer, not the deep pocket folks.

Pedro looked at the quick and easy VC-funded approach and said, “Kinda looks like a toothpick.”

Of course there is another factor to consider – global economic cycles – that occur regularly as markets adjust to try and equalize supply and demand.


Ups ‘n Downs – Since perhaps the beginning of time there has been an imbalance in supply and demand which held sway over the price of goods, products and services. Excess demand produces higher costs, higher profits; while excess production drives prices and profits down. That may be why they’re called business cycles.

For example, when there’s a shortage of technology products – flash memory, hard drives, CPUs (central processing units), GPUs (graphic processor units), rare earth, you name it, demand and prices go up.

To get their unfair share, firms ramp up their production to take advantage of the demand and increased margins.

Then suddenly, there’s a glut. Prices go down – to keep the lines running – and margins disappear.

It happens with almost boring regularity because it’s a constant guessing game as to what’s hot, what’s not.

Of course that will never happen in the rarified game we’re playing today – you know, giant sums of money, sky-high valuations and everyone looking to score with the next blockbuster company.

Oh sure, for some it will end badly and for scores of others, it has; but most assuredly not with the one you’re in or the one your mutual fund is invested in.

After all, everyone knows unicorns don’t really exist, so how could they disappear or die?


Beautiful – Yes, we admit unicorns do look beautiful in our dreams; but unfortunately, at some point in time we have to wake up. And when we do, the pixies, mermaids and unicorns disappear; so as much as we’d like them to exist, we know they really don’t.

Man Stoner looked at what was going on and said, “I think we're parked.”

G. ‘Andy’ Marken is founder and president of Marken Communications

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Guest Post: Updates on the HP MSA and using it with Windows Server 2012

I am lucky to present my good friend HP’s Calvin Zito, a Blogger and HP Storage Evangelist, answer a question on HP MSA Storage posed here on AbsolutelyWindows.

Calvin took the time to search out an answer, and said answer was detailed enough to merit it’s own blog post.

Thank you for doing this, Calvin. Much Appreciated.

Calvin’s blog is Around The Storage Blog.

There was a question from one of John’s readers on his blog titled The HP Storage MSA 2040 SAN & Why I like It.  The question was this:

When you set up your MSA2040's in Windows 2012, are you storing all data in VHDX files, or using pass-through storage? We just purchased an MSA2040 and saw that Microsoft recommends using VHDX files, but can't figure out how to set them up in Windows (our MSA2040 is SAS-based). Setting up a physical device (pass-through) to the LUN is easy, but we're not sure how to save a VHDX to the LUN. Are we missing something really obvious?

I’m going to assume that the question is about the idea of creating .vhdx files on a file system and mounting them as volumes for use by the host operating system.  And this is best answered with a few screenshots to tell the story. 

Picture 1

Note that the location of the .vhdx file is on a SAN-based volume:

Picture 2

The .vhdx file is seen as a normal disk, all that need be done is to initialize and format it as per any other disk.

Picture 3

I hope that answers the question.  And since John has graciously let me write a guest post, I wanted to take the opportunity to mention a few things that have been added to the MSA family since John’s original article. There are three big things to point out and I’ll point you to a blog post about each:

    • About a year ago, we introduced the MSA1040.  The MSA2040 is the entry level performance leader while the MSA1040 is the entry level price leader.  They complement each other very nicely. My post titled Introducing the MSA 1040 gives a good overview.
    • Late last year, the MSA was extended with some very interesting virtualization features.  They include data tiering, wide striping, thin provisioning, SSD read cache and more.  I have a blog I wrote that gives the whole story, HP MSA Gets Exciting Virtualization Features.
    • With the addition of the virtualization features, we were able to extend the MSA 2040 to include SSD.  SSD can be added either as a storage tier or as SSD read cache. Extending the MSA 2040 with Flash is the post that covers that.

Thanks John for the opportunity to write a guest post to answer the question.  Hope to see you soon my friend!

No, thank you, Cal. You rock!

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Verizon Virtual Communications Express VOIP

Communications is the lifeblood of any enterprise.

In fact, I can declare that it is indeed one of the components of humanity, and our civilizations.

For businesses though, it is more than that: it is vital. To survival, thriving, and continued success.

Traditionally, communications, especially voice communications has been a service delivered via fixed lines by the local mega-Telco.

No longer.

The advent of voice-over-IP (Internet Protocol), commonly abbreviated and pronounced as VOIP, has changed that paradigm completely, as users can now obtain their phone service from non-traditional means, from cable companies, and more recently from even wireless Telco's.

