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Cisco UCS & Cisco Nexus – Making M&Ms and VMs Awesome!

Based on the positive feedback I received from my Cisco UCS videos, I decided it was time to tackle a slightly more complicated set of topics. While it’s fairly easy to come up with a set of keywords that spell out C-I-S-C-O, sometimes it’s valuable to take off the training wheels and go a little broader. So in today’s video, we combine the simplicity of M&Ms with the complexity of VMs. How do we take technology that provides tremendous value to customers and explain it in a way that’s fun and easy to replicate? Well, let’s see what happens… Read More »

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Is Data Center Fabric Just Hype?

Over the last few days, I’ve been listening to some interesting conversations on the topic of “fabric” in the data center.  To be honest, one of the common questions I get is if there is anything materially different about “Fabric” (our Data Center Fabric or anyone else’s), or is it merely the latest buzzword from bored marketing geeks.  From what I have seen, many of the companies throwing around the term “fabric” are referring only to transport and are usually tying it to a specific product or technology.  On these two points, Cisco’s view of fabric markedly differs. Read More »

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Automating Cisco UCS Management with Windows PowerShell

As many of you know, a big part of the UCS story revolves around the flexibility we’ve built into the UCS management model.  While we hear great feedback from customers about the native UCS management GUI, we know that many of you have already invested lots of time in building automated solutions to repetitive IT tasks.  To that end, we want to help you find ways to use the tools and processes that have already been built along side of UCS.

We know that many of our customers are already running Microsoft applications on top of UCS.  For many of you, that means that you’re also likely automating repetitive tasks using Microsoft’s PowerShell scripting language.  PowerShell is an immensely powerful tool in an IT admin’s bag of tricks.  Introduced back in 2006, it has matured to become common across not only Microsoft’s business software, but also among their partner community – including NetApp, Quest Software, and even VMWare.

Shortly after we brought UCS to market, we got a specific request from an early adopter to build out PowerShell support for UCS .  Here on the team, nothing moves us faster than feedback directly from our customers, so it got the cogs turning and we’re happy to announce our first public release of the PowerShell Management Toolkit for UCSM.  We decided to even take that a step farther – besides providing PowerShell support, we’ve also made available .NET managed code that can be used to natively build UCS support into a .NET application.  For the rest of the post, I’m going to spend some time talking about some of the nifty ways in which UCS PowerShell provider can be used.  Fair warning here, folks – we’re about to get technical :-)

For the brave among you, read on……

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Microsoft TechEd 2011 Impressions

Microsoft TechEd 2011 was a great opportunity to talk to customers about Cisco UCS and Microsoft applications. We had  so many attendees come by the booth and ask questions about UCS that we meet out target goal of customer engagments within the first two days.  I was surprised how many people did not realize the depth of the platform or the integration points we provide from both an application and consolidation standpoint.

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Keep Rocking that Blade Server Boat

I’m a big AC/DC fan.  While this certainly dates me to some degree, and may alienate me to the smooth jazz crowd,  it pertains to the story I will share about the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS). 

There is a lot of buzz  going around now about UCS, but I am not going to spend time here talking about server vendors competing for market share.  The real story is  about an industry long overdue for innovation and the customers who demand it.   The story starts several years ago when a very large bet was placed by some gutsy people at Cisco. A team was dispatched to undertake the daunting task of designing a system that really answered the emerging needs of the data center and, long story short, in 2009 UCS was born.  

At this point in server history, the industry offered customers several similar blade offerings which largely conformed to the same old basic layout.   We’ve all heard a thousand times how these designs delivered us from the evils of ballooning power and cooling costs, scarce data center floor space and cabling insanity.   In reality, they were just a packaging evolution that crammed complexity into a smaller box, which you could then replicate 10U at a time throughout your data center.  These designs also created new challenges such as, “who owns the switches in this d@mn thing?” 

Cisco seized the opportunity to approach customers with a revolutionary approach that went far beyond the mechanicals, offering capabilities that tackled some of the trickiest problems in the data center – the ones that couldn’t be fixed with nifty fans.  The list of breakthrough innovations was long.  Virtualization awareness, bare metal abstraction, self-integration, programmability, unified management control planes, role based administration.   On and on and on.  The UCS NDA presentation sessions were long and exhausting just for the sheer volume of crazy new ideas.  You had to bring in lunch.

Fast forward to present day and this is the key statistic that gives me pause:  the UCS customer count is 5400 and growing.  Why is this remarkable?  If choosing a vendor to supply rack servers is akin to speed dating, then choosing a supplier for blade servers is more like getting married, because components from different vendors are not interchangeable. Reaping the benefits of converged infrastructure requires commitment from an IT shop – and from the person charged with deciding which way to go.  By electing to deploy a particular blade architecture, customers place significant trust in that partner to supply a technology roadmap that will meet their needs for several years to come.

So in 2009 and 2010, customers were presented with a revolutionary architecture. But let’s be honest, it was very high on promise and low on track record.   It’s commonly held that IT professionals are a necessarily conservative lot. Many could easily have shrugged off Cisco’s science experiment and concluded “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.”  Or HP.  Or Dell.  The IT pros could have kept doing things the same old way.

But some didn’t do that.  Some broke ranks with convention and chose to throw in their lot with the innovators.  They had the audacity to say to everyone around them: “we need to buy UCS, because there really is something better here.”  You can be certain many of them heard from colleagues, management, and the antibodies:  “Servers, from Cisco? Are you nuts?”  But they persisted.  They believed.  They wanted a better tool for the job.  They wanted a Unified Computing System, not just a blade server.  Over the past two years, thousands of these innovators put their reputations, and arguably their badges, on the line in the quest to take their IT practice and their business to a better place.   

And that, to me, is remarkable.   5,400 customers and counting.  These people have helped create a market transition.   On behalf of all the UCS innovators here at Cisco, to you, the customers who rocked the blade server boat:  we salute you!  …. And for those about to rock, we salute you too.