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Changing the Economics of Desktop and App Virtualization at the Enterprise Edge

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 3.21.53 PMIn my last post I discussed how Cisco UCS Mini is helping us expand beyond the traditional confines of the data center, to deliver desktop and app virtualization with exceptional user experience, manageability and TCO savings – at the enterprise edge.

We’re only going to see more investment and focus in this space, thanks to the general trend towards making VDI and app virtualization more tenable in a wider array of use cases across the enterprise, pushing from data center to enterprise edge.  This week, I want to offer a proof point I alluded to in my last post, enabled by our partners Nimble Storage and VMware.

Let’s take a look at the Nimble Storage SmartStack for ROBO (Remote Office / Branch Office) Desktop Virtualization.  As you know, we’ve seen incredible traction with our friends at Nimble.  Their CS array has seen wide market acceptance, and is now offered as an Integrated Infrastructure solution in the form of SmartStack, delivering the modularity, scale and manageability that IT demands.

I’m pleased to highlight that SmartStack now offers a solution optimized for ROBO.  In case you missed it, check out Nimble Storage’s announcement.   Bringing together best-of-breed components including VMware Horizon 6, Nimble’s CS300 array, and UCS Mini, this offering delivers on the key attributes critical to the enterprise edge:

  •  ­­Greater Consolidation: dense storage, compute and expansive I/O capacity of the Nimble + Cisco UCS solution, allows for hundreds of users in a small footprint, 50% of what traditional solutions might occupy.
  • Simplified Management: anchored on UCS Manager, this platform enables centralized IT to remotely spin up desktop and application virtualization capacity at remote/branch offices, without the error-prone, manual intervention required by traditional compute platforms.
  • High Performance: the combination of Nimble’s large IOPS footprint, low latency and Cisco UCS processing power delivers adaptive, exceptional performance in a compact form factor. This, along with VMware Horizon, allows IT to maintain an exceptional user experience through heavy application use and periods such as boot/login storms, patch operations and upgrades.

For more information on the Nimble SmartStack for ROBO Desktop Virtualization, please check out Sheldon D’Paiva’s blog on SmartStack ROBO.

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Analytics for an IoE World

I recently wrote about how Cisco is helping customers more effective manage massive amounts of data, types of data and unprecedented distribution of data. This will be one of the toughest challenges brought on by the Internet of Everything (IoE) and, with solutions such as Data Virtualization and Big Data Warehouse Expansion, Cisco is enabling our customers to meet the challenge head on of bringing all of this data together in ways that are meaningful to business users.

After the business can access and view all of this data, however, the question becomes…now what? The next challenge is to extract insights from the data to make better business decisions.  After all, more data is only good if you use it to make better decisions than you would have made otherwise.

The rules of customer and business relationships are constantly changing due to technological innovation and consumption patterns. Analytics can reveal patterns in customer data that affect business processes and outcomes. Advanced analytics is different than reporting because it prescribes what to do, or predicts what is likely to happen, instead of just reporting what has already happened.

Utilizing the network to securely connect data throughout the IoE, whether in motion (streaming) or at rest (historical), is the future of advanced analytics.  For a retailer, it will give them the opportunity to take intelligent actions to engage customers directly at the point of purchase and in real-time. But it’s so much more than that. What can real-time analytics in retail tell us about how to serve customers more effectively?  What can real-time analytics in manufacturing tell us about how to make the workplace safer?  What can real-time analytics in healthcare tell us about how to better treat cancer patients?

When our customers can accurately predict outcomes by combining years of historical data with real-time information, they can drive better decisions…better outcomes.


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The Benefits of an Application Policy Language in Cisco ACI: Part 2 – The OpFlex Protocol

October 14, 2014 at 5:00 am PST

[Note: This is the second of a four-part series on the OpFlex protocol in Cisco ACI, how it enables an application-centric policy model, and why other SDN protocols do not.  Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4]

Following on from the first part of our series, this blog post takes a closer look at some of these architectural components of Cisco ACI and the VMware NSX software overlay solution to quantify the advantages of Cisco’s application-centric policies and demonstrate how the architecture supports greater scale and more robust IT automation.

As called for in the requirements listed in the previous section, Cisco ACI is an open architecture that includes the policy controller and policy repository (Cisco APIC), infrastructure nodes (network devices, virtual switches, network services, etc.) under Cisco APIC control, and a protocol communication between Cisco APIC and the infrastructure. For Cisco ACI, that protocol is OpFlex.

OpFlex was designed with the Cisco ACI policy model and cloud automation objectives in mind, including important features that other SDN protocols could not deliver. OpFlex supports the Cisco ACI approach of separating the application policy from the network and infrastructure, but not the control plane itself. This approach provides the desired centralization of policy management, allowing automation of the entire infrastructure without limiting scalability through a centralized control point or creating a single point of catastrophic failure. Through Cisco ACI and OpFlex, the control engines are distributed, essentially staying with the infrastructure nodes that enforce the policies.

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Docker Networking Going Enterprise ?

