What does Zynstra do?

Zynstra is a software company, transforming edge computing for retailers. With Zynstra, powerful automation capabilities centrally manage thousands of distributed sites at a fraction of the cost and enable retailers to launch new store services faster.

What makes it unique?

Zynstra’s Intelligent Infrastructure is designed and built from the ground up for the retail edge. It is optimized for the resource-constrained, hostile retail edge environment and is designed to easily scale and roll out thousands of standardized sites without IT bottlenecks. Zynstra is the only player in the industry with deep domain knowledge on operating the retail edge.

Why does it only exist now?

We have harnessed recent developments in hyperconvergence, virtualization and cloud management and developed them at edge scale for the first time, rather than scaling down datacenter technology.

What is Retail Edge?

In general terms, the edge refers to all compute activity that takes place outside the data center. In a retail context, these workloads typically take place in stores, branches, quick service restaurants, or other retail outlets.

Why is Retail Edge so important?

What it takes to win in retail is changing. In an era of new expectations of speed, unique consumer experiences and the importance of the omni-channel, winners must deliver a superior experience, more services and faster innovations at the retail edge. Today, retailers are confronted with a hostile and dynamic environment in their branches and stores, with ever increasing demand to roll out new customer experiences, while at the same time reducing costs and fighting off security threats.

How does your solution enable me to roll out new sites?

Our Intelligent Automation delivers the dynamic ability to quickly prototype and launch new innovative apps and services at the retail edge. It’s a case of build and test centrally, and then automatically deploy across the network of stores in one coordinated action.

What do you mean by edge-scale?

Edge scale means designed from the ground up for the environment that exists at the edge, rather than stretched datacenter technology. For the edge, technology must be designed for large scale deployment of 100s or 1000s of edge sites and optimized to deliver workloads with efficient small form-factor edge servers.

What do you mean by edge server?

For Zynstra, an edge server is a virtualized and hyperconverged server that sits outside of the datacenter, often in a store or branch. It provides compute, storage and network capability optimized for a hostile edge environment.

How do you improve the way Retail Edge is managed?

Continuous Intelligent Automation provides you with the capability to centrally manage the provisioning, patching and configuration of hundreds or thousands of retail edges, ensuring that edge solutions are always up to date and compliant without costly manual intervention at the edge.

What are the alternatives to your solution?

Up until now retailers have struggled to find edge IT infrastructure that enables the business to run the advanced branch applications they increasingly need, while making the IT infrastructure simpler and more affordable to manage. The options available have been limited to stretched datacenter solutions with inherent complexity and cost, continually upgrading legacy systems with massive resource and risk implications, or cloud only solutions which aren’t optimized for edge applications. Only Zynstra is reinventing edge infrastructure for retail.

How do you differ from datacenter solutions?

Retail edge solutions need to be designed for the edge, not the datacenter. Retail Edge IT requires totally different tools. These tools have to focus on the issues of effective management, control and updating in a distributed, often hostile, branch IT environment. And edge solutions must be able to operate efficiently in a distributed branch environment. This means they can’t require a dedicated climate controlled space, they can’t be power hungry, and they can’t demand the attention of on-site specialist IT expertise. For the edge, technology must be optimized for large scale deployment of edge sites with an Intelligent Automation process that drives operational efficiencies and enhanced security, not one-off datacenter implementations.

How can your solution assist in combating IT security threats, including ransomware attacks?

Security is not just implementing state of the art security applications, but about implementing and maintaining a secure IT infrastructure across distributed branches. Zynstra’s end to end branch architecture provides a hardened virtualized on-site platform with security built in from the ground up. Importantly, we deliver a trusted keep current process that can be relied upon time and again to maintain up to date, secure and compliant edge IT. And we provide on-site and cloud backup, and a layered file system where hourly snapshots of data are retained for a minimum of 30 days, enhancing the business continuity and disaster recovery plans that are essential to recover from ransomware attacks.

What is your Intelligent Control Plane?

The Intelligent Control Plane enables the provisioning, management, control and updating of hundreds or thousands of servers and server workloads across your complete retail estate. It simplifies and accelerates what would otherwise be complex IT tasks, while ensuring a consistent, secure IT environment in every store.

