Third-Party Hardware

Introduction

This information is intended to assist Userful customers in selecting hardware under circumstances where purchasing Userful hardware is not conducive to the terms of a deal.

This guide covers different possible system architectures, recommended best practices, and frequently asked questions when selecting third-party hardware on which to run Userful On-Premise.

Summary

Userful On-Premise is at its core a complete Linux-based Operating System derived from Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 7. The system kernel and drivers are not significantly altered, with the exception of extra drivers included for Blackmagic capture cards, NVIDIA GPUs, and some types of network interfaces.

With this in mind, it is possible to install Userful on any system certified for RHEL 7. However there are a number of considerations that must be taken into account when selecting a system configuration for a production Userful system.

It is crucial that any system designs that are not sold directly from Userful are vetted ahead of time by a Userful Sales Engineer.

When selecting an architecture for a system not purchased from Userful, it is always advisable to ensure that vendor support will be available through your own channels.

Server Hardware Selection

Userful is certified for x86-64 Intel-based systems. These fall into two primary categories:

Workstation-class towers (HP Z series, Lenovo P series, Dell Precision series) represent a mixture of flexibility and adaptability, both for internal configuration for GPU and HDMI capture options and mounting capabilities.Some vendors build rackmount-server variations of their Workstation line, these have been tested and work with Userful as well.

Rackmount server systems (HP ProLiant, Lenovo ThinkSystem, Dell PowerEdge) are tested by Userful. It is recommended that vendor support be available throughout the deployment cycle of the system to assist in resolving any hardware or configuration issues.

Userful configures and sells three tiers of systems for different price points and capabilities. This chart lists the system specifications for different tiers of Userful-sold systems, as a benchmark.

System capabilities are highly variable across tiers, and decisions on specifications should always be made in consultation with a Userful Sales Engineer. However there are some rough guidance rules to follow:

  • Standard servers represent minimum functional specifications for Userful, and are suited to working with smaller deployments of up to 6-10 displays.

  • Professional+ Servers have upgraded video rendering and capture capabilities versus Standard servers, and are suited to systems with larger numbers of displays, while managing a larger number of video feeds (HDMI capture, Signage Player).

  • Enterprise Servers upgrade the storage, processing, and memory capabilities of a Professional+ server and can better manage many application sources (Web browsers, remote desktop applications).

Compatibility

In addition to selecting powerful enough components, it’s crucial to select systems with chipsets compatible with Userful.

Though much that is commercially available does advertise RHEL compatibility, the latest Userful release may be up to 4-6 months behind the latest available RHEL hardware enablement updates. This could result in the purchase of a system with non-functional network adapters or other components that can generate errors and cause system instability and failures. It’s highly recommended to have initial system specifications reviewed by a Userful Sales Engineer prior to purchase.

Add-On Hardware: GPUs

Userful leverages the NVIDIA CUDA compute platform as a core component of the system architecture. NVIDIA Quadro GPUs are used to decode and encode video media, and perform transformation operations that allow calibration of video walls using any type or shape of display, and create real-time video streams to clients. They can also be selectively utilized to 3D-accelerate certain types of application source sessions such as WebGL.

It also means that the NVIDIA Quadro GPU is an incredibly important part of the Userful solution, and it is always worth the expense to purchase the best possible GPU for the task at hand.

See our Server Comparison Chart for a listing of which GPU we recommend for each type of Server.

Add-On Hardware: HDMI Capture

Userful includes drivers and certifications to work with a select set of Blackmagic video capture cards. While we include the commercially-available Blackmagic driver which is compatible with their entire lineup of Decklink capture cards, only certain cards are certified to work with Userful.

DeckLink Model

PCIe Generation

PCIe Slot Required

Connection Type

Max Resolution

Mini Recorder 4K

2

x4

HDMI or SDI

4K60

Duo 2

2

x4

SDI (x4)

1080p60

Quad 2

2

x8

SDI DIN (x8)

1080p60

Quad HDMI

3

x8

HDMI

4K60

It is important to note that while you can easily install multiple 4- or 8-port capture cards in a system, you are limited to actively playing 24x 1080p60 or 4x 4K streams at once, and this capability requires a special server.