Verizon is a local PSTN – fixed telephone provider – in many jurisdictions, but if rumors are to be believed, moving to a wireless-first firm, possibly shedding wireline assets in the future.

As a result, Verizon has been making more moves into delivering services, especially data services.

One of these is their VOIP bundle, Verizon Virtual Communications Express, or VCE.

What is Verizon Virtual Communications Express, VCE?
Verizon describes VCE as:

A reliable alternative to on-premises phone systems with in-house management. Easy to install, our cloud-based VoIP system offers reliability even if your business is impacted by unplanned events..

Or in plain English, it is an alternative to the trusty old PBX, albeit with really advanced featured.

VCE is based in the Verizon Cloud, which makes management and upgrades to the service something user firms do not have to bother with.

Verizon VCE Features
The basic features of Verizon VCE are extensive:

    • · Provides a high degree of control and management
    • · Enables large companies to communicate and share information in real time
    • · Flexible and scalable growth
    • · Connects mobile devices to company phone systems
    • · Combines voice and data over a single network
    • · Eliminates long distance and domestic calling costs with unlimited voice calling plans
    • · Reduces cost and resources required to manage an on-premises phone system
    • · Enables near real-time collaboration with cloud-based productivity apps
    • · Helps maintain business communications, even during disasters

What I like about VCE it that it has some features that help mobile, remote businesses stay in touch, especially a softphone.

VCE, as I understand it, is targeted at any business with at least one user. The maximum number of users per VCE account is limited to 1,000.

This solution is totally cloud based. This geographic transparency is a big boon for companies that have remote staff: each remote staffer gets a handset that shows up on CallerID as the parent company. There is no switching or routing hardware installed at client locations.

Verizon VCE is the result of a collaboration between Verizon, Polycom, and BroadSoft.

Cloud_Voice_160X300_bannerEach member of this corporate triumvirate brings their specialty to the table: Polycom in hardware, BroadSoft in software, and Verizon as systems integrator, sales, and cloud provider.

The use of Polycom for hardware means that the market leader in collaborative telephony hardware is aboard, and has put their HD audio phones as options for this service. In fact, some hardware models have video capabilities built into the Polycom hardware itself!

Verizon’s direct salesdrones, external salesdroids, or partners, upon getting pertinent information from the prospective partner, initiate a series of diagnostic tests using a tool call then Examinet (I may be wrong on the correct moniker, but, hey!), that determines their broadband network’s suitability to transporting the VOIP traffic. As I understand it, this allows Verizon to be correctly aware of the limitations of the broadband. As I was told, this then sets the parameters for the service delivery. Smooth, reliable broadband is a requirement for the top tier of VCE’s service, HD audio and videoconferencing combo.

This product is interesting in the level of customer self-install it allows. Every facet of VCE is configurable through a web interface. In fact, VCE is designed to be installed by non-technical customers.

Customers can keep their existing phone numbers, and have a selection of hardware

From sales to implementation requires a time of about 3-4 weeks.

Released to market in 2012, VCE is available nationwide, and with or without Verizon as your local mega-Telco.

SMB & Midmarket Impact
For the SMB and Midmarket, not having to worry about a PBX or a full-featured telephony solution is key. Verizon VCE is an all-inclusive solution that has all the features that businesses need.

More information on Verizon Virtual Communications Express can be found here.

This blog post came out of conversations sponsored by Verizon.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Shiny New Thing: The HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1

I don’t believe there has been an HP EliteBook I so desperately wanted to review like the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1!


Lightweight, running Windows 8.1, and weighing in at 2.68lbs as equipped with the latest Intel Core M CPU and Intel HD Graphics 5300, the EliteBook Folio 1020 has Miracast, NFC, an HP webcam, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500 GB SSD, USB 3.0, and much more.20150407_010218941_iOS

Suffice it to say, I will be conducting this review personally.

My previous article on this fine device can be found here.

Stay tuned!

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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2015 HP GPC Rewind: Talking about the new LaserJet Pro Printers with Alyson Griffin

The HP Global Partner Conference, commonly known as HP GPC, is an invite-only confab where HP’s top 2,000 global partners are invited to hobnob with HP insiders about the direction and roadmaps concerning their various agendas.

I was there this year, as in past years.

Alyson Griffin is Vice President*, Worldwide Integrated Marketing & Communications, LaserJet and Enterprise Solutions for HP.

