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Yes, Cisco UCS servers are that good.

September 27, 2012 at 10:07 am PST

Cisco publishes a large number of customer references in the forms of Case Studies, Solution Briefs, etc. It can be a very time consuming task to read through all of them to find out just how much Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS®) is helping our current customers, and how it might also help you. I decided to take on the task of trying to quantify the savings our customers told us they achieved with UCS versus their old legacy environment. The list below summarizes the average of these tangible results.  These results are limited to where the customers specifically stated a savings or where the savings is easily derived from the numbers stated.

When Cisco announced its new data center architecture in 2009, among the stated goals were: reducing the total cost of ownership, improving business agility and energy efficiency, and less cabling. Now on our third generation of servers, it is clear Cisco exceeded its own expectations.

Would you like to learn more about how Cisco UCS can help you? There are more than 250 published data center case studies on Cisco.com. Additionally, there is a TCO/ROI tool that will allow you to compare your existing environment to a new UCS Solution. For a more in-depth TCO/ROI analysis, contact your Cisco partner.

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UCS: new innovations in systems management, high performance virtual I/O and server technology

March 8, 2012 at 4:15 am PST

Please don your data center propeller hats and follow me for a tour of third generation fabric computing.  To zoom out to the big picture of what all this new technology means, please take a look at this earlier post.

On the management front we have two new things to talk about:

1)      Freeing the server administrators from the tyranny of sheet metal.  UCS manager delivers total administrative parity across server form factors, and now supports connectivity for greater quantities of C-Series racks in a UCS system.   When you get right down to it, servers are just different combinations of processing, memory, local disk and I/O capability.  Some combinations happen to be best as blades, some happen to be best as rack mounts, but we shouldn’t have to care about the shape of the sheet metal when it comes to systems management.  With UCS you don’t.  Rack and blade all show up together as resources available and managed in a unified, self-integrating system, complete with an XML API.   Unified management in UCS lets us finally think outside the box when we deploy and manage compute infrastructure.

2)      Multi-UCS Manager:  this might be the most important part of this announcement because it takes UCS well over the horizon in terms of scalability.  Multi-UCS Manager, as the name implies, is the capability to manage across multiple instances of UCS.  This allows for synchronization of service profiles, common pools of unique identifiers and centralized visibility and control across many thousands of servers.   Multi-UCS Manager takes the underlying policy based management philosophy of UCS and literally globalizes it, with the capability to manage UCS instances within a single data or around the world.   Scheduled for availability in 2HCY12, this is big news and there will be more to come on this topic.

New UCS I/O components:

1)      Last year we introduced the 6248 Fabric Interconnect, with unified ports, 40% latency reduction and increased system bandwidth.  Here comes its big brother, the 6296, weighing in at 2U, 96 ports, sub-2µs latency and a whopping 2Tb of switching capacity.   That means more flexibility and capacity in an architecture that puts all the servers in the system one network hop away from each other, be they blades or racks.   

2)      A new I/O module for the UCS blade chassis, the 2204XP.   This fabric extender doubles the amount of bandwidth that can be provisioned to each chassis to 160Gb.

3)      Finally, but probably the most exciting for the server geeks among us: the VIC1240.  This is the Cisco Virtual Interface Card now embedded in the new B200 M3 blade server.   The VIC 1240 is a dual 20Gb LOM with high performance virtualization that comes standard.   An expander module can double the trouble to 4x20Gb.  By my math that’s 80Gb to a single slot blade: so how do you use it all?  With Adapter-FEX technology, the VIC can carve that pipe into 256 vNICs or vHBAs that can be presented to a bare metal OS.   VM-FEX technology takes it a step further, allowing those virtual adapters to be connected directly with virtual machines.   The VIC can also be configured to bypass hypervisor switching which offloads that work from your processors and reduces proc utilization up to 30%.   Moving virtual switching to the VIC also improves throughput by up to 10% and improves application performance by up to 15%.   The idea here is to bring virtual I/O to near-bare metal levels and allow more applications to be virtualized -- which means greater operational agility and service resiliency. 

Don’t forget the servers!  By the end of this year we’ll have roughly doubled the number of servers in the UCS portfolio.   Here’s how we’re kicking things off:

1)      Two new rack servers: the C220 M3 and C240 M3.  It’s best to compare at the specs here on the product pages, because these are feature loaded and my fingers are tired.  They are of course based on Intel’s screaming hot new Xeon E5-2600 processor family, which was announced on Tuesday.  We like to say Cisco and Intel are joined at the chip, after all.  In addition to bringing new horse power and efficiency gains, the key differentiator for these machines is that they can be managed right alongside B-Series blades in one big happy pool of abstracted server resources, by UCS Manager.

2)      The B200 M3.   One of the upshots of the UCS architecture is that we’ve pulled all the switches and systems management modules out of the blade chassis.  This leaves more room, power and cold air for computing, which manifests itself here in a single-slot blade with 24 DIMM slots and up to three quarter terabytes of RAM.   Server architecture, much like life, though, is all about balance.   That’s where the Xeon E5-2600 processors and the aforementioned VIC1240 (80Gb of I/O!) come in.    The B200 M3 brings an industry leading set of capability to this class of blade and is a fantastic add to the UCS family. 

