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In the Zone

Bust these 4 myths about QLC storage

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by Peter Krass on 04/27/2021
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Are your data-center customers being held back by 4 common myths about QLC 3D NAND storage technology?

If so, they’re far from alone. Some of these mythical misconceptions have been spread by people who should know better, including industry analysts and market watchers.

The truth is, QLC 3D NAND is powerful technology. It offers high bandwidth, low latency reads for read-intensive workloads, as well as high capacity and excellent space efficiency — all at a low operating cost. Here’s how:

> QLC stands for quad-level cell, meaning 4 bits get stored on each cell. Previous technologies offered per-cell densities of 3 bits (TLC), 2 bits (MLC) and 1 bit (SLC).

> 3D refers to the way these cells are stacked vertically, like the floors of a skyscraper, reaching up to 144 layers. This increases storage density, yet without sacrificing data reliability.

> NAND is the flash architecture used in SSDs, USB drives, digital cameras and some smartphones.

Combined, all that innovation puts these drives in the sweet spot for “warm storage” of read-intensive workloads.

4 myths busted

With help from Intel, here’s your tech provider’s guide to these 4 common misconceptions about QLC 3D NAND technology — and what you can say to set your customers straight:

1. Endurance

> Myth: For most workloads, SSDs powered by QLC 3D NAND technology are not sufficiently durable. As measured in drive writes per day (DWPD), QLC 3D NAND drives simply don’t last as long as other kinds.

> Reality: Intel QLC SSDs are actually more durable than conventional hard disk drives (HDDs). They also provide up to 4x more total bytes written (TBW) than other QLCs. That’s important. TBW offers a truer measure of drive endurance than DWPD. TBW does this by factoring in the drive’s capacity, which DWPD does not.

2. Performance

> Myth: QLC 3D NAND drives offer less read and write performance than TLC drives. They also offer poor performance/watt. And there’s no fit for QLC drives, given their performance and durability issues.

> Reality: Intel QLC 3D NAND is the right technology for today’s high-growth segments, including AI, cloud storage and high-performance computing (HPC). These applications value the efficient movement of massive amounts of data at high speed. And QLC fits the bill. It’s perfect for these workloads, which require frequent, high-bandwidth reads with only infrequent writes.

QLC technology can also fill the gap between HDDs and TLC storage. TLC NAND SSDs offer high performance, but lack efficiency around both cost and capacity. HDDs, by contrast, offer a low cost per gigabyte, but fall short on both performance and operational efficiency. QLC can fill these two technologies’ cost-performance gap.

3. Quality & reliability

> Myth: SSDs based on QLC 3D NAND technology, compared with TLC SSDs are more error-prone and have reduced data retention. All that makes them risky replacements for HDDs.

> Reality: Intel QLC technology offers quality and reliability that’s just as good as that of TLC tech — and better than that of HDDs. Compared with HDDs, QLC drives offer a much lower actual annualized failure rate (AFR), 2x orders of magnitude better on uncorrectable bit errors (UBER), and a wider operating range.

4. Maturity

> Myth: QLC technology is too new and unproven. Sticking with older TLC technology is safer and smarter.

> Reality: QLC 3D NAND isn’t actually that new. Intel has had the technology in volume production since 2017. That’s 4 years, plenty of time in the tech world. Also, Intel’s latest QLC drive, the SSD D5-P5316, is actually the company’s third generation of QLC NAND. Among the new drive’s many enhancements is support for the latest PCIe 4.0 interface.

Don’t let your data-center customers miss out on the value of QLC 3D NAND storage technology. Find out if they believe these common myths. If they do, set them straight.

Share these related Intel resources:

> Intel 3D NAND technology

> QLC NAND SSDs are optimal for modern workloads

> Intel SSD D5-P5316 product brief

> QLC NAND technology is ready for mainstream use in the data center


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In the Zone

Meet Intel’s 2021 U.S. partners of the year

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by Intel on 04/23/2021
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Intel this week named 30 U.S. “Partners of the Year,” recognizing their outstanding achievements. The awards were announced yesterday at the Intel Partner Connect 2021 virtual conference.

The U.S. Channel — Partner of the Year awards honor Intel partners that have demonstrated excellence in technology innovation, go-to-market strategizing, sales growth and marketing. These companies represent great examples of what’s possible when Intel and its partners work together as an ecosystem.

