Nutanix Community Edition Home Lab Part II

Welcome to Part II of my Nutanix Home Lab New Years Eve Edition.  In this segment I will provide the information on my Network and Gear to support the Lab and the backup environment.

My brother is a Ubiquiti dealer and turned me on to their APs a while ago which work great in the house.  Since then, Ubiquiti has released a whole slew of products.  One of their more popular network devices is the Edgemax Router.

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For less than $100, 1Mpps routing  and feature set of this router makes it a must have for the Home Office/Small Office or tinkerer.  Routing Protocols supported range from OSPF to BGP, full suite of services like DHCP, Firewall, and VPN services were a necessity for me to include multiple ports for different “zones” for LAN and Wireless access.

What I really love about this router is how easy it is to use.  The GUI is very intuitive but if you’re a CLI junkie, you can use that as well.  Here are some screenshots of EdgeOS:

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Full traffic analysis:

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VPN Services:

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VPN services were imperative to complete the lab.  In Part I of this series I briefly mentioned having a “storage only” node in an offsite location for backup duty.  As luck would have it, my brother has a Ubiquiti Edgemax Router and plenty of bandwidth to his office which I have setup a IPSEC VPN Tunnel.  I’ll post the configuration of this in future articles of this series.  Let’s move on to the LAN.

In my previous life I was able to work with a bevy of network gear.  Most of the gear was Cisco, but sometimes we had customers that liked to have the single vendor INF solution/architecture for the “one hand to shake” support model.  I worked a lot of Dell deals and I have to say, they have come a long way in the Networking area.  Mostly I worked with a lot of their fabric as it pertained to their blade solution, the M1000e and Force 10 Networking. Since then Dell has doubled down on their network strategy by introducing the very reasonably priced  N series for Campus based networks and now the X series for ROBO/SO.  The have even embraced the Open/Diaggregated/third-party OS switches as well.

If you read some of my past Home Lab articles you know that my LAN topology consisted of dual HP 1800-24g’s.  They served me well for years and provided all the capabilities I required at the time.  This time, however, I wanted to move to a simpler model with plenty of port capacity and 10Gb capability.  Since this was a lab, I could deal with using both 10Gb and 1Gb for the Nutanix Cluster traffic.  This lessened the financial burden of looking for a quiet, affordable 10Gb switch…plus I needed to replace the 1Gb ports when I decommissioned the HPs.  The best option was found in the new Dell X series line:

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The Dell X1052 fit the bill nicely.  48 x 1Gb and 4 x 10Gb SFP+ ports was exactly what I required.  This gave me the capability of leveraging 10Gb for the primary Nutanix traffic for the three-node cluster and still have one 10Gb port remaining to add an additional node.   Failover connections would be multiple 1Gb connections as well has MGMT and IPMI.

1_2_resizeThis is how everything is cabled for now.  I do need to still clean up a bit:

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Cables are color coded for the purpose they serve and I used Cisco TwinAX which can be found cheaply on eBay.

I mentioned how easy it was to install this switch.  It literally took me 15 minutes to put the rails on, rack it, and configure the switch (the latest code was already installed).   Here are some screenshots of the GUI:

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Stay tuned for Part III when I get into the actual configuration, building out the Storage Only Node, seeding the backups, and installing it in my brother’s rack!

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

Nutanix Community Edition Home Lab Part I

Over the years i’ve gone through many iterations of my home lab.  You can see the posts below.

https://msvirtualguy.com/category/home-lab/

https://msvirtualguy.com/category/mobile-lab/

As a Systems Engineer and Solutions Architect, I found it imperative to hone my skill-set regularly.  While in the role of the latter, I found that my actual engineering skills start to diminish as I focused on Design and Presales.  At the time, building solutions that include many types of Storage, Compute, Network with VMware solutions was my “bread and butter.”  Thankfully, through the power of software I was able to setup and leverage numerous lab environments, everything from Mobile Macbook & Single beefy Workstation running workstation class Virtualization Software (Fusion,Workstation) respectively, to enterprise class servers with shared network based storage using NAS and SAN, I was able to sharpen and fine-tune the skills required for the job and/or to further my career path through the Certification process.

