DTECH Labs, a CUBIC company, is in the business of making the seemingly impossible possible. The company’s groundbreaking communications technologies support everything from enabling high-quality radio and video connections in mobile missions with fast-moving vehicles to building an explosive-proof server array so small and light that any soldier can carry it. In the field, the company’s ruggedized, small form-factor communications servers, aided by VMware vSAN, empower medical first responders, firefighters, and soldiers to work smarter and safer.
DTECH uses vSAN and vSphere extensively across its company as part of a larger virtualization effort. With vRealize for centralized monitoring and vSphere Operations Management as the key piece for troubleshooting and performance capacity monitoring, DTECH internal operations are almost 100% virtualized. “I'm not aware of a single physical server in-house,” says Tom Lynott, principal software engineering lead, DTECH Labs. “It almost never makes sense to deploy a physical server, given the advances in virtualization.”
Tom leads projects that make micro form-factor servers smaller, faster, and more powerful. DTECH’s compact servers route radio communications, send and receive data, host video surveillance software, and much more, all on tiny server arrays that can survive a bomb explosion or crash, and can be installed in a moving vehicle. Because his clients’ main objective is saving lives, there’s no room for error.
Benefits of vSAN
vSAN's RAID 6-level failover technology is essential. “These servers support vital radio communications,” explains Tom. “The handset networks into a WAVE server, which is a VM running on vSAN. Up to eight networks of radios go through a single module supported by our vSAN network. People's lives are on the line, so it has to be up all the time.” In addition to running radio and video communications from vehicles, the systems support email, SharePoint, and big data apps for everyday operations.
Beyond unmatched reliability, another key metric for success is server weight. The dramatically smaller hardware footprint of vSAN means servers that used to require heavy racks now weigh so little that a rack with 10 flash drives can be carried in a duffle bag. Particularly in the military, which maintains physical servers for up to seven years, this not only affects remote missions on foot but also results in large savings in airplane fuel now that fewer and smaller servers are sent overseas.
For DTECH’s customers, the benefits of the vSAN environment are evident across multiple applications. When one customer went from traditional to micro form-factor servers, the server weight dropped to a manageable 30 pounds. At the same time, they were able to increase the amount of available storage enhancing the product offering—something that was previously difficult when moving to small form-factor servers. “vSAN opened up a new range of possibilities for our customers,” says Tom. “Storage increased dramatically, performance was 10 times faster—we’ve seen IOPS of 70,000, versus 6000 on traditional servers the same size—and the overall management is simple.”
Simple configuration has also solved staffing problems for military personnel using DTECH products. An important vSAN advantage for DTECH and its customers is that it was the only HCI solution that didn’t require deploying a storage VM just to manage storage. With vSAN it’s built into the kernel, which is a tremendous benefit when looking at the need to provision services for soldiers in the field.
For DTECH, the next frontier is evolving to offer tiny, ruggedized, fully self-sufficient virtual data centers that can accommodate plug-in communications devices. “This goes beyond just storage, because instead of only connecting storage, you can add actual radio and network devices, so the entire server is a plug-and-play center with slots for modules. Our customers can adjust their systems in real time—so if their missions change, they can put the technology in place to help ensure their success.”