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Enterprise Value with a Hybrid Cloud Strategy

Guest Blog Post by Stephen Nola, Group Executive, IT-as-a-Service, Dimension Data

At Dimension Data we are all about accelerating ambition and this includes enabling Cisco’s ambition to build the world’s largest global Intercloud, a network of clouds to address customer requirements for a globally distributed, highly secure cloud platform. Dimension Data is partnering with Cisco to provide our cloud technology in Cisco-branded managed service offerings and the public cloud – a core component of the enterprise hybrid IT solution.

As cloud adoption is maturing, companies are taking a more holistic approach to incorporating cloud into the modern IT landscape. This transformation is increasingly application centric which means that organisations will be sourcing multiple delivery models that are best aligned to applications that are fit for cloud, born for the cloud, and not for the cloud, ever.

The formula for hybrid IT will include public and private cloud, managed hosting and managed services on and off premises. Cisco realizes that Dimension Data’s highly connected and integrated solutions leverage new and flexible consumption models for enterprises all over the world. In fact, Dimension Data offers our Managed Cloud Platform on five continents with datacenters strategically located to address regulatory compliance and data sovereignty for multi-national companies.

Dimension Data has been accelerating adoption of Cisco technology for over 23 years. Inclusion in the Intercloud ecosystem is good for our clients and will enable greater reach for Dimension Data’s Cloud.  As Cisco Intercloud subscribers, enterprises around the world will leverage Dimension Data’s global network of inter-connected cloud datacenters as a core component of their hybrid cloud strategy. Dimension Data is proud of our Cisco heritage and our strategic partnership that will take our companies and our clients into the future.

 

Stephen Nola, Group Executive – ITaaS
Steve was appointed Group Executive – ItaaS in 2013. Since he joined Dimension Data in 1989, Steve has held a number of key roles in the Group. In 2011, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer, Cloud Business Unit.  Prior to this, Steve was Chief Executive Officer of Dimension Data Australia from 2001.  Before being appointed Chief Executive Officer for the Australia region,  Steve was Chief Executive Officer for Dimension Data Integration, and Joint Managing Director of Dimension Data Australia. Before joining Dimension Data Australia (formerly known as Com Tech Communications) Steve worked for Telstra from 1987 to 1989. Steve is a member of the advisory board at RMIT for the Bachelor of Information Technology course and a member of the Starlight Foundation Victoria Board. He holds a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (Honours) from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), majoring in robotics.

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The Role of Connectivity in Powering the Intercloud: Equinix

Today’s announcement expands the reach of the Intercloud by 250 additional data centers in 50 countries, and advances Cisco’s OpenStack based cloud strategy to address customer requirements for a globally distributed, highly secure cloud platform capable of meeting the robust demands of the Internet of Everything.  Cisco’s open approach to the Intercloud is designed for high-value application workloads, with real-time analytics and “near infinite” scalability and allows local hosting and local provider options that enable data sovereignty around the world.

Essentially, there are three components to this Intercloud strategy that set us apart from other companies. It starts with Cisco’s cloud architectural solutions including UCS, our Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), and a networks functions virtualization (NFV) driven policy. The second component is network connectivity and providing the user with the right quality of service (QoS) experience for their application workloads. And the third component is our partners, who play a critical role in building out this network of clouds from a data center, network, application acceleration and compliance/data sovereignty perspective. In this blog I’d like to delve further into network connectivity and the role that our newest hosting partner, Equinix, plays in powering our Intercloud vision.

Importance of Network Connectivity in Hybrid Cloud

The role of the CIO has to move from a builder of services for the enterprise to an orchestrator of services across private clouds and various public clouds. This hybrid cloud orchestration has to be secure, hypervisor independent, manageable and compliant with all the enterprise’s IT policies across the full IT stack and across all the clouds. Cisco’s Intercloud capabilities are designed to do exactly this and will be enhanced by enabling the orchestration to be carried out in a private hosted environment where these cloud providers will be virtually located within the same exchange. This will facilitate workload interconnections between cloud providers in true hybrid cloud fashion with the lowest application latency and secure workload management for customers.