Though only limited testing has been done, Userful does support the use of driverless capture devices that advertise v4l (Video 4 Linux) compatibility. They can be configured by selecting the “Video Capture” source in Userful Manager.

It is not recommended to select video capture devices that require proprietary drivers available for download from the vendors site to work, as these can be unreliable and there is no guarantee of ongoing support.

Add-On Hardware: Networking

Userful Pro+ and Enterprise systems typically ship with 10Gb network interfaces added, to address more than 12 displays at a time. If the system you are selecting does not come with an integrated 10Gb networking solution (any of which should be supported by the default Userful Linux kernel) then you must ensure that any components you are selecting advertise themselves as either RHEL certified or compatible with Linux kernel 4.0 or older.

Add-on USB network interfaces are not recommended. Wireless network adapters for communicating with zero clients or uClients are not supported.

It is not recommended to select network adapters that require proprietary drivers available for download from the vendors site to work, as these can be unreliable and there is no guarantee of ongoing support.

Support Policy

Userful maintains a tiered policy of support for production hardware.

Hardware Support Tier

Support

Userful Purchased

Full

Userful Certified

Full

Userful Reviewed

No hardware support

Limited software support

Non-Approved

None

Userful Purchased hardware comes with full support and expectation of complete functionality.

Userful Certified hardware is hardware that is identical or nearly identical to Userful-purchased hardware, but is sourced externally and configured by the partner or end customer. System specifications should be shared with Userful and vetted by a Userful Sales Engineer prior to purchase. There is a small risk of issues with installation or BIOS incompatibility that all parties must be aware of and budget time for during setup.

Userful Reviewed systems represent configurations that have not been directly tested by userful, but are approved after specifications are reviewed by Userful.

In order to receive support, systems must pass all of the following criteria:

  1. Detailed and complete system specifications are shared with and approved by a Userful SEs.

  2. Vendor or OEM support must be purchased by the partner or customer.

  3. If Userful is unable to reproduce any issues encountered by testing internally on certified hardware, support for the issue in question will end.

  4. In the event of repeated occurrences of #3, Userful reserves the right to terminate support for the system in favor of replacement with a Certified system.

  5. The Partner understands that any assistance installing the software or navigating the BIOS/EFI in order to install the software are not supported by Userful beyond generic guidelines.

Non-Approved systems are not subject to support, nor should they be expected to work properly. Userful is under no obligation whatsoever to provide support for any hardware configuration that does not conform to the above conditions.

Client Selection

Userful has certified a growing list of devices that can serve as clients for On-Premise deployments. Broadly, they fall into two categories:

Zero Clients are lightweight, inexpensive devices that can connect to any display via HDMI. Zero Clients are generally only available directly through Userful as they use a proprietary ASIC architecture that is not widely available.

uClients are commercial platforms that are compatible with Userful’s uClient software application. Examples of this include LG WebOS 4.0, Android, and Samsung SSSP 6+. With the exception of Userful’s own Android devices, uClient platforms can be sourced through standard channels.

Choosing the right Client

There are a number of factors to consider when selecting which endpoint you can use. Below is an overview of some major points of each platform.

Userful Zero Client

Userful Android with uClient

uClient Commercial Platform

Operating System

None

Android 7.1/10

Varies

Max Resolution

1080p @ 60FPS

4k @ 60FPS

Per Device (up to 4K @ 60FPS)

Streaming Protocol

JPEG

RTSP

RTSP

Bandwidth Used /device

~100Mbps

Varies (6-40Mbps)

Varies (6-40Mbps)

Max Latency Tolerance

0.5ms

n/a

n/a

Power over Ethernet

Available solutions

No

n/a

Cross Subnet Capability

No

Yes

Yes

Distance from server

Same Premises

Anywhere

Anywhere

Cloud deployments

No

Yes

Yes

Purchasing and Support

Userful

Userful

OEM

Along with the above points, there are some advantages each platform gives you:

Userful Zero Clients have no software, and on their own are effectively impossible to compromise as they store no information locally. This makes them popular in secure environments.

Userful-supplied devices will work with almost any type of display available, including odd aspect ratios and resolutions. They are popular for connecting to existing displays and systems with non-standard resolutions or aspect ratios, such as DV-LED deployments.

uClient devices from LG or Samsung require no extra hardware installed at the panel, only network runs and a software app installed. This simplifies physical installation.

