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Cisco Validated Designs (CVD) for the Data Center – Your Feedback?

This past week, Thomas Scheibe (Director, Data Center Architecture) had the opportunity to co-present with VMware and NetApp at TechFieldDay on a broad range of Data Center topics.

Thomas is one of the leaders in our Solutions and Strategy Unit (SASU) that is responsible for creating Cisco Validated Designs (CVD).  One of the topics discussed was the recent CVD on Enhanced Secure Multi-Tenancy and Thomas asked, “How many of you are familiar with the depth of technical content in a CVD?

I’m somewhat disappointed to say that the show of hands was less than unanimous. Now this shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise to us, because in the past CVDs were primarily targeted at Network Administrators and the TechFieldDay audience is traditionally more focused on Servers, Storage and Applications. But considering that many of our Data Center solutions are no longer just focused on networking elements, we look at this as an opportunity to create awareness for the Architect and Administrator communities. We also look at it as an opportunity to solicit your input and feedback on how we can better deliver content that will help you design and deploy Data Center solutions that are becoming more complicated as convergence, virtualization, and automation blur the lines between IT organizations. Read More »

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Virtual Desktops: Just Another Workload?

As the solutions marketing manager for Cisco’s Desktop Virtualization solutions, I want to use this opportunity to start a dialog around the trends we’re seeing across various IT organizations, and their efforts to embrace desktop virtualization. I thought we might start with posing a common question: As you’re designing your data center infrastructure to handle virtual desktop workloads, Is desktop virtualization really just another workload?   Do you build a single consolidated, shared infrastructure to accommodate the usual server workloads alongside VM-hosted desktops, or do you handle these somehow differently?  A VM’s a VM, regardless of what’s sitting on it, right?  Consolidated… shared… elastic…  this is the cloud infrastructure vision isn’t it?  Whether you’re embracing VDI or App Virtualization, why should desktops be different?  Maybe we should start with probably the biggest challenge and exposure associated with moving to virtual desktops: The End User

Quality of user experience and application responsiveness as impacted by a sub-optimal infrastructure still tend to be among the biggest impediments for virtual desktop implementations moving from proof-of-concept to production (that and the sometimes elusive path to expected ROI/TCO, which we’ll get into in another post).  These are often the result of insufficient testing to replicate end-state loads on network, computing and storage.  The results of a small pilot quite often  don’t accurately predict what really happens when you multiply “The End User” by ten-fold.

So often with these projects, somewhere along the way, the combination of disappointing user experience, maybe compounded by unrealistic expectations results in the solution never getting off the ground.  I’d like to say that there’s one solution that never fails. But let’s be honest – there are so many variables when you consider the infrastructure (compute, network, storage) as well as use cases across the constituents in your workforce, that there’s likely no single prescriptive approach to ensuring success Day 1.

This much we can agree on: your chances for success significantly improve when you commit to the right Day 1 infrastructure approach, tailored to delivering the best user experience possible, vs. hoping your current infrastructure is agile and elastic enough to accommodate the 300 users who don’t know what they’re about to step into Monday morning when they log-on to their new virtual desktop.

Here are a few questions to consider when trying to “build-it-right” on Day 1 :

  1. What would happen if you were to mix desktop workloads directly with enterprise application workloads? Isn’t the approach to updating, patching and securing desktops very different from the approach taken with business critical applications in the data center? It’s not hard to imagine A/V scans on desktop workloads impacting the performance of applications workloads residing among the same compute resource pool.
  2. What’s the profile of the compute and storage infrastructure? It’s well known that desktop virtualization can place a significant burden on memory and I/O before it does on CPU, except in the case of graphics-intensive apps. Therefore it makes sense from both an economics and “user-experience” perspective to ensure that the memory / CPU / I/O ratio is well suited to hosting virtual desktops. Likewise with storage -- virtual desktop IOPS can be extremely high, especially during boot and logon storms… this can account for larger than necessary storage costs… so doesn’t it make sense to ensure that the compute and storage infrastructure are designed and configured around the unique requirements of desktop workloads?
  3. What about security?  The advent of virtual desktops gives IT a unique opportunity to dynamically create virtual workgroups that have access rights to certain resources and not others.  This could possibly be achieved even when mixing desktops and application workloads, but how much more difficult would that be to manage and maintain, especially at the outset of moving your virtual desktops into full production?