At the 2015 HP Global Partner Conference, I had the opportunity to speak with Alyson on her recently-released – the week before – HP LaserJet Pro (R-series) printers.


“What’s different about these new LaserJets?” we askedc03211008

She listed the new technologies:

  • For one, Alyson was stoked about the new toner technologies in the printers. The new toners are the recipients of HP’s materials research, I am told, and as a result, deliver 40% smaller toner particulates that have a lower melting point, require less heat, and melt faster.
  • The new toners also allow the printers to utilize 53% less energy than comparable devices, saving enterprises on OPEX costs.
  • Less componentry is used in the printers, helping the already legendary – my words, based on several decades of HP LaserJet printer use and thousands of them recommended and purchased by client companies – LaserJets become even more reliable.
  • How fast again, are these new printers, we ask? 9 seconds for the first page to print from sleep. In fact, the new r-series LaserJets print duplex documents as fast as other [manufacturer’s] printers print in simplex mode!
  • These printers are part of HP’s enterprise printer portfolio, and as a result, they can leverage the intelligence HP has in the cloud.
  • Oh, and they are priced starting from $250 US.

I am told that four products were released: 2 color LaserJets, and 2 monochrome products.

I can’t wait to lay my mitts on them.

Next, we get to something I always want to talk to HP about: the cost of printing consumables, specifically hardware consumables, as I can use 3rd-party paper anytime.

“Do you use refurbished or remarked toner?” I am asked.

The look of horror on Alyson’s face as I say yes speaks volumes.c03022211

I soon learn why: HP toner cartridges are created and tested for single-use. Remarked cartridges are not new cartridges, but used cartridges refilled with that company’s toner. It is not HP toner, and despite received assurances, the use of such toner most likely slowly kills the printer!

I’m sold. No more penny-wise, dollar-foolish stuff there.

It was very good to see Alyson again, and I thank Nancy B. for making it happen.c04583897

*Subsequent to GPC, Alyson got elevated to another post, of which the actual moniker escapes me right now. I both congratulate her, and wish her luck in that new rôle.


Shiny New Thing: the Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse

The Logitech MX Master is a wireless mouse that boasts something new, and necessary: dual connectivity.


You can either connect it to your PC via that smart Logitech solution, the Logitech Unifying dongle, which allows several Logitech devices to use just one USB connector, and by proxy, just a single USB port, or you can connect it via Bluetooth.


Just how cool is that?

We have a one of them here for review.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Shiny New Thing: Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4630 AIO Printer

We are in possession of the new Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4630 AIO multifunction device here at The Orbiting O’Odua for an AbsolutelyWindows review.

Slotted in lower than the award-winning Epson WorkForce Pro WF-5690 in Epson’s lineup, this device, like other Epson WorkForce printers, delivers laser-like speeds and quality at lower, inkjet prices.wfp4630_fca-cor-fn_396x264

With a 330-sheet paper capacity and a fairly high 30,000 page duty cycle – Drink! As I do when duty cycles are mentioned – this looks to be an able deskside printer, especially when you factor in it’s MSRP of $199.99.

We look forward to giving it a workout.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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Shiny New Thing: Epson WorkForce WF-7610 Large-Format AIO Printer

The wide-format Epson WorkForce WF-7610 AIO multifunction device is also here for review at AbsolutelyWindows.

Imbued with all the goodness we have come to expect from Epson’s WorkForce series, the WF-7610 adds a new wrinkle: large-format scanning and printingwf7610_fca-cos-fn_396x264

I believe this requires my personal attention, and I will be doing as suck with it.

Stay tuned.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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2015 HP GPC Rewind: HP Zvr Virtual Reality Display

The HP Global Partner Conference, commonly known as HP GPC, is an invite-only confab where HP’s top 2,000 global partners are invited to hobnob with HP insiders about the direction and roadmaps concerning their various agendas.

I was there this year as in past years.

Since the introduction of the HP DreamColor, HP has led monitor OEMs in the delivery of specialized monitors aimed at specific segments that completely redefine what the norm is.

At the 2014 HP Global Workstations Event in Fort Collins Colorado, I was introduced to the HP Zvr monitor, a 3D monitor solution created by HP* in order to lower the cost of entry for end users and firms into the world of 3D modeling and visualization.

As the the photos below illustrate, the Zvr looks like an ordinary monitor.ZvrLeftFacing




However, donning the 3D specs and using the included stylus, allows users to manipulate the 3D objects as they ‘float’ in front of the user.

This is quite cool.