The Intelligent Control Plane makes sure that everything is running smoothly, and if you roll out a new site, it is delivered as it is supposed to be. It makes sure that all patches and updates are automatically applied and is continuously tested to ensure everything is running correctly.

How does it enable me to prototype and launch new applications and services?

A consistent IT environment across all retail sites makes it easy to roll out new applications and services. With a known server configuration, new services can be tested by the IT team once, before then delivering the ‘golden image’ to each edge server.

Compute resources at each retail site can be allocated according to need, either consistently across all edge servers or to meet differing resource requirements for each type of retail site.

What form factors does your solution come in?

Zynstra provides a broad range of form factors designed to meet the demands of most organizations. Unlike a datacenter approach that often requires a rack full of equipment Zynstra can deploy a resilient solution with just one or two edge servers, and no special requirements for network infrastructure, proof-of-work or cooling.

We have also partnered with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to deliver our solution on their ProLiant Easy Connect Managed Hybrid Solution, including HPE ProLiant Easy Connect EC200a, with its unique form factor enabling simple deployment for customers across multiple sites.

How does it self-heal?

The Intelligent Control Plane includes server and service health monitoring both from the cloud and running on each server locally. Hundreds of tests are run every few minutes to check that services are running as expected, and the state of every resource is monitored to identify potential problems,
In many cases, if a problem is identified, the server can take action to recover itself.

Individual infrastructure service VMs can be restarted automatically, and in the case of a High Availability cluster, infrastructure and custom application VMs can be restored to a second server if their host experiences a fault.

How easy is it to deploy?

A new retail site can be prepared in the cloud, in minutes. With physical installation and the automated installation process completing on site with minimal involvement.

Thanks to the Intelligent Control Plane, a server’s configuration can be prepared and validated before the it arrives on site. The Command Center guides the user to correctly complete the configuration process while significantly simplifying the effort to configure each secure, enterprise grade IT service.

Once the server is ready, on site, to be installed, checks are automatically made to check the readiness of the network and WAN connectivity, before the configuration is pulled from the Intelligent Control Plane and applied to the server.

From bare metal to IT infrastructure services being available, the installation takes approximately two hours and requires no further IT engineer tasks during this time. In fact the whole process can be monitored remotely, significantly reducing the time on-site.

What’s your relationship with HPE?

In April 2016 Zynstra unveiled a global agreement with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), under which HPE packages Zynstra virtualization and cloud management software as a key part of its new HPE ProLiant Easy Connect Managed Hybrid Solution, including HPE ProLiant Easy Connect EC200a, with its unique form factor enabling simple deployment for customers across multiple sites.

Zynstra and HPE have undertaken cooperative development of the Easy Connect Managed Hybrid Solution hardware and software to deliver a server designed from the ground up for the retail edge.

HPE sells the ProLiant Easy Connect Managed Hybrid Solution through its server channels, starting in North America and the UK.

What is the difference between Zynstra’s edge servers and a normal server?

Unlike a standard server Zynstra’s Intelligent Control Plane enables you to have an intelligent edge server. Our unique Intelligent Control Plane automates provisioning, patching and configuration of hundreds or thousands of retail edges.

Why is it better?

Heads of Infrastructure gain a much more efficient way to manage the retail edge infrastructure while reducing complexity. Zynstra’s intelligent infrastructure automates provisioning, patching and configuration of thousands of retail sites.

Customer Experience owners have the dynamic ability to quickly test new apps and services and act on insights from the prototypes Heads of Operations benefit from a lower cost structure and more reliable retail operations made possible through automation and the latest applications (eg. RFID) that drive operational efficiencies.

What are the alternatives when refreshing / upgrading my IT?

To date, the options that have been available to meet this challenge have been limited. Retailers have struggled to find edge IT infrastructure that enables the business to run the advanced branch applications they increasingly need, while making the IT infrastructure simpler and easier to manage. Force-fitting datacentre technology, continually upgrading legacy infrastructure or opting for a cloud only strategy all come with significant challenges including unnecessary complexity, management and security short comings, expensive local support requirements and an unsupportable burden on IT teams.

This is becoming ever more apparent with the increasing need to run new applications locally and in real time using local data.

Why can’t I build it myself?

Zynstra has invested more than 50 man-years of enterprise-grade software development and architectural skill into various iterations of our product. It is also tightly integrated with the HPE ProLiant server range. Every release includes investment in keep current, upgrade, security and compliance.

