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Cisco UCS M4 Compute Platforms: Performance That Matters

Part of last week’s UCS Grand Slam launch event last week in NYC was the announcement of three new compute platforms – Cisco UCS C220 M4, C240 M4, and B200 M4.  Today, Intel announced the new Intel Xeon E5 v3 family of CPUs that will power these new UCS platforms.  Hopefully, this week, now that the confetti has settled from our brand new groundbreaking products like the M-Series with System Link Technology, UCS Mini with the new UCS 6324 Fabric Interconnect, and the capacity-optimized C3160 Rack Server, we can highlight some updates to our core compute platforms.

Its easy to get caught up in the new platforms, they are the new vehicles to bring the benefits of UCS to new markets and at a scale that was previously impractical.  But it’s important to remember that the UCS two-socket blade and rack servers were the original foundational platforms to bring the benefits of UCS to the datacenter.  In fact, the predecessor’s to these products propelled UCS to some amazing accomplishments.


So, let’s pull back the covers a bit more on these very capable foundational compute platforms that make up many of the building blocks for the enterprise datacenter.

First, when we began to design the latest version of each product, we set out to follow a few simple rules.  Principle of these was to understand what makes them so popular and enhance those elements.’  For example, the B200 M3 is the best-selling server blade in the product line mainly due to its amazing versatility and uncompromised feature-set, all while maintaining a half-width form factor.  Well, the UCS B200 M4 Blade Server is more of the same and then some.  It still delivers uncompromised features like the highest speed, core count and TDP CPUs, maximum memory with 24 DIMM sockets and industry-leading I/O with support for both 2nd and 3rd generation Cisco Virtual Interface Cards (VIC) at up to 80Gb/s of bandwidth per blade.  And, all of that can be done simultaneously, no compromise.

UCS B200 M4 Blade Server

UCS B200 M4 Blade Server

That was easy enough to deliver, but in order to enhance this platform, we looked at the use cases that it served and found the flexibility was the next pivot point for the B200 M4.  The addition of Cisco Flexible Storage to the B200 M4 means that now, customers can truly scale the storage subsystem to match their needs.  Today many UCS customers take full advantage of the true stateless computing and do not use local storage on the blade.  For those use cases, it may be appropriate to have no local disk, no local RAID controller and even no local disk bays.  Why pay for, power and cool what you do not use?  For still other applications, not only is local storage critical, but high performance SSD with an equally-high performing RAID controller with flash-backed write cache is needed.   This is where the Flexible storage subsystem shines.  Either extreme, and the points in between are covers and no compromises made elsewhere.

Another tenet of our design philosophy was to focus innovation where the use cases could take advantage of it.  Take the UCS C240 M4 Rack Server for example, its M3 predecessor has found a home in many enterprise workloads, but it main differentiation is its optimization around local storage and I/O.  To that end, the C240 M4 has enhanced storage flexibility features that include a modular RAID Controller with optional Flash-backed write cache, options for up to 24 SFF or 12 LFF front-accessible hot plug HDD / SSD, two additional SFF internal boot drives, and even support for two 2.5” PCIe flash devices in the front drive bays.

UCS C220 M4 Rack Server

UCS C240 M4 Rack Server

The I/0 capabilities are also significantly improved with up to six PCIe slots that can house up to two NVidia Kepler GPUs.  We also added an mLOM. This slot that is optimized for VIC or 3rd party network cards add to the embedded GbE NIC ports without using one of the six PCIe slots.  The C240 M4 is the ideal platform for I/O and storage intensive enterprise bare metal and virtualized workloads.

The new UCS C220 M4 Rack Server shares a similar compute engine with the ability to also support up to 18 cores per socket and 1.5TB of memory, but it offers an optimization around density without compromising the enterprise performance and feature-set.  So you get the same enterprise class power and versatility in a compact footprint.

UCS C220 M4 Rack Server

UCS C220 M4 Rack Server

These new platforms have already begun leaving their mark with four new world record benchmarks that are targeted toward showing real benefit when deploying workloads that bring tangible value to our customers on platforms that customers demand.  This is how UCS Servers deliver performance that matters.

Look for more information on UCS innovation in this space in the future.

Scaling Application Security with ITD

Ready to scale your enterprise beyond limits?  How about slashing a whole layer of datacenter infrastructure, saving piles of cash in the process?  Or perhaps you’re interested in simplifying your enterprise while adding features, or trying to speed things up without spending money.  Sound too good to be true?  Well, thanks to a new technology from Cisco, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Cisco Intelligent Traffic Director (ITD) is poised to disrupt data center load balancing. Combined with best-in-class products, such as Imperva SecureSphere, organizations can deploy and manage massively scalable applications securely with unprecedented ease and cost effectiveness.

