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Unified Computing System Management Basics

March 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

As I have noted, virtualization introduces a couple of distinct challenges that directly impact its ultimately scalability as a solution. While virtualization offers a number of compelling benefits, it does introduce increased operational complexity. Because it is simple to add a new virtual machine (VM) and because we can move VMs across physical infrastructure, we see an uptick in the change requests that the network and storage teams must address to support this new flexibility. Additionally, because we see more use of automated live migration of VMs (i.e. VMware DRS), we need to the ability to automate the provisioning of the underlying infrastructure in a much more dynamic way. To us, it was simple: the management framework of the Cisco UCS should simplify and automate server provisioning and the network connectivity that the server requires. This allows companies to accelerate their virtualization plans. However, there was also one other key goal--we did not want to create any data center islands, so the Cisco UCS should easily integrate into the existing environment — no forklifts.

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Unified Computing System: Plays Well With Others

March 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST
image So, to get a bit further into the management of the UCS in a heterogeneous environment, I went to the source and did a quick interview with Brian Schwarz, who is Product Manager focused on UCS Manager in the Server Access and Virtualization BU. Brian came to Cisco via the Nuova acquisition and prior to that he worked at Symantec/Veritas.

Omar: So, how does Cisco UCS integrate into a customer’s existing environment--there seems to be a perception that UCS will be an island in the data center. Brian: UCS Manger runs below the operating system. There is a whole ecosystem of tools that runs operating system and above and they use host agents and traditional forms of host interaction--those will all work unmodified on top of the UCS. When we are done associating a service profile with a server and it’s attached networks, the OS essentially gets a bare metal server exactly like it sees it today. There should be no need to change any of those products in order to work with UCS servers. Having said that, that’s the base level qualification--the UCS and OS level tools won’t break each other. There is still a value in ISVs exploiting the UCS XML API. They can deliver new capabilities to our mutual customers that has not been possible with non-unified architectures. This is what BMC has done with their BladeLogic offering, but integration is not a requirement in order for their software to work.

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Tackling Data Center Airflow

March 20, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

image In this installment, our fearless data center architect Doug Alger discusses how Cisco IT handles equipment that needs side-to-side airflow. As to why we need side-to-side airflow in the first place, check out this recent interview with Doug Gourlay.On a related note, here is some useful, practical info from Cisco’s Energy Efficient Data Center (EEDC) program

Unified Computing Perspectives

March 19, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

One of the objectives for our blog is to add some new perspectives, so you will be seeing some new faces--some permanently and some guest bloggers. So, I am very pleased to get this effort kicked off with a guest post from Reuven Cohen. Reuven has great insight on cloud computing and I highly recommend you follow him at elasticvapor.com and @ruv on Twitter. For folks that are interested in clouds, Reuven as included links to some of the groups with which he is involved.Omar


The Unified Data CenterReuven Cohen, Founder & Chief Technologist, Enomaly IncFor some the biggest buzz word so far in 2009 is “cloud”, for Cisco it’s “unified”. Today Cisco announced a new server centric strategy which is underpinned by the use of a “unified computing” methodology. This new unified approach to computing represents a radical shift in how we as an industry both visualize and manage a modern virtualized data center. For Cisco Unified Computing seems to be an overarching mantra being applied to the broader management of data center resources (compute, storage, and network elements) through a singular virtualized point of interaction. In a sense they are attempting the unification of the the entire infrastructure stack in what some are calling a unified infrastructure fabric. By being a new player to the server industry, Cisco’s approach to a Unified Computing System is an opportunity to completely reimagine the way we look at enterprise computing. Within this new vision for the data center is an integrated management platform that combines what they describe as a “wire once” unified fabric and API which utilizes a standards compliant computing platform. Cisco’s platform has the potential to uniformly interact with all layers of the enterprise computing stack while reducing the overall management costs. Given the macroeconomic factors of the current market, cost saving will certainly be an important area of differentiation. The stated goal is to cut the total cost of ownership by 20 percent in capital expenses and up to 30 percent in operating expenses, this in itself will be more important then any data center flexibility in the short term. Read More »

Unified Computing: The Day After the Day After

March 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

Now that the dust has settled and everyone has had a chance to digest the Unified Computing System announcements a bit, I see a couple of salient points--well, I see more, but only have time to blog about a couple of them right now.First and foremost, we have certainly move the bar for everyone. As pointed out in a SeekingAlpha post by Larry Dignan:

Other data center rivals will have to start answering questions about integration between functions, architecture and the potential savings. If anything just the buzz associated with Cisco’s move can dictate the conversation.

In the long run, I think this will drive the industry forward--as Doug pointed out recently, “we are certain over time we will not be alone in this market.” In the near term, however, I see a lot of talking points on why this really isn’t any different or really all that important. Read More »