October 14, 2014 at 4:18 am PST

The second revolution in server virtualization is here.  Virtual Machines were the first revolution that allowed users the ability to run multiple workloads on a single server through a hypervisor. Now the next wave is here.  Linux Containers have recently started to gain momentum with many enterprise customers asking me if they should consider it and if Cisco offered Docker support in the enterprise-grade virtual networking products.

I approached my engineers to see whether our recently introduced Nexus 1000v for the Linux KVM hypervisor, which already has 10000+ customers across various hypervisors, is able to support linux containers or more specifically the popular linux container technology, Dockers.

One of the key advantages of Nexus 1000V today is that it allows easy management of policies for all of the virtual machines.  For example, with a single command or REST API call, a security policy can be deployed or altered across all virtual interfaces connected to a Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN). My reasoning was that we should able to extend that to support to linux containers/dockers.

So I approached Tim Kuik (@tjkuik) and Dave Thompson (@davetho610) and much to my delight, they not only said Nexus 1000V can do it but also showed how to do it so that customers can take advantage of this today in their deployments.

I have included Tim and Dave’s how to attach Docker containers to the Nexus 1000v and to assign policies write-up below so that you can try this in your setup.  Happy reading.

How to use Dockers with Nexus 1000V for KVM Hypervisor: 


Begin by installing the Nexus 1000v to manage one or more Ubuntu servers:   The Nexus 1000v is managed by a Virtual Supervisor Module (VSM).  Once the package is installed on your servers, the servers will appear on the VSM as Virtual Ethernet Modules (VEM).  Below we can see our VSM is managing a server named Bilbo:


We’ve also pre-configured our server to have a port-channel that is capable of carrying vlan traffic 100-109.  We’ve used an Ethernet Port-profile to conveniently manage the uplinks for all of our servers:


A key concept of the Nexus 1000v is that of a Port-profile.  The Port-profile allows for a shared set of port attributes to be cohesively managed in a single policy definition.  This policy can include an ACL definition, Netflow specification, VLAN or VXLAN designation, and/or other common port configuration attributes.  We can, of course, create multiple Port-profiles.  Perhaps we would have one per level of service or tenant.  The Port-profile provides the mechanism to collect and manage the set of containers that share the same policy definition.

Below we create a Port-profile that could be used by any number of containers on any number of servers.


Install docker on your server. []


The purpose of the container is to run our application. Let’s create one for this example which can handle ssh sessions.  Here is an example Dockerfile which does that: dockerpic5

At this point, via Docker, you can build an image specified by this Dockerfile.


All the pieces are now in place.  The Nexus 1000v is running.  We have a policy definition that will assign the interfaces to vlan 100 (port-profile vlan100).  Docker is installed on our server.  We have created a useful container image.  Let’s create an actual container from this image:


The container instance started at this point is running with just a loopback interface since we used the argument “–networking=false”.  We can now add an eth0 interface to this container and set it up to be handled by the Nexus 1000v on the host.

Setup a few env variables we will use as part of the procedure.  Find the PID of the running container and generate UUIDs to be used as identifiers for the port and container on the Nexus 1000v:


In this example the following PID and UUIDs were set:


Create a linux veth pair and assign one end to the Nexus 1000v.  We will use the port-profile defined on the VSM named “vlan100’ which will configure the port to be an access port on VLAN 100:


When an interface is added to the Nexus 1000v, parameters are specified for that interface by adding keys to the external_ids column of the Interface table.  In the example above the following keys are defined:

  • iface-id: Specifies the UUID for the interface being added. The Nexus 1000v requires a UUID for each interface added to the switch so we generate one for this.
  • attached-mac: Provides the MAC of the connected interface. We get this from the ‘ip link show’ command for the interface to be added to the container.
  • profile:  Provides the name of the port-profile which the Nexus 1000v should use to configure policies on the interface.
  • vm-uuid: Specifies the UUID for the entity which owns the interface being added.  So in this case that’s the container instance.  Since Docker doesn’t create a linux type UUID for the container instance, we generate one for this as well.
  • vm-name: Specifies the name of the entity which owns the interface.  In this case it’s the container name.

Move the other end of the linux veth pair to the container’s namespace, rename it as eth0, and give it a static IP address of (of course DHCP could be used instead to assign the address):


On the Nexus 1000v’s VSM you will see logs like this indicating the interface has been added as switch port vethernet1 on our virtual switch:

dockerpic12The following VSM commands show that switch port veth1 is up on VLAN 100 and is connected to host interface veth18924_eth0 on host bilbo:


On the host bilbo we can use vemcmd to get information on the port status:


That’s it.  We now have a useful Docker container with an interface on the Nexus 1000v using our selected policy.   Using another server (and/or container) that is on the same vlan, we can ssh into this container using the IP address we assigned:


When shutting down the Docker container, remove the port before removing the container:


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Announcing Cisco UCS Integrated Infrastructure for Big Data

Big Data is expected to fuel the next industrial revolution; an early sign is the wide adoption across major sectors including agriculture, education, entertainment, finance, healthcare, manufacturing and governments. The Big data technology and services market is growing about six times the growth rate of overall information and communication technology market, at 27% compound annual growth to $26 billion and expected drive 240 billion of  worldwide IT spending directly and indirectly in 2016, and moving towards a trillion dollars in 2020.

Through disruptive innovations Cisco UCS has demonstrated highest industry growth in the worldwide server market, and has been validated by analysts as a leading platform for business applications including big data and analytics. The Cisco solution for Big Data, the Cisco UCS Common Platform Architecture (CPA) for Big Data, has already become a popular choice for enterprise Big Data deployments across major industry verticals. Today we are announcing the third generation of our solution, Cisco UCS Common Platform Architecture for Big Data v3, extending on our vision of Integrated Infrastructure to help organizations deploy and scale applications faster to drive the revenue side of the business while reducing risk and TCO.

The new solution, Cisco UCS Integrated Infrastructure for Big Data, offers a set of reference architectures and solution bundles designed and optimized with  leading big data and analytics software partners including Actian, Cloudera, DataStax, Elastic Search, HortonWorks, MapR, MarkLogic, MongoDB, Pivotal, Platfora, SAP, SAS, Splunk, and others. These architectures can be used as is or customized to meet specific business requirements.

In addition, directly available from Cisco– Cloudera Enterprise Basic/Flex/Data Hub editions, HortonWorks Data Platform Enterprise/Enterprise Plus Subscriptions, MapR M5 Enterprise Hadoop Platform/M7 Enterprise MapReduce with HBase Platform, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Cisco also offers Cisco UCS Director Express for Big Data, a software stack integrated with Hadoop distributions from Cloudera, MapR, and Hortonworks1, which automates deployment of Hadoop on C240 based Cisco UCS CPA v2 and v3for Big Data, providing a single management pane across both physical infrastructure and Hadoop software.

Cisco UCS Integrated Infrastructure for Big Data: Cisco UCS CPA v3 Reference Architectures and Single SKU bundles:

Big Data   Starter High Performance Performance Optimized Capacity Optimized Extreme Capacity
 Designed for Performance     and density for analytics engines, NoSQL databases, and entry-level Hadoop     deployments Extreme     performance and density for analytics engines Balance of compute and storage for scale-out applications including Hadoop, NoSQL, and MPP databases Storage-intensive Hadoop and scale-out storage deployments. Industry leading storage density with low cost per terabyte
Server  UCS C220 M4  UCS C220 M4 UCS C240 M4 UCS C240 M4 UCS C3160
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2620 v3 (15M Cache, 2.40 GHz) 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2680 v3 (30M Cache, 2.50 GHz) 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2680 v3 (30M Cache, 2.50 GHz) 2 x Intel Xeon  E5-2620 v3  (15M Cache, 2.40 GHz) 2 x Intel Xeon  E5-2695 v2  (30M Cache, 2.40 GHz)
Memory 256GB 256GB 256GB 128GB 256GB
Storage  Controller Cisco 12-Gbps SAS Modular Raid Controller with 2-GB FBWC Cisco 12-Gbps SAS Modular Raid Controller with 2-GB FBWC Cisco 12-Gbps SAS Modular Raid Controller with 2-GB FBWC Cisco 12-Gbps SAS Modular Raid Controller with 2-GB FBWC Cisco 12-Gbps SAS Modular Raid Controller with 4-GB FBWC
Storage 8 1.2-TB 10K SAS  SFF HDD 2 1.2-TB 10K SAS SFF HDD, 6 400-GB SAS SSD 2 120-GB  SATA SSD, 24 1.2-TB 10K SAS SFF HDD 2 120-GB  SATA SSD. 12 4-TB 7.2K SAS SFF HDD 2 120-GB  SATA SSD, 60 4-TB 7.2K SAS SFF HDD
Network Controller Cisco UCS VIC 1227 2 10GE SFP+ Cisco UCS VIC 1227 2 10GE SFP+ Cisco UCS VIC 1227 2 10GE SFP+ Cisco UCS VIC 1227 2 10GE SFP+ 2 Cisco UCS VIC 1227 2 10GE SFP+
Network and Cluster Scaling 2 Cisco UCS 6248UP FIs, Scale up to 32 servers with no additional switching infrastructure 2 Cisco UCS6248UP FIs, Scale up to 32 servers with no additional switching     infrastructure 2 Cisco UCS 6296UP FIs, Scale up to 80 servers per domain, Scale to thousands of servers with Cisco Nexus 7000 or 9000 Series Switches 2 Cisco UCS 6296UP FIs, Scale up to 80 servers per domain, Scale to thousands of servers with Cisco Nexus 7000 or 9000 Series Switches Integrates into existing  or new Cisco UCS and Nexus infrastructure
Cisco Single SKU Smart Play Offers UCS-SL-CPA3-S
(8 servers)
(8 Servers)
(16 Servers) 
(16 Servers)
(2 Servers) 


Available 12/2014