These iterations led me to the point i’m at now.  While working for Nutanix, I have many more doors open to me to really focus on my craft to help me remain relevant as well as work with technology I never thought I would ever work with, ie KVM (Acopolis Hypervisor -AHV).  Nutanix has done a remarkable job by simplifying the MGMT of KVM while enhancing the enterprise features and experience.  You don’t have to take my word for it, ask our customers that are using AHV.

Today, I introduce another iteration for my Home Lab, running on enterprise grade hardware, on a 10Gb Network.  This Lab was built on Nutanix Community Edition which provides all the features in paid Nutanix XCP software.  This lab was built with these key requirements in mind:

  1. Scaleability – Ability to add a node for additional Compute/Storage Capacity down the road
  2. Simplicity – Simple interfaces (Two, Prism/Dell x1052 Switch)
  3. Resiliency – Tolerate failure with integrated Backups via the same Prism interface,   encrypted Tunnel over the internet to my Single Node Cluster at my offsite location
  4. Performance – 10Gbe Local network, Dual Enterprise Grade SSD’s per node
  5. Manageability – Out of band MGMT is a necessity for any issues that my arise or installs

 

The lab consists of four total nodes, a three-node cluster at my primary residence in my office and a single node in another location offsite for backups only.

The fourth node is what we consider a “storage only” node, which i’ll get in more detail later.  This node is represented at the top of the RACK in the pic below with 24 2.5″ Hotswap Drive Bays.

The three primary nodes are identical and the the three 1u servers at bottom half of the rack.  These are Supermicro SYS-1026T-6RFT+ based on the Intel 5520 Chipset.  They contain a built in LSI2108 SAS Controller, 8 x 2.5″ Hotswap Drive Bays, and built in Intel 10Gb SFP+ NICs.

Each node has the following:

CPU: 2 x Intel Xeon 5620’s

RAM: 12 x 8GB DDR3 1333 ECC Registered

SSD/HDD: 2 x Samsung 480GB 843T’s/4 x 1TB Seagate 2.5″ Spinners

The fourth node is a bit different.  Instead of focusing on running VMs it will simply act as a “storage only cluster” target for my backups and only has enough hardware to run the Nutanix Controller VM.  This node is based on a Supermicro CSE-216A-R900LPB case and has the following:

MB: Supermicro X10SLL-F, BIOS 3.0 (current), BMC 1.35 (current)

CPU:  Intel Xeon E3-1230v3 3.3Ghz, quad core with HT

Memory: 32GB DDR3-1600 R-ECC (4x8GB, Samsung M391B1G73QH0-YK0)

SSD/HDD: 1 x Samsung 480GB 843T/7 x 1TB Seagate 2.5″ Spinners

This is installed locally to seed the full backup prior to being installed at the offsite location.

This is all connected to a new Dell X1052 Switch.  This switch is simply awesome.  48 1Gb Ports/4 x 10Gb SFP+, GUI and CLI MGMT.  This switch literally took me 15 minutes to rack and configure and that’s with all the VLANs, LAGs, Trunks, etc.

 

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Stay tuned for Part II when I talk more in detail about the network topology (LAN/WAN) and the configuration of Nutanix Community Edition!

 

Steam Machine Build 2015 Part I

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As the cold weather decends upon us and ‘gaming’ season begins and before I write my next article on converting my Home Lab from VMware vSphere to Nutanix Community Edition running on our Acropolis Hypervisor, I decided to write a fun article on my latest project, the Steam Machine Build.  For those that have been living in a closet the past year, Valve has been very busy on Steam OS, an open source Linux Distro built for Linux compatible Steam games. At the heart of the program, Valve’s goal to to ensure that “PC Gaming” stays at the forefront of gaming “platforms” where Consoles are dominating. Valve, believes, as I do, that the consumer gains much more from PC gaming than consoles for many different reasons.  The problem is, the PC as a gaming platform has hindered it’s popularity due to expense, constant maintenance (driver updates, firmware), compatibility issues, and the list goes on.

