Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Join 360is at PETEX 2014

PETEX 2014
Come and meet 360is at PETEX where we will be talking about Virtualisation & Cloud, Cyber Security, and High Performance IT projects delivered to the Oil & Gas industries. If you are an IT manager or analyst working in the sector, the conference program will include sessions and seminars on a range of topics:

  • 3D workflows
  • Corporate data management
  • National data repositories
  • Modelling at continental scale
  • 4D data processing, storage, and visualisation

The Petroleum Exploration Technology Exhibition is in it’s 25th year and runs from Tuesday 18th November to Thursday 20th November this year at the ExCel, London. For more information and to register go to www.petex.info. If you'd like to chat about a project or requirement and are going to PETEX then let us know via info@360is.com, @three_sixty_is, or in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

360is Builds VDI for InnovateUK

UK Satellite and GIS Imagery
The UK Satellite Applications Catapult (The Catapult) was established to promote growth in commercial applications of satellite technology. It's mission is to accelerate the take-up of emerging technologies by businesses and in so doing, drive UK economic growth. The Catapult offers expertise and facilities that will bring strategic benefit to the community of industrial companies working in the sector.  

How did the project come about? 
Making facilities and information assets easily available to potential users of their services is part of the Catapult's mission. Satellite analysts routinely work with heavyweight applications like ESRI ArcGIS, GE Smallworld, and Raytheon VIIRS. The Catapult wanted to see how such applications performed on a modern, fluid, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). 360is was challenged to build a system capable of multi-user, multi-screen VDI for satellite applications using thin clients while providing a dedicated workstation-like experience.

What did 360is do?
After interviewing end users, 360is built a VDI system using Citrix XenDesktop, XenServer, and NVIDIA GPU hardware and a suitable WYSE thin client. This combination of technologies allowed for maximum flexibility.
  • Physical GPUs may be partitioned into virtual GPUs Virtual Desktops are booted on demand.
  • Users are allocated VDI's with different vCPU/vGPU capabilities depending on a profile.
  • The platform may be optimised for user density or performance.
  • Server GPUs work with client GPUs to enable a high-quality end user experience.
  • Network bandwidth is minimised using caching and compression.
As this was a proof of concept demonstration, 360is chose components and settings for maximum stability. End users can quickly form a negative opinion if a new technology is not completely reliable and this system was to be used for live demonstration.

How successful was the platform in meeting the project goals?
Multi-screen multi-user GPU VDI was delivered. 0.5Mb/s to 1.0Mb/s of network bandwidth was required per client while running in excess of 60fps. Up-to 64 concurrent GPU-powered VDI's could be provided by the system, this could be increased to 128 with different choices of hardware. The thin client CPU (capable of driving up-to 6 monitors) proved to be the limiting factor. High-density, GPU VDI is now within the reach of most organisations. Specialist scientific applications no-longer need to be excluded from the virtual desktop projects.

About 360is
360is builds multi-user, multi-monitor, high-resolution and GPU-enabled Virtual Desktop Infrastructure for Scientific Technical and Creative Industry organisations. Our engineers can address all aspects of the project from storage, to networking, to hypervisor configuration and application performance tuning. If you would like to talk to one of our engineers about deploying scientific and GPU applications to demanding users, get in touch via our contact page, Email, or message us on twitter.

If you want to know more about the UK's Satellite Applications Catapult and the great work they are doing to help grow the £7B annual turnover of the UK space sector, take a few minutes to find out more:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

360is deploys Schlumberger Petrel over Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Canadian Natural Resources Inc (CNRI) are an energy company operating in the North Sea, Canada, and Africa. 360is designed and deployed a high-performance, GPU-accelerated, VDI platform for their geologists. It allowed staff to work remotely and CNRI to achieve a 2:1 ratio of analysts to Schlumberger Petrel licenses.

Schlumberger Petrel Delivered over VDI by 360is

How did the project come about?
CNRI was rolling out the latest Schlumberger Petrel reservoir modelling software. The company was increasing the number of Geologists/Geophysicists needing access to this software. With licenses between 100-150K per concurrent user, and some analysts only requiring access occasionally, CNRI wanted to broker that access. While hardware costs were not as important a factor as the software, a capable workstation can run to £10K. It makes sense to keep those workstation assets busy. The company had already considered and disregarded a number of technologies, and had contacted 360is to provide a new platform for their analysts who would return shortly from Petrel training.


