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Intel and Cisco collaboration in data center goes deeper

Over the past two weeks, related to the Intel launches of Xeon Series 5600 and Xeon series 7500 processors, we announced new UCS platforms. Omar Sultan and Harris Sussman blogged recently on these announcements bringing up front amazing benchmark results (Making the Jump to Light Speed).

These results were obviously the fruit of a very intense collaboration between Intel and Cisco, reflecting again the partnership spirit which drives the innovation at Cisco
As a quick footnote to this statement, one of the strong features of the UCS platform is definitely the openess of the management tool -On April 6th , we announced the  full integration of UCS Manager with all the major provisioning tools in use today such as BMC, CA, EMC, HP, IBM Microsoft, Symantec, VMware – This collaboration with a broad partner eco-system around UCS, is again a great source of innovation for the market – Stay tuned for more information from Omar and I on this topic in the following weeks-

 I had recently the opportunity to videotape some of the key stakeholders from Intel and Cisco, starting with Intel VP Kirk Skaugen and Cisco VP David Lawler, talking about the benefits for the customers of this collaboration

In this short video, David Lawler explains how Intel new processors and Cisco breakthrough innovations (ie Lossless fabric, extended memory, virtual interface card..) allow the company coming from a clean slate, to deliver a complete  portfolio of 2 and 4 sockets servers, blade servers and rack mount servers type, ready to address virtually all the applications deployment needs.

The same day David Lawler met Shubho Nag, Xeon 7500 Product development Team manager at Intel, to talk more and with the passion of engineers about the collaboration between the two companies, and get some insights on some of the developments and the choices made  to achieve the current results produced by the Cisco UCS B440 M1 and UCS C460 M1

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Any server, any application and anywhere in the data center?

Yes, this is indeed flexibility of the breakthrough innovative architecture that easily adapts to any combination of server form factors, any server vendor, any scale, any speed & any traffic type. All delivered through a cost-effective & comprehensive set of server access layer solution that greatly simplifies IT operations  —  the newly refreshed line of Nexus 2000 Series Fabric Extenders (FEX).

Before I go into details around the new FEX’s I’d like to provide some background around the innovative FEX architecture. The breakthrough FEX architecture is a part of our Data Center 3.0 vision which is designed to deliver breakthrough solutions allowing IT managers to overcome the constraints imposed by existing technologies and traditional thinking.

About a year back we introduced the first instantiation of FEX architecture, the Nexus 2148. With in less than one year on the market, this innovative FEX product has surpassed an important 1 Million GbE ports milestone validating the industry’s unique and innovative Cisco Nexus data center unified server access layer architecture. Over 2000 customers including St. Josephs Healthcare, TFS, Salem Hospital, Schneider Electric, Alibaba group, Lawrence Livermore and many more customers are already realizing the solid benefits of this architecture across Enterprise, Public Sector, Service Provider and Commercial segments, in all theatres around the globe.

So what’s unique about the FEX architecture?

Traditional top-of-rack data center architecture offers a good start in simplifying cabling. Modular system or end-of-row architecture is easier to manage..

The Cisco FEX architecture delivers the best of both of these worlds, FEX act as a virtual or remote module (aka line card) of the parent switch they connect to, the Nexus 5000  providing a single point of management for up to 12 FEXs. Along with the cabling simplicity of a top-of-rack deployment model, what you get is a virtual modular system. 


And for the record, in the Q2FY10 earnings call, our CEO John Chambers mentioned that Nexus 5000 revenue shipments grew 450% YoY. Within a short period of time, the introduction of FEX along with Nexus 5000 has revolutionized data center designs and enabled data center architects to reduce cost, gain new design flexibility while also simplifying cabling infrastructure and management complexity.

Well you just don’t have to take my word for it, let’s look at the real world experiences of IT organizations that have realized breakthrough business results from Nexus FEX architecture

•           St. Joseph Health System deployed server access layer solution using Cisco Nexus 2000 technology and funded new data center switches from the savings on cabling alone: rather than spending an estimated $1.3 million on cabling, their cost with the unified access layer was a mere $190,000, an 85 percent savings. St. Joseph estimated its space savings at 80 percent, and its power savings at 25 percent. For the full success story, click here.

