If you have been paying attention to the technical news lately you might have noticed more than a few articles pointing fingers back and forth between the AntiMalware company Cylance and the… well the industry. The argument (if you have not already read about it) goes something like this; the big AV/AM companies are accusing Cylance of stacking the deck in their favor when they demo their product against the competition. Cylance, for their part, claims that they provide a realistic test in comparison to what is usually done when it comes to AV/AM testing. Both sides have their points and it calls into question something that exists in all levels of the technical press and testing bodies; real world vs scripted testing.
CES 2015 Las Vegas, NV – Intel Suite
Today we met up with the Intel crew to see what they are bringing to the market in 2015. Unlike previous years where the “big” news was about big CPUs and processing power, this year was about getting more power in a smaller package and also finding ways to compare products across multiple platforms.
Today is was announced that Futuremark would be “joining” Underwriters Laboratories. The standards group that most people in the US are familiar with his buying up the same benchmarking company that most of us have come to love and hate. According to both Futuremark and UL the acquisition is more like a partnership, it is just that one will fully own the other: “Today, we’re announcing a new partnership. One that will significantly strengthen Futuremark through increased investment in our people and products while protecting our independence and neutrality.”
The Consumer Electronics world is a very interesting one (it is also very entertaining). There is a ton of money and effort put into conveying a message for this or that product and service by people that, often, do not even know the technology they are talking about. On top of that there is a media presence that is made up of everything from the entry level user to the ubergeeks. You have blogs, news sites, review sites, company review sites, Amazon reviews, New Egg Blogs and customer reviews and more. It is almost impossible to get any real information out of what is broadcast on the internet these days. This is even more true when you have all of these sites rushing to get their article out first. This environment has created a situation where information is partially researched, based solely on synthetic tests or (even worse) is more opinion than fact.
Futuremark announced that they have just released a patch v1.1.0 for the new 3DMark, which as the most important news emphasize the possibility to operate on the computers with three or four graphics processors. In such situations the tests until now gave less than expected. At first it was thought to be a minor problem in the video drivers, but after months of browsing through 3Dmark Engine they found out that the problem was still in its code.
Hey, it’s still a Beta. These are words that we hear all the time whenever we run into issues with pre-release software. This comment is used as a defense against bugs, missing features and even performance problems no matter the (Pre) release version. This is also used regardless of the number of statements made by the companies PR machine claiming that it is ready to go. “Hey, it’s still a Beta” is also used in almost equal measure to “it just came out”, “this is new technology”, and many other statements that all amount to one thing. No program or product can cover every potential issue.
There used to be a thing called truth in journalism. It meant that when you published an article you should at the very least check your facts if you are presenting it as “news” in the world of editorial articles things are different as an editorial is nearly always an opinion based article with some facts thrown in for furn. What has happened though is that with the introduction of Blogs, Fan Sites and other venues for information some of the fact checking has gone out the window in the effort to be the first to report on a juicy bit of news. When an article hits one of the big sites it often gets spread around the net and becomes the “truth” simply by means of repetition. We have watched this many times (and it is something that Apple’s PR and marketing thrive on).
If earnings calls or the fate of Apple post-Steve Jobs is not your thing then the following bit of news might be up your alley. It seems that Valve will be releasing a new map editor for the amazingly popular puzzle game Portal 2. The free downloadable content add-on will be called the Perpetual Testing Initiative and will hit Steam in early May (some are claiming May 8th).
DecryptedTech is now moving into Enterprise class testing. To accomplish this we have built a small Enterprise class network in our lab complete with two iSCSI SANs , TWO NAS Devices, multiple Gigabit Switches, and two ESX Hosts with Multiple VMs to keep things interesting. We will begin testing Enterprise class hardware and Software. We will be looking at these products with an eye on how the technology differs from the average consumer class products as well as how this technology will benefit the consumer as it trickles down to their market space. We do have our first product in the lab right now, but before we kick that off let’s talk about the new DecryptedTech Enterprise class Lab in detail.
