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A Virtual Path to Better IT

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Are you discovering that your data center is having a hard time keeping up with the demand of the business? In today’s consumer-driven world, IT must work in alliance with your overall business strategy—enabling it, not hindering it. But you already knew that.

So what are your options? Start by considering your infrastructure.

Do you update on an “as-needed” basis, investing in technology that meets needs for the moment? Do you rely on physical servers that quickly become overloaded, maybe resulting in the inability to efficiently handle the influx of data coming from mobile devices and concurrent network connections? Traditional data centers weren’t built for the traffic we encounter today.

Your IT infrastructure is your conduit for business success. And, as is usually the case, a sturdy foundation is the first and foremost step in assuring structural support. With the groundwork laid, moving from a physical to a virtual environment is certainly a viable option. Private, public, or hybrid clouds may decrease your data center footprint and associated expenses, allowing you to scale rapidly and respond faster to the needs of the business. But is it secure?

Many questions hover around the cloud, to which there are many possible answers. Unleashing IT helps inform and guide your decisions that translate to accelerated business outcomes—advice and information from industry experts is available in the online resource section, and we highlight your industry peers’ experiences. Check out the articles in Volume 3, Issue 3, and discover how CAP COM decided it was time to stop adjusting to the “now” and invest in a data center that supports future needs. Or learn how CommScope made a bold business transformation with a customer briefing center, showpiece, and data center—all in one.

Subscribe now and see what is possible to make amazing happen for your business. Browse the website or request your own complimentary copy, in print or PDF form.

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Subscribers also have access to the new special edition, Unleashing IT, Cisco Powered. Learn about our partnerships with industry leaders to provide quality managed IT services, and read about how others are leveraging these services to simplify their cloud management.

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IT Services Faster!

Most of us expect immediate delivery both as consumers and as employees. As employees, we are no longer willing to wait weeks for IT to deliver what we need. IT departments feel the pain that ensues from our urgency in the form of shadow IT.  Shadow IT results in the double trouble of higher risk and cost from a weaker ability to enforce compliance and best practices when users stray to acquire their own IT services.

What’s that? You believe if you add more staff to address this issue it goes away? You may provide more services but at the same slower pace while increasing operational costs and decreasing operating profits. The key to maintaining IT discipline and delivering services faster is simply a judicious use of integrated automation and management.  It dramatically increases your staff’s ability to execute quickly -- to IT standards.

Cisco UCS Director is that missing piece that your staff needs to deliver services faster.  It helps your staff deliver more services in minutes--not days or weeks.  It lets your staff spend time to align IT with the business, instead of manually spinning up systems--and that’s what we all want. Read More »

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The Future of Cloud, Part 7: The Fabric Between the Clouds

(This is part 7 of a 7-part series sharing insights from Cisco partners about the Future of Cloud.)

During CiscoLive!, I had the chance to talk with Andy Bird, Executive Director, Product Management and Development at eLoyalty, a Cisco partner for more than 15 years.  “We’ve chosen to partner up with Cisco and have a Cisco Powered cloud that allows us to offer stable and scalable solutions.  We’ve built a front end around them that offers the simplicity that customers expect from a cloud-based service.”

To verify that eLoyalty would be able to deliver on the promises of Cisco Powered services, they had to achieve certifications and pass a third-party audit.  “It’s important that we’re enterprise-grade. That audit allowed us to get to that point.”

Bird described several of the complications involved in the integration of technology: multi-tenancy, permissions-based clouds, security, self-administration.  “These things become a big deal,” he said.  “Having Cisco on the back end enables us to not have to worry about the core.”

Bird also talked about the value of the Cisco Intercloud to eLoyalty.  “There are a lot of disparate clouds out there.  But imagine trying to take your data from one cloud and move it to the next.  It’s very difficult to do, because when you look at clouds, you end up getting hooked into them, just like if you were to buy premise gear.

“What Cisco has been starting to enable to happen is the idea of creating a fabric between the clouds that allows me to migrate data.  When somebody gets on my platform, they have the ability to go and leverage Cisco in other places.  So they have a different level of confidence.”

Cisco’s partner ecosystem also plays an important role to eLoyalty.  “Even though I’ve got Cisco at the core, I still have all of these peripheral, secondary, tertiary applications to make seamless and ubiquitous.  But I’m not going to build my own WFN and QM.  I’m not going to develop my own CTI integration.  I’m using that entire ecosystem that Cisco has paved the way for.

“My value is that I bring them all together.”

You can learn more about how providers are addressing the need for enterprise class services in the latest edition of Unleashing IT.

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Balancing the MDS Scales in Your Favor

August 4, 2014 at 8:00 am PST

One of the main themes I’ve been running into a lot lately is the sense of scale. For a while the term actually lost much of its meaning because it has been used to describe any number of systems that happen to be large.

96588998_47Scale-up.

Scale-out.

At scale.

See what I mean? The term is predominantly used as a synonym for growth, and while that has merit it does tend to gloss over some of the nuances of what happens when systems “get big.”