One of the best things about UCS is forward and backward compatibility: all generations of product are fully interoperable which yields strong investment protection.  Modular yet unified.  The Zen of computing architecture, if you will.  In fact, we’re putting a stake in the ground:  the dramatically simplified blade chassis Cisco introduced to the industry 2009 will take customers through the end of this decade.   Good through 2020…you heard it here first.   Just think how young Paul will still look in this video by then :) 

My colleagues will post today to talk about how all of this nets out in application performance, and it’s a very good story indeed.   In the meantime we’ve posted up some easy to read performance briefs.    Also, don’t forget that we have a “view 3D model” link right under the product pictures for all these new additions.  If you want to take a close look that’s a fun way to do it.  Thanks for coming along.

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Introducing third generation fabric computing: Cisco UCS and the power of unification

March 8, 2012 at 4:05 am PST

Unified Computing was born on March 16th, 2009 and bold predictions were made that day regarding what UCS would do for customers and the industry.   If we take a trip in the way back machine and unearth some of actual slides from that event (thank you Mr. Peabody), here is what we find:

Three years later we know that the vision of what was needed was spot on and the predictions of the impact were actually too conservative.   Customers using UCS are telling us they’re experiencing:

80 percent increase in administrator productivity

90 percent reduction in deployment times

40 percent improvement in application performance

30 percent lower infrastructure costs

60 percent reduction in power and cooling costs

And now it gets even better.  Today brings new innovation across the UCS platform: a third generation of technology that delivers the power of unification and continues to lead the transition to fabric based data center infrastructure.  Most of all in this announcement we’re celebrating how the innovation in UCS is paying off for our customers.   Its one thing to have a vision and another to deliver on it: this week Gartner updated its Magic Quadrant for Blade Servers and Cisco moved from Visionary to Leader.   

Witness the world record application performance benchmark results posted by Intel in this launch.  UCS certainly isn’t the new kid on the server block anymore.  This system more than holds its own.

So enough of the rhetoric: where’s the beef in the new news?    It turns out that there is so much new technology here that I need to break it into another post

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UCS: Over 10,000 Served

January 18, 2012 at 7:46 pm PST

This month we’re marking a special milestone… there are now 10,000 UCS customers worldwide. The natural question becomes: what’s driving this phenomenal growth? How could this possibly have been predicted?

The best explanation of snowballing UCS adoption is found in customer results. Lest we forget, adopting a new platform in the data center is not a decision undertaken lightly in IT, but word has spread in the industry about the real world benefits UCS is delivering. More and more customers are taking a look and liking what they find. It’s an admittedly bold statement to say UCS has changed the economics of the datacenter, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not marketing hype. We’re hearing from customers who are reporting all-in savings in the range of 40% on the cost of computing. Travelport, for example, conducted a deep dive TCO analysis of their pre/post UCS world and here is how they are seeing their data center economics change over the next 5 years:

Cost Category Cisco Environment Prior Environment Dollar Savings Percentage Savings
Hardware Capital $7,406,982 $9,747,500 $2,340,518 24%
Power and Cooling $915,468 $2,947,273 $2,031,805 69%
Server Administration $162,255 $1,151,945 $989,690 86%
Hardware Maintenance $301,194 $585,749 $284,555 49%
TOTAL $8,785,899 $14,432,467 $5,646,568 39%

 

The savings stem from a variety of sources: lower capex as the platform efficiently scales, dramatically reduced administrator time, density/ power savings and reduced SW licensing costs as more workload lands on fewer servers.  It’s cumulative and powerful.   If you want a firsthand look at the TCO/ROI impact UCS can make in your data center, check out our calculator; with 5 minutes you can get a ballpark estimate.

Economics aside, UCS just seems to make people happy.   I had a customer declare that his infrastructure was now “CTO proof.” He went on to explain that this meant the boss could deploy a server by himself without breaking anything. The infrastructure team let their CTO take a B-series blade straight out of the box, insert it into a chassis slot, and as the system identified and integrated the new resource into the available pool, they congratulated him on his first server deployment.

Beyond economic impact and increasing happiness in the data center, it doesn’t hurt that you can drop the clutch and put serious power to the ground in application performance.   In December Cisco posted TPC benchmark results that surpassed existing records by as much as 32% in raw performance and 26% in price performance.  This brings the total number of UCS world record results to 54 since introduction in 2009.

10,000 customers and growing, and it’s no wonder why.

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Cisco UCS: Customers Win

Two years ago Cisco entered the server market with the introduction of the Unified Computing System.  Our competitors met the move with skepticism, blank stares and questions around Cisco’s market strategy.  Our customers wondered what a networking company new about computing.  We didn’t let the naysayers or the doubters distract us.  We continued the hard work of innovation and communicating the architectural superiority of the Unified Computing System.  Soon customers and competitors began to take notice. Read More »

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