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Keeping Your Eyes on the Skies – A Partner’s View on SQL Server and UCS

November 6, 2014 at 6:00 am PST

A Guest Blog by Partner Rick Heiges of Scalability Experts: Rick is a SQL Server Microsoft MVP and Senior Solutions Architect.  He primarily works with Enterprise customers on their Data Platform strategies. Rick is also very involved in the SQL Server Community primarily through PASS and events such as the PASS Summit, SQL Saturdays, and 24 Hours of PASS.  His tenure on the PASS Board of Directors saw the annual Summit triple in size from 2003 to 2011.  You can find his blog at www.sqlblog.com.

So far, it has been another great week here at the PASS Summit 2014, SQL Server’s largest annual user and partner conference.  With yesterday’s keynote address, there is still very much a focus on getting to the cloud and new investments in cloud technology in general. Microsoft seems to be extending its data collection and storage technologies in the cloud and also on-prem.  One of the coolest features talked about was the concept of a “stretch tables” where a table that lives on your on-prem SQL Server can be “stretched” on to tables in SQL Azure Databases.  The data may be shared so that the “hot” data can stay local and the “cold” data would live in the cloud.  There were some other great demos around using the Kinect device to create a heat map of customer activity in a physical store (similar to what people linger and search for when shopping online).  You can watch the PASS Summit 2014 Keynote here on PASStv.

As a Senior Solutions Architect with Scalability Experts, I work with large enterprise customers (Fortune 500 type) on a regular basis.  There is more and more interest about leveraging the Public Cloud for some workloads and taking advantage of “on-prem” resources in a cloud-like way.  This means deploying your internal resources in a similar way – for example via Cisco’s Microsoft Fast Track certified FlexPod or VSPEX integrated infrastructure solutions --  that public cloud resources are deployed with a similar chargeback (or ‘show back’) model and automating the self-service deployment of infrastructure, and the monitoring of the entire stack.

One of the things that I really like about Microsoft’s products is a focus on ease of use, tight integration, and low TCO.  This is important to a lot of the customers that I interact with.  This is why I have seen a surge in Cisco UCS products in my customer base of the past few years.  Cisco has a similar goal to keep things simple and TCO low – read this Total Economic Impact report from Forrester on UCS ROI/TCO.  Cisco also provides Management Pack plug-ins to Microsoft’s System Center suite for tight integration so that you can manage the entire stack (Hardware, Hypervisor, Application, and even Public Cloud) with a single tool.  It is great to see how this partnership between Microsoft and Cisco can be beneficial to the customers that I work with.

Microsoft’s SQL Server 2014 also brings “In-Memory” Technology to OLTP in a cost-effective manner by not forcing a complete rewrite of the application.  In a recent Cisco UCS  on Microsoft SQL Server 2014 case study, Progressive Insurance was able to take advantage of this technology to further its strategy of its competitive advantage -- ease of use.

Eventually, I see the Public Cloud taking on a more “primary” role in the future.  Similar to the “Everything on a VM unless there is a reason not to” mantra, I see an “Everything on a Public Cloud VM unless there is a reason not to” mantra on the long-term horizon.  Until then, the Hybrid Cloud will be the default stance for many large enterprises.

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Cisco and Red Hat – All In with OpenStack for the Enterprise

When it comes to driving innovation in next generation data center architectures, open source is clearly at the forefront. A perfect example is OpenStack, which is defining the future of cloud computing across private, public and hybrid clouds. This innovation is being driven by a strong and vibrant community that is taking place in Paris this week for the OpenStack Summit. I’m looking forwarding to reconnecting with friends in the OpenStack community and discussing the recently announced Cisco and Red Hat solution for OpenStack.

Interest in OpenStack as a cloud platform is clearly on the rise. At the recent Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) launch event in New York City, Cisco and Red Hat introduced the UCS Integrated Infrastructure for Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform (UCSO).  The pre-integrated and validated solution is a major step forward in providing an enterprise ready private cloud solution based on OpenStack.

