If you are a software-centric company, CCI can offer hardware engineering resources to help you get a cost-optimized, better-performing product into your customers’ hands faster. Both reliability and speed-to-market are key factors for success in delivering a total solution—let CCI’s added services sharpen your competitive edge with efficient and effective quality assurance processes that include:
CCI offers deep expertise to help you select the best hardware/platform for your product. We can help you determine which vendor meets your needs the best, as well as which componentry will help your software achieve its best performance and feature functionality. Most importantly, we do this with a keen eye for cost optimization. By determining your unique needs, such as whether your product is CPU-intensive or memory-intensive, we can propose alternative configurations that hit benchmarks while saving money. We also manage regulatory compliance for all the hardware components used in your solution.
Not only will CCI help you select the right components and test the resulting platform with your software during the initial engineering stage, we are there over the long run to help with life cycle management. Our customers like to keep the same platforms for as long as possible, but when it’s time to make changes, we want to make sure they’re ready. CCI will qualify new components such as upgraded disk drives and network cards, as well as BIOS and firmware changes, to ensure your software solution remains reliable no matter how the hardware evolves.
System Test and Validation
In addition to defining and selecting a platform, CCI can also help by taking your actual code, putting it on the platform and running tests on it. While many integrators approach this type of customer application platform validation as an outsourcing task, we strive to be an extension of a customer’s team. Consider us part of your manufacturing department—we’re not down the hall, but we’re just a phone call away.
With comparative testing of component options, we can prove out the theoretical to validate and confirm any choices made to lower costs. CCI also provides regression testing against old platforms and can use these techniques to quickly discover problems with new firmware or hardware so that any conflicts that arise cause little to no delay in shipping.
A final part of the validation process is package design and drop testing. In many cases, we have come up with new packaging designs for customers to ensure that their solutions get to their end users in perfect working condition. In addition, CCI can manage every aspect of the regulatory process or regulatory testing.
Performance testing offers a variety of important benefits. Application workload testing can reveal how your product performs under real-world conditions; for example, CCI can set up a virtual environment with multiple clients hitting a storage array or working against a network security product. This testing can also provide value for marketing teams who need hard data to demonstrate how their product stacks up against competitors.
IOPS are performance input/output testing that can apply to several different platforms, while throughput testing is usually oriented towards network storage situations. Another growing area of testing is rebuild time. As drives have gotten bigger, rebuild times have gotten longer— and having a drive fail while you’re rebuilding can be very problematic. CCI customers can have us test how long it will take to get a system up and running again after an end user swaps out a drive.
One additional area of performance testing that CCI provides centers around end-user experience. Our customers send their product to us, then have us pretend to be an end user and go through the deployment process. We give them the real-world feedback of a generalist technical person working on the product to help them read out issues they’re having or things that they need to work on—avoiding negative experiences for their actual customers.
Build and Deployment Automation
With many customers, the way we build the product in-house also helps their service people if they ever have to fix a product in the field or re-image things. PXE is a tool we use to automate the build process; it takes over the hardware validation, as well as updating BIOS and firmware. CCI can also handle all aspects of image management, from image creation in any format to taking care of revisions.
CCI also offers a custom remote access option, SecureLink, for loading sensitive or secure IP. If you have any IP that you don’t want our personnel to handle, we can give you access to a VPN tunnel directly to the production target.
Finally, CCI offers turnkey deployment of fully integrated racks. Rather than send components individually, we pre-rack the servers, storage and switches— getting everything running as a system. Then we load VMware on it, configure it to your specifications and give you remote access to set site-specific IP addresses and load site-specific code before shipping. This extra integration and turnkey deployment work by CCI actually cuts down on your costs. Instead of sending an engineer out to the site to deploy the system and get it running, you can tap someone at the data center to simply roll the equipment into place, plug it in, assign that IP address and turn over remote control.
For all testing and validation processes, CCI’s engineering team uses best-in-class tools. For benchmark throughput and response time we use SFS 2014, while Passmark is utilized for benchmarking system and CPU performance as well as burn in and test. For the IO subsystem and network benchmarking, our engineers use Iometer, and to perform system benchmarking by simulating database load, we use SysBench.