I’ve talked about this before, both in terms of different storage architectures (such as Spine/Leaf with Dynamic FCoE as well as SDN and Programmability, but that doesn’t mean that native Fibre Channel systems are being left out.

In fact, there have been some major improvements in the way that the MDS 9700 series of switches have been able to accommodate bigger scale. And by bigger, I mean by the thousands. This is, of course, just one of the major announcements that the MDS group has made, and I encourage you to read the blogs by Tony Antony and Prashant Jain about their new developments as well. Read More »

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Cisco MDS for Small to Cloud-Scale Data Centers

Superior Platforms, Scale, and Operational Simplicity

 Data Center trends like  Virtualization, Solid State Drives, DC consolidation and Data Explosion are putting a tremendous amount of strain on the infrastructure. These challenges need targeted and multifaceted approach. It has to be holistic solution to the problems rather than point products for each unique problem. Data Centers require improvements in performance, flexibility, scalability, and reliability and ease of management. To address that Cisco revamped the MDS product line, the journey we started last year when we introduced 9710 and 9250i.

9710 – Director Class Switch with 3x the performance of any director, 384 ports of line rate 16G FC, highest reliability and flexibility.

9250i – Services Appliance supporting 10G FCIP, 16G FC and 10G FCoE in addition to IO Acceleration, Data Mobility Migration in compact 2 RU form factor.

We had a great success with the product line with steepest ramp and amazing customer feedback. Building on the success we have added new members to the product family and extended the innovation to allow for simpler management and scalable deployments.

Portfolio

 

a) Three New Products

  1. MDS 9148S – Industries’  most versatile affordable 1RU switch with High-Performance, Easy of Deployment,  Enterprise-class features
  2. MDS 9706 -- Unprecedented investment protection with high performance, reliability and multi-protocol flexibility
  3. High Density line rate 10G FCoE Card -- For customers to adopt high density FCoE in incremental non-disruptive fashion on the existing FC footprint without forklift upgrades.

b)     New Scalable Deployment Options

  1. Much Higher Scalability for SAN Infrastructures.
  2. Dynamic FCoE over Fabric Path
  3. Data migration enhancements for speed, scale and resiliency

c)     New Management Features

  1. Hardware based FC Congestion Detection and Recovery
  2. Integration with Industry leading Platforms
  3. End to End Visibility
  4. Switch Health Score

With the addition of new members Cisco not only has best of the breed products but also broadest product portfolio. This allows customers to design the SAN precisely to their needs from small departmental SANs to the largest enterprises, from traditional LAN, SAN networks to fully converged fabric and everything in between.

Product Portfolio

Attend the Webinar on August 12th 8:00 PST to learn more :  Register Now

 

Lets look at the capabilities of each product in little more detail

  Cisco MDS 9148S: High-Performance, Easy to Deploy, Enterprise-class Fabric Switch

Cisco MDS 9148S Fixed Fabric Switch

Versatile: 9148S pay as you grow model allows customers to start from small base and grow . It allows customers to grow from 12 Ports to 24, 36 and finally 48 without any rip and replace. It allows customers to go from 2/4/8G to 16G FC speeds. It is not only the most affordable switch shipping today across all the possible configurations but with 2x the range of ports it allows unparalleled scalability for future growth.

Ease of use: Power On Auto provisioning which allows   9148 and 9148S to automate switch setup. From getting DHCP, to downloading and applying the software to the final configuration is done automatically. Quick configuration wizard allows the box to be configured in an easy way. It shares the same NxOS as rest of the MDS and Nexus products. Power on Auto Provisioning (POAP) is important for large scale data centers where 9148S will be used as Top of the Rack (ToR) switch and distributed throughout the data center. This saves customer to go from box to box with the serial cable and program them individually. It allows for  rapid, error free and consistent provisioning.

9148S ToR Architecture

MDS 9148 Pay As You Grow

Enterprise Class switch: It offers the rich Enterprise features like non-disruptive software upgrade,32 Virtual SANs (VSANs), Inter-VSAN Routing (IVR), QOS, PortChannels, N-Port ID Virtualization (NPIV), N-Port Virtualization (NPV), Comprehensive Security in addition to redundant power supplies and fans. Its first of the kind switch in the industry to allow hardware based slow drain detection and recovery. It has back to front airflow.

Customer Use Case: Customer will use the 9148S to design small SAN environments like  departmental SANs.  Larger Enterprises will use 9148S as ToR Switch for ease of cabling and ease of Management. In addition to that 9148S will be used for BC/DR or remote locations. Pay as you go model is very attractive to customers as it allows them to grow the port count from 12 to 48 without any price penalty as their network demands grow.

 Cisco MDS 9706: Extending MDS 9710 Director Qualities to a Smaller Form Factor

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It is the highest performance director in the industry. It provides 3X the bandwidth compared to any compact director in the industry. Not only it provide 192 ports line rate performance at 16G but it is designed to provide line rate performance at 32G FC and 40G FCoE when those line cards are introduced without the forklift upgrades using the same type of fabric cards. With 6 fabric cards it provides 1.5Tbps of bandwidth per slot.