All these things mean the functionality, quality, security, automation, cost of ownership, maintenance and management and overall business value of the Zynstra solution is far superior to any in-house DIY solution could ever aspire to be.

How does it optimize IT team resource?

Most of the IT professionals we meet and talk to do not want to spend their time fire-fighting, patching, maintaining servers and dealing with upgrades. They want an efficient and reliable IT infrastructure that enables them to go and identify solutions and applications that make a difference to individual users across each department – so while your standard infrastructure ‘just works’ you can focus on adding value to the business.

Why do I still need on-site IT in this cloud world?

The economies of scale provided by cloud solutions are highly attractive but most companies want an element of IT on-site, normally in the shape of Active Directory, Networking, File & Print services, Security and Firewall – but with space for local applications and cloud applications like Office 365.

In branches and stores there are now applications that need to run at the edge to deliver business benefit. Real issues, including latency, performance, network availability and costs too often make the cloud the wrong tool for the job. And with additional new data-hungry and low latency application requirements arriving in the store, more applications will migrate to the edge.

How many virtual machines (VMs) can I run on the Zynstra solution?

All edge servers include approximately 12 VMs, depending on your exact requirements, to deliver core IT infrastructure services. Additional Windows and Linux VMs can be added at any time to deploy business applications. Typically retail edge solutions require 3-8 VMs, but servers can be configures for larger or smaller workloads.

What if I don’t have sufficient broadband connectivity to use cloud services?

Zynstra is designed to continue to deliver services even for sites that have limited or intermittent internet access. Cloud management of edge servers requires very little bandwidth and, in the event of connectivity being lost, the servers themselves remain fully functional.

Zynstra’s accredited partners can also advise on connectivity based on your upload/download requirements now and in the future.

Why is your security better than what I would normally buy?

Zynstra incorporates the network gateway anti-virus and firewall features you need. To improve security further still, each of our local IT infrastructure services are executed in their own standalone virtual machine (VM). These VMs are locked down so they only do the things they are supposed to, and each VM can only see the other VMs that they need to.

Our security software monitors the behaviour and integrity of the VMs in the local IT infrastructure. Each operating system and application image is compared frequently with a standard image on file (golden image), to prove they are correct and have not been substituted or hacked.

Any unusual behaviour is reported to our operations team who will immediately begin to diagnose the issue, work and release a resolution as required.

Zynstra goes way beyond standard Firewall and Anti-Virus solutions, providing a systematic approach to security including both a first and second line of defence.

What if I would like to keep my data on-site?

As the data owner or controller you decide what data resides where, depending on your business’ security and access requirements. With on-site or cloud backup options available you have the peace of mind that your data is kept safe and secure 24/7.

What is hyperconvergence and how have you implemented it?

Hyperconvergence is an infrastructure system with a software-centric architecture that tightly integrates compute, storage, networking and virtualization resources and other technologies from scratch in a commodity hardware box supported by a single vendor. It’s a way to enable cloudlike economics and scale without compromizing the performance, reliability, and availability you expect in your own datacenter or server. Hyperconvergence provides real benefits in terms of data efficiency, scalability, data protection, VM utilization, availability and cost efficiency.

Hyperconvergence enables Zynstra to combine the latest virtualization technology, found at the heart of some of the biggest cloud service providers today, and applies it to our on-premises Edge Servers. The server’s CPU, memory and storage are virtualized for easy allocation to each IT function. By using a common virtualization layer for all network functions, whether the customer is using a group file share or running Windows based applications, they benefit from the underlying hyperconverged platform that ensures enterprise-grade system performance and reliability. Zynstra takes hyperconvergence a step further by ensuring each IT function is integrated with the server’s network security and user authentication to ensure protection from both external and internal security risks.

What happens if my number of employees goes up?

Zynstra’s Edge Servers have the flexibility to scale with the needs of a growing organization. There are plenty of options available, so whether an additional or new edge server is required, we can cater for an increase in your staffing levels.

What are the service level agreements associated with the Zynstra solution?

Zynstra offers a 99.9% service availability on our High Availability solution. A single server has a 99.5% availability guarantee. We also offer 24/7 response to P1 critical issues.