While I don’t plan on debating Console VS PC, there are certainly pluses and minuses for both so i’ll just break it down to where I see the benefits.  Personally, I am fortunate to have both a Workstation/Gaming PC and an Xbox One.

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My decisions were based solely on my game choices and why?  Well, some games are better on console than PC, IMHO.   Take for example platform games and sports games.  The Xbox one with the built in community, great controller trumps the PC handily in those games.  What about FPS, which is my favorite genre, actually Modern War FPS, Battlefield, Arma etc. These games, some only offered on PC like Arma III, are built for PC.  They offer rich graphics, and are truly made for the keyboard/mouse control combo.  Recently, EA debuted Star Wars Battlefront with a limited Beta release.  This was one of those games I assumed would be a PC title, so I eagerly staged the install waiting on the release date.  The game played awesome, and look amazing on my hardware and I was sold that I would be buying this on PC.  Then I decided i’d download the Xbox One version, thinking that it wouldn’t look good (like Battlefield Hardline) compared to the PC and the controls would be wonky but I was dead wrong!

Star Wars Battlefront Xbox One VS PC – Image Quality

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Clearly the PC looks better, however, the Xbox One version looks great as well.  Let’s talk about game play a bit.  I put this at a tie because DICE has done a PHENOMENAL job with the game interface.  It reminds me of a console experience, but on a PC.  That’s not to say that we didn’t have to worry about driver updates and maintenance and the hefty specs recommended for PC:

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That’s a beefy PC spec requirement and lets face it.  Most “real” games try to get as close as possible to Recommended specs and not the Minimum system requirement for a buttery smooth, graphic-rich gaming experience.  The problem right here is cost.  They are listing the latest Skylake platform which was just released!

Launching the game was quick to get in game was also fast, again, this is not common with typical PC Multiplayer games. Of course, SSD tech has helped tremendously with load times so on my rig its fairly close to the console counterpart when launching the game itself, BUT, I had to update the latest Nvidia Driver that was released for Battlefront prior to me playing the game, not typically something you would do on a console unless a new Dashboard update has come out which is usually twice per year.

I had also assumed that the Xbox One controller was going to hinder my game play experience, to the contrary, once again Dice has provided such a great controller mapping by default I found myself thoroughly enjoying the game play with the Xbox One controller.

All in all, I ended up playing more on the Xbox One, after one day of playing on the PC I was hooked on Xbox One and never went back to the PC for this game but one thing was really missing and that was the true beauty that PC graphics provides and the question come up, how do I get a console experience with PC graphics?  This led me to the “Steam Machine” project.

My HD projector for my Xbox One supports 1080p and I wanted all the graphical beauty that Star Wars battlefront can potentially provide with the Xbox One controls and on a platform that was easy and simple to manage…but here comes the other challenge.  I can’t really build a Steam Machine because Star Wars Battlefront is an EA game which more than likely, will only be released through Origin which now limits me and may not allow me to go with Steam OS…bummer.

My options are now limited.  I have to go Windows but I need a wrapper, something that can boot to an easier interface that would offer a way to easily launch my games and media.  This would lead me to a minimal Windows 10 install with Kodi. Kodi, formerly XBMC (Xbox Media Center) has been around for a while and is a free open source software media center. This would be the interface that would provide a console like experience.

In the next segment I will talk about the hardware, the choices I made, new vs used, and the enclosure that would house this beast.

Raving Fans, we all want them, but how do we maintain them?

