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Cisco UCS @ EMC World 2012

This has been a very busy Spring for our Cisco Unified Computing System Marketing team.  I have been to several events including EMC World 2012 and Microsoft Management Summit 2012 where the Cisco UCS (Leader in Gartner Magic quadrant for Blade servers) was featured. Some of my colleagues also attended Interop Las Vegas 2012 and Gartner IT Infrastructure and Operations Management 2012.  I had the opportunity to discuss how the UCS is changing data center economics with an innovative design in the VCE booth theater.

I had several interesting conversations with customers regarding Cisco UCS Manager, the embedded device manager, which simplifies server management in the data center.  Customers spanned the entire gamut from those who had purchased the UCS three years ago when it was just introduced to those evaluating the product today. The following video summarizes the discussions.

I also attended the keynote address by VMWare CEO Paul Maritz, and found his talk fascinating. He alluded to two megatrends affecting Information Technology namely “Cloud” and “Big data”.

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Data Center Services @ Cisco Live #CLUS

June 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm PST

Earlier this week, Amy Lewis told us all about Cisco Live DCV Social Media Activities. There are some exciting data center services activities going on too. Unfortunately, no bacon included.

So I know services aren’t big shiny objects, let alone tangible at all, but there are lots of nifty activities going on at Cisco Live San Diego on June 10-14th where you can learn more about how services can help you reach your data center goals.

Here are some highlights you don’t want to miss:

  • Cloud Partner Pavilion: Cisco staff including Debbie Abbott will be showcasing the Cloud Profile Tool and offer a future complimentary Cloud Readiness Assessment through a Cisco partner. Earn points by trying the Cloud Profile Tool and meeting with the 14 partners at the pavilion to enter to win prizes including 28 iPad3s.
  • Advanced Services Whiteboard Area of Data Center booth: our services experts including Arup Chakravarty will be armed with a whiteboard to answer your toughest questions on Nexus, UCS, SAN, Cloud automation (CIAC), virtualization, enterprise cloud design, data center migration, and more.

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Part 5: A service catalog will help Vmware admins get ready for cloud computing, public or private.

Part 5 of the series “10 Things VMware Server Admins Should Know About Self-Service Catalogs and Lifecycle Management” that I’ll be publishing over the next couple of weeks.

5. A service catalog will help VMware admins get ready for cloud computing, public or private.

When I first came up with the concept of a service catalog to drive fulfillment process back in 1999 (Yep. 10 years ago. Time flies when you are having fun.) it was obvious that internal shared services like IT needed to emulate the likes of Amazon.

Well, here we are in 2009 and the wheel of time has brought us back to the same place.  Now it’s the data center that is being disrupted rather than end user services.   Customers are beginning to ask:  Why can’t you be more like Amazon EC2? Why can’t you provision fast, at guaranteed cost?

Let’s look at how Amazon EC2 uses the concept of a service catalog and lifecycle management to deliver cloud computing in consumer-like experience.

There’s a lot of talk about the technical aspects of cloud computing, and little the customer side:  Amazon communicates with its customers through a service catalog and lifecycle system.  The brochure part of the catalog is found here.  (I wrote this in more detail in my post: Amazon has written your technical services catalog).

To see the full functionality of this service catalog in action, I broke it down into Structure, Benefits, Pricing and Actionable for simplicity.

Structure

The whole structure looks like this:

It covers what it does, what benefits (hightlights), details, major options and pricing! Then what I call the fine print (aka SLA’s).

Benefits

It doesn’t skimp on benefits.  In fact, benefits and outcomes are front and center. We can do the same with with our virtualization offerings.

They tout their unique differentiators are variable (elastic) cost, while re-assuring that you have complete control, flexibility and of course, it’s inexpensive. In fact, if you read that section, it draws a comparison against an internal data center!  And it gets to heart of what customers don’t like about IT costs; highly fixed, over-bought, hard to plan for, etc.

It also covers the OS, database software and middleware choices. This is an example of going beyond the server.

What are your benefits? What are your unique differentiators?

Pricing

Next, the catalog outlines the main packages: Standard and High CPU.  Two choices, and then some three sub-choicess.

