Seneca Operates At The Cutting Edge

Based in North Syracuse, N.Y., Seneca Data has grown from a small printer distributor, into a Value Added Reseller, custom system builder, and OEM. The company has been particularly aggressive over the past few months with leading-edge channel technologies, including delivery of systems based on Intel's modular server and plans to integrate the chipmaker's forthcoming Rich Creek 2 whitebook platform. They recently invited the Test Center into their warehouse, assembly and testing facility for a look around.

With systems built under the Nexlink brand, custom systems begin at the bin picking area of the 40,000 square foot manufacturing facility.

Using handheld scanners, workers follow a defined workflow to make sure that orders are assembled to the customer's requirements. This box of parts is destined to become part of the video surveillance system of a Las Vegas hotel.

Using what they call "Tact Time" assembly, Seneca Data breaks down the desktop manufacturing flow into two minute processes to keep the product moving. Workers are cross-trained for multiple stations and each one begins by double-checking the work done at the previous station. This ensures multiple quality controls along the entire assembly line.

Based on the work order that was scanned at the beginning of the process, an image is dynamically created with the required OS and drivers and copied to a restore partition on the hard drive. The computer is then loaded using this image to ensure that if the customer needs to restore the machine, the image will work. Because it is created dynamically, customer's can restore only the driver needed, the entire image, or any other file they choose. Additionally, Seneca Data's servers retain the build information for support purposes.

Servers are assembled in a separate area so they are not moved around more than necessary on the line.

The final product leaves the assembly area. Notice how some of the workstations have little silver tags on the lower right corner of their tops. These are custom asset tags for a university customer. This is another service Seneca Data offers, as well as a cross reference from the asset tag to the serial number and build specifications.

One of Seneca Data's popular offerings is what they call reduced packing. This is a bulk packaging option that reducing packaging and shipping costs by at least 50 percent. Customers also like the fact that this method takes up less storage space, creates less trash, and makes multiple systems easier to unpack and deploy to their users.

After the assembly area tour, we were shown the engineering lab. This is a high performance cluster server being tested for a top U.S. research university's astrophysics project studying black holes. This rack holds 24 terabytes of aggregated storage and 260G of memory.

An interesting facet of the lab is this thermal chamber for testing temperature and acoustic performance. If you look closely, thin wire attached to sensors can be seen entering the workstation at different entry points. Seneca Data's Mike Smith told us that a chamber of this sort is unusual "for a company of our size."

We briefly met with Seneca President Greg Masingill, who explained: "We're small enough to be flexible and big enough to be dangerous."