Part II 2014 Server Storage I/O Geek Gift ideas

December 14, 2014 – 8:58 pm

Part II 2014 Server Storage I/O Geek Gift ideas

server storage I/O trends

This is part two of a two part series for what to get a geek for a gift, read part one here.

KVM switch

Not to be confused with a software defined network (SDN) switch for the KVM virtualization hypervisor, how about the other KVM switch?

kvm switch
My KVM switch in use, looks like five servers are powered on.

If you have several servers or devices that need a Keyboard Video Mouse connection, or are using A/B box or other devices, why not combine using a KVM switch. I bought the Startech shown above from Amazon which works out to be under $40 a port (connection) meaning I do not have to have Keyboards, Video monitors or Mouse for each of those systems.

With my KVM shown above, I have used the easy setup to name each of the ports via the management software so that when a button is pressed, not only does the applicable screen appear, also a graphic text message overlay tell me which server is being displayed. This is handy for example as I have some servers that are identical (e.g. Lenovo TS140s) running VMware that a quick glance can help me verify I’m on the right one (e.g. without looking at the VMware host name or IP). This feature is also handy during power on self test (POST) when the servers physical or logical (e.g. VMware, Windows, Hyper-V, Ubuntu, Openstack, etc..) identity is known. Another thing I like about these is that on the KVM switch there is a single VGA type connector, while on the server end there is a VGA connector for attaching to the monitor port of the device, and a break out cable with USB for attaching to server to get Keyboard and Mouse.

Single drive shoe box

Usually things are in larger server or storage systems enclosures, however now and then there is the need to supply power to a HDD or SSD along with a USB or eSATA interface for attaching to a system. These are handy and versatile little aluminum enclosures.

single drive sata enclosuredisk enclosure

Note that you can now also find these types of cables that can do same or similar function for in side a server connection (check out this cable among others at Amazon)

USB-SATA cable

It would be easy to assume that everybody would have these by now particular since everybody (depending on who you listen to or what you read) has probably converted from a HDD to SSD. However for those who have not done an HDD to SSD, or simply a HDD to newer HDD conversion, or that have an older HDD (or SSD) lying around, these cables come in very handy. attach one end (e.g. the SATA end) to a HDD or SSD and the other to a USB port on a laptop, tablet or server. Caveat however with these is that they generally only have power (via USB) for a 2.5″ type drive so for a larger more power-hungry 3.5″ device, you would need a different powered cable, or small shoe box type enclosure.

USB to SATAeSATA cable
(Left) USB to SATA and (Right) eSATA to SATA cables

Mophie USB charger

There are many different types of mobile device chargers available along with multi-purpose cables. I like the Mophie which I received at an event from NetApp (Thanks NetApp) and the flexible connector I received from Dyn while at AWS re:Invent 2014 (Thanks Dyn, I’m also a Dyn customer fwiw).
power chargerpower cable
(Left) Mophie Power station and (Right) multi-connector cable

The Mohpie has USB connector so that you can charge it via a charging station or via a computer, as well as attach a USB to Apple or other device connector. There is also a small connector for attach to other devices. This is where the dandy Dyn device comes into play as it has a USB as well as Apple and many other common connectors as shown in the figure below. Google around and I’m sure you can find both for sale, or as giveaways or something similar.

SAS SATA Interposer

sas interposerserver storage power
(Left) SAS to SATA interposer (Right) Molex power with SATA connector to SAS

Note that the above are intended for passing a SAS signal from a device such as HDD or SSD to a SAS based controller that happens to have SATA mechanical or keyed interfaces such as with some servers. This means that the real controller needs to be SAS and the attached drives can be SATA or SAS keeping in mind that a SATA device can plug into a SAS controller however not vise versa. You can find the above at Amazon among other venues. Need a dual-lane SAS connector as an alternative to the one shown above on the right, then check this one out at Amazon.

Need to learn more about the many different facets of SAS and related technologies including how it coexists with iSCSI, Fibre Channel (FC), FCoE, InfiniBand and other interfaces, how about getting a free copy of SAS SANs for Dummies?

SAS SANS for dummies

There are also these for doing board level connections

esata connectorsata to esata cablesata male to male gender changer
Some additional SAS and SATA drive connectors

In the above on the left are a female to female SATA cable with a male to male SATA gender changer attached to be used for example between a storage device and the SATA connector port on a servers motherboard, HBA or RAID controller. In the middle are shown some SATA female to female cables, as well as a SATA to eSATA (external SATA) cable (middle), and on the right are some SATA Male to SATA Male gender changes also shown being used on the left in the above figures.

Internal Power cable / connectors

If you or your geek are doing things in the lab or other environment adding and reconfiguring devices such as some of those mentioned above (or below), sooner or later there will be the need to do something with power cables and connectors.

power meter
Various cables, adapters and extender

In the above figure are shown (top to bottom) a SATA male to molex, SATA female to SATA male and to its right SATA female to Molex. Below that are two SATA females to Molex, below that is a SATA male to dual Molex and on the bottom is a single SATA to dual SATA. Needless to say there are many other combinations of connectors as well as different genders (e.g. Male or Female) along with extenders. As mentioned above, pay attention to manufacturers recommend power draw and safety notices to prevent accidental electric shock or fire.