What did 360is do?
A team from 360is determined the feasibility of the project, and any dependencies with other parts of the infrastructure (workstation, network, and SAN upgrades happened to coincide with the VDI project). A plan was agreed between the client and 360is and work started as soon as hardware became available. 360is selected Citrix XenDesktop VDI infrastructure on-top of VMware vSphere, with hardware supplied by NVIDIA, HP, and others. User acceptance testing and HDX3DPro performance tuning was carried out by 360is engineers with the assistance of Schlumberger and the infrastructure went live within a few weeks of the project start-date. 360is continued to support the client as his users began working with the new environment.

How successful has the platform been one year on?
CNRI continue to enjoy increased productivity from their investment in Petrel, NVIDIA, and XenDesktop. With Petrel 2014 launched this month, and XenDesktop 7.5 in March, CNRI's management can can be confident that their engineers and analysts have continued access to the latest technology. As an added bonus, moving to a VDI deployment also made remote access to the platform possible, even over relatively high latency connections. 


If you would like to talk to one of our engineers about deploying scientific and GPU applications to demanding users, get in touch via our contact page, Email, or message us on twitter.


For those of you unfamiliar with the Petrel, take a look at this fantastic video produced by the talented guys of The Mill.

Schlumberger @ The Mill from Nils Kloth.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

XenServer Creedence Alpha 3, Disk I/O testing (part 2)

We did some more testing of XenServer Creedence Alpha (XSCA3) disk performance, and plotted large streaming reads for a variety of record sizes against both a physical and Brand-X Hypervisor.

Recap:
  • System is an AMD6176SE, 2 CPU, 192GB RAM 
  • Local storage, 3x 10Krpm SATA, LSI 9261-8i, RAID0, thick provisioned 
  • No special settings, tuning, or configuration 
  • Testing is with dd and iozone, with and without Direct I/O (dd iflag=direct, iozone -I)
  • CentOS 6 2 vCPU, 2GB vRAM (updated 3-07-2014) VM and physical 
  • The system was idle 

Physical achieves ~600MB/s transfer speed. 
Brand-X achieves a similar figure.
XSCA3 achieves less than 50% of that, unless Direct I/O is used.
Neither physical nor Brand-X are significantly affected by use (or not) of Direct I/O.


Results for physical without Direct I/O are excluded as with 192GB RAM and only 8GB of test data, transfer rates are in the 2500-1700 MB/s range due to the abundance of RAM for cache. We took no steps to limit the physical CentOS to 2 cores either.
  

We know the disappointing XenServer performance is only for asynchronous (not Direct I/O) disk access, and that the system behaves as expected when running physical or Brand-X hypervisor. The mystery deepens!

Monday, July 07, 2014

360is gets new shoes, jug, and knives!

New 360is Web Site
We don't sell coffee.
"But who is wurs shod, than the shoemakers wyfe, With shops full of newe shapen shoes all hir lyfe?" 
[1546 J. Heywood Dialogue of Proverbs i. xi. E1V] 

It seems everybody has a claim to this one.
 
There are only wooden knives in the blacksmith's house. Spanish Proverb
At the potter's house water is served in a broken jug.        Afghan Proverb
The lady who sells fans, fans herself with her hands.       Chinese Proverb

It has been almost 2 years since we last updated our web-site, and during that time we've acquired around 20 new clients, new technology expertise, and increased our pool of consulting engineers. We've been so busy delivering for our clients that our own shoes are looking a bit tatty.

The new 360is web site is quite different from the old one, products and vendors are out and successful client engagements are in. As an independent consultancy with our own library of intellectual property, we've always worked with all vendors and technologies to find the right solution for our clients. Or to put it simply, once you've seen 15 different firewall products, or 30 storage systems, or 20 application frameworks, you've pretty much seen them all. On those rare occasions where some element of a project is truly new, we don't expect our clients to pay for us to do the learning. So take it as read, if we aren't already experienced with a product or technology, it won't take us more than a couple of days to be all over it.

Our business is still all about helping clients solve their performance, security, and data centre challenges. We are still one of the few firms offering short-term (up-to 3 month) projects at a fixed price with no risk to the client of cost overrun. We still offer a complete service from helping you frame the problem, through design, technology/vendor selection, implementation, and support. We still enjoy working either with your own technology team, or directly with the business managers.

Over the next 12 months we'll be devoting more time to talking about our intellectual property, experiences, successful projects, and some of the platforms and applications we have developed for our clients. In the mean-time, please excuse any broken links.