Where better to do this than in Equinix’s data centers and through the Equinix Cloud Exchange (ECX)? As the world’s largest IBX data center and colocation provider, the company offers fast application performance and low latency routes across all continents. The company provides a global interconnection platform called Equinix Cloud Exchange that hosts private clouds for enterprise customers and facilitates over 135,000 connections among more than 4,500 customers. Cisco will enable the Equinix Cloud Exchange to deliver secure private cloud access to the rich ecosystem of cloud service providers in Equinix data centers globally and to deploy Cisco Intercloud capabilities in 16 Equinix markets across Europe, Asia and the Americas. Equinix also plans to deploy key Cisco technologies and services across its Cloud Exchange, including the Cisco Nexus 9000 Series switch, Cisco APIC, and the Cisco Evolved Services Platform.

For Equinix this announcement significantly enhances their value proposition to the CIO. Their Equinix Cloud Exchange solution will now be able to guarantee full bi-directional workload portability across any hypervisor and full extensible application policy compliance across all services and clouds. This will enhance their already unique interconnect capabilities, lowest latency capabilities and extensive global footprint.

Beginning and Ending with Network Connectivity

So it is all about the connectivity, but this is not a new proposition. It’s one that has been proven consistently over the last 30 years. When networks first emerged they were proprietary, did not interoperate and as a result customers had to choose which one to use.  Cisco and our partners played a major role in seamlessly connecting them together to create the Internet.  As a result, business processes were transformed, billions of dollars of value was created and a large successful partner ecosystem emerged. As we look at the cloud landscape today we see several similarities – many independent closed and proprietary clouds which were designed to maximize vendor revenue rather than enable interoperability, security and compliance. The combined value of Cisco and Equinix will provide fast, open, secure connectivity and will unleash the value of hybrid cloud for enterprises globally.

Together with our partners we will connect the clouds to create the Intercloud.

 

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Configuring Virtual Environments for Graphics-Intensive Applications (C240+XenDesktop+NVIDIA)

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The Guild of St Luke in Florence, where Leonardo Da Vinci qualified as a master sculptor when he was only 20 years old, had in attendance both artists and doctors of medicine. While someone today might wonder what those two vocations have in common, someone from the Italian Renaissance would not. Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci were the most famous artists of their day, but they were also remarkably skilled engineers, designers, architects, and experts on human anatomy.

Like the guilds of Renaissance Europe, NVIDIA graphics cards serve multiple disciplines. They can deliver 2D/3D graphics performance to CAD/CAM engineers doing design work, medical technicians and doctors examining MRI/CT scans or tumor reconstructions, scientists performing data modeling, and a variety of graphics professionals.

Although their huge thirst for computing power and their immense appetite for data have kept them at the leading edge of computer design, graphics applications have been unable to take advantage of the revolution in virtualization. Narrow network bandwidths and localized rendering engines made it impractical. And companies were sensitive about the security of their intellectual property.

However, Cisco and Citrix have developed a solution in which graphics applications can run in virtual environments with as much performance and security as if they were running locally on high-powered graphics workstations. The solution allows graphics professionals to reap the benefits of virtualization: data remains protected in the data center, desktops are centrally provisioned, and users in different locations can remotely access the same large graphics files on a variety of devices—even on remote workstations, laptops, and tablets.

This blog describes the solution, its major components, and what’s involved in configuring it inside your data center. You can get the details about the full solution in this Cisco White Paper.

 

The Cisco and Citrix Solution for Virtualizing Graphics Applications

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Four elements are key to the Cisco-Citrix solution:

  1. A combination of Citrix XenDesktop 7.5 and Cisco UCS C240 M3 rack servers that enables up to 64 VMs per server to run rich 2D/3D applications accelerated by NVIDIA GRID technology.
  2. Compute, network, and storage efficiency that gives each desktop (or other device) virtual GPU performance comparable to locally executing applications.
  3. The flexibility of the Citrix XenDesktop to run the NVIDIA GRID cards in both pass-through and vGPU modes, to configure different vGPU types, and to balance the number of vGPUs to match requirements.
  4. Comprehensive and centralized management of the entire system and its components via the Cisco UCS Management suite.

