So, I was lucky enough to go to the launch event for the new Intel Xeon processors yesterday. There is plenty of more better more informed coverage out that there on the processor itself, so I am not going to try and re-create it here, but there are a couple of thoughts I did want to share.
The Xeon 7500 is certainly a significant accomplishment. A couple of the soundbites that stuck with me was the 20:1 consolidation capability for existing Xeon servers with a predicted payback of 8 months including significantly reduced energy costs. One of the interesting points Kirk Skaugen made was that, if you are so inclined, you can now deliver 20X more compute capability in the existing thermal/power envelope of your data center. Beyond the raw performance, there were some equally important enhancements around scalability, support for virtualization, and system reliability. Intel’s point was that the Xeon has the wherewithal to be your primary processor for all your workloads--and I have to admit they make a pretty good case.
But, this is IT and there is no free lunch, so what is the impact of plopping these big honking processors down in the middle of your data center?
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WAN optimization technologies have many benefits, some easily measured and others that are intangible. The latter might be more important to the organization. Many customers tell us that they realize both tangible and intangible benefits from deploying Cisco WAAS. Tangible benefits include reduced or avoided bandwidth costs, reductions in branch office servers and a reduced branch office equipment footprint. These cost savings are realized since Cisco WAAS eliminates duplicate data transmission, enables branch office server consolidation and integrates with the Cisco ISR router. These tangible benefits can be fairly easy to measure as we shall see. Intangible benefits can be more difficult to measure, but they can often be more compelling. Let’s look at an example of a customer who has experienced both types of benefits.
Recently a customer told us that they expect to save $400,000 per year by deploying Cisco WAAS. Brisbane Australia based mining and heavy equipment supplier Hastings Deering says they achieved a rapid ROI with their WAN optimization project that connects their data center and remote office locations. The Hastings Deering Group sells and supports Caterpillar heavy equipment used in the mining and construction industries across Queensland, the Northern Territory and the South Pacific region, including Papua New Guinea. With a network of 65 nodes connecting to corporate applications in Brisbane, CIO John Birch says there was a constant battle to keep branch response times low for all its applications. “About 18 months ago we decided to take a look at network options other than just increasing bandwidth and we started exploring WAN optimization products”
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I was getting caught up with my reading this weekend and was reminded of the John F Kennedy quote about a rising tide lifting all boats. Intel has once again done their magic and released their Xeon 5600 CPU (aka Westmere) sporting a couple of more cores, a larger L3 cache and some other neat tidbits. The newest Intel processor becomes a platform upon which we build some interesting things by layering on our own innovations. However, as I worked my through another article, I began to wonder if we were the only ones thinking that way. In this interesting InfoWorld article, Paul Venezia reviews three of the latest blade server offerings based on the Westmere processor (Cisco UCS was not one of the systems reviewed). The interesting thing was the at the end of the day, Paul concluded “[t]here is no significant difference in blade performance in similarly equipped blades from any of these vendors.” So, while it seems Intel has done their part, it also seems very little was added by the vendors in the test.
Paul continues that meaningful differentiation came down to features such as options, management, etc. As I mentioned, our UCS was not part of this test, Paul recently completed a thorough evaluation of the system, where he concluded that the UCS was “a more manageable, more scalable, and essentially superior blade server system.” So, all things being equal, I think UCS had a good chance at taking top honors in a direct comparison (the UCS out-scored the systems in the recent test, although I am not sure its appropriate to compare scores across articles). That being said..all things are not equal…we have some significant innovations to bring to the party beyond Intel’s efforts, including our extended memory technology and our FEX technology, which I think translate to meaningful and tangible benefits for our customers. As examples, we just released results on our latest app testing including a new record on the VMware VMmark (with a 42% improvement over the previous 2-socket record), and Oracle just announced a new record on the SPECjAppServer2004 benchmark, which measures application server performance.
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by Harris Sussman, Cisco Data Center Solutions -- Unified Computing System
Opinions vary widely as to the criticality of computing benchmarks, but most people agree they are required, and an important data point. One month ago, I already shared with you the importance of reviewing data for virtualization .
Today, Cisco announced some breakthrough results based on industry standard benchmarks for virtualized environments as well as other key data center applications.
Cisco continues to prove it’s Unified Computing System is not only an architectural game changer, but it’s wide adoption and consistent performance are impressing folks like Boyd Davis, General Manager, Data Center Marketing, Intel who said “It’s quite an achievement for Cisco to have scored so high on so many of the industry benchmarking tests”
Cisco’s Unified Computing System B250 M2 Blade Server, based on the newly announced Xeon 5600 Processor, achieved record results with a score of 35.83 @ 26 tiles in the VMware VMmark™ benchmark, which measures virtualization performance using a server consolidation workload. This represents a 42 percent improvement over the previous highest two-socket published result.
In the SPECjAppServer2004 benchmark, the UCS C250 M2 Server set a new record. In this test, the Cisco Unified Computing System increased performance by 30% compared to previously published two-socket single-node server results.
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Based on a deluge of questions in my inbox, I guess its time to re-visit the perilous topic of equipment testing again. As I recently noted, you can have rigorously designed tests executed in a conscientious manner that may still only provide an incomplete picture at best. And sometimes you get tests that reveal more about the tester than the actual product that was purportedly being tested.
In case you missed it, a competitor recently released a report they commissioned that shows that their blade system offered better throughput than the Cisco UCS because of what they proposed was an inherent design flaw—over-subscription of the blade uplinks from each server. Unfortunately for them, it was their test plan that was flawed, not our UCS architecture or blade server innovation.
The fundamental fault with the test was it was conducted with a mis-configured Cisco UCS. Essentially, the testing firm matched a normally running system from our competitor against a Cisco UCS in its failover state.
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