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The Top 5 OpenStack Adoption Challenges – View from Cisco Services’ Experts

November 3, 2014 at 11:34 am PST


openstackOpenStack is gaining increasing industry attention and, while it can deliver huge advantages, some may say it is “hyped”. Although OpenStack has an ever growing range of enthusiastic practitioners and advocates,  as you may be aware, OpenStack is not without its critics – including Gartner - who outline the challenges of OpenStack adoption. It’s therefore generally recommended that OpenStack adopters consider engaging professional services experts to help them avoid the pitfalls

With the November 2014 OpenStack Summit in Paris opening as I write this – you can find us at stand C3 along with our newest acquisition, Metacloud (Stand E37) if you are going - my thoughts turn to the issues and challenges facing our customers when they deploy OpenStack into production projects.  And who better to ask than our Cisco Services consultants who are delivering OpenStack adoption services (which we launched this time last year at the Summit in Hong Kong).

These consultants are at the “coal face” (as we say in my part of the world, Scotland) of OpenStack– they are the experts digging deep in the IT equivalent of the mines working with real customers going live with real-world OpenStack.    More than R&D investigations, these deployments are happening with customers who are betting their business dollars, pounds, yen and other currencies on OpenStack.  However as the video (below) shows, OpenStack has its deployment complexities.  Hence increasing numbers of our customers are engaging Cisco Services to help them on OpenStack.

To share our practical experiences with you, we sat down and came up with our “top 5” adoption challenges list which you may find useful if you are considering or embarking upon an OpenStack deployment:

  1. Cross-domain technical expertise is mandatory
  2. Going deep with Open Source
  3. “It’s just middleware”
  4. Don’t underestimate the learning curve
  5. Expect your OPEX to increase (sorry!)

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Cisco UCS: The Optimal Platform for Microsoft SQL Server 2014

November 2, 2014 at 9:54 am PST

The world of data is changing. Businesses face growth in the volume of information and the types of data they encounter. There are new landscapes of vast and dynamic information that must be processed, managed and analyzed to achieve business insight. It is no surprise, therefore, that legacy infrastructures are failing to meet I.T.’s expectations.

For many of you this is why you are in Seattle this week – to attend PASS Summit 2014, the SQL PASS organization’s annual conference on SQL Server.  You want to learn this week from your peers, from Microsoft, and from vendor’s ways to successfully harness SQL Server and drive solutions that do meet your business and user’s expectations.

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Cisco Features you should be using

I know more than once now the Cisco ISR/ISR-G2’s Series have been dubbed as the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of networking devices, simply due to the amount of flexibility & the number of technologies available to you when deploying these devices. Luckily for us, these devices provide even more features available to us to assist with troubleshooting and maintaining the overall health of the network. What is even better is that many of these useful troubleshooting features exist on many of the other product families not just ISR/ISR-G2’s. I’ve had the pleasure to work on networks all around the world for some decent size companies so I wanted to kick off this list with what I consider to be the most useful tools built-in to Cisco devices that are not very well known out there.

1. Embedded Packet Capture (EPC) -- There is no doubt about it, but the ability to perform a packet capture at key points throughout the network can make troubleshooting particular issues that much easier. Luckily this feature exists on many different devices:

1. ISR G2′s -- Even the older ISR’s have this ability
2. ASA Firewalls
3. IOS-XE devices -- From the powerful ASR’s to the newer Catalyst 3850
4. NX-OS devices -- Granted on NX-OS you can capture packets that are process switched, there is an easy way around this by creating an Access-list to match the traffic you want to capture.
5. Even in Cisco UCS we can configure a traffic monitoring policy to capture traffic directly from particular servers and capture directly off the Fabric Interconnects. *This is more of a SPAN-type session than Embedded Packet Capture. Read More »

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