“Our partners are capitalizing on fast-growing opportunities — from AI to 5G and edge — to bring forward technological innovation that spans the globe,” says Greg Ernst, Intel’s GM of U.S. sales. “The partner awards demonstrate our appreciation of the continued collaboration with partners to deliver world-changing technology together.”

And the winners by category are:

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)

iBUYPOWER – Growth: For growing its desktop gaming systems powered by the state-of-the-art technology on 10th Gen Intel Core processors.

PureStorage – Innovation: For bringing DirectMemory using Intel Optane solid state drives (SSDs) to market, leveraging the latest Intel technology to provide new performance and solution benefits to their customers, while also delivering a modern data experience.

Razer – Go-To-Market: For its inaugural Razercon event, a global community-focused event resulting in 34 million impressions and a 40% uptick in sales. And for designing an Intel Evo-based platform, making Razer Intel’s leading U.S. channel customer to develop and launch an Evo-certified platform.

Evotek – Growth: For enabling digital transformation in both the data center and cloud, which allows for a secure multicloud environment framework.

BCDVideo – Innovation: For creating a new line of hybrid hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) systems that let users consolidate disaggregated workloads and scale compute and storage with ease – all powered by Intel Xeon processors.

CTL – Go-To-Market: For expanding the use cases of Chrome devices to meet customers’ needs and creating complete solutions from the classroom to the office.

AMAX – Growth: For designing servers, systems and workstations with Intel products that help data scientists, analysts and engineers make business predictions faster.

OnLogic – Innovation: For incorporating the latest Intel CPUs into new fanless computers that bring enhanced reliability to customers.

Colfax – Go-To-Market: For designing cloud services for developer enablement and software vendor engagement, and for demonstrating the value of Intel architecture for machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).


SuperMicro – Innovation: For pushing the boundaries of deep learning through ready-to-go solutions that offer the fastest path to scaling-up AI and enable customers to build their own AI clouds.

Emerging Technology Partners

Altiostar – Wireless 5G Growth: For supporting innovative new technology that increases network efficiency with Intel’s broad set of offerings, allowing for next-generation virtualized radio access networks (RANs).

Wachter – Edge Growth:  For delivering unique solutions to enterprises to incorporate IoT and edge technologies for companies of all sizes.

Cloud Reach – Cloud Growth: For using Intel technology to implement broad support of public-cloud services and enabling multicloud environments with Intel technology.

Global SI

Accenture – New Markets Growth: For deploying global innovative solutions across AI, analytics, blockchain and device-as-a-service (DaaS) while leveraging Intel technologies, including Intel OpenVINO, Intel Arria 10 FPGA, Intel Movidius Myriad X VPU, Intel Connected Logistics platform, and the Intel vPro platform.


ASI – CCG Distributor of the Year Award: For growing client components and branded systems through a companywide focus.

SYNNEX – DCG Distributor of the Year Award: For growing its overall data center business across both components and branded systems to become Intel’s largest distributor in this segment.

Ingram Micro – NSG Distributor of the Year Award: For growing its storage business the most in 2020 through a sales and marketing strategy focused on selling solutions such as Intel data center SSDs.

Avnet – IoTG Distributor of the Year Award: For being the largest and fastest growing embedded-products distributor that also delivered the most innovative demand-creation programs.

Ingram Micro – Marketing Distributor of the Year Award: For quickly pivoting to an innovative, engaging and creative virtual events model and consistently exceeding attendance goals and business results.

Avnet – Trailblazing Distributor Award: For launching “The Intel Cup,” an innovative sales and marketing framework that included executive engagement and drove strong ecosystem growth.

Internet of Things (IoT) Group

Tech Data – IoT Solution Aggregator Award: For playing a pivotal role in accelerating real-world IoT solutions in the U.S. channel during an exceptionally challenging period.

Dell – OEM: For offering solutions for IoT, communications, medical, retail and more than 40 additional verticals.

Creston – Market-Ready Solution: For engaging in a multifaceted Intel co-marketing campaign and utilizing the Intel Solutions Marketplace to develop leads, accelerate its business, and drive revenue and deployments.