Raving fans.  Its something that all of us want to build in our customer base.  This is a phrase that is used regularly in our industry.  Many organizations are great at initially building their fan base, but continuing to build and maintain it is another story.  For example, how do you feel when you’re favorite sports team continually loses season after season and they don’t make the proper changes to become a winning team? Like most sports franchises they build a fan base, but you have to win to maintain it.  I’m a Jets fan, so I get it.

create-raving-fans-kettlebell-classes.jpg

After a brief interaction on twitter last night, I was reminded that while we want to create raving fans, we don’t want them to speak highly of us just because we’re Nutanix and we are the leaders in the HCI space.  More on what I mean later.

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Howard Marks reminds us that customers can be wrong, but there are reasons behind it.  When I look back on my career and the technologies from the biggest companies, I admit at some level I was caught up in the “promotion” of solutions/products from these companies only to realize that a lot of that promotion was based on loyalty, comfort, investment and the fact that I certainly bet my career on these companies and i’m not going to fool myself, they have provided me a nice life, however, when is it you wake up and realize that there are technologies that are out there that will and are making things better for our customers even if it’s in direct competition with the solutions and companies to whom you have dedicated so much? It took me a while but I got there, that’s why I now work for Nutanix.

The question is when we become dependent on a certain technology and we are truly vested, does that cloud our judgement and does that have an impact on our perception of reality?  Absolutely.  Howard states that customers still wanted legacy tech that outlived its usefulness from customers because it’s what they knew, it’s what they invested their careers on.  Look, I get it, it’s scary to think that something that you completely invested in and believed in would have to be replaced at some point, seems to be the natural cycle of IT, companies release XYZ product to solve a problem, customers invest in said product, product gets incrementally better over time until the solution or architecture itself has been surpassed by something better.

On a large scale, this can be seen from the Mainframe transition to Client/Server, to now Hybrid Cloud, and in smaller scales with other technologies like HCI, Containerization, etc.

You can see Justin Hurst’s response telling us that we should focus on keeping the customers ecstatic over our products, meaning it’s not just about building “raving fans” it’s continually innovating to maintain the “delight” he speaks of, and i’m not talking about just technology.  You need to innovate and adapt to how you provide support, how you deliver your product through the Procurement process, the transparency of your vision and direction, and finally, you have to be a customer service oriented organization.  This is what builds “raving fans.”  I’ll be honest, three years from now I don’t want our fans to love us because we are the leaders in HCI, I want our customers to rave about us because we are not only continuing to the do the things i mentioned previously, but we are doing them better.

Our .NEXT conference is a prime example of that.  This was a customer focused conference period. From Keynotes to Sessions, we had customers tell their story about why they are raving fans of Nutanix.  .NEXT showed the world that Nutanix is here to stay, we continue to innovate and we do this while providing outstanding customer service at the same time.  You can see this from our 96% customer satisfaction rate and our phenomenal Net Promoter scores, besting those that have been in the industry for over a decade.

This is how you create raving fans and “keep our customers delighted.”  After all, that’s why we’re here.

To become a raving fan of Nutanix, go here.

Nutanix: Acropolis

What does that mean, “invisble infrastructure?”  I’m sure a lot of you on some days wish that your infrastructure just worked without a ton of hand holding and investment of time just “keeping the lights on.”

Today, Nutanix fundamentally changes all that by combining our already proven Web Scale Hyperconverged Platform and integrating a unique management plane that allows for what i’ll call, Data Center management utopia. Let’s get into some of the details.

There are a few core Hypervisor choices out there.  All of which have other add on products to enable Analytics, Disaster Recovery, Operational Management, Backup, etc that are run on common 3-tier architecture, each with their own management points.  Yes, there are products such as vRealize Operations from VMware that are able to consume, analyze and report on data from all these management endpoints, however, you still need to typically go to that specific mgmt UI to do anything meaningful like resource provisioning.

