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Cisco UCS Servers – From the loading dock to production in no time at all

In my first blog post, I highlighted some of the benefits being seen by customers using Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS®) from Case Studies. In the second post, I discussed reduction in cabling in more detail. Today I will drill down on provisioning.

A reduction in time to provision and deploy servers is the benefit most often cited by customers. This is accomplished with UCS Manager. Cisco UCS Manager integrates the management interfaces for server, network, and storage access into a single unified tool. UCS Manager uses a building block approach combing pools, polices, and templates into Service Profiles. Service Profiles allow you to configure over 120 settings that make up a server’s “personality” enabling one-click deployment.

Here are three customer examples.

Basefarm – The crucial feature of Cisco UCS Manager is its use of service profiles to provision server resources, enabling infrastructure to be provisioned in minutes instead of days. “What Cisco has done with server profiles is brilliant,” says Månsby. “You can’t have a server online without storage and network, so it makes perfect sense to package all three administrative functions into a single interface. It’s all about resource efficiency: if server, storage, and network are three different phases, then you spend three times as long on a deployment or change as you would using Cisco UCS. And time is money.” Stefan Månsby, Chief Business Development Officer

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RISC/UNIX Migration to Cisco UCS: Application Modernization

RISC/UNIX migration is creating big opportunities for Cisco in the Data Center.  Last week at Oracle OpenWorld 2012 we highlighted world-record Oracle application and database performance with the Cisco Unified Computing System™ (Cisco UCS®). In my conversations with customers many indicated they were very anxious to migrate their Oracle database sooner rather than later. This feedback is consistent with what many analysts are predicting will be a massive migration off of proprietary RISC/UNIX platforms over the next few years.

Watch the video below for a short discussion on the successes, benefits, and services methodology of Cisco’s RISC/UNIX migration program. Read More »

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Did You Know? Cisco’s FCoE Transformational Service

Over the past couple of years the conversation about Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and converged networks (e.g., Unified Fabric) has become more and more sophisticated. While I still get the occasional “what is FCoE?” question, and still have to correct the occasional journalist who insists FCoE runs over TCP/IP (it doesn’t!), those conversations are becoming more rare.

Instead, the conversation has shifted from the “what is this?” to “how do I do it?” All the diagrams and napkins in the world can’t predict or prepare for the wide-ranging possibilities that customers have in their data centers. I’ve written about a few of the surprises before (http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/ciscolive-2012-and-the-fcoe-surge/) but every day I get more unique (and more interesting) scenarios. Read More »

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Engineers Unplugged (Episode 4): Is This the Year of VDI?

In this week’s episode of Engineers Unplugged, EMC’s Craig Chapman (@virtualchappy) and WWT’s Joe Onisick (@jonisick) discuss the evolution of VDI, the business drivers of competing IT architectures, and keeping the core user experience front and center.

Welcome to Engineers Unplugged, where technologists talk to each other the way they know best, with a whiteboard. The rules are simple:

  1. Episodes will publish weekly (or as close to it as we can manage)
  2. Subscribe to the podcast here: engineersunplugged.com
  3. Follow the #engineersunplugged conversation on Twitter
  4. Submit ideas for episodes or volunteer to appear by Tweeting to @CommsNinja
  5. Practice drawing unicorns

What’s your vote? Is this the year of VDI? Do you agree with Craig and Joe? Post a comment here, ping them on Twitter, follow @CiscoDC, join the conversation!

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Are Overlays the Duct Tape of Networking?

Duct tape is pretty amazing stuff because its versatile and easy to use.  That being said, sometimes, that versatility and ease-of-use means it gets used at times when maybe it shouldn’t.

This thought came to mind a couple of weeks ago at VMworld.  Over the course of the show, I had a number of conversations with folks about tunneling and overlay network.  For many (mostly non-networking) folks, it seemed like the best thing since sliced bread—it gave them the holy grail—flexible, agile, one-demand connectivity without having to talk to the network folks.

From a networking perspective, its kinda funny, since the concept of tunnels is a decades old technology. It’s always played a legitimate role in a comprehensive networking strategy (MPLS and IPsec VPNs for example) so its cool to see an old concept find new applications.

However, lest we be lulled into blissful slumber by the unicorns playing lilting melodies through their horns, its good to remember, as with pretty much everything in IT, there is no free lunch.  While overlays networks make life simpler for the server admin or the virtualization admin, there are a couple of things to bear in mind.

From an operational perspective, the overlay environment becomes a second network that needs to be managed—often a dumber, less instrumented network.  Somewhere, someone still needs to maintain a fully functioning, highly available, secure, properly traffic-engineered network that underpins that virtualized connectivity. Think of this as the difference between your checkbook and your checking account—just because you can write a check doesn’t mean there is money in the account to cover it.

Now, if you are not a networking dude or dudette, your first reaction may be “why do I care?”  Well, when you start seeing performance issues on your tunnel, you start to see intermittent drops on your tunnel, or you need to demonstrate auditable regulatory compliance, then you start to care.  While some folks propose that the underlying network becomes irrelevant once you start using overlays, the truth is that the strengths and weaknesses (performance, availability, security, manageability, etc.) of the underlying physical network are going to manifest themselves in in whatever rides on top.  While overlay technology is undeniably useful, having an approach that leverages the intelligence of the underlying infrastructure (assuming any exists) is going to pay off in the long run.

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