Let me know what you think …  and look out for some exciting news from Cisco on desktop virtualization by registering for our Collaboration Experience Launch on November 16th.  In my next post we’ll provide more color to the argument here… and would love to include your thoughts.

For more information:
Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solutions
Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure

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New Solutions + New Math: Exponential Benefits of Adding an Enterprise Scheduler to Virtual Machine Management

Oh, how data processing has evolved, growing in complexity and sophistication, it now spans across multiple software stacks and disparate systems. With the introduction of virtualization platforms, processes can now be run on virtualized environments as well as a physical one.  As we know, virtualization allows you to use physical hardware more efficiently. That’s because often times an application is sitting “idle” and doesn’t really need all the allocated computing resources, and virtualization lets idle computing resources be re-assigned to other tasks.  Virtualization technology and the advancements of Cloud Computing afford businesses significant benefits in terms of cost reduction and efficiencies resulting from consolidation and standardization.

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Optimizing Windows 7 Desktop Delivery over the WAN using Cisco WAAS

As the migration to Windows 7 as the desktop operating system picks up, IT organizations are looking at hosting desktops in the data center using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) as the desktop delivery method. We are finding that this is especially popular in the finance, healthcare, and federal verticals where security and compliance makes VDI an attractive choice. Moreover, IT managers in other vertical industries are interested in this technology as a flexible option to serve their employees while assisting with their desktop management goals.

One of the ongoing dilemmas for IT continues to be ensuring a good user experience for any new method used for delivering applications to end users. Many users are in remote branch offices, campus locations, or are mobile; as a result these users are separated from the data center by the Wide Area Network (WAN). Limited bandwidth (per user) on the WAN pipes, high WAN latencies, packet loss, and more often a combination of all three, impacts the user experience significantly. This is where the Cisco WAN optimization solution (Cisco WAAS) can assist IT with delivering a rich Windows 7 user experience to remote users while reducing the need for bandwidth upgrades.

If one looks at the usage profile, users are typically using productivity applications (eg: email, web, document preparation, presentations, etc), and accessing corporate videos for training as well as printing documents. These users are accustomed to getting a rich experience using applications locally on their Windows 7 desktops. The goal of the Cisco WAAS solution is to maintain this rich experience when the desktop moves to the data center, and is delivered using a VDI delivery protocol such as Microsoft RDP over the WAN.

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Meet the Newest Member of Your Data Center Operations Team

Today you are one happy data center manager, because you just made the perfect hire. Your new operations staffer is savvy, with extensive networking knowledge and experience with some of the largest, most sophisticated, and most secure networks in the world. This guy knows the network like the back of his hand. And he’s a demon in the data center: he can optimize data center operations task by task, almost minute by minute. He can predict problems and pre-empt them. It’s as though he is one with your data center and your network.

Actually, he is your data center and your network—with Cisco Intelligent Automation.

Okay, you say, everyone knows that automation is a good thing. It frees highly skilled IT staff from essential but time-consuming routine maintenance tasks and processes, which typically consume from 70% to 80% of an organization’s IT operational expense, allowing them instead to concentrate on innovation and creating new business value. Automation captures best practices, domain knowledge, and analytics and transforms them into repeated processes triggered by policy and defined events, thus improving efficiency, response time, compliance, visibility, and business continuity. So what’s so special about this Intelligent Automation?

Cisco Intelligent Automation embeds domain knowledge, analytics, and best practices into the network that connects every aspect of your business. It is one with the infrastructure. Think about it. The network is the ideal platform for automation IT operations, not only because the network touches and connects every part of your business, but also because it can capture events and information close to the source, enabling rapid, precise response to events and changes. This network-centric approach to intelligent automation takes advantage of the network’s ability to sense and control data center and IT operations.  It also delivers the benefits of Cisco’s innate strengths, including:

  • Networking Expertise—Leveraging the vast collection of Cisco’s networking intelligence, best practices, methodologies, and tools to support customers better.
  • Collaborative Partner Approach—Applying the combined expertise of Cisco and our global partner ecosystem to meet the total needs of customers worldwide.
  • Smart, Personalized Services—Gathering, correlating and analyzing data against Cisco intellectual capital to provide proactive or preemptive service experiences.
  • Innovative Solutions—Creating network-centric architectural solutions to fully align technology investments to customer business goals.

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