How about a true Infrastructure Platform that retains all the benefits of Hyperconvergence and Web Scale that also allow for, Global Cluster MGMT, Single Pane of Glass MGMT for Infrastructure, Hypervisor, DR, Analytics, Capacity Mgmt, and so on? What about a platform that provides choice?  Choice of Hypervisor, many choices of solutions to meet your business need, all managed through a single interface.  Oh, and guess what, we don’t core if you mix and match Hypervisor.  You want to run KVM or Hyper-V in Dev/Test because it’s cheaper, but you trust tried and true vSphere in Production, then go ahead.  You want to move away from spending the $ on Hyper-V and VMware and run all KVM, you can do that too.  The benefits of running all KVM will be complete because Acropolis enables true KVM management within the Prism interface.  See a screenshot below from NutanixCE running in my home lab (This is Nutanix Community Edition and does not represent the entire capabilities of the product):

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This is just the beginning.  Stay tuned for more content as the weeks progress.  There are a ton of other features and announcements which I will post here soon!

New Opportunities

I am very happy and pleased to say that I have accepted an SE position at Nutanix beginning May 4, 2015.  I am very honored and humbled that an organization of this caliber allowed me to become part of some of the most talented people in the industry.

Nutanix represents the very edge of software development and have been the catalyst for huge disruption in today’s Data Centers.  They represent the very best talent, VMware VCDX’s, Microsoft Experts and Software Defined Storage experts from other well known organizations such as Google and Facebook.

My passion for Hyper-Converged architectures has been no secret from my Social Media interaction here, Twitter and other Forums.  I truly feel this is the next logical step for the data center and many others agree.  The tremendous growth rate of these technologies and the broad acceptance from core vendors such as EMC, VMware, Cisco who have partnered or have built their own foundations around these concepts simply validate the technology and the solutions from companies like Nutanix and others.

On top of that, the Company is well run, where Senior Leaders are visible, open and transparent.  They have vision and know how to execute on that vision.  We have seen many articles, blog posts and social media interaction regarding speculation on acquisitions, technology, etc.  There have been interesting and eye opening articles and social media that try to diminish what Nutanix delivers.  This shows they are a force and are going head to head with the industry giants which are now realizing that they need to respond.

This was not an easy decision for me.  My current employer, SMP, has been very good to me and I publicly want to thank the owners, Eric/Kristen and the entire leadership team for supporting me throughout my time there.

This is just the next stop on the life journey and I am extremely excited to deliver SIMPLE to today’s Data Center!

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PART I: EVO:RAIL – EMC

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We are starting to see a lot of content in the Blogosphere  and other Social Media like Twitter on Hyperconverged solutions and how they stack up against each other. There are many articles comparing Nutanix, SimpliVity to EVO:RAIL but what I couldn’t find was an EVO:RAIL comparison article. While System Integrators “prescribe” to VMware’s EVO program which provides the required foundation of the solution, some System Integrators have chosen to add value to the base solution.  These value adds could sway you from making your decision on one System Integrator’s solution over another.  I stress “could’ here because at the end of the day, the functionality and services provided by the core product may be enough to meet your needs, however, I think it’s an exercise everyone should take when considering an EVO:RAIL solution as you may be surprised at what some System Integrators are providing.  Another thing to consider is a single support model as some vendors can provide the ToR 10Gb switch infrastructure which may appeal to some as it truly provides a single support number for an entire solution.  Contrary to the marketecture out there, 10Gb ToR is required and EVO:RAIL does not provide that in the total solution even though you may see marketing claiming its a complete converged appliance including Networking. Let’s not fool ourselves here, VMware has been providing core networking services within vSphere for a long time, however, that’s not the complete picture.

In Part 1 of this series, I will cover the EMC offering and as I continue to research the others to find all pertinent information to provide to you, I will release additional information with the final part of the series laying out all the Partner EVO:RAIL Solutions for easy comparison.

PART I: EMC

PART II: DELL

PART III: HP

PART IV: NetApp

PART V: SUPERMICRO

PART VI: Hitachi Data Systems

PART VII: FUJITSU

PART VIII: net one

PART IX: inspur

PART X: Final wrap up and consolidated comparison chart

As of writing this article, there are a total of nine partners that prescribe to the EVO:RAIL program which I have called out in the illustration below.  Let’s begin with EMC’s EVO:RAIL offering.