The Switches -
The backbone of our lab consists of five Gigabit Switches. Two of these are from TRENDNet TEG-160WS and the TEG-240WS. Both of these are Web Smart Managed switches and have 2GB trunks setup between the two for faster switching between them. Next we have a TRENDNet TPE-80WS POE (Power over Ethernet) 8 Port Gigabit switch which offers quite a bit more controls than the TEG line and is our master switch for the RSTP (Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol ) topology ion place. Our second vendor in the lab is NETGEAR, they have provided us with their ProSafe GS110TP POE 10 port Gigabit Switch (two of these ports are fiber uplink) and a GS108T 8 Port Gigabit Switch. As we mentioned the switches are part of an RSTP topology and each one has different components attached to ensure that the loads is distributed across the network backbone.
The Storage -
Our Lab has three NAS devices one of which is fully iSCSI capable (and works with VMWare) the two non-iSCSI NAS devices are the Seagate Black Armour 440 and a Thecus 5200 Pro. The Thecus 5200 Pro has 3TB of space and serves as an indirect file server while the BA-440 has 4TB and acts as a media storage server and backup target. The last NAS on the list is a Synology DS 201, this has a full 1TB of space and holds image files used for deployment of VMs and the installation of software into the virtual environment.
The last storage box we are rather proud to have. It is a custom built NAS/SAN with an AMD Phenom II x4 910e 4GB of memory on the Minix 890GX MiniITX motherboard and a 250GB OS Drive. For the OS we dropped in Windows 2008 R2 Storage Server. Of course that is not the thing that we are most proud of. For the actual storage we went with 4 Seagate 2TB Constellation ES Nearline SAS 2.0 drives (ST32000444SS) running in RAID 5 on an LSI MegaRAID SAS 8708EM2 SAS 6GB/s PCIe controller. It is this device with its two teamed NICs that provides the central iSCSI based storage for our VMWare cluster.
The VMWare Cluster -
To make sure that we covered all of our bases we built two VMware ESX Hosts for a single cluster; one of them with Intel Xeons and the other featuring AMD Magny Cours CPUs. Both of these systems have Kingston Server Premier Memory installed (128GB between the two systems). The motherboards in each are from Asus and represent the mid-range of their server line up.
The Intel System specs are as follows;
2x Intel Xeon L5530 2.4GHz CPUs
48GB of Kingston Server Premier RAM (6 x8GB)
2x Kingston SSD Now 128GB drives in RAID 1 (for the ESX Host Software)
Asus Z8NA-D6 motherboard
Cooler Master UCP 1100 Power Supply
The AMD half of the Cluster looks like this
2x AMD Opteron 6176 SE CPUs (12 Cores each for 24 physical cores)
92GB of memory (80GB Kingston Server Premier 10 x 8GB and 12GB Kingston Value Select Server memory 6 x 2GB)
2 x Seagate 500 GB Savio II SAS 2.0 Drives in RAID 1
Asus KGPE-D16 Motherboard
Cooler Master UCP 1100 Power Supply
The cluster is running VMMware ESX 4.1 (moving to 5.0 soon) and currently hosts 30 Virtual Machines all stored on our Custom Built NAS/SAN. Not all of these systems are powered on 24/7 (my power bill would be outrageous) but they are all on and operational when we have hardware in the lab that needs testing. Under normal conditions about 7 servers are live. These include an exchange cluster (Database Availability Group), a SQL server and a virtualized domain controller. Some of the other servers that run when under testing conditions are, two additional SQL servers (SharePoint and CRM) a two node SharePoint farm, a Xen Desktop test setup with three desktops, a webserver with a full copy of DecryptedTech on it) and virtualized Windows 2008 R2 domain controller. We feel this should be able to simulate the load of a fairly average business network.
In addition to the virtual systems there is a standalone Domain Controller (Windows 2008 R2) and a complete Microsoft Forefront Treat Management Gateway to control external access to the test environment.
In all the testing lab has taken a giant leap forward and we hope to be able to bring you some in-depth reviews of hardware and software that while outside the average consumer range will give you a glimpse of what will be coming down the road for the consumer market in the not so distant future.
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