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It Really is Disruptive. That’s a Good Thing.

April 6, 2009
at 12:00 pm PST

imageDawn of the New Data Center’ launches this Thursday (April 9), as episode 43 for TechWiseTV and by all indications this looks to be our latest Data Center show. The timing of this show remains right on the mark I believe as many are apparently still struggling: You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it. (can you name the movie reference?).A Brief History of TimeAfter months of speculation the rumors were rampant as Cisco finally came out with the details on March 16 with the latest set of technologies to leverage the incredibly popular acronym ‘UC’ as the Cisco UCS was revealed to the world. The ‘Unfied Computing System’ successfully kicked off fresh rounds of idiocy as wanna be industry pundits continued to miss the point. Details continued to emerge as Intel finally announced their own worst kept secret and released the Nehalem ‘Microarchitecture’ (not to be confused with ‘marketecture’) on March 30. Now that these two dates have passed, one would think that the proverbial ‘reading of the manual’ would have occurred by now but alas it has not. And that’s ok…there is actually quite a bit to absorb.As we start this week, there is no question the landscape continues to morph. IBM is apparently dropping the pursuit of Sun and many are saying that Cisco could greatly benefit by going after them now so that we could immediately establish our legitimacy in this ‘server’ market. Now I am not privy to anything Cisco is doing behind the scenes but in my estimation, nothing could be dumber. People are still failing to realize that Cisco is not in a new market segment simply because we think it would be fun to play in… we are in it for my favorite reason of all -- its time for a change. We have better technology to offer and although the road will be long and tough our LACK of a legacy install base here is perhaps one of the most refreshing positions to be in. Cisco is an established player in many other markets and thus we are accustomed to fighting the twin battles of supporting a large customer base while at the same time trying to out innovate our competitors… but here we don’t have to and I personally LOVE that! I am sure there would be benefits to having access to Sun’s or someone else’s customers…there are certainly sharp people and engineers over there but from what I can see that would be a step in the wrong direction and certainly not play to the fact that we have just changed the entire game -- why invest in the old stuff? So what kind of things might be learned in this episode? Segment 1We cover the challenges inherent to the data center in segment 1 and how technology has converged over time to create these issues. We also debate the value of the term ‘Unified Computing’ and how well that defines the innovation being brought to market. Jimmy Ray highlights the things that jump out at him since we start the show with some bold promises: -- Managed by a single management platform. Up to 40 chassis with 8 blades each.- VN-Link technology provides for a per VM level granularity from a network perspective. Per VM policy application for security, QoS, etc.- Designed for maximum redundancy with complete and total blade failover- Compared to a traditional blade architecture we are down to 1/3 the infrastructure- Centralized uniform switching model: No local switch configuration per host for virtual servers.- I/O bay reduction- No switching or Management modules per chassisFor more reading on some of these, Jimmy Ray followed up with a good blog entry: ‘Project California, Unveiled’Segment 2David Lawler was one of the earliest employee’s from Nuova Systems (the company that brought much of the Nexus expertise back to Cisco) that joined this team prior to Cisco acquisition. Lawler’s server oriented background mirrored much of the diverse technology influences that made up the Nuova team. As Sr. Director of Product Definition and Strategy for Sun Microsystems’ Network Systems group Lawler drove the company’s volume systems strategy. Prior to that, Lawler was Sr. Director of Product Management at MFN/Above.Net and was responsible for their overall managed service offerings. Lawler earlier served as a marketing executive at Sun Microsystems where he created and owned Sun’s rack mount server product lines. His contributions helped define the rack mount server market and enabled Sun to command a leadership position in the Internet server market in the late 1990s.We leverage Lawler’s expertise to dive into the game changers here with regards to the fabric, the adapter, the massive memory achievements and the new way of approaching management from systems standpoint so that the inevitable growth and dynamics of the data center are not punished. Segment 3 -- Brian Schwarz is added to our UCS technical team to help us dive into the gear he brought on set allowing us to examine the airflow improvements (inherent benefit to the design), the fabric extender technology (see YouTube video below as well as a good blog entry from Colin McNamara), and the stateless design. Its so interesting how our brains want to think of these things as ‘switches’ or ‘servers’ so we can fit what we are seeing into a pre-defined category. This hopefully helps avoid that from happening. Segment 4We continue the fast paced discussions in our final segment and attempt to explain how the memory architecture, in conjunction with the new Intel technology, has put us several years ahead of any competitor. There is a lot to absorb. The list of additional resources to consider here are found below -- I know there are more. Please chime in with comments and links on stuff you have found helpful as well.More Good Stuff:Horses Mouth: http://www.cisco.com/go/datacenterWhy Now? These are big changes…times are tough right now and many are thinking that the benefits we speak of better far outweigh the fact that this is a sea change for many data centers. Omar Sultan interviewed Ed Groden, Product Manager for Intel’s Zeon 5500 and covered it quite well. How well do you understand Unified Fabric?Colin McNamara came out with a very nice technical run down of the whole UCS systemWe did a live TalkShoe on the subject with both Brian Schwarz and Colin McNamara last week.

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