This 3D solution is being used and further developed for a myriad number of disciplines, including engineering, education, and healthcare.

The HP Zvr has the following specs:

  • 23.6”diagonal Full HD stereoscopic display with full images rendered for each eye
  • Seamless interaction with an intuitive user interface
  • Lightweight passive tracking eyewear for viewing comfort
  • Stylus pen to rotate, manipulate, navigate, and zoom in and out of every detail of the holographic image
  • Real-time sharing on a large 2D display with zView
  • DisplayPort and DVI connectivity
  • Adjustable height and tilt features

Further information on the HP Zvr Virtual Reality Display can be found here.

*HP partnered with a company called ZSpace in order to create the entire solution. As I understand it, the SDK and some of the 3D visualization assets were brought into the mix by ZSpace.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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The AbsolutelyWindows Dell XPS 13 Follow-on Review

3The Dell XPS 13 is the recipient of the SmallBizWindows Superstar Award.

This is a truly splendid device.

If the design goals included handily trouncing the Apple MacBook Air 13 and surpassing the baseline set by Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 laptop hybrid for the 13” space, the Dell XPS 13 has succeeded.

Since my first review of the XPS 13 posted here on February 24, 2015, I have been using the XPS 13 constantly as part of the contingent of laptop PCs I use on a daily basis.

What have I found out?

XPS 13 (9)

The Dell XPS 13 is Beautiful
Aesthetically, the Dell XPS 13 is one of a new class of PCs that are redefining laptop computing.

XPS 13 (7)

The Dell XPS 13 is Powerful
Equipped with the latest (5th generation) Intel Core i5 CPU, and coupled with the new Intel Graphics 5500 HD graphics, the XPS 13 is really powerful. *The XPS 13 is also available with an Intel Core i7.Alas we didn’t get to test that!

The Dell XPS 13 is built for Business
Weighing in about 2½ lbs for the non-touchscreen model and at under 2.8 lbs with a touchscreen, the XPS 13 is equipped with a 13.3” 3200x1600 QHD IPS panel.

The Dell XPS 13 comes standard with 9-15 hour battery. It adheres to all the latest Wi-Fi standards. It is light,

Solid SSDs are standard, and coupled with Intel® Rapid Start, XPS 13 boots from a cold start in mere seconds.

Single-source encryption, authentication and malware prevention

The XPS 12 also allows consumers to do all ‘consumery’ stuff very well. In particular, watching movies on it is amazing.

XPS 13 (3)

The Dell XPS13 is a Superstar
The Dell XPS 13 is the smallest 13” laptop you can buy in all known worlds. The impressive, bright, beautiful quad-HD display is built to be worked with, especially the touchscreen model.

The XPS 13 is part of a complete solution, whereby it has an optional external battery – a “Power Companion” in Dell-speak and a USB 3.0 to HDMI/Ethernet/USB 2.0 and VGA adaptor.

The edge-to-edge keyboard is comfortable, precise.

I really like this device.

It shows what PC OEMs can do when they decide to create game-changers. Which, is exactly what this device is.

Based on all these, especially the beauuuuutiful screen, and the incredible battery life, the Dell XPS 13 is our Superstar.

What, you ask, about my threat to review it against the Apple MacBook 13?

Well, it is more advanced than the last MacBook 13, and to be completely fair, I wanted to test it against the then-rumored ‘new’ Apple MacBook Air.

Well, Apple released their new MacBook – inexplicably called MacBook, no Air or anything – offering last month.

As Wifey put it: if, based on the specs, the [Dell] XPS 13 is more advanced that the MacBook, new or otherwise, why waste your time performing that testing?

I listened to the voice of reason.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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The AbsolutelyWindows Epson WorkForce WF-2660 Review

1This is a guest post and review by Markham Lee, who modestly describes himself as "a tech consultant and co-founder of ABS Payment Systems, who also blogs at

He’s more than that: he possess a great analytical mind that is quite knowledgeable in both technology and business, and his works have been published all over the web. Read on.

The Epson WorkForce WF-2660 is a color printer, scanner and fax machine, with Wi-Fi and LAN capabilities that is best suited as a personal printer or in a small office where high-volume print jobs are rare.

I tested the device using my MacBook Pro running OSX Mavericks, and I primarily printed and scanned black and white text documents.

After years of “fighting” with various printer models to get them fully set-up or to work right, I actually avoided setting the WF-2660 for about a week. The week the unit arrived was fairly busy for me, and considering I still hadn’t gotten wireless printing to fully work with the HP LaserJet I was borrowing until the Epson arrived, I decided to wait until the weekend to set it up.