Logitech – RFP-Ready Kit: For utilizing new embedded architectures to maximize the potential of machine learning in battery-operated devices.

Solutions Providers

SHI – Growth: For achieving exceptional growth in 2020 through streamlined configuration, deployment and management of Intel data center solutions.

CDW – Innovation: For bringing new solutions to market by combining Intel’s cutting-edge technology with CDW’s market prowess and amplifying with game-changing, cutting-edge breakthrough marketing campaigns.

Zones – Go-To-Market: For developing and activating innovative sales-acceleration programs to achieve market breakthroughs.

WWT – Growth: For market growth with expanding data center, edge and hybrid cloud portfolio, with solutions built on Intel Xeon Scalable processors using Intel Optane technology.

Insight – Innovation: For achieving breakthroughs with its Digital Innovation Campaign and Expanding Solution Portfolio to accelerate digital transformation at scale in key segments.

Ironbow – Go-To-Market:  For expanding total available market (TAM) with Intel technology through bold and creative partnership strategies to accelerate the adoption of breakthrough solutions.

Presidio – Cloud Innovation: For accelerating Intel-based solutions in the data center portfolio, and developing an innovative public-cloud solution preference program.


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In the Zone

These 3 gaming monitors get big, bigger, biggest

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by Kevin Jacoby on 04/21/2021
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They just keep raising the bar, don’t they? One day, you have the world’s best gaming rig. The next, you read about some boffo new gear that practically demands more mileage from your already beleaguered credit card.

If you’re currently attending meetings for Gearaholics Anonymous and need to get that monkey off your back, stop reading now. (The first step is admitting you have a problem.)

But if you’re on the lookout for a way to make your or your customer’s gaming habit look like a million bucks, boy, do we have a monitor for you. Actually, three.

Go big or go home

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the craziest/coolest über-display on the list is made by Alienware.

Even less surprising is the Alienware 55 OLED gaming monitor’s nearly perfect feature set. This includes a 55-inch OLED display; a bevy of HDMI, DisplayPort and USB 3.0 ports; and customizable RGB lighting on the back.

Alienware 55 OLED gaming monitor

Alienware 55 OLED: sometimes bigger really is better

What may come as a surprise is the price. At just over $3,000, the Alienware 55 OLED costs more than your average gaming PC.

Is this monitor worth so much dough? Well, yes and no.

On the positive side, there’s no question that OLED is king of the hill in terms of response rates, black points and general performance. If you’re looking for photorealistic immersion, then a giant OLED panel is the way to go.

But the plus-sized Alienware 55 OLED also has some drawbacks. For one, it’s not very bright. Topping out at 400 nits means this monitor works better in a darker room, which isn’t always convenient.

Also, in smaller rooms, the Alienware monitor’s sheer size may be a negative. Sure, a screen this size can paint a glorious picture. But remember, this is a monitor, not a TV. That means the recommended distance between your eyeballs and this 55-inch display is an expansive 7.7 feet.

If you’re not prepared to put that distance — the equivalent of a pro basketball power-forward — between you and your screen, then you might need a different device.

A different screen

The Acer Predator CG7 offers a 43-inch display that can be used as a TV replacement, but feels a lot more like a monitor. The price is also easier to swallow, clocking in at around $1,200, or less than half the price of the Alienware 55 OLED.

However, the Acer’s vertical alignment (VA) panel won’t give you anything like that gorgeous OLED look. For one, the blacks simply aren’t as black.

Acer Predator CG7 gaming monitor

Acer Predator CG7: 43 inches of 4K glory

What the Acer does provide is an insanely fast 1 msec VRB response time, 178-degree x 178-degree vertical/horizontal viewing angles, and an overclocked 144Hz refresh rate. Combined with 4K resolution and Vesa Certified DisplayHDR 1000 color, it can deliver all the immersion you might crave.

Coming soon from Dell

We don’t know a lot about the new mega-displays coming from Dell, but we do know they’re slated to arrive in the U.S. by the end of June.

We also know that the flagship model will be a 3440x1440, 34-inch ultra-wide with a sexy 1800R curve.

Like the Acer, Dell’s new glass will be a VA display with a 144Hz refresh rate. However, it’s not clear whether that refresh rate is native or overclocked.