Intel Edison kit for IoT and IoD

Are you or your geek into the Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Devices (IoD) or other similar things and gadgets? Have you heard about Intel’s Edison breakout board for doing software development and attachment of various hardware things? Looking for something to move beyond a Raspberry Pi system?

Intel Edison boardIntel Edison kits
Images via

Over the hills, through the woods WiFi

This past year I found Nanostation extended WiFi devices that solved a challenge (problem) which was how to get a secure WiFi signal up to a couple hundred yards through a thick forest between some hill’s.

Image via, check out their other models as well as resources for different deployments

The problem was it was to far and too many tree’s with leaves use a regular WiFi connection and too far to run cable if I did not need to. I found the solution by getting a pair of the Nanostation M2 putting them into bridge mode, then doing some alignment with their narrow beam antennas to bounce a signal through the woods. For those who simply need to go a long distance, these devices can be reconfigured to go several km’s line of sight. Click on the image above to see other models of the Nanostation as well as links to various resources on how they can be used for other things or deployments.

How about some software

  • UpDraft Backup – This is a WordPress blog plugin that I use to back up my entire web including the templates, plug-ins, MySQL database and all other related components. While my dedicated private server gets backed up by my service provider (Bluehost), I wanted an extra detail of protection along with a copy placed at a different place (e.g. at my AWS account). Updraft is an example of an emerging class of tools for backing up and protecting cloud based and cloud born data. For example EMC recently acquired cloud backup startup Spanning who has the ability of protecting Salesforce, Google and other cloud based data.
  • Visual ESXtop – This is a great free tool that provides a nice interface and remote access for doing ESXtop functions normally accomplished from the ESXi console.
  • Microsoft Diskspd – If you or your geek is into server storage I/O performance and benchmark that has a Windows environment and looking for something besides Iometer, have them download the Microsoft Diskspd free utility.
  • Futuremark PCmark – Speaking of server storage I/O performance, check out Futuremark PCmark which will give your computer a great workout from graphics and video to compute, storage I/O and other common tasks.
  • RV Tools – Need to know more about your VMware virtual environment, take a quick inventory or something else, then your geek should have a copy of RV Tools from Robware.
  • iVMControl – For that vgeek how wants to be able to do simple VMware tasks from an iPhone, check out iVMControl tools. Its great, I don’t use it a lot, however there are times where I don’t need to or want to use a tablet or PC to reach my VMware environment, that’s when this virtual gadget comes into play.

Livescribe Digital Pen and Paper

How about a Livescribe digital pen and paper? Sure you can use a PC, Apple or other tablet, however some things are still easier done on a traditional paper and virtual pen. I got one of these about a year ago and use it for note taking, mocking up slides for presentations and in some cases have used this for creating figures and other things. It would be easy to see and place the Livescribe and a Windows or other tablet as an either or competitive however for me, I still see where they are better together addressing different things, at least for now.

livescribe digital penlivescribe digital pen

(Left) using my Livescribe and Echo digital pen (Right) resulting exported .Png

Tip: I you noticed in the above left image (e.g. the original) the lines in the top figure, compared to the lines in the figure on the right are different. If you encounter your livescribe causing lines to run on or into each other it is because your digital pen tip is sticking. It’s easy to check by looking at the tip of your digital pen and see if the small red light is on or off, or if it stays on when you press the pen tip. If it stays on, reset the pen tip. Also when you write, make sure to lift up on the pen tip so that it releases, otherwise you will get results like those shown on the right.

livescribe digital penlivescribe digital pen
(Left) Livescribe Digital Desktop (Middle) Imported Digital Document (Right) Exported PNG

Also check out this optional application that turns a Livescribe Echo pen like mine into a digital tablet allowing you to draw on-screen with certain applications and webinar tools.

Some books for the geek

Speaking of reading, for those who are not up on the No SQL and alternative SQL based databases including Mongo, Hbase, Riak, Cassandra, MySQL, add Seven Databases in Seven Weeks to your liust. Click on the image to read my book review of it as well as links to order it from Amazon. Seven Databases in Seven Weeks (A Guide to Modern Databases and the NoSQL Movement) is a book written Eric Redmond (@coderoshi) and Jim Wilson (@hexlib), part of The Pragmatic Programmers (@pragprog) series that takes a look at several non SQL based database systems.

seven database nosql

Where to get the above items

  • Ebay for new and used
  • Amazon for new and used
  • Newegg
  • PC Pit stop
  • And many other venues

What this all means

Note: Some of the above can be found at your favorite trade show or conference so keep that in mind for future gift giving.

What interesting geek gift ideas or wish list items do you have?

Of course if you have anything interesting to mention feel free to add it to the comments (keep it clean though ;) or feel free to send to me for future mention.

In the meantime have a safe and happy holiday season for what ever holiday you enjoy celebrating anytime of the year.

Ok, nuff said, for now…

Cheers gs

Greg Schulz – Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)
twitter @storageio

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