Where can I buy Zynstra?

If you have an IT Partner that currently manages your IT they can purchase Zynstra through our distribution partners. Alternatively, we can refer you to a local Zynstra delivery partner.

How much does it cost?

It very much depends on what configuration you want and your size of business. We service branch offices of 5 to 250 employees and multi-site retail stores starting from convenience stores sizes right up to major supermarkets.

Why not go to our Get a Quote form, outline your requirements and we’ll be in touch. Remember, our solution is simple to install and maintenance free.

Virtualized POS

What is POS virtualization?

POS virtualization is moving the combination of a POS application and operating system that runs on dedicated hardware into a virtual machine on a shared infrastructure virtualized server. The POS operating system is often a flavor of Microsoft Windows.

Is virtualization a mature technology that can be trusted?

Virtualization has been in existence since its inception by IBM in the early 1970’s. Server virtualization on Intel x86 processors became widely available between 2001 and 2003 from a combination of VMware and the Xen project. Virtualization forms the basis of cloud computing (AWS, Azure and Google) and modern enterprise datacenters. It is also the technological basis of virtual desktops. POS is one of the last major enterprise applications that has not been widely virtualized.

Why should I virtualize my POS?

Virtualization of POS can deliver a range of business benefits including simplifying the store IT Bill Of Materials, increased POS performance, reduced IT support costs and enhance IT security.

What is a trigger for virtualizing POS?

Many retailers are facing an enforced POS terminal upgrade cycle due to Microsoft Windows End Of Life issues. POSReady 2009 has an EOL in September 2019 while the very popular POSReady7 has an end of life in December 2021. For many existing POS Terminals there is no supported upgrade path to Windows 10 IoT.

My POS runs on Microsoft Windows POSReady 2009 or Windows POSREeady7. What can I do?

One option is to upgrade POS terminal hardware to a version that is supported by Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. An even better alternative is to virtualize POS and any other in-store applications and preserve you existing investment until they come to a natural end of life.

My POS Terminals do not support running Windows 10 IoT. What are my options?

Virtualizing POS enables the investment in existing POS terminals because it is possible to run Windows 10 IoT in a modern virtualization environment extending the life of POS applications.

If I virtualize POS, what runs on the POS Terminal?

A small operating system based on a lightweight Linux kernel runs on the POS terminal. This contains two applications: one for enabling a remote desktop so that the user can interact with the virtualized POS application that now runs on the server; a second for securely forwarding peripherals from the POS terminal to the virtualized POS.

Can I integrate the myriad of peripherals connected to my POS terminals with a Virtualized POS?

The simple answer is yes. It is possible to integrate a wide range of USB, serial and GPIO peripherals including Balance, Barcode Scanner, Bluetooth Printer, Camera, Cash Drawer, Check Reader, Coin Dispenser, Coupon Detector, Magnetic Stripe Reader (MSR), Note Acceptor, Note Dispenser, Serial Printer. Other peripherals not mentioned are also possible.

Isn’t it too risky to I put all my POS eggs into the virtualization basket?

Zynstra’s virtualization supports an efficient two node high availability cluster. It runs active-active so that workloads can be balanced across nodes so that in the event of one part of the cluster becoming unavailable, half of the workloads are unaffected with the remaining restarting automatically on the working server.

Wouldn’t it be better to migrate POS to the cloud?

Most retailers are not comfortable to directly depend on the availability and performance of a Wide Area Network (WAN) to take payment from customers. This is one of the reasons why most POS applications are still resident in-store.

Mobile POS Tablets

Why is it so difficult to run POS on a tablet?

Technically, it is not difficult to run a Windows application like a POS on a tablet with an Intel or AMD processor. However, it is very difficult to convince a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) that POS software running on a portable device connected over Wi-Fi is secure and compliant with PCI-DSS v3.2.

How does Virtual POS help with Mobile POS on a Tablet?

With virtual POS, it is possible to deploy a POS application within an in-store server that is physically secure and is connected to the local payment LAN in a manner that is PCI-DSS compliant. To enable mobile POS on a tablet, it is only necessary to put a remote desktop on the tablet and enable secure (TLS) access to the POS application on the payment LAN. If a tablet hosts peripherals, it is necessary to have a secure peripheral forwarding application on the tablet too.

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