No, these Dell screens don’t have light-up Alienware logos on the back. Nevertheless, they look cool in a staid, no-nonsense sort of way. The picture provided by Dell (see below) shows svelte black bezels, a sturdy mono-foot, and easily accessible USB ports on the bottom.

Dell 34-inch gaming monitor

Dell’s new monitor throws a stunning curve

The preceding short list of displays is just that: short. But there are plenty of other fish in the sea, and more are hatching every day.

The trick is to find the perfect display for a given use-case. How far will the budget stretch? Are deeper blacks more important than screen brightness? What’s the ideal 4K refresh rate?

Answering these and other related questions should help you first narrow the field, then zero in on a display that’s absolutely perfect.

Until, that is, something better comes along.


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In the Zone

Join virtual Intel Partner Connect this Thursday

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by Peter Krass on 04/19/2021
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Intel Partner Connect, the company’s premier event for partners, is virtual this year. And the Americas edition happens this Thursday, April 22, starting at 8 a.m. PT / 11 a.m. ET. You’re invited to attend!

The 2021 Intel Partner Connect virtual event will include:

> Executive sessions: Hear from Intel leaders on the latest Intel strategies, priorities, challenges and opportunities — and how they apply to your own growth opportunities.

> Some 45 breakout sessions: Gain insights on Intel technologies shaping the future.

> Showcases: Choose from over 5 hours of demos and other content featuring the latest technologies. And connect with Intel and sponsoring partners including Accenture, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft and VMware.

> Matchmaking: Schedule private virtual sessions with Intel Partner Alliance leaders, customers, suppliers and innovators. Discuss new business opportunities.

You can also earn Intel training credits by attending this year’s Intel Partner Connect. The credits will be available both during and after the event through on-demand options.

Special guests

The event will feature some special guests. The host for the 2021 Intel Partner Connect will be journalist Lisa Ling, host and executive producer of the CNN original series, “This is Life with Lisa Ling.”

Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling will be the Partner Connect event host

The event's guest speaker will be Simon Sinek, a popular TED Talk speaker and author of bestselling books that include “Start With Why.” He's scheduled to lead a conversation entitled "Leading Together."

Simon Sinek

Join Simon Sinek for “Leading Together”

In addition, Intel executive speakers at this year’s Intel Partner Connect will include:

> Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s new CEO

> John Kalvin, GM of the global scale and partner organization

> Michelle Johnston Holthaus, executive VP and GM of sales, marketing and communications

Mark your calendar and attend Intel Partner Connect 2021 this coming Thursday, April 22, from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. PT / 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET.  

Not yet registered? Sign up now to attend Intel Partner Connect 2021.


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In the Zone

Get schooled on edtech with these 9 Intel Partner University courses

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by Intel on 04/15/2021
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The K-12 educational technology market is hot. And with so many students now learning from home, the requirements have changed dramatically. Demand for innovative setups is high from both schools and families.

One potential drawback: If you’re new to the edtech market, the learning curve can be steep.

Intel Partner University is here to help. It’s offering 9 courses to get you schooled on the lucrative and fast-moving education tech market.

Intel Partner University

K-12 Education 101

Introduction to Selling Intel-based Solutions in the U.S.

Are you new to the U.S. K-12 education market? No worries. This comprehensive overview brings you up to speed, exploring the key issues, stakeholders and processes of ed-tech procurement.

Who's Who in U.S. K-12 Education

Selling to K-12 education means having a firm grasp of the needs, expectations and challenges of a variety of stakeholders. That includes everyone from administrators and principals to parents and teachers. Knowing who’s who will help you better anticipate stakeholder concerns during all phases of the sales cycle from prospecting to closing.

Fostering Engagement During K-12 Virtual Learning in the U.S.

Virtual learning requires educators to use a wide variety of tools to create engaging content and resources in an ever-changing environment. In this course, you’ll learn how Intel is helping educators to better leverage technology to support students in online, virtual and hybrid learning models.

Value of Collaborating with Intel

U.S. K-12 Virtual Learning Resources from Intel

The course is designed to familiarize you with Intel’s K-12 resources and augment your knowledge of the K-12 market. The contents, drawn from a variety of Intel-published resources, will provide you with the background knowledge to understand specific challenges faced by districts, schools, educators, parents and students.

