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Keeping It Simple While Keeping It Fresh

When you read the headline, you may think this blog is about a new restaurant or cuisine, but this post is about UCS management. The description may not sound like it has much to do with software, but stay with me. One of the challenges you encounter when you have nearly 50,000 customers and hundreds of thousands of end users that use your software every day to manage millions of systems is providing significant enhancements (keeping it fresh) while still making it easy to use (keeping it simple). This is the challenge we faced when we made the latest upgrades to UCS management.

Here’s an example. In the new release of UCS Manager, version 3.1, we have added a new HTML 5 user interface (UI) to keep it fresh. Our customers have been using the Java UI in UCS Manager for years, so we had to make sure it was simple for them to transition. Our developers replicated the screens in HTML 5, so there is virtually no difference from the same screens in the Java UI. The layout, colors, icons and text are almost identical between the Java and HTML5 UI to provide a seamless user transition.

(There’s an example of the new HTML 5 UI in the screen captures below.) The new release supports both the HTML 5 and Java UI, so customers can transition in a way that works best for them without the hassle of having to learn new screens or modifying any of their processes.

Example of the new HTML 5 UI in UCS Manager

UCS Manager Screenshots 2

There are many new enhancements in the latest updates to UCS management.

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Enabling DevOps to Succeed: Go Beyond APIs

lori-short-2012Bio: Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire software suite with an emphasis on F5 Synthesis and LineRate. She currently focuses on cloud computing, infrastructure, devops, data center architecture, and security-related topics. Lori has extensive development and technical architecture experience in both high-tech and enterprise organizations, in addition to network and systems administration expertise. Lori authored this Blog.

 

One of the most frustrating experiences a developer can have is when a deployment into production goes wrong. It doesn’t matter how much you test yourself or in QA, invariably something goes wrong in production. That’s usually because while traditional DEV and TEST (QA) environments closely mirror the application infrastructure that will be used in production, it does not – and cannot – mirror the network infrastructure. The complex web of application and network services that exist in a production environment have been too expensive and difficult to replicate. So developers and admins have had to cross their fingers and hope nothing goes wrong. And when it does? It’s back to the queue until the next change window opens.

One might surmise that if you could only test deployments in a real environment that such situations would effectively go away. But asking to test against real, live production network infrastructure is akin to Oliver Twist asking for “More, please” in Dickens’ famous novel.

This nightmare is not reserved for developers and operators. Imagine, if you will, a network or application service professional crafting the appropriate policies designed to scale, secure, and optimize your application. This is not a trivial task. Oh, certainly assigning IP addresses and even VLANs seems simple, but there’s so much more to “the network” than just basic networking. There’s the load balancing with its associated (and very much required) monitoring. There’s application and network firewalling, anti-malware and anti-virus scanning for systems that exchange large data sets. There’s optimizations for mobile and things that must be configured, routes between services, isolation policies and more. This isn’t a “give me an IP address and let’s be done with it” kind of process. It’s a complex dance involving multiple parties that requires collaboration and careful orchestration.

Lori-report-cover-soad

In the past there’s been no way to “test” such a complex interaction of services outside of production. It’s do or die, deploy or roll back. It’s no wonder it takes so long to move that app into production.

But things are changing, for the better. Virtualization and programmability of network and application service infrastructure is making it possible to test policies and configurations before production, in increasingly complex configurations. Whether it’s the use of virtual labs or virtual appliances, the need to support testing of network and application service infrastructure is being heard and answered.

This is critical, especially as these systems become more integrated and orchestrated. Consider the role of Cisco’s APIC, for example, in not only provisioning but configuring a variety of application services such as those We (F5) provide through BIG-IP and BIG-IQ. It’s important that those responsible for deploying the policies that scale, secure, and optimize apps are able to test the orchestration that will ultimately deliver the application’s needed services into production.