 •           NetApp reduced their network edge costs by 40 percent by deploying a cost-effective access layer based on Cisco Nexus 5000 Series Switches and Cisco Nexus 2000 Series Fabric Extenders. The cloud computing environment they deployed using this unified access layer requires rapid scalability, and their Cisco Nexus technology-based environment provided them exactly that. For the full story, click here.

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Making the Jump to Light Speed

by Harris Sussman,  Cisco Data Center Solutions – Unified Computing System


Many of you will likely recall the following dialog from the original Star Wars film (1977), where the Millennium Falcon (Han’s Solo’s space ship) is speeding away from the Death Star:

Obi-Wan: How long before you can make the jump to light speed?
Han Solo: It’ll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navi-computer. 
Luke: Are you kidding? At the rate they’re gaining?
Han Solo: Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy!

 Well, sorry I’ve dated those that remember, and for those having no idea what I’m talking about, check out the movie. I refer to this movie and scene in particular, because it reminds me about how advanced this film was at the time. In fact, the film was so progressive, the term “jump to light speed” is regularly used in peoples daily vernacular.

 When I look back and realize Cisco just announced the Unified Computing System a year ago, and ponder the test results gleaned from our new Intel Xeon 5600 and 7500 Series based blade server and rack server products, the term “make the jump to light speed” certainly seems fitting.

 Three weeks ago, Cisco announced historical results with our new Intel Xeon 5600 Series based blade server and rack server products captured in the table below.

Additionally, Cisco recently delivered test results demonstrating the scalability of our unique Extended Memory product, the B250 M2 using the Xeon Series 5600 processor. The following graph highlights how optimized the UCS B Series is for virtualization consolidation using a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 workload.

In a Cisco UCS B250 M2 Extended Memory Blade Server with vSphere, the Intel Xeon Processor X5680, and 384 GB of RAM handled 15 more virtual machines (VMs) than did the Cisco UCS B200 M2 Blade Server with vSphere, the Intel Xeon Processor X5680, and 96 GB of RAM, for a total of 115.38 percent more VMs. Please review detailed results at the Unified Computing System at Work page.

Just last week, Cisco announced 2 new Intel Xeon Series 7500 Processor based, 4-socket Blade and Rack Server products, the UCS B440 M1 and UCS C460 M1. The new Xeon 7500 Series boasts the biggest performance jump in Xeon history with new scalable performance, flexible virtualization and advanced reliability.

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Introducing the Second Generation Cisco UCS


July will mark the three year anniversary of our Data Center 3.0 vision and in the intervening time, like clockwork, we have released products and technologies that have helped turn the vision into reality for our customers.  Today, we have a number of announcements that continue the trend.  While there are a number of cool new products including new members of the Nexus 1000 and Nexus 2000 family and new products from Tidal (which I will cover in subsequent blogs), today, I am going to start of with the next iteration of our UCS platform.

Last week, I blogged about the compelling innovation that Intel is bringing to market and the need to both build upon that innovation and deliver a balanced system design.  Our second generation UCS represents both of those goals by taking advantage of Intel’s newest offerings and adding our own special in the areas of I/O and management.

In a nutshell, the second generation UCS delivers

  • 4 times the compute capacity in the same footprint with 4-socket servers or 50% more cores in our 2-socket servers
  • Up to 160Gb/s bandwidth per blade this year with no chassis change
  • Doubling upstream Fibre Channel bandwidth 8Gb FC uplinks
  • 30% greater I/O performance with the Cisco VIC

With the latest generation of the UCS, we feel it is the logical choice for most if not all of you workloads, virtual or physical. To that end, we have over 15,000 applications certified via our certification and integration partners and we have developed and released Cisco Validated Designs for key applications such as Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server, Oracle RAC, and SAP.

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Intel’s Xeon 7500 Reinforces the Need for Balanced System Design


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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