The Right Chromebook for U.S. K-12 Virtual Learning

In K-12 education, it all comes down to the right device. This comprehensive course will familiarize you with the resulting data and recommendations from Intel’s August 2020 Chromebook device study, “The Right Chromebook for Virtual Learning.” This valuable data can help sellers see how processor performance affects teaching and learning, especially in virtual environments.

The Right Windows Device for U.S. K-12 Virtual Learning

Educators and students need dependable, secure and flexible devices now more than ever. This course will familiarize you with the resulting data and recommendations from “The Right Windows Device for Virtual Learning,” a report published in July 2020 and commissioned by Intel. With this crucial data, sellers will be equipped for meaningful conversations with customers regarding how processor performance affects teaching and learning, especially in virtual environments.

eSports in K-12

Introduction to eSports in U.S. K-12 Education

K-12 eSports is an incredible opportunity for resellers and those in the channel for a variety of reasons. With this engaging overview, you’ll better understand eSports and the opportunity it holds for your K-12 education customers and business.

Intel Technologies Powering U.S. K-12 eSports

In eSports, performance can make the difference between victory and defeat. Led by Michael Harrison, Intel’s director of education sales, this compelling overview helps resellers to better understand Intel's engagement with competitive eSports and the K-12 eSports opportunity.

K-12 eSports Selling Strategies for U.S. Partners

Scholastic eSports reveals countless opportunities for students seeking 21st Century skills and potential careers. Likewise, eSports provides lucrative opportunities for resellers. In this course, Laylah Bulman, director of strategic partnerships at the North American Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF), shares valuable strategies and tips for qualifying leads when engaging in K-12 eSports conversations with potential customers.

Explore Intel Partner University:

> Intel Partner University overview

> Intel Partner University video

> Intel Partner University Competencies

Not yet a member of Intel Partner Alliance? Join now


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In the Zone

5 top takeaways from Intel CEO Gelsinger’s post-Biden interview

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by Peter Krass on 04/13/2021
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Intel’s new CEO, Pat Gelsinger, was among a group of U.S. corporate leaders who met yesterday with President Biden to address the chip shortage.

Shortly after the meeting, Gelsinger was interviewed by CNBC TechCheck. Here are his top 5 takeaways:

Pat Gelsinger on CNBC

1) Government funding for the “Chips Act” (short for Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) is essential. “We’ve seen the motivation,” Gelsinger said. “Now it’s time to get that funded.”

2) More chipmakers are needed, and in more countries. “We have to start building more capacity across the world,” Gelsinger said. “We’ve become way too dependent on a too small of a footprint in Asia. We need a more balanced supply chain globally.”

3) The U.S. government should provide incentives for American companies to build fab plants in the U.S. “We want to have the R&D, the research, the ownership of the technology — and not just the manufacturing — by American companies on American soil," he said. "That’s what we mean by a more balanced footprint across the world.”

4) The global pandemic has accelerated the centrality of tech. “Leadership in semiconductors is foundational for the digital lives that we’re all experiencing,” Gelsinger said. “We were on this path where more of our lives are becoming digital, and COVID just accelerated that dramatically."

5) The U.S. urgently needs to change course. “Twenty-plus years ago, the U.S. was at 37% of global [chip] supply. Today we’re at 12% — and headed to less than 10%. This is the most critical technology, and we’re going to lose control? We must act now….Our ‘moon shot’ should be that a third of semiconductors should be back on American soil, by American companies.”

> Watch Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger’s full CNBC interview (via YouTube)


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In the Zone

Intel adds Ethernet adapters to support 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable processors

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by Peter Krass on 04/13/2021
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The latest 3rd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors, announced earlier this month, are delivering support for the PCIe 4.0 interfaces. To bolster severs based on the new Xeon Scalable processors, Intel has announced a new Ethernet network adapter.

Known as the Intel Ethernet Network Adapter E810-2CQDA2, the new adapter delivers up to 200 gigabits per second (Gbps) of bandwidth in a PCIe 4.0-compliant server. Each QSFP28 port supports up to 100Gbps, providing the throughput and functionality of two 100Gbps adapters in a single PCIe 4.0 slot.