That’s why it’s exciting to see Cisco’s efforts around DevNet and in particular its sandboxes. The ability to test against real infrastructure before moving into the production environment is of significant value in reducing the time it takes to move through production and improving time to market for all manner of applications. Like our own DevCentral, Cisco’s DevNet efforts are designed to provide a community in which documentation, testing, example code, and support are all available when its needed, whether that’s at 2pm or 2am.

This support and ability to test is paramount as DevOps continues to make its way into the network and bring with it the benefits developers and operators have begun to enjoy: stability of infrastructure, consistency of policy, and speed of deployment. “The network” needs not only the methodologies DevOps brings but similar frameworks for testing and the application of continuous integration for those networking components that rely on integration to provide for deployment and administration of network and application services, such as Cisco and F5.

Sandboxes, documentation, examples, and virtual appliances all lend themselves to enabling DevOps to extend its reach into the deployment pipeline. By including critical network and application services as part of an extended CI/CD pipeline, organizations can enjoy the benefits of a more agile deployment pipeline.

Greater agility in the pipeline through community, testing, and support is as much a goal of our partnership with Cisco as the deployment experience offered by the integration between Cisco APIC and F5 solutions.

Check out the 2nd release of F5’s State of Application Delivery Report. This survey of over 3,000 global customers helps us better understand how organizations from a diverse cross-section of industries, departments and regions deliver applications and keep their data and users secure, in light of such IT trends as cloud computing, SDN and DevOps.

Deploy on.

Related Links:

www.cisco.com/go/acif5

https://www.devcentral.f5.com

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The Most Boring Service We offer … And how to bring down a data center in one easy snip!

I do enjoy the (sometimes irreverent!) perspectives of some articles on data center in the UK publication “The Register“, and the story of how a data center change went wrong made me laugh, cringe and cry at the same time – the change being when an electrician cut the wrong wire and brought down a 25,000 square feet data center!!!

It Only Takes a Snip ... The Case for Change Support

It Only Takes a Snip … The Case for Change Support

 

Let’s have a look at what went wrong here, and then I’ll relate this to one of our more fundamental services, that of “change support”. Some may call this a “boring” service option, however “fundamental” is much more appropriate, as the following story will show.  Finally, I’ll point you to a free white paper to illustrate the cost benefits.

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Cool Updates to UCS Mini and M-Series

Tuesday Girish blogged about the new UCS Innovations and at the end of this post there is a list of other blogs with more details on other updates.

Today I’ll go a bit more in-depth on what’s new for UCS Mini & M-Series Modular Servers.

 

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Cisco UCS Innovations: Leverage the Power of Unification, Performance and Scalability

Cisco leads the industry with a Unified, Application-centric approach to computing. Building on the architectural foundations, partnerships, and rapid customer adoption of UCS,  today Cisco introduces innovations inspired by customer requirements in two key Data Center technology areas:

  • Cisco MDS, UCS and Nexus portfolio Innovations: To help customers grow, consolidate, converge and to adapt to changing business needs, Cisco is announcing new additions and innovations to the Cisco MDS, UCS and Nexus portfolio. Please check the blog post by Tony Anthony Cisco Storage Networking Innovations to support high data growth and scale for additional details about these innovations.
  • Cisco UCS Innovations: Inspired by customer needs for greater efficiency and lower TCO, Cisco delivers new UCS features and functionalities with 3rd generation Fabric Interconnect, next wave of unified computing management innovations, new acceleration options for Cisco UCS and scalability options for Cisco UCS solutions.

Let’s take a closer look at these latest Cisco UCS innovations and how they can assist to achieve better business outcomes.