What is ITD?

Cisco recently released a new feature, Intelligent Traffic Director (ITD) for the Nexus 7k switches that promises to be a disrupting force in the world of load balancing.  There has been an exponential growth in data traffic in the recent years leading to a growth in the deployment of network service appliances in enterprise, datacenter and cloud environments. To address the corresponding business needs, network switch and router architecture has evolved to support multi-terabit capacity. However, service appliance capacity remained limited to few gigabits, an order of magnitude far below switch capacity.

Cisco Intelligent Traffic Director (ITD) is an innovative solution that tries to bridge performance gap between the switch and service appliance(s). It allows customers to deploy service appliance(s) from any vendor with no network or topology changes. With a few simple configuration steps on a Cisco Nexus 7000 / 7700 series switch, customers can create a service appliance cluster and deploy multiple appliance(s) to scale service capacity with ease. The servers or appliance(s) do not have to be directly connected to the Nexus switch.

Application Security
Gartner published a paper called Web Application Firewalls are Worth the Investment for Enterprises in Feb, 2014 that makes the case that “Firewalls and intrusion prevention systems don’t provide sufficient protections for most public-facing websites or internal business-critical and custom Web applications.” Gartner advises enterprises to use a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to protect critical external and internal applications from attacks and threats.

Like other service appliances, a WAF appliance benefits from ITD’s ability to manage large scale traffic loads. Imperva SecureSphere WAF works with ITD, and the combination provides highly scalable application security.

I mention SecureSphere because Imperva was positioned as the only Leader in the Gartner 2014 Magic Quadrant for Web Application Firewalls. Some key capabilities of the SecureSphere WAF are:

  • Block attacks with laser precision
    Accuracy is critical with application security. If you have false positives, you block customers; if you have false negatives, you let the bad guys in.
  • World-renowned application security research
    Security is constantly evolving. To get ahead and stay ahead in the continuous fight against threats, Imperva has a dedicated security research team, the Application Defense Center (ADC), which provides regular signature and policy updates, and up-to-date threat intelligence for Imperva SecureSphere.
  • Shut down malicious sources and bots
    Imperva’s ThreatRadar Reputation Services help detect bad actors using IP reputation feeds of known malicious sources, anonymizing services, phishing URLs, TOR (“The Onion Router”), as well as IP geolocation data.
  • Stop application DDOS and business logic attacks
    Business logic attacks include things like posting comment spam in forums and message boards, scraping web content, and disabling access to your website. All of this can reduce competitive edge, frustrate customers, and damage reputation.
  • Instantly patch website vulnerabilities
    It takes organizations an average of 6 months to patch an application vulnerability once it’s discovered. SecureSphere integrates with vulnerability scanners to virtually patch applications. This allows businesses to stay protected, and fix the vulnerability on their own timeline, thus reducing the window of exposure and the associated costs.
  • Gain forensics insights with customizable reports
    Graphical reports enable organizations to quickly analyze security threats and meet compliance requirements.
  • Speed up deployment without risk
    SecureSphere protects applications without impacting performance and without requiring extensive network changes. It offers flexible inline, non-inline, and proxy deployment options that meet organizations’ diverse requirements. SecureSphere’s Fail-Open capabilities combined with unique, transparent bridge mode saves time and labor with drop-in deployment that requires no changes to existing applications or network devices, and delivers multi-Gigabit throughput while maintaining sub-millisecond latency.

Scaling Application Security

Using ITD in VIP Mode to load balance provides a fast and economical way for organizations to provide highly scalable and available infrastructure.  By leveraging ITD, an enterprise can deploy a single IP address (the VIP), which is then load balanced across many SecureSphere WAFs, with each one protecting the back-end webservers. This is done right from the 7K – There’s no need for an external load balancer in the middle.

Why is this better than other Load Balancers?

By combining Cisco ITD and SecureSphere’s advanced capabilities to monitor and secure HTTP traffic, several key advantages are apparent:

  • Eliminates the need for external load balancers, freeing up large amounts of budget and resources
  • You get the advantages of a proxy-type load balancer (1 single VIP represents many webservers), but still get ‘fail-open’ bridges on WAFs
  • ITD proxies traffic without interfering with the TCP Source IP Address , allowing SecureSphere to leverage the source IP, User and Session details for blocking and alerting.
  • To work with SecureSphere, ITD requires no modification to HTTP Headers (e.g., X-Forwarded-For), which can break applications and slow down traffic

What does this mean for the future of high performance WAF deployments?