Intel Ethernet Network Adapter E810-2CQDA2

Intel set out to match the bus (PCIe 4.0) with the bandwidth (Ethernet network speed). This new adapter, by taking advantage of the increased bandwidth, balances platform performance and helps ensure the network isn’t a bottleneck. It’s all about getting a balanced platform.

PCIe for speed

Support for PCIe 4.0 is important. This latest iteration of the PCIe interface basically doubles overall throughput, when compared with 3.0.

Your data-center customers need that bandwidth to support today’s data-centric computing use cases. These include accelerated network storage, cloud, communications and high-performance computing (HPC).

Intel’s new network adapter is available from tech distributors, resellers and other channel partners. Also, several hardware OEMs are bringing to market servers based on the 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Some of these OEMs plan to support as many as 6 of the new Intel network adapters in a single server, bringing a physical server’s maximum throughput to 1,200 Gbps.

From the perspective of both the server OS and the user, the Intel Ethernet Network Adapter E810-2CQDA2 appears as 8 physical network adapters. That also means it can handle 8 separate networks.

800 Series support

Like other members of the Intel Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapter family, the new E810-2CQDA2 supports several key technologies from Intel. These include:

> Application Device Queues: For predictability at scale, ADQ enables application-specific data steering, signaling, and rate limiting using an optimized application thread to the device data path. This increases performance, reduces latency and improves throughput.

> Ethernet Port Configuration Tool: EPCT lets the user program each port to act as a separate physical adapter. There are many possible configurations, including 2 x 100Gb, 4 x 50Gb, and 8 x 25Gb.

> Dynamic Device Personalization: DDP improves packet-processing efficiency. The Intel Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapter firmware loads an enhanced DDP profile with many workload-specific protocols at driver initialization for greater flexibility.

> Remote Direct Memory Access: RDMA enables 2 machines on the same network to exchange memory without involving the operating system or the processor, further reducing latency. Both iWARP and RoCE v2 are supported simultaneously.

Securing servers

Security is provided using several methods. These include Zero Trust, which essentially means every server request, whether from inside or outside the network, must be verified to determine whether access should be granted.

Also, all Intel Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapter components comply with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. Basically, this means that hardware-based security features protect the firmware and critical device settings.

These features include corruption detection and automated device recovery. If a device is attacked or corrupted, these features enable it to return to its originally programmed state.

Tell your data-center customers about Intel’s latest server processors and network adapters. Together, these components are powering the new generation of servers your customers need today.

Get connected:

> Intel Ethernet Network Adapter E810-2CQDA2 product brief

> Intel Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapters

>  Ethernet Port Configuration Tool

>  ADQ resource center


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In the Zone

Virtual jam software: how musicians collaborate during a pandemic

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by Kevin Jacoby on 04/12/2021
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By all accounts, the music biz has been pretty hard hit by the pandemic. Lockdowns in virtually every country put an end to the rehearsals, performances and recording sessions that normally keep musicians connected and creative.

But surely musicians could use Zoom and FaceTime to play together, right? Wrong. The inherent latency of virtual meeting spaces makes it nearly impossible to play in time with another musician.

Why is it so hard?

The problem begins and ends with latency. That’s the time it takes for data to be transferred between its original source and its destination. In the case of virtual music creation, the data we’re talking about is the audio signal produced by each participating musician.

The timing of musical notes is crucial. Latency as low as 5 to10 milliseconds can mean the difference between a groove that makes you shake your rump and one that lays there like a cold, dead fish. Virtually connecting, say, a drummer and a bassist requires extremely low latency for any rump-shaking to occur.

Tech to the rescue?

Spoiler alert: There’s no easy or perfect way to bridge this particular divide. Creating a low-latency, high-quality connection among musicians is difficult. Many have tried; fewer have succeeded.

Right now there are 3 popular virtual-jam contenders: JamKazam, Jamulus and JackTrip. Each has its own pros and cons. The pros are compelling indeed. But the cons may leave you wondering, is it worth it?

Giving the virtual session game a shot may require heroic feats of IT trouble-shooting. Another alternative is to simply give up on the ideal of creative transcendence and instead settle for “good enough.”

Getting into a jam

At first blush, JamKazam seems to be the most accessible of the 3 services. Its “freemium” pricing structure offers 4 tiers ranging from free to $20 a month.