New Cisco UCS Fabric Interconnect 6300 Series and Fabric Extender 2304 

FI

The Cisco UCS Fabric Interconnect 6300 Series employs the UCS Fabric, VIC and UCS Manager to enable a high-performance, low latency and lossless fabric architecture for high capacity data centers. The Fabric Interconnect 6300 series adds to Cisco’s successful Fabric Interconnect 6200 series to deploy 40Gb, 40G FCoE, and 16Gb FC to further bandwidth capacity and provide for an adaptable data center fabric. The 6300 Series offers 2.6X increase in throughput, 3X lower latency and high-density 40GbE ports that enable an end-to-end 40 Gigabit solution. For additional details please check: http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/servers-unified-computing/ucs-6300-series-fabric-interconnects/index.html

Cisco VIC 1387 dual port 40Gb QSFP mLOM adapter

Cisco also announced the 3rd generation UCS VIC 1387 dual port 40Gb QSFP mLOM adapter.The VIC 1387 is based on 3rd Generation Cisco ASIC technology and is ideally suited for next-generation networks requiring up to 40Gb bandwidth. It supports network overlay technologies such as VXLAN and carries forward support for advanced Cisco features such as VMFEX, Netflow, and usNIC. The VIC 1387 is supported with the C220 M4, C240 M4 and the C3160 Servers.

UCS Management Enhancements: UCS Central 1.4 (1a) Releases and UCS Manager 3.1(1e) Release:

UCSM 1

Enhancements to the UCS Management portfolio enable remote operation, automation and policy enforcement across massive multi-site footprints with the UCS Central Software 1.4(1a) Release. The UCS Manager 3.1(1e) Release provides Unified Management for ALL UCS Server Platforms – UCS B-Series, C-Series, M-Series and UCS Mini.

Some of the key UCS Management enhancements include:

  • New HTML5 as well as JAVA GUI options
  • Unified Release for ALL UCS server platforms – B-Series, C-Series, M-Series, and UCS Mini
  • Provisioning and usability Enhancements to UCS Central
  • Support mixed UCS domains with M-Series and B/C-Series with support for up to 10,000 servers

Please check Cisco UCS Manager and Cisco UCS Central Software for additional details.

New Acceleration options for Cisco UCS Servers

Cisco announced the availability of the new “Maxwell” generation M6 GPU for Blade Servers and M60 GPU for Rack Servers.  Both new GPU technologies enable new VDI use-cases with NVIDIA GRID 2.0 Integration. Cisco and NVIDIA have co-developed the M6 MXM GPU for both Tesla, general purpose Graphics Processing as well as GRID VDI GPU and integrated it with the Cisco B200 M4 Blade Server.  This fully-integrated GPU is supported with all CPU SKUs and provides performance on par with the NVIDIA K2 GPU, at less than ½ the power profile!

Here is a complete list of new acceleration options introduced for the Cisco UCS servers:

  • NVIDIA M6 GPU Support for B200-M4
  • NVIDIA M60 GPU support for C240 M4 and C460 M4
  • Support PCIe SSD on M4-Servers
  • Support Crypto Card on B200-M4
  • Support LSI 9286CV-8e RAID Controller

 Enhanced Solutions Scalability with Second UCS Mini Chassis Support

UCS Mini

If you need more than eight blades for your small / medium business, remote / branch office, or in your data center for physical isolation, wait no more! You can now have a total of 16 blades and up to six rack servers. Check out these UCS Mini Solutions for integrated infrastructure, business applications, and storage.

New Acceleration Options for UCS M-Series

Part of Cisco’s composable infrastructure, M-Series is designed for scale out applications and dense compute. Four new cartridges have been released. Two each for the M142 and M1414 models featuring the Intel® Xeon ® E3-1200 v4 series processors including Iris Pro graphics integrated GPU. The Iris Pro GPU can accelerate a variety of graphical applications like remote desktops. For additional details please check: http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/servers-unified-computing/ucs-m-series-modular-servers/index.html

Building on the architectural foundations, partnerships, and rapid customer adoption of UCS, Cisco now delivers the next wave of Unified Computing innovations to enhance data center performance and scalability while maintaining operational efficiency. Leverage the latest Cisco UCS innovations to minimize data center complexity and disruption while deploying infrastructure and applications faster than ever before.

Don’t forget to register for the Interactive Webinar on February 11th, 2016 “Cisco UCS Innovations-Adopt the Power of Unification, Innovation and Scalability”  where Cisco Data center experts will review new Cisco UCS innovation in detail and you can  also hear fa customer testimonial about the latest UCS Innovations.

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