My worries proved unfounded

Setting up the printer was as simple as following directions that actually worked as advertised. You could say I’m stating the obvious, but we all know that printer set-ups rarely go smoothly. The set-up was really easy, unpack the devices, plug it in, run through the easy on-screen configuration, install the ink, install the drivers* and you’re good to go.

Ease of Use
It just works. Once I ran the set-up program from my Mac all of the other iOS or OSX devices in the house had no problems printing to the WF-2660. Printing from an iOS device was simple as tapping “print” and then selecting the right device from the menu. The same goes for future wife’s MacBook, as she was able to print several documents by clicking print and then selecting the right device.

Printing from my Android device was slightly more difficult as I had to download a software plugin first, but after that it was no different from printing from an iOS device: select print, select the device and you’re off the races.

Scanning was easy as well; the printer we borrowed (a more expensive unit at that) would sometimes fail to recognize that there were documents in the feeder and/or would bring in two or more pages at once. As a result it would sometimes take me 20-30 minutes to scan 3-5 signature pages so I could e-mail tem out.

The Epson had none of those issues and performs quite well in our common use of scanning the signature pages of contracts to be e-faxed or e-mailed to business partners.

Performance & Daily Usage
Black and white text appeared to be similar in quality to the LaserJet and color printing appears above average for a device in this price range. I used it to print a full color commercial real estate ad with color photos, and it looked of very similar quality to the real estate flyers you’d find at most open house that aren’t on the high quality glossy paper. So while an Inkjet that retails for $99-$149.99 may not be your first choice for those types of documents, if it was your only option it definitely wouldn’t embarrass you.

It seems to print a touch slower than other Inkjets I’ve encountered, but the trade-off for quality seems a fair one.

Overall I think the WF-2660 is a great value in a full featured MFC for a home office, as the small foot print, ease in set-up and high print quality should make for a pain free user experience. The paper tray only holds 150 sheets so it might be a great choice as a shared printer across multiple users, but for home use, as a personal printer or in a small office it’s a great choice.

Verdict: highly recommended 1

You can read the device’s specs here.

*I had to download the drivers for my Mac; Windows users can use the included disk.

Based on his review, we are bestowing the SmallBizWindows Business Ready Award of Excellence on this device, because as Markham put it, “considering all the posters and promotional materials  printed with it over the last couple of days, it’s quite the workhorse that punches well above it’s weight class.” 

I am delighted he did this for AbsolutelyWindows.

Thanks, Markham.

© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited


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The SmallBizWindows Product of the Year 2015: HP RDX

32 - POTYThe SmallBizWindows Product of the Year 2015 is the HP RDX.

As mentioned here, HP RDX is a rugged, hard disk-based backup solution with native capacities that span four steps from 320 GB to 2 TB.

It is fast, reliable, fully compatible with Windows Server, and can run automated tasks via the included HP CDP application.4

More than anything else, it is quite inexpensive to deploy.

We are in the process of replacing DAT installations at client locations with this fast solution.

More on RDX can be found here.

c04217353c04045082Resultantly, and unequivocally, the HP RDX system is the SmallBizWindows Product of the Year 2015.


Our sincere thanks to HP, and especially Paula Dallabetta and Calvin Z. for making this review happen.

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The SmallBizWindows Hardware of the Year 2015: HP Proliant Servers

30 - hardwareHP Proliant servers rock.

That’s no spin.

In fact, there’s no other way to spin it.

In performance, reliability, manageability, and serviceability, HP Proliant servers are completely peerless, and make other look like befuddled arrivistes.

One of the reasons for this are the innovations that HP constantly adds to the Proliants.

These investments add immense value to an already special product, and constantly increase the distance between it and competing offerings.

In September 2014, HP unveiled the latest iteration of their server line, Proliant Gen9 series.

Coincident with the release, I had the opportunity to be briefed a day or so later that same September by Mike Gill, VP, Platform Engineering, HP Servers, on the new ‘new’ in Proliant Gen9.

According to Mike, Gen9 required a completely new way of thinking about servers by HP.


Servers had to stop being dumb, and begging to be part of the computing thought process, dynamically aligning pools of resources to a firm’s goal with laser-like precision.

The new Proliant Gen9 series are built for a software-defined world. They are cloud-ready, workload optimized, and fit into HP’s Converged Infrastructure offerings.

HP, I am reminded, is the only vendor able to deliver a full portfolio of servers to meet current and anticipated needs.


