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Cisco UCS for a Better Night’s Sleep

We continue to see accelerating traction for our Cisco UCS and with this increasing customer adoption, we see some pretty compelling business results from our customers. Today, we have an IPTV broadcast with one of those customers: Slumberland. [UPDATE: Here is the archive for the broadcast]

For those of you unfamiliar with the company, they are one of the top 25 furniture retailers in the US with 118 stores in 11 midwestern states.  They are facing a set of IT and business challenges that should be familiar to anyone in the retail industry including maintaining low costs in a highly competitive environment, scalability and security and compliance requirements.  As with many of our customers they also had to work with a lean IT staff and a basically flat IT budget.

Slumberland’s IT environment is also fairly typical for an enterprise customer: Microsoft Hyper-V R2, SQL Server, and Exchange 2007 IBM DB2, Oracle 10g and 11g, and Cisco collaboration.

With their current data center infrastructure hitting end of life, the IT team went on a quest for a new platform and landed on the UCS. They picked UCS for three primary reasons:

  • Best open platform for virtualization because of high RAM capacity, low latency and high I/O bandwidth
  • Lowest TCO
  • Compatibility with their existing environment, including Compellent SAN, Cisco MDS, Windows and Linux

The results they achieved are pretty hard to argue with:

  • $368K less than than other solutions they considered
  • Reduced per-server management costs from $1,575 to $80
  • 4X more virtual desktop sessions per server along with improved user experience (faster login and better session performance)
  • Simplified troubleshooting with UCS Manager’s ability to provide a single point of control.

As is often the case, the Cisco solution was about more than just cool technology, both Cisco Services and our partner Qwest played central roles in pulling this all together fro Slumberland.

A couple of weeks ago, when I introduced Data Center Business Advantage, I talked about our goal being more than just delivering cool technology to the market–it was about linking that technology to meaningful and tangible business outcomes and what Slumberland was able to do is a prime example.  For example, the operational costs savings means that their IT team can maintain a flat budget but still free budget to continue to invest and innovate with their data center.  Alternatively, IT could return some or all the cost savings back to the company to help it a) reduce overall operating expenses and maintain or increase its low-cost competitive advantage and/or b) increase overall profitability.  Similarly, the simplified operations allows the IT staff to get out of constant fire-fighting mode (which is good for their long-term well-being) and allows them the cycles to be strategic and be a better partner to the rest of the business.

Anyway, check out the broadcast, its a pretty cool story.

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Are Clouds floating back to Earth?

For those of us that have been through the waves of previous technology and paradigm shifts, it’s always interesting to watch a new cycle evolve. It usually starts with a great bit of fanfare, vision, bold predictions and concerns of “that’s crazy…it’ll never work…why would anyone care about that…??” etc, etc. And then after a little while (usually 12 months), the hype slows down and there are lulls while people get down to the business of creating the actual technology, associated companies and winning business models. During these lulls, doubt often creeps in and we find out who has actual vision and who is riding the coat-tails of hype. During the initial lull in any technology cycle, I like to ask the following questions to help me determine if the lull is temporary or potentially permanent. Read More »

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Is “Cloud in a Box” a Contradiction in Terms?

As various infrastructure vendors promote “cloud in a box” approaches, at times there seems to be a significant omission with regard to the role of the network in cloud computing architectures. Based on my work on Cisco Cloud Enablement Services, on factors that should influence your Cloud Strategy, I’d like to give you insights into one of the key surprises that came out of our own market research into the challenges of cloud adoption,  that really makes me question those who espouse “cloud in a box” as a marketing message. Or, to expand what they say, their “cloud in a box and let’s forget about the network” message. Do they really ‘get’ what cloud is about?

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Meeting Old Challenges in the New Normal

So it’s more or less official: the recession ended in June 2009. Anyone watching IT departments this year could have told you that. When the economy ramps up, there’s a shift in focus from cost savings and maintenance (back when I was an IT manager, we called it “bunker mode”) to innovation that moves the business forward. And in 2010 we’ve certainly observed that. IT departments are concentrating not only on streamlining operations and lowering costs—an absolute mandate of the recession—but also on innovation that leads to better business operations, greater productivity, and increased revenues—a clarion call of recovery.  Now, this innovation can be in business practice or improved technology—and most likely both—but it almost always begins with IT. Streamlining IT functions, managing assets carefully, and ensuring uninterrupted operations can lower costs, increase reliability, and free resources for research, development, and innovation.

 So it’s back to business as usual running IT departments and data centers in an expanding recovery, right? Wrong.

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Ever Wonder What a UCS Service Profile Actually Looks Like?

A picture really is worth a thousand words. I found this out many times over doing booth duty at IDF and then Oracle Open World recently. We had the UCS Manager Platform Emulator running at IDF, but not at OOW, and being able to actually show people the flexibility, breadth and depth of control you get with the UCS approach to management made a notable difference in the tenor and seriousness of the conversations.

You can download the Platform Emulator from the Cisco Developer Network (CDN) and play with it to get a feel for how UCS Manager is organized. But I wanted to give a nod to the valuable public service provided by Kevin Houston over at BladesMadeSimple: he’s created a YouTube video using the Platform Emulator that walks you through the information and tools available to the administrator(s) in UCS Manager, including the creation of service profiles, templates and pools.  It’s definitely long, but thanks to the soundtrack I found myself wanting to samba as I watched (not that I have the slightest idea how to samba; fortunately nobody was around).  Simply put, it may well be the coolest 15-minute tech video you’ll see all week.

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