With each options advantages, there are other common factors that should be considered:

Userful Zero Clients have limited maximum resolution, and cannot be installed outside the same physical premises (building or small campus) as their host server.

uClient Devices are smart devices with functional operating systems, which may need to be considered for the environment they are to be installed in.

Software Installation

Userful is a complete RHEL-based operating system. Like most Linux distributions, it can easily be downloaded from our website (userful.com/download) and installed to the server using industry tools such as iDRAC or by creating a bootable USB device (we recommend rufus.ie) or DVD.

Userful supports both legacy BIOS and EFI systems, and Legacy or EFI boot options.

Drive encryption can also be specified at installation - though this has not been extensively tested, and carries the standard I/O performance hit.

Userful does not support Secure Boot. The installation will proceed normally, however the OS will not complete its first boot. To get around this, Secure Boot options must be disabled in the BIOS/EFI of the system prior to installation.

Setup Display

Userful servers are managed via web interface, either through the local network or over the Internet via Userful Manager. However after installation and initial boot, some settings must be configured locally before network administration can be accomplished.

Setting these values will require one of two setups:

1: If the local network has DHCP enabled, a basic display connected to one of the video-out ports on the server will be necessary to view the acquired IP. That IP can then be connected via Web browser and used to manage the system.

2: If the local network does not have DHCP enabled, and a static IP address must be set, then you will need to connect a USB keyboard and mouse to the system, along with a display.

3: If none of the above options are present, then you will need to acquire the MAC address of the connected network adapter and create a manual DHCP reservation on your network.

Either connecting via the network or the onboard display should bring you to the Initial Setup screen, where user credentials and network settings can be set.

Once these steps are completed and you have access to Userful via a web browser, the peripherals and monitor can be disconnected.

For a complete guide on setting up On-Premise servers and clients, go to userful.com/support, or contact your Userful Account Manager for the relevant Setup Guide, if you have not already received one.

Conclusion and Contact

Userful is a powerful, flexible, and versatile platform. While planning a deployment, please take advantage of our experience by contacting a Userful Representative and Sales Engineer to ensure your deployment goes as smoothly as possible. We are always available and ready to help!

FAQs

Can I use AMD CPUs?

The most crucial element is the chipset. If the system you are installing Userful on is certified compatible with RHEL, then it should be fine. Note that we have not tested video-out capabilities with AMD APUs, and using AMD APUs or GPUs as accelerator cards is not possible. However we do have a certified AMD system that works for scenarios that require 16-24 ports of capture.

I just bought this MSI/Alienware/Cyberpower PC - it’s got an i7 and a 2080 and…

If the system you have selected does not advertise support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, we provide no guarantees of functionality or support for your configuration.

Can I virtualize Userful?

Please speak to a Userful Account Manager or Userful Sales Engineer.

Can I install Userful on a RHEL-certified laptop for use as a mobile server?

Userful does not include some packages that make it suitable for use as a mobile workstation by default - you will find some elements missing such as wireless network management, and we do not extensively test power management functions. This configuration is not supported by Userful.

Should / Do I need a dual-CPU system? When should I upgrade CPU or RAM?

Userful has been certified on dual-CPU systems. If you are installing Userful on a system capable of running dual CPUs, keep in mind that both CPU sockets must be occupied in order to be able to access all of the RAM and PCIe slots.

Enhanced CPU or RAM is useful if Userful is going to be tasked to create many (50+) interactive sources, such as web browsers or remote desktop clients. CPU and RAM will not affect the total number of displays or video sources that can be run at a time however.

Can I use a less-expensive GPU such as a GTX 1650 or RTX 3080?

Non-Quadro GPUs are not supported for uClient endpoints.

Can I use a high-end GPU such as a TITAN RTX?

These are not typically certified by Userful but they should work. However it is very rare to encounter a use case where the extra expense of this card will be beneficial over a Quadro RTX 6000.

Can I use more than one GPU?

Systems that support the installation of dual GPUs are supported by Userful. However at time of this writing (Q3 2020), only one GPU at a time can be utilized by Userful.

Can I use NVIDIA Tesla or other specialty GPUs?

These are not supported at this time, though testing is underway.