Paying for Premium gets you features that include unlimited playing time, 1080p video, 1:1 email and chat support, and an audio bitrate of up to 512 kbps.

JamKazam virtual jam session

JamKazam lets far-flung musicians play together

In addition, JamKazam lets users either create their own sessions—whether alone or with other musicians—or join public sessions. Musicians can also use this software service to conduct teaching sessions, make recordings and livestream performances.

Jamulus, by contrast, is a bit more of the DIY variety. Available for Windows, MacOS and Linux, this open-source software requires an onboarding process that may have some musicians reaching for the ripcord before they play even the first chord.

However, Jamulus is free. That’s possibly the only phrase your average musician loves more than “free beer at the gig.”

As is often the case with open-source software, Jamulus does not offer official tech support. Instead, you direct your questions to a community of regular users. Of course there’s no guarantee you’ll get a useful answer.

Jamulus discussion board

Jamulus discussion board, aka tech support

Also with Jamulus, the physical proximity of the musicians has a direct bearing on the latency. In other words, a guitarist in Chicago will sound better with a keyboard player in Boston than in Belarus.

Quite a trip

The best-sounding of the three options is JackTrip. It offers HD audio quality at up to 96 kHz.

Developed in partnership with Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics and various Silicon Valley software entrepreneurs, JackTrip offers the best performance for the price.

Musicians can operate JackTrip in either peer-to-peer (P2P) or hub-and-spoke configurations. P2P creates a direct connection between each player, which lowers the total latency. Hub-and-spoke manages the session from a central server, requiring less computing power from each participant.

JackTrip architecture diagrams

JackTrip offers a choice: hub-and-spoke or P2P

When it comes to pricing, however, JackTrip tends to be a little cagey. Instead of actually listing a price, the JackTrip FAQ page coyly suggests that perhaps every musician on the session would like to own a $149 dedicated audio interface and microphone to match. (For the record, you can use your own.)

But JackTrip does make it plain that the managed servers behind its Virtual Studio service are free, at least as of today. But come this July 1, pricing will range from $1 to $25 a  month, based on the number of musicians and hours used.

Strike up the band

As you can tell, virtual jamming is neither cheap nor easy. But some options deliver varying degrees of facility. That’s more than any musician could say even 10 years ago.

The key to this particular journey is patience and perseverance. Even when the pandemic ends and it’s safe to venture back into the studio, virtual jam software will continue to progress.

And as the software gets better and easier to use, creative minds around the world will use it to connect. Only good can come from that.

In other words: Yes, it’s worth it.


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In the Zone

Intel NUC mini-PC: Check out ecosystem partner solutions

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by Peter Krass on 04/08/2021
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You already know about the Intel NUC — but do you know this mini-PC is supported by a slew of third-party solutions?

Well, it is. Intel operates what it calls the Intel NUC Ecosystem Partner Solutions. It’s basically a set of products developed by third-party partners for Intel NUC products.

These products are sold, serviced, and supported exclusively by the ecosystem partners. In other words, Intel’s warranties do not apply.

That said, there’s a wealth of goodies to choose from. Intel has arranged them into 3 main categories: Element U, Element H, and Mini PC.

Here’s a brief description and sampling of all 3 categories:

Intel NUC Element U

This group features third-party ecosystem products including all-in-ones (AIO), mini PCs, notebooks and Open Pluggable Specification (OPS).Offering suppliers in this category include:

> Bleu Jour: Founded in 2002, this company offers Kubb, a 12 cm. cube-shaped computer; Meta-U, a rugged chassis for Intel NUC Elements; and Wave, a fanless desktop PC.

Bleu Jour Wave mini-PC

Catch the Bleu Jour Wave

> Loop: This hardware designer and manufacturer offers the LP-238, a modular all-in-one PC based on an Intel NUC compute element.

> Shenzhen MADIGI: This Chinese designer and manufacturer offers the MPC33, a PC based on the Intel NUC compute element; MOP02, a compute element based on OPS; the N133D, a 2-in-1 convertible laptop; and the N141H, a clamshell laptop.