In addition to that this is industries first class of directors to offer Redundancy on all critical components including fabric cards. Smaller failure domain, Forward error correction, multi-point CRC checks, predictable and consistent performance for both latency and throughput.

Small to medium enterprises will use 9706 as Middle of the row and end of row switch in addition line rate 16G performance allows it to be used for connectivity to targets in addition to host connectivity. It will be used for both edge core and edge-core-edge designs.

In addition to the pod like deployments where 9RU form factor and 192 ports of line rate at 16G is very attractive.

Some of the specs of the switch are enumerated below

 

  • 1.5 Tbps per slot switching capability

 192 ports of 16G FC line rate today with 100% head room to grow to 32G FC) without forklift upgrade

  • Industries Highest ReliabilityMDS 9706 Details

N+1 Fabric redundancy, smaller failure domains, Forward Error Correction, CRC error checks at multiple points, In service software upgrades,  Crossbar design with central arbitration and Virtual Output Queuing ensure customers not only get highest availability but also predictable and consistent throughput independent of the traffic profile.

  • Unmatched Flexibility

With ability to support both FC and FCoE line cards. With capability to support 2/4/8/10/16G FC and 10G FCoE today and performance to support 32G FC and 40G FCoE on the same footprint.

Industry’s Highest-Density FCoE Module on a FC Director

With 48 ports this has the highest port density and greatest flexibility in the industry. Without any restrictions Cisco customers can now orchestrate FC, FCoE and mixed solutions. FCoE line card afford customers ability to design FC solutions and incrementally deploy FCoE without forklift upgrades and meeting the same features, reliability and availability as afforded by FC.

FCoE Line Card

In addition to hardware we added extensive capabilities to enable small size to cloud scale deployments.

Scalability Enhancements

To support large scale out and scale up deployment models we have increased the scalability limits for the SAN infrastructure. The industry leading scalability numbers allow Cisco customer’s unprecedented future proofing and scalability to Scale out or Scale-up. Finally the Data Mobility Migration has 2x the speed and 8x the scale and higher resiliency.

Simplifying SAN Management

In addition to enhanced capabilities in Cisco tools MDS family is integrated with industry standard tools to provide faster configurations like automated zoning. Some of the examples of the tools are UCS Director, EMC ViPR, Microsoft System Center VMM and IBM PpowerVC.

To address complexity in the data-centers Cisco is focused on SAN Management simplification. First and foremost that is top of mind for customers is slow drain. If there are slow draining devices in the network it chokes the entire fabric. These conditions are transient, extremely difficult to isolate, debug and fix. To detect and recover for these conditions Cisco introduced Slow Drain Detection and Recovery in software in previous generation of devices. Now with the new products we have provided the support for these devices to run the slow drain detection and recovery in the hardware rather than waiting for software to come around polling individual ports every 100 ms which is a life time in the data center. As the table below shows with hardware based slow drain the detection speed has increased 100 times and recovery is of the order of nano seconds rather than 100ms.

 

Platforms Detection Granularity Recovery Action Latency – Start   and Stop
Software-based MDS 9500MDS 9148 100ms 100ms
Hardware-based   NEW! MDS 9700,   MDS   9250i, MDS 9148S 1ms Immediate   (ns)

 

For more info read this whitepaper

 End to End Visibility

In addition to that Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) provides end to end visibility from hosts (virtual or Physical) through switches (MDS or Nexus) into the storage arrays independent of the protocol. DCNM is single pane of glass visibility into the Data Center for both SAN and LAN.

HPRA

Host Path Redundancy Analysis checks the network every 24 hours or customer designated interval if there is end to end dual paths from Host to the target. It checks against port down situations, VSAN mismatches, VSAN Segmentation, LUN mismatches as well as makes sure both the ports are not on the same line cards. Similar activity that used to take months is now completed on the fly every 24 hours reducing risk and time to repair. Further more administrators are not surprised by an outage as they have complete visibility for the dual paths. Furthermore having both the paths up allows to mitigate any silent failures as well as avoid outages if one of the SAN fails.

Switch health score is another unique capability of DCNM  to track switch health over time. It allows customer to quickly determine level of risk, isolate and fix the alerts resulting in low health score and track the health of the SAN over time.

 

Health Score

 As I started the discussion today Data Centers need a holistic approach to solving the challenges of the data center. Customers not only need higher performance, investment protection, lower opex and capex, reliability but also ease of management and tightly integrated end to end solution. The solutions and capabilities I described allows us to solve the challenges faced by data centers not only today for the years to come. We introduced MDS products in 2002 and since then we have introduced industries first innovation, just few examples out of that are enumerated below. We will continue to innovate in this space for the next decade.

 

Continued Innovation

 

Prashant Jain

Sr. Product Manager, DCBU

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”