That said, what bottom-line benefits do the Gen9 bring to the table?

    • 4x faster performance
    • 3x compute capacity with a lower TCO
    • 66x faster service delivery
    • Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Boot Mode in addition to Legacy BIOS Boot Mode
    • HP Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) 4 v2.00
    • Smart array controllers: performance, data resilience & security
    • iLO-based Agentless Management 2.0
    • HP RESTful Interface Tool: use of RESTful APIs through UEFI for server configuration
    • HP Intelligent Provisioning: supporting StoreVirtual Storage Appliance
    • HP Smart Update Manager (SUM) 7.1.0: stability with iLO federation
    • HP Insight Online: expanded device, configuration coverage and services support
    • HP OneView: enterprise partner integrations and automated storage

For SMBs and the lower midmarket, it gets better: the target here by HP is to lower CapEX by 60% in 33% less time.

That, folks, brought out the sunshine smile to my face!

Then there’s HP OneView, which is HP’s converged management platform for Proliant Gen9.

It has been further simplified, beefed up, and made more intelligent.

OneView is now 66x faster, and coincidentally, 66% faster at problem resolution when used with HP Insight Online. It now allows automated firmware updates to be replicated across a ‘sea’ of hundreds of servers in conjunction with HP iLO Federation. Server profiles are integrated with storage volumes, SAN provisioning, and direct-attach storage devices. HP VirtualConnect is also amped up, supporting both FC and FlexFabric. OneView converged management supports Microsoft System Center, and server profiling has been extended to HP Proliant DL servers.

With all these enhancements, HP Proliant Servers were again selected unanimously the SmallBizWindows Servers of the Year 2014.

My thanks to Mike Gill for taking the time to converse with me on Proliant Gen9 five months ago.

Many thanks to HP’s Jill S. & Kristen R. for making the briefing with Mike possible.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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The SmallBizWindows Networking Product of the Year 2015: HP 5406R zl2 Switch

19 - NETWORKING -ZThe SmallBizWindows Networking Product of the Year 2015 is the HP 5406R zl2 Switch.

HP has always been in the networking business, through its Procurve division.

However, their acquisition of the old 3Com/H3C products brought a broader range of products under the HP umbrella.

Since then, HP switches have grown more robust, more feature rich, more powerful, and infinitely more reliable.

The current culmination of that expansive growth is the HP 5406R zl2 Switch, which allows for wired and wireless switching for core and access layer solutions for both branch office and enterprise environments.


The HP 5406R zl2 was, IMO, created explicitly for the SMB space. It features a converged platform with built-in resiliency simplifies deployment, providing a minimum 30% improvement in SDN performance to enable business agility, and delivering a 43% lower cost than competition backed by no hidden-cost limited lifetime warranty.

Additionally, the 5406R zl2 also brings to the table

    • Provides out-of-box simplicity requiring no software licenses
    • Unifies wired & wireless policy via IMC single pane-of-glass
    • Provides investment protection with future-proof SDN-capability & OpenFlow 1.3
    • Improves application performance with low 2.1us latency & powerful 2 Tbps backplane
    • Offers flexible connectivity on up to 288 ports with PoE+, 1/10 GbE, & 40 GbE-ready
    • Eliminates up to 37% SmartNet surcharge1 with HP Limited Lifetime Warranty 2.0
    • Removes hidden costs with no add-on software licenses – all features included
    • Reduces CAPEX by up to 36% with 1 GbE, 10 GbE & PoE+ starter bundles

With those improvements, and the inclusion of HP IMC, which provides a single pane of glass management console and framework for managing this device, you can see why we had no second thoughts selecting the HP 5406R zl2 as the SmallBizWindows Networking Product of the Year 2015.5406R_zl2_switch_FT2

I have been in possession of the HP 5406R zl2 chassis which came with an HP 20-port Gig-T PoE+ with 2-port 10GbE SFP+ v2 Zl module and a 24-port HP Gig-T PoE v2 Zl module, two (2) HP 5400R zl2 management modules, and two (2) HP 5400R 2750W PoE zl2 power supplies.

HP’s excellent IMC management solution is, of course, standard. (I hope to snag IMC brain trust’s  Les Stuart and Chris Young for a detailed tutorial on IMC one of these days.)

We hope to bring you a detailed review of this product in the April timeframe.

Our sincere thanks to HP, and to Sue Gillespie for taking the time to brief me on this product.

John Obeto is CEO of Blackfriars Capital
© 2002 – 2015, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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