Intel NUC Element H

These are third-party products based on NUC chassis and graphics cards. Offering suppliers in this category include:

> AsusTek Computer: You know ASUS for their PCs. But the company also offers for Intel NUC a Dual GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Mini graphics card, GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card, and 1660 Super Mini graphics card.

> Cooler Master: As the name implies, this company makes PC coolers. For the Intel NUC, Cooler Master offers the Mastercase NC100, a small-form-factor enclosure with two 92mm fans; it’s compatible with the Intel NUC 9 Extreme compute element.

Cooler Master Mastercase for Intel NUC

Cooler Master Mastercases for Intel NUC

> SilverStone Technology: This Taiwanese company, founded in 2003, offers enclosures for Intel NUC compute elements. Current NUC offerings include the Vital 3 (model no. SST-VT03) and Vital 4 (SST-VT04).

Intel NUC Mini PC

In this category, you’ll find third-party ecosystem products including NUC chassis, accessories and add-ons.

> EWC Technologies: This company specializes in providing Intel NUC services. That includes Power over Ethernet (PoE) versions of the Intel mini-PCs.

> GORITE: Get nitty-gritty with this supplier’s cabling solutions for customizing Intel NUC mini-PCs.

> Simply NUC: A NUC specialist, this company is now featuring the Porcoolpine, a mini-PC that uses fins instead of fans to stay cool. Here's a look: 

Simply NUC Porcoolpine


Get more NUC:

> Check out the Intel NUC Ecosystem Partner Solutions

> Explore the Intel NUC mini-PCs

> Get 5 new MSP resources to boost your Intel NUC sales


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In the Zone

Meet Intel’s latest 3rd gen Xeon Scalable processor

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 04/06/2021
Blog Category:

Today, when Intel announced its latest 3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor, company officers pointed out that the new CPU is not just a component. Instead, they said, it’s part of Intel’s newly reimagined edge-to-cloud portfolio.

The new processor was announced as part of a one-hour livestream entitled “Solve for X.” In this case, X can be whatever world-changing technology your customers are developing.

Navin Shenoy, GM of Intel’s data platform, was among the speakers, and he pointed to 4 inflection points Intel says necessitate a new kind of data-center CPU: hybrid cloud, AI, 5G and edge computing. These changes, he added, are leading to the “fastest, biggest computing build-out in history.”

New platform for new computing

The new 3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors have been designed for the cloud, high-speed networks and the edge, Shenoy added.

That includes built-in AI, cryptographic acceleration, hardware-based security, and support for both Intel’s Optane SSDs and Optane Persistent Memory.

Intel says the new Xeon Scalable processors deliver an average performance improvement on popular data-center workloads of 46%. That’s compared with the previous, 2nd gen.

Virtually all the top cloud service providers plan to offer solutions based on the new Xeon Scalable processors soon, Shenoy said. Today’s livestream included presentations from officers of Microsoft, Oracle and Verizon.

Multiple configurations

As explained by the second main speaker, Lisa Spelman, Intel’s GM of Xeon and memory, the new Xeon processors support 1, 2, 4 and 8-socket configurations. Up to 40 cores are possible, and up to 64 lanes of the PCIe 4.0, the latest version.

AI is provided, in part, by Intel’s Deep Learning Boost. And hardware-based security is coming from Intel Software Guard Extension (SGX).

Spelman also said a new version, Xeon D, is now sampling. It’s designed for what she called “form-factor-constrained environments.”

The new Intel Xeon Scalable processors are also being supported by Intel’s 2 solutions programs: Market Ready Solutions and Intel Select Solutions. Intel says these programs now offer more than 500 ready-to-deploy solutions for IoT that are supported by the new CPUs.

CEO, too

The morning’s third speaker was Intel’s new CEO, Pat Gelsinger. He was careful to spell out that Intel is now focused on providing solutions that matter.

“We are no longer just the CPU company,” he insisted.

Gelsinger also introduced a new series of “innovation events” called Intel On. The first event in the series, he added, will be held in San Francisco in October.

Learn more:

> Intel launches its most advanced performance data center platform

> 3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors fact sheet

> 3rd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor SKU table

> New Intel processors accelerate 5G network transformation

> Intel Xeon advances Nasdaq’s homomorphic encryption R&D

Intel Sets Ice Lake Apart From AMD EPYC With AI, Systems Approach (via CRN)



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