By teaming up the Cisco Nexus 7K with SecureSphere WAFs, organizations can cost effectively deploy scalable, high-availability  WAF farms to handle large amounts of traffic to webservers.  As the web traffic increases, WAFs can be seamlessly added to the pool to scale up with the enterprise. Since every port on the 7K can be used as a load balancer this provides the potential to scale up to multi-terabits of throughput to a SecureSphere WAF cluster.

In conclusion, ITD and SecureSphere provides simple, cheap, fast, scalable, and reliable security infrastructure. Sort of like having your cake, with icing, and cherries on top – and eating it, too.

Feedback or Query: For feedback, query or EFT/PoC/demo please email:

ITD White paper:  At a glance

Configuration Guide: Config guide


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Two #IoTChat events this Wednesday Sep 10!

IoTChat Sep 10 with IBMIn the same way that the number of devices connected to the internet is increasing with Internet of Things, the discussions of IoT are likewise proliferating! 

This week, there are two #IoTChats!  On our weekly #IoTChat (Wednesdays 11am PT / 2pm ET) we’ll be joined by Internet of Things World Forum Platinum Sponsor IBM for a discussion of how data storage and management are changing with #IoT.

Cisco has a solution we call ‘data in Motion” which is basically a way to describe the devices coming online that are fast-moving.  If you think about it, the data created by a fast-moving device has a few hurdles to overcome.  There may be a lot of data created that may not all be relevant to transmit.  Also, for fast-moving devices, the data created often has a very short useful lifespan. So you need to have a good way to analyze that data and determine what should be transmitted, what should be kept, and what discarded. I think it’ll be a fun hour of discussion with your weekly host @Cisco_IoT and special co-host @IBM_Informix!

Tweetchat-September-(IoT)LATESTAlso, earlier in the day, @IBM_Informix is holding a special edition of #IoTChat, “How Data Will Power the Internet of Things” with Gary Barnett (@thinkovation), chief analyst at Ovum.  you can read all about it in their blog post on the chat.

Hope to see you at one or both of these fantastic events!

Want more details on participating in an #IoTChat?  Read on! Read More »

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Multi-Device Data Plans: A Distinction without a Difference?

In this continuing series about Mobile Services Monetization, let’s look at so-called Multi-Device Data Plans. Spurred by the adoption of the Apple iPad and Android tablets, many operators have introduced mobile data plans that encourage users to connect these devices to 3G and LTE networks, rather then relying solely on Wi-Fi. These Multi-Device Data plans offer subscribers the ability to have a single contract that allows use of more than one device against a single monthly data usage quota. This provides users convenience, value, and incentives to buy cellular-enabled tablets and other “secondary devices”. Further, these Multi-Device Data Plan have driven higher data use and pushed users to increase to higher-tiered data quotas, according to some operators.


Trying to stand out among U.S. operators, T-Mobile recently announced that for a fee of $10/month, it will allow subscribers to add a tablet to an existing smartphone subscription *and* get a tablet data quota equal to the quota they have signed up for with their smartphone. So for only $10, this Read More »

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What Mobile Cloud Means for Service Providers and Enterprises

In an increasingly digital, mobile and connected world, organizations need new ways to maintain real-time contact with their employees, customers and partners. And mobile cloud will be a major force enabling these ubiquitous connections and reshaping the business landscape. The first post in this series, by Padmasree Warrior, explores how the convergence of mobility and cloud will deliver unprecedented transformation for all organizations. In the second post, Sujai Hajela answers the question, “What exactly is mobile cloud?” In this post, Joe Cozzolino looks at what mobile cloud means for service providers and enterprises.

Be sure to listen to a new Future of Mobility podcast featuring Cisco’s Joe Cozzolino and Sujai Hajela about the power of mobile cloud. Download or listen via iTunes.

The value of mobile cloud is embodied in our 21st century nomadic, hyper-mobile lives. We no longer think in terms of boundaries – between home and office, between laptop, smart phone and an ever-expanding array of devices. We have no patience for latency. Our offices are wherever we are at the moment we need to connect with a colleague or customer, and the device we use is whatever is at hand. Making that happen is no mean feat for mobile service providers.

Imagine having the power of your office in the palm of your hand no matter where you are. Your business applications, your files, directories and chat logs. Everything when you need it, where you need it. It won’t matter what device you’re using or what type of network you’re on. You will move seamlessly from 3G to 4G to WiFi.

Mobile Cloud #4 image

So there you are at the airport, waiting for your flight and you get a call from an important customer. She wants to review the past month’s reports with you, share a file and bring in some colleagues via TelePresence. It has to be now, it has to be secure – and you have to board your plane.

Read More »

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