I’ve been in this industry for more than three decades, and so I’ve experienced every data center technology breakthrough and market transformation in that time. We drove a market disruption ourselves with the introduction of Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) in 2009, and after just five years, we have more than 33,000 customer-proven results.
Now, we’re doing it again, but this time it’s different.
We are in the midst of the next major inflection point, driven by a new wave of applications. With the swipe of a finger, users can download an endless array of useful apps to their smart phones, tablets, and even wearable gadgets. We bring our personal devices with us to work, expecting the IT department to deliver the same access and ease of use on the business side.
This consumerization of IT puts end users in the driver’s seat. Scrambling to meet growing consumer and employee expectations, organizations in both the public and private sectors have demands of their own when it comes to next-generation data center capabilities and improved outcomes. Applications need holistic compute solutions, not just plain old servers. The explosive growth of mobility, social media, collaboration, the Internet of Everything (IoE), and big data means their applications need to scale up and out.
Now applications must be serviced by compute solutions that can integrate performance needs, handle large data sets, and scale as needed while reducing operational complexity and OpEx budgets. The requirements of these complex business applications are defining the infrastructure—not the other way around—because now more than ever, application performance translates into business results. This requires fresh innovation in designing an integrated infrastructure that is highly responsive to business and IT needs, while keeping data center budgets from spinning out of control.
At Cisco Live, I’ll show you how we’re driving a market disruption once again, this time with our breakthroughs in compute solutions that we didn’t think were possible just a few years ago. Technology leaders agree that Cisco UCS and Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) deliver solutions that put IT managers back in the driver’s seat, able to meet user demands, where applications are no longer constrained by the data center infrastructure.
It’s that time of year again. Next week in San Francisco, an estimated 22,000 customers and partners will convene for our annual Cisco Live user conference in the U.S. It’s also when we make big announcements … and this year is no different. The event hasn’t even started and we just made our first major announcement this morning.
Cisco UCS Director is unique in the industry because it offers the ability to automate the provisioning of both virtual and physical data center infrastructure resources – including compute, network, and storage – from a single management console. Building upon other recent releases, this major new release of UCS Director provides richer automation, greater extensibility, and broader device support. Some of the new capabilities in UCS Director version 5.0 include:
Support for APIC and the Nexus 9000 Series to provide automated deployment of application-ready infrastructure across both traditional and ACI-based data center networking from a single user interface.
Enhancements to the core platform including a new software development kit and open APIs that allow third party hardware and software vendors to integrate directly with UCS Director.
Expanded support for Cisco’s complete UCS and Nexus product portfolio; third-party compute, storage, and virtualization vendors’ products; and integrated infrastructure systems including NetApp FlexPod, VCE Vblock Systems, and EMC VSPEX.
Rapid customer deployment and even faster time-to-value with over 800 pre-built tasks in the updated UCS Director task library.
You can learn more about what’s new in UCS Director 5.0 in this “at-a-glance” overview:
Cisco IT is early in the journey to deploying an application centric infrastructure (ACI). This journey requires us to look at the IT organization differently. When we started evaluating what it would take to align applications to the network, we quickly realized that our organizational structure wasn’t favorable to extracting the most value from ACI. We needed an architecture team that represents all seven layers of the OSI stack, and works in sync to create tenets and policies and classify applications that conform with how we ultimately want to build out the fabric. ACI requires a completely different view of the relationship (along with a common syntax and language) between IT infrastructure and applications.
Acxiom is a well-known Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company providing data analytics and data processing solutions to Fortune 100 companies for running and analyzing their marketing campaigns. Recently Cisco spoke to Acxiom’s senior managers Kamal Kharrat, and Chuck Crane, about Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) strategy and how it helps them address their Data Center challenges. In this blog, I will present a brief summary of our discussions. Acxiom is experiencing exponential growth in its customer base, running millions of transactions every week in their hybrid-cloud based data centers. But this growth has brought in its wake several challenges. Acxiom stores confidential, compliance driven data in their private data center infrastructure, and is currently facing elastic scalability problems. Second, they want to transition from a high CAPEX, fixed infrastructure utilization model towards a dynamic model, in which workloads can be seamlessly moved across the private and public infrastructures. Besides, Axciom has a heteregenous mix of L4-L7 vendor devices, multi-hypervisor and security systems and has a pressing need for an open, policy based extensible foundation for their AOS SAAS to bring these services together.
Acxiom is excited to consider Cisco ACI as the best solution to address these problems and are looking to automate their compute, storage and security infrastructure provisioning and achieve the elasticity requirements in their private cloud similar to what they are achieving in the public cloud. Also, Acxiom plans to move the workloads in and out of compute and storage platforms while changing the security zones on-demand increasing the resource utilization to upwards of 80%. Mr. Chuck Crane is quick to point out that Acxiom makes more than 20,000 network and security configuration changes every year and feels the only way to keep up with the growing customer base is to eliminate the labor intensive man-hours and costs that go with them, and hopes to achieve significant reduction in these inefficient processes via automation. He says ACI is the key to arm the network operations to automate the operations and ultimately attain the competitive advantage of agile IT resulting in faster time to market and capitalizing new revenue opportunities.
Today, depending on the solution, it takes about 7 days to 3 weeks for a full provisioning of the resources and the goal is to bring the provisioning time down to hours. With ACI, they say, Acxiom aims to achieve 24-hour turnaround in end-end infrastructure provisioning for application deployments Acxiom will realize a significant reduction in OPEX with this automation.
Last, let us look at how ACI’s Openness helps Acxiom’s data center operations. When looking at repatriating an application (Figure 2) into a private data center, one of the critical challenges is the ability to port the same tools and automation from the public to the private cloud and the network infrastructure is a critical layer in realizing this goal. The open standards based ACI helps Acxiom to use their existing tools and expertise in working across public and private clouds in building infrastructure quickly and achieving the business goals of faster time to market resulting in increased revenue potential.
In conclusion, the Acxiom executives assert that ACI allows their private datacenters to integrate best of breed technologies with their existing infrastructure and achieve full automation seamlessly using service stitching from compute through load balancing through the security platforms -- all from a single point of control. This helps Acxiom to optimize costs, reduce turnaround times and at the same time work seamlessly across private and public clouds.