There’s a lot more description, links to explanation, FAQs, etc.  It’s the way they standardize these formerly complicated configurations that is a useful take away.

Pricing follows and there three aspects to highlight.  First, it’s completely and easily understandable as a unit of measure. They use per hour.

Standard Instances Linux/UNIX Windows
Small (Default) $0.10 per hour $0.125 per hour
Large $0.40 per hour $0.50 per hour
Extra Large $0.80 per hour $1.00 per hour

Think of all the complexity of running a datacenter: people, machines and facilities, etc. Amazon gets it down to controllable unit of of measure, hours. As a customer, I can choose to consume and hour or not.  That’s a level of control that’s appealing to me.  Is this the right unit of measure for every customer? No. It will depends on your customer and the benefit they want to buy. (More in future postings).

Second, they include all the pricing units for network, storage and servers.  Your complete datacenter (almost) configuration.

Third, some charges like data transfer charges are harder to map to controllable costs, so Amazon provides a pricing calculator to help translate these costs into the potential bill. And they provide sample configurations and estimates.

Except for chargeback, which you are doing or not, every leson is directly applicable to how we present virtual environments.

How does the catalog play a role? In two ways, it establishes the standards which enable self-service and then uses those to meter and report to your account what your consumed.

Actionable!

Finally, this catalog is NOT STATIC. It’s completely actionable.   If you have an account and log in, Amazon provides:

  • Self-service ordering, configuration and deployment. This request management against known, vetted standards is core to making cloud computing work. Think if Amazon had to go back and forth for weeks with a user about their configurations?
  • Account management functions. The customer can perform a variety of actions on their own to manage the lifecycle of virtual instance.
  • Consumption management and billing.  The customer gets clear, hourly consumption metrics.

In other words, Amazon delivers a very complete service catalog tool set to enable cloud computing. I like that they have brought the ease of their regular catalog to a more complex environment. And ease wins.

Amazon has redefined the expectations and pricing for data center services. Make no mistake, they are your competitors. Now the challenge is to respond with your own service catalog and differentiated service definitions.

So if your plans are to provide private cloud computing to your users, or at least behave as one, you need to consider a service catalog very early on to help you establish standards, service levels, and provisioning processes.

This time, we ought to know one thing: No Catalog, No Cloud.

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Cisco Live DCV Social Media Activities: Connect to Your Community

June 6, 2012 at 9:48 pm PST

Cisco Live 2012 is almost here. Hello San Diego! Time to make the difficult decision regarding partitioning luggage space between  tech and clothes. The informal Twitter poll indicates tech is winning. Don’t forget the chargers, because there’s a lot going on.

Bacon and Waffles Tweetup on Tuesday!
Bacon and Waffles Tweetup on Tuesday!

Now that I’ve got your full attention, here’s a rundown of some of the social media activities happening at Cisco Live this year.

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Part 4: 10 Things Vmware Server Admins Should Know About Self-Service Catalogs and Lifecycle Management

Part 4! of the series “10 Things Vmware Server Admins Should Know About Self-Service Catalogs and Lifecycle Management” that I’ll be publishing over the next couple of weeks.

4. There’s a lot more to setting up environments than provisioning servers, the service catalog provides access to all the other required services.

It’s great that you can quickly get a server instance going. Awesome, really.  But that’s not an application hosting service. It’s important to understand the “whole product” requested. Is it a raw computing power w/ an OS? or is it an application stack? Or particular integration points, network, storage and security?

There’s a need to really think from a whole product perspective. What ancillary services need to go be coordinated to deliver an environment. Typically we’ll need to consider

  1. Network
  2. Storage
  3. Security
  4. Middleware
  5. Data
  6. Applications

Sometimes we can create complete application stacks such as: “Small Linux / JBoss / Oracle for standard development.” Other times, these items required hand-offs between teams.

In talking with VM admins, sometimes there’s a bit of the “not my problem” mentality — it’s those other jerks who are slow. But if the think about our job as delivering environments that can work in a data center or in the cloud and as we virtualized the network and storage, there’s more and more need for having a catalog of individual server request as well as complete environment

The service catalog contains all the other services that the customer needs in to deploy their application.

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