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Cisco UCS in the world of open source computing

May 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm PST

A few weeks ago, I was at  Cisco Open Source Conference 2013 -- a conference hosted by Cisco where we had speakers from IBM, Canonical, Red Hat and Rackspace, among others.  I learned a lot, specifically about the evolution of Hadoop and the OpenStack project.  As a follow on, I collated different activities around Cisco UCS and OpenStack, which I will share in this blog.

Dr. Dan Frye, Vice President, Open Systems Development, IBM, head of the IBM Linux Technology Center (LTC) gave the keynote address at the conference. It was nostalgic considering the fact that I sat in the same aisle as some of the LTC team members in the IBM facility in Austin, a few years ago. His talk included some fascinating historical anecdotes and three lessons IBM learned about open source software development-

  1. “Develop in the open” (Don’t try to contribute finished software products, heed to feedback)
  2. “Don’t reinvent the penguin” (“Scratch your own itch” – interesting phrase to explain the behavior of communities which want to solve the problems at hand and not those perceived to be problems by external entities)
  3. “Work with the process” (The community process is usually an agile methodology with no assumptions on roadmaps and delivery dates)

These lessons are invaluable in light of the open source projects such as OpenDaylight (no pun intended) and OpenStack that Cisco is now an integral part of.  According to Dr. Frye, these newer open source consortiums have the following characteristics:

  1. Larger number of initial members
  2. Quick starts
  3. Relatively large initial budgets
  4. Often require the commitment of a specified level of FTEs

Chris Wright from Red Hat expanded upon the principles and ethos of open source projects including release early, release often, iterative development and the culture of giving back. He contrasted the Linux kernel development project with the OpenStack project showing the relative speed of projects with the number of developers and commits by release. He gave a fantastic overview of the various Openstack component projects. He also identified two newly graduated projects namely, Ceilometer and Heat in the Grizzly release. I gave a talk on the requirements for the Ceilometer project, and you can find the slide deck on slideshare.

Metering and Billing for Cloud Services from Ranjit Nayak

After attending the conference, I looked for projects within Cisco, which used OpenStack or contributed to it.  Cisco is a major contributor to the soon to Read More »

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‘Tis the Season for Events, Trade Shows & Cisco UCS Servers

May 23, 2013 at 3:23 pm PST

‘Tis the Season – for Events and Trade Shows

Make sure to visