Monthly Archives: November 2012

New Toy: The Brydge iPad Keyboard – Updated

Finally a REAL keyboard for my iPad!

I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted a real keyboard that my iPad could dock with easily. I have always hated lugging around a laptop everywhere to do any real typing. When I got the first iPad I really thought it was going to allow me to cut the need for a laptop way down but without a solid portable keyboard and the smaller 1024×768 screen it basically became a gaming and reading machine. I found myself using my then Galaxy with the sliding keyboard to do almost all my real typing for emails.

Redoubling my effort.

When the New-now old, but not 3rd generation but the third release, iPad came out with an incredible screen resolution I vowed to try to cut my usage down again. I could use VPN and RDP into any box and see the whole screen but typing out T-SQL commands was still very painful on the touchscreen. So, I started testing every bluetooth keyboard or keyboard case out there. I found a few like the Logitech and the apple keyboard more than adequate for the job but they were bulky and I still needed a stand and a case of some sort. Oh, and they aren’t cheap ether. I eventually found a keyboard/case that the keyboard was wafer thin and detached from the crappy case so I carried that when I HAD to have a keyboard and left my laptop behind. At the end of April I found out about Brydge on Kickstarter. It looked like exactly what I’ve always wanted in a keyboard dock for my iPad. I decided to take a risk and support the project. It was funded with an expected ship date in October, just in time for the PASS Summit! WOO HOO! Well, the project was really successful and they had to delay a bit as they tooled up for a much larger production run. That meant I didn’t get it until the 28th of November.

So, Was It Worth It?

Well, I think so. Let me break down what I like and what I’m not so fond of.20121130-101243.jpg

Likes

The Keyboard is generally OK  I love the fact it has solid tactile feedback. I LOVE buckling key keyboards so having a keyboard with some feedback and that takes a bit of force to actually type a letter suits me just fine. The keyboard is also recessed into the frame so you don’t have smudges on your beautiful retina display. I really hated the fact that my 50 dollar official iPad magnetic cover always left lines and helped spread my oily fingerprints evenly over the screen. It also has a pretty full complement of keys on it and generally are pretty easy to reach without too many typo’s. I also love the full alt, shift and arrow keys so I don’t have to touch my iPad screen to select text to cut and paste.

I’m also good with the hinging system. They altered it a bit from the initial prototype to make it easier to future-proof it. Out of the gate it works very well with the iPad 2,3 and 4 body styles. The hinges are also stiff enough to position the screen at any angle and you don’t have to worry about it tilting on its own. It will also lay completely almost completely flat.

It has some weight to it. At first I was mildly put off with the extra heft but quickly realized it helped stabilize the whole setup nicely. Unlike a laptop where the screen is the lightest part of the device here the iPad has some heft to it and on a couple of other keyboard/case combos it would flip over onto it’s back if the angle was bad.

It is about the size of a Macbook air which is also nice. It doesn’t taper to that razors edge but I can live with that.

Dislikes

The keyboard is a little cramped and if you have big hands it may be difficult to type accurately and fast at the same time. The space bar is also a bit touchy. I use just one thumb on my right hand to trigger it and sometimes it doesn’t respond. I think the problem is they have two springs holding up the space bar but only one switch under it. It also seems to be worse under the left thumb than the right.

There are also two rubber pads for the iPad to rest on when it is fully closed that kind of rub on my wrists if I’m laying my hands flat.

It doesn’t seem to have the magnetic trigger. When I open it up I have to push the home button on the iPad or on the keypad to wake up my iPad. Not a huge thing but I really like that feature on the newer iPads. Well, it does when you set it up right. I had aligned the home button on the iPad with the home button on the keyboard. As a lefty it looked good to me.

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If you look the back facing camera now is unrestricted and usable.

Landscape only. I know, it is mimicking a laptop experience but it would have been cool to rotate the iPad between portrait and landscape. It isn’t hard to pull the iPad from the keyboard just a little wishful thinking on my part.

The hinge pads. Since you can use the iPad 2,3 or 4 the hinges use rubber pads to grip your iPad. They have little sticky pads on the back and the Brydge ships with the iPad 2 shims already attached. When I removed them it completely ruined the sticky pads and cleaning up the hinges was a bit of a pain.

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The hinge stickers. That’s right, stickers… The hinges themselves are aluminium and silver accordingly if you have a black iPad they are stark against the frame so the black stickers help correct that. I don’t have the best skills when applying stickers so mine are just a smidge off. They do ship two sets and I will probably redo mine again or get someone with steamer hands to do it.

The hinge partially covers the rear facing camera. Again, not a huge deal just an observation if you plan on using the camera you will have to remove it from the Brydge. Not if you rotate it see above.

It is made out of aluminium but doesn’t have the smooth finish like the rest of the Apple products which was a disappointment aesthetically.
I have revived several comments that it matches the iPad well and several people asked if it was a new Macbook Air.

It can be difficult to open the hinges are stiff but they did put a groove to help with that.

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It also as a small wobble. When the iPad isn’t attached it sits flat on a level surface. When I put the iPad in though the right front is just a little raised so it will move just a bit. I shaved the left hand side rubber foot down about the width of two business cards and it fixed the issue.

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You can see there are four rubber feet on the bottom.

It isn’t cheap. I got in the early bird at 150.00 dollars but it will be selling for more than that at retail. That is about a 50.00 dollar premium over any other keyboard I’ve bought so far.

The Oddities

Since it feels like a netbook or a little laptop I keep going down under the keyboard to touch the scroll pad to move the mouse around. It will take a bit of time but I’m sure I’ll get past that.

As with any new keyboard, it takes time to get use to the layout and feel of it. Since it feels like a netbook I also want to use my keyboard shortcuts to do things like cut and paste. There may be a way to set this up and I’ll dig into it a bit more and report back.

Initial Verdict: WIN!

Even though it looks like my dislikes out number the likes I really do dig it so far. I even wrote this blog post using Blogsy for iPad. I’ve NEVER written this much text on my iPad in one setting. It is pricy, but if I use it as much as I think I will I’m not sweating it. The Brydge was made for people like me and I’m glad I backed the project.

Go check them out at http://www.thebrydge.com if you buy one drop me a line and let me know what you think about it.

Quick Tip: SSIS and SAP BW Round 2

Again, frustration.

After almost breaking my arm patting myself on the back getting past my last SAP BW issue I found that SAP BW Connector and SQL Server 2012 were punishing me again. I was building a second package against the same SAP instance on the same SQL Server 2012 instance when I hit something more than flip this field from 3 to 1 kind of thing.

NO SOUP FOR YOU!

“Index was out of range. Must be non-negative and less than the size of the collection.
Parameter name: Index”

Oh mister SSIS this means war! Looking at the complete output log I saw that SAP BW had actually delivered the data but the SAP BW source component had thrown a hard error. It was a general error and searching Bing yielded next to nothing. I did find posts like this one that pointed to some bugs inside and outside the connector. This, of course, builds a ton of confidence that its going to work in the future.

Desperation Leads To A Fix.

After searching dozens of KB articles around the SAP BW 1.1 and 1.0 connector I finally just pulled the trigger and installed service pack 1 for SQL Server 2012 and the 2012 SP1 feature pack SAP BW 1.1 connector. I hate when the standard tech support advice works…. The scary thing is there are still outstanding bugs that are fixed in CU3 and CU4 that aren’t included in SP1. The worst thing is I never could find an exact KB that matched my error codes. I don’t know why it was broken and I don’t know if there was a specific patch or CU that addressed my bug. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened ether. Sometimes bug fixes don’t get listed when a CU or service pack is made available.

Quick Tip: SSIS and SAP BW

Frustration.

If you have ever had to work with Integration Services and data sources other than the Microsoft variety you know how frustrating it can be. I recently started a project using SQL Server 2012 and SAP BW 7. The customer had already decided that the other commercial options weren’t viable and settled on the Microsoft Connector 1.1 for SAP BW. A test package was built and worked.