EVOParnters

  • EMC VSPEX Blue  

EMC Provides the most unique solution of the grouping, in my view. They have taken EVO:RAIL and raised the bar with their value adds. First and foremost, EMC has integrated their EVO:RAIL offering as part of VSPEX and branded their EVO:RAIL solution VSPEX Blue. VSPEX is all about choice and while VSPEX Blue still provides the core EVO:RAIL functionality in their solution (EVO Engine, VMware goodies), they have created an ecosystem around it while integrating additional key functionality that other integrators have not provided.

There is a ton of information I can provide to you here but i’ll I also want to point out, briefly, that others have provided in-depth information like Chad Sakac on his blog here.  Chad provides insight on the what and why on the direction EMC has taken with EVO:RAIL and the innovation here is nothing short of impressive.

EMC is the only EVO:RAIL System Integrator to provide two models, Standard and Performance Models.  The differentiation between the two options is memory capacity.

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EMC did integrated VSPEX Blue Management into the EVO:RAIL Software Management engine which goes to show that they didn’t skimp here.  VSPEX Blue Manager is integrated through the same interface that you use to manage the VMware components of the appliance, however, it adds full appliance visibility by:

1. Providing EMC Support through online chat and Customer forums/knowledge base,

2. Integration with VMware Log Insight for Health/Event Monitoring and Hardware, Application and VM alerts

3. Access to the EMC VSPEX Blue  Marketplace to access qualified software

4. Complete Automated patches and software updates/upgrades

5. Remote access through ESRS

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EMC provides additional value adds that are available through the VSPEX Blue Marketplace:

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Along with the integrated VSPEX Blue Manager and ESRS Support, the appliance also ships with additional software for Backup/Recovery with Dedupe, Journal Based local and remote Replication and access to Cloud Storage through EMC’s CloudArray for File & Block.

– EMC Recoverpoint for VM’s (15VM License, can purchase additional licenses via the Marketplace within the Appliance): RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines provides local and remote hypervisor- based replication and continuous protection for per-VM recovery to point in time along with build-in DR Orchestration

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– VMware Data Protection – Advanced with optional Data Domain Appliance (Effective March 1, 2015, VMware customers are entitled to VDP-A at no additional cost): VDP-A is based on EMC’s Deduplication Backup & Recovery Software, Avamar.  With VDP-A you will decrease recovery times by leveraging disk. Only unique data is backed up which lowers your backup capacity requirements.  By adding Data Domain, data is deduplicated prior to being sent which is ideal for remote locations.

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– EMC CloudArray (10TB’s along with 1TB Cache, additional capacity can be purchased at any time): Along with the VSAN capacity that’s included with EVO:RAIL, EMC allows you to expand your storage capacity beyond what VSAN is delivering with EMC CloudArray.  EMC CloudArray software provides scaleable cloud based storage with your CHOICE of many leading cloud providers enabling limitless File/Block storage which could be leveraged for offsite backup and disaster recovery.  CloudArray provides a simple solution to cloud storage by providing a bandwidth scheduler and data reduction technology that minimizes network impact.

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As you can see EMC has really provided additional value to the core EVO:RAIL offering and have done so by integrating within the Appliance.  They understand that building outside of this model makes it less of an appliance and more of a converged solution with separate mgmt points which, in the end, would defeat the purpose.  Integration is key in the Hyper-Converged market and EMC has done a great job here.

Stay tuned for Part II of my EVO:RAIL Comparison blog series when I tackle the Dell offering based on their C6220 Cloud Integrated Systems platform.

Blog Series Links

PART I: EMC

PART II: DELL

PART III: HP

PART IV: NetApp

PART V: SUPERMICRO

PART VI: Hitachi Data Systems

PART VII: FUJITSU

PART VIII: net one

PART IX: inspur

PART X: Final wrap up and consolidated comparison chart