 

Major System Components

The major components of this system are:

  • Cisco UCS 240 M3 Rack Servers
  • Citrix XenDesktop 7.5
  • NVIDIA GRID K1 or K2 Graphics Cards
  • Citrix XenServer 6.2 Service Pack 1.

Cisco UCS 240 M3 Rack Servers

The Cisco UCS C240 M3 rack server is part of the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) family, a data center platform that unites compute, network, and storage access. The platform is optimized for virtual environments and uses open industry-standard technologies to reduce total cost of ownership. It integrates a 10 Gigabit Ethernet network fabric with enterprise-class, x86-architecture servers.

The Cisco UCS C240 M3 servers feature breakthrough compute power for demanding workloads and are rack-mountable with a compact 2RU form factor. These servers use the same stateless, streamlined provisioning and operations model as their blade server counterparts, the Cisco UCS B-Series Servers. The Cisco UCS C240 M3 servers can support either SAS, SATA, or SSD drives internally, or they can interface with third-party shared storage to meet cost, performance, and capacity requirements.

The Cisco UCS C240 M3 servers also include:

  • Cisco UCS 6248UP 48-port Fabric Interconnects that supply 10-Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) connectivity
  • The Cisco UCS Virtual Interface Card, a PCI Express (PCIe) adapter optimized to handle virtualization workloads of the Cisco UCS C-Series rack servers
  • Cisco UCS Manager, which can be accessed through a GUI, a CLI, or an XML API to control multiple chassis and thousands of virtual machines. Administrators can use the same interfaces to manage these servers along with all other Cisco servers in the enterprise.

Citrix XenDesktop 7.5

Citrix XenDesktop 7.5 delivers Windows operating systems and high performance applications to a variety of device types with a native user experience. This XenDesktop release includes HDX enhancements (including HDX 3D Pro) to optimize virtualized application delivery on mobile devices and across limited network bandwidths. HDX 3D Pro provides GPU acceleration for Windows Desktop OS machines (provisioned as VDI desktops), and Windows Server OS machines (that use RDS). It enables an optimal user experience on wide area network (WAN) connections as low as 1.5 Mbps as well as local area network (LAN) connections.

NVIDIA GRID K1 and K2 Cards

The NVIDIA GRID K1 and K2 cards let multiple users simultaneously share GPUs that provide ultra-fast graphics displays with no lag, making a remote data center feel like it’s next door. Because the cards use the same graphics drivers that are deployed in non-virtualized environments, you can run the exact same application both locally and virtualized. The software stack—including GPU virtualization, remoting, and session-management libraries—enables efficient compression, fast streaming, and low-latency display of high-performance 2D and 3D enterprise applications.

Citrix XenServer 6.2 Service Pack 1

Citrix XenServer is an open-source virtualization platform for managing server, and desktop virtualization environments. XenServer 6.2 enables GPU sharing between multiple virtual machines. As a result, each physical GPU on the NVIDIA card can support multiple virtual GPU devices (vGPUs).

As shown in the illustration below, the NVIDIA Virtual GPU Manager running in XenServer dom0 controls the vGPUs, which are assigned directly to guest VMs:

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Guest VMs use NVIDIA GRID virtual GPUs in the same manner as a physical GPU that has been passed through by the hypervisor. An NVIDIA driver loaded in the guest VM provides direct access to the GPU for performance-critical operations. Lower-performance management operations use a paravirtualized interface to the NVIDIA GRID Virtual GPU Manager.

Because resource requirements can vary, the maximum number of vGPUs that can be created on a physical GPU depends on the vGPU type, as shown in this table:

Card Physical GPUs Virtual GPUs Intended Use Case Frame Buffer (Megabytes) Virtual Display Heads Max Resolution per Display Head Maximum vGPUs
Per GPUs Per Board
GRID K1 4 GRID K140Q Power User 1024 2 2560x1600 4 16
GRID K120Q Power User 512 2 2560x1600 8 32
GRID K100 Knowledge Worker 256 2 1920x1200 8 32
GRID K2 2 GRID K260Q Power User, Designer 2048 4 2560x1600 2 4
GRID K240Q Power User, Designer 1024 2 2560x1600 4 8
GRID K220Q Power User, Designer 512 2 2560x1600 8 16
GRID K200 Knowledge Worker 256 2 1920X1200 8 16

 

For example, an NVIDIA GRID K2 physical GPU can support up to four K240Q vGPUs on each of its two physical GPUs, for a total of eight vGPUs. However, the same card can support only two K260Q vGPUs, for a total of four vGPUs.