I had already read through Using SQL Server 2008 Integration Services with SAP BI 7.0 and felt comfortable with the instructions. Even though we were using SSIS 2012 I knew there was very little differences between the 1.0 connector and the 1.1 connector. I built out our new package and all seemed well. The SAP BW connection in the connection manager hooked up and tested out. The SAP BW source also tested out pulling the metadata and even delivered preview data just fine. Next, I attempted to run the package. Just as I expected it ran and I got the data I expected. The next three attempts all resulted in SAP BW connector timeouts. I kept poking and prodding it. The SAP admin didn’t see any issues ether.

So, I did what I always do. I stopped tussling with the package and walked through all the steps again. I went back and read the doc again. I made a few notes and shot an email off to the SAP administrator. I settled on one thing pointed out in the doc:

“We want to keep the number of parallel processes to a reasonable value for the overall DTP process type DTP_LOAD, but this parallelism can lead to a timeout error during the Open Hub DTP extraction through Microsoft Connector for SAP BI”

Sure enough, it was set to something other than 1.

VICTORY!

Now, we get all our records and don’t have the timeout issues. The downside seems to be a bit slower performance. If the choice is a faster data pump that only runs once every five or so attempts or one that runs slower but runs every time I’ll slow up a bit. The fact that everything verified and I even got preview data on every attempt was hugely frustrating and time consuming. Knowing when to stop and reevaluate the problem and having a good relationship with the SAP administrator probably saved me hours if not days of cursing and shaking my fist at both Microsoft and SAP.

Solid State Storage: Enterprise State Of Affairs

Here In A Flash!

Its been a crazy last few years in the flash storage space. Things really started taking off around 2006 when NAND flash and moores law got together. in 2010 it was clear that flash storage was going to be a major part of your storage makeup in the future. It may not be NAND flash specifically though. It will be some kind of memory and not spinning disks.

Breaking The Cost Barrier.

For the last few years, I’ve always told people to price out on the cost of IO not the cost of storage. Buying flash storage was mainly a niche product solving a niche problem like to speed up random IO heavy tasks. With the cost of flash storage at or below standard disk based SAN storage with all the same connectivity features and the same software features I think it’s time to put flash storage on the same playing field as our old stalwart SAN solutions.

Right now at the end of 2012, you can get a large amount of flash storage. There is still this perception that it is too expensive and too risky to build out all flash storage arrays. I am here to prove at least cost isn’t as limiting a factor as you may believe. Traditional SAN storage can run you from 5 dollars a Gigabyte to 30 dollars a Gigabyte for spinning disks. You can easily get into an all flash array in that same range.

Here’s Looking At You Flash.

This is a short list of flash vendors currently on the market. I’ve thrown in a couple non-SAN types and a couple traditional SAN’s that have integrated flash storage in them. Please, don’t email me complaining that X vendor didn’t make this list or that Y vendor has different pricing. All the pricing numbers were gathered from published sources on the internet. These sources include, the vendors own website, published costs from TPC executive summaries and official third party price listings. If you are a vendor and don’t like the prices listed here then publicly publish your price list.

There are always two cost metrics I look at dollars per Gigabyte in raw capacity and dollars per Gigabyte in usable capacity. The first number is pretty straight forward. The second metric can get tricky in a hurry. On a disk based SAN that pretty much comes down to what RAID or protection scheme you use. Flash storage almost always introduces deduplication and compression which can muddy the waters a bit.

Fibre Channel/iSCSI vendor list

Nimbus Data

Appearing on the scene in 2006, they have two products currently on the market. the S-Class storage array and the E-Class storage array.

The S-Class seems to be their lower end entry but does come with an impressive software suite. It does provide 10GbE and Fibre Channel connectivity. Looking around at the cost for the S-Class I found a 2.5TB model for 25,000 dollars. That comes out to 9.7 dollars per Gigabyte in raw space. The S-Class is their super scaleable and totally redundant unit. I found a couple of quotes that put it in at 10.oo dollars a Gigabyte of raw storage. Already we have a contender!

