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Turning Data Challenges into Business Opportunities

At the recent Gartner BI Summit in Las Vegas, there was a lot of discussion about the paradigm shift underway in business intelligence (BI) and analytics. Business’s need for agile data access and self-service, combined with IT’s inability to satisfy this need, is causing disruption to traditional models and shifting the balance of power from IT to the business.

While that is certainly true, it is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it has been building for more than a decade.

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Gartner’s Latest Point of View on BI, Analytics and Big Data

Over the past six weeks I participated in three Gartner BI and Analytic Summits in Sydney, London, and most recently Las Vegas.

I love going to these events, as they are a great opportunity to:

  • Stay abreast of the latest trends through the lenses of the Gartner analysts who cover BI, analytics, data management and integration, and big data.
  • Evaluate how Cisco’s Data and Connected Analytics Portfolio addresses market needs today and how we need to evolve our portfolio to meet tomorrow’s requirements.
  • Catch up with many friends including Gartner analysts, industry peers and most importantly, our customers.

Let me share my takeaways. Read More »

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Why Implement Microsoft SQL Server on Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS)?

A Guest Blog by Cisco’s Frank Cicalese:  Frank is a Technical Solutions Architect with Cisco, assisting customers with their design of SQL Server solutions on Cisco Unified Compute System. Before joining Cisco, Frank worked at Microsoft Corporation for 10 years, excelling in several positions, including as Database TSP. Frank has in-depth technical knowledge and proficiency with database design, optimization, replication, and clustering and has extensive virtualization, identity and access management and application development skills. He has established himself as an architect who can tie core infrastructure, collaboration, and application development platform solutions together in a way that drives understanding and business value for the companies he services.

Ah yes, it’s that time of year again.  It’s time for PASS Summit! I hope all of you are having a great event thus far. During my conversations with customers and peers, I am inevitably asked “Why should we implement SQL on UCS?”  In this blog I cover this very common question. First off, for those of you not familiar with Cisco UCS, please visit here when you have a moment to learn more about this great server architecture. So, why would anyone want to consider running their SQL workloads on Cisco UCS?  Read on to learn about what I consider to be the top reasons to do so…

Mitigate Risk: 

High availability is one of the most important factors for companies when it comes to considering an architecture for their database implementations.  UCS provides companies with the confidence that their database implementations will be able to recover quickly from any catastrophic datacenter event in minutes as opposed to the hours if not days that it would take to recover on a competing architecture.  UCS Manager achieves this through its implementation of Service Profiles.  Service Profiles contain the identity of a server.  The UCS servers themselves are stateless and do not acquire their personality (state) until they are associated with a Service Profile.  This stateless type of architecture allows for the re-purposing of server hardware dynamically and can be utilized for re-introducing failed hardware back in to production within five to seven minutes.

Service Profiles can provide considerable relief for SQL Server administrators when re-introducing failed servers back in to production. Service Profiles make this a snap!  Just un-associate the Service Profile from the downed server, associate it with a spare server and the workload will be back up and running in five to seven minutes.  This is true for both virtualized and bare-metal workloads!  Yes!  You read that last statement correctly!!  Regardless of the workload being virtual or bare-metal, Cisco UCS can move the workload from one server to another in five to seven minutes (providing they are truly stateless i.e., booting from SAN).

Foster Standardization:

Since every server in UCS that is serving a workload requires that a Service Profile be associated with it, Cisco UCS Manager provides the ability to create Service Profile Templates which ease the administrative effort involved with the creation of Service Profiles.  Server administrators can configure Service Profile Templates specifically for their SQL Servers and foster consistent standardization of their SQL Server implementations throughout the enterprise via these templates.  Once the templates are created, Service Profiles can be created from these templates and associated to a server in seconds.  Furthermore, these operations can be scripted via Cisco’s Open XML API and/or PowerShell integration (discussed next) simplifying the deployment process even more.

To learn more about Service Profile Templates and Service Profiles, please visit here.

Manage Workloads Efficiently: 

Cisco UCS has very tight integration with Microsoft System Center.  Via Cisco’s Operations Manager Pack, Orchestrator Integration Pack, PowerShell PowerTool and Cisco’s extensions to Microsoft’s Hyper-V switch, administrators are able to monitor, manage and maintain their SQL Server implementations proactively and efficiently on Cisco UCS.  Additionally, Cisco’s PowerTool for PowerShell, with its many cmdlets, can help to automate any phase of management with System Center thus optimizing the overall management/administration of Cisco UCS even more so.  All of this integration comes as a value-add from Cisco at no extra cost!

Please visit http://communities.cisco.com/ucs to learn more about, download and evaluate Cisco’s Operations Manager Pack, Orchestrator Integration Pack and PowerShell PowerTool.

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Big Changes Become Big Opportunities in Branches

Mobility and cloud innovations have been happening so fast that it’s easy to overlook the place where these technologies have the most impact – the branch. As Andres Sintes mentioned in his blog on Enabling the Branch for the Mobile Cloud Era, clearly understanding both the business and technical aspects of the evolution of the WAN will enable you to uncover many new opportunities to grow your business.

About 80 percent of all network users – employees and customers alike – access applications from branch sites. With a majority of customer interactions happening in branches, they are an area of huge competitive differentiation – for Cisco Partners and our customers. Here’s why:

Business Changes

Personalization is the new mantra for all types of businesses. From retail stores to hospitals to convention centers, virtually everyone wants to use customer intelligence to deliver better experiences and more targeted offers. They’re also gathering more customer details to continually refine this process. Read More »

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CMX Analytics: An Inside Scoop on CiscoLive! Milan #CLEUR

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Today is the final day of a very busy and successful Cisco Live Milan 2014. Read my initial observations from the event earlier this week.

As the event draws to a close, lets look at some of the location analytics available via Cisco’s Connected Mobile Experiences solution (CMX) and perhaps try to answer some of the following questions about the event.

For this I will just focus on the World of Solutions Show floor – approximately 800,000 sq feet in size, and containing all the Cisco Booths and the partner displays.

  1. How many people actually visited the world of solutions?
  2. How many people did  the different Cisco Booths attract?
  3. Where was the busiest part of the show floor?

These and other insights can be derived from looking at the business intelligence that emerges from CMX. Read More »

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