Configuring the Cisco-Citrix System – An Overview

These are the major steps required to configure a single VM to use the NVIDIA GRID vGPU:

  1. Install an NVIDIA GRID GPU card in a Cisco C240 M3 UCS server.
  2. Perform the base Cisco UCS configuration and, if required, upgrade the GPU firmware.
  3. Enable virtual machines for pass-through support by installing the pass-through GPU driver and the Citrix XenDesktop HDX 3D Pro Virtual Desktop Agent.
  4. Install XenServer 6.2.0 and Service Pack 1, and install the NVIDIA GRID vGPU Manager.
  5. Create a virtual machine and configure it with the NVIDIA vGPU type. For graphics-intensive applications, be sure to configure virtual machines running Citrix HDX 3D Pro Graphics with at least four virtual CPUs.
  6. Install and configure the vGPU driver on the VM guest operating system.
  7. Verify that the graphics applications are ready to use the vGPU.

The detailed configuration steps are provided in the full white paper.

Hardware Notes

For advanced configurations, note that the C240 M3 riser 1 is associated with the first CPU socket and riser 2 with second CPU socket. Refer to this white paper for information regarding vCPU pinning and GPU locality configurations.

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Conclusion

Cisco, Citrix, and NVIDIA have teamed up to bring the benefits of virtualization to the users of graphics-intensive applications and the IT organizations that deploy and manage them. Combined breakthrough technologies allow graphics professionals to benefit from the remote access, data sharing, and low overhead of virtualization while experiencing the performance they demand for their graphics-intensive workloads.

For more information, see:

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ITD – Intelligent Traffic Director (Part 2)

Cisco® Intelligent Traffic Director (ITD) is an innovative solution to bridge the performance gap between a multi-terabit switch and gigabit servers and appliances. ITD is much superior than legacy solutions such as PBR, ECMP, Port-channel, etc for service appliances and servers.  ITD is allowing customers to achieve massive CAPEX and OPEX savings. Here is a table comparing with some of the features.

comparison_table

Customers are using ITD for a multitude of use-cases.

  • Load-balance traffic to 256 servers of 10Gbps each.
  • Load-balance to cluster of Firewalls. ITD is much superior than PBR.
  • Scale up NG IPS and WAF by load-balancing to standalone devices.
  • Scale the WAAS / WAE solution.
  • Scale the VDS-TC (video-caching) solution.
  • Replace ECMP/Port-channel to avoid re-hashing. ITD is resilient.

Documentation:

Email Query or feedback:ask-itd@external.cisco.com

World Record Oracle Performance with Cisco UCS

September 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm PST

Oracle OpenWorld is a show like no other, with over 60,000 IT professionals convening in San Francisco for a week of all things, Oracle, Java and more. Cisco has a full slate of activities planned, including demos and theater sessions on the many benefits of running your Oracle workloads on the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS). We’re also teaming with theCUBE to stream three days of live interviews with the industry’s leading thought leaders and Oracle solution experts. All of our activities have a common theme – Unleashing Oracle Performance.

With more than 25 world record benchmarks for Oracle workloads, Cisco has a proven record of delivering record-setting Oracle performance with each generation of server and processor technologies. This week at Oracle OpenWorld, we’re showcasing three recent world record benchmarks for Oracle E-Business Suite and critical Java operations.

Oracle E-Business Suite Applications R12 (12.1.3) Payroll and Order-to-Cash Benchmarks

E-Biz Suite GraphThe Cisco UCS® B200 M4 Blade Server with the Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 v3 product family, is the number-one server with top results on the Oracle E-Business Suite Applications R12 benchmark. The Cisco UCS B200 M4 performed over a million employees per hour on the Payroll Extra-Large Model Benchmark, outperforming the IBM Power System S824. UCS also set a world record on the Order-to-Cash workload, processing more than 11,000 more order lines per hour than the same server configured with previous-generation processors. The performance brief has all the details.

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