Pure Storage

In 2009 Pure Storage started selling their flash only storage solutions. They include deduplication and compression in all their arrays and include that in the cost per Gigabyte. I personally find this a bit fishy since I always like to test with incompressible data as a worst case for any array. This would also drive up their cost. They claim between 5.00 and 10.00 dollars per usable Gigabyte and I haven’t found any solid source for public pricing on their array yet to dispute or confirm this number. They also have a generic “compare us” page on their website that at best is misleading and at worst plain lies. Since they don’t call out any specific vendor in their comparison page its hard to pin them for falsehoods but you can read between the lines.

Violin Memory

Violin Memory started in earnest around 2005 selling not just flash based but memory based arrays. Very quickly they transitioned to all flash arrays. They have two solutions on the market today. The 3000 series which allows some basic SAN style setups but also has direct attachments via external PCIe channels. It comes in at 10.50 dollars a Gigabyte raw and 12 dollars a Gigabyte usable. The 6000 series is their flagship product and the pricing reflects it. At 18.00 dollars per Gigabyte raw it is getting up there on the price scale. Again, not the cheapest but they are well established and have been used and are resold by HP.

Texas Memory Systems/IBM

If you haven’t heard, TMS was recently purchased by IBM. Based in Houston, TX I’ve always had a soft spot for them. They were also the first non-disk based storage solution I ever used. The first time I put a RamSan in and got 200,000 IO’s out of the little box I was sold. Of course it was only 64 Gigabytes of space and cost a small fortune. Today they have a solid flash based fibre attached and iSCSI attached lignup. I couldn’t find any pricing on the current flagship RamSan 820 but the 620 has been used in TPC benchmarks and is still in circulation. It is a heavy weight at 33.30 dollars a Gigabyte of raw storage.

Skyera

A new entrant into this space they are boasting some serious cost savings. They claim a 3.00 dollar per Gigabyte usable on their currently shipping product. The unit also includes options for deduplication and compression which can drive the cost down even further. It is also a half depth 1U solution with a built-in 10GbE switch. They are working on a fault tolerant unit due out second half of next year that will up the price a bit but add Fibre Channel connectivity. They have a solid pedigree as they are made up of the guys that brought the Sanforce controllers to market. They aren’t a proven company yet, and I haven’t seen a unit or been granted access to one ether. Still, I’d keep eye on them. At those price points and the crazy small footprint it may be worth taking a risk on them.

IBM

I’m putting the DS3524 on a separate entry to give you some contrast. This is a traditional SAN frame that has been populated with all SSD drives. With 112 200 GB drives and a total cost of 702908.00 it comes in at 31.00 a Gigabyte of raw storage. On the higher end but still in the price range I generally look to stay in.

SUN/Oracle

I couldn’t resist putting in a Sun F5100 in the mix. at 3,099,000.00 dollars it is the most expensive array I found listed. It has 38.4 Terabytes of raw capacity giving us a 80.00 dollars per Gigabyte price tag. Yikes!

Dell EqualLogic

When the 3Par deal fell apart Dell quickly gobbled up EqualLogic, a SAN manufacturer that focused on iSCSI solutions. This isn’t a flash array. I wanted to add it as contrast to the rest of the list. I found a 5.4 Terabyte array with a 7.00 dollar per Gigabyte raw storage price tag. Not horrible but still more expensive that some of our all flash solutions.

Fusion-io

What list would be complete without including the current king of the PCIe flash hill Fusion-io. I found a retail price listing for their 640 Gigabyte Duo card at 19,000 dollars giving us a 29.00 per usable Gigabyte. Looking at the next lowest card the 320 Gigabyte Duo at 7495.00 dollars ups the price to 32.20 per useable Gigabyte. They are wicked fast though :)

So Now What?

Armed with a bit of knowledge you can go forth and convince your boss and storage team that a SAN array fully based on flash is totally doable from a cost perspective. It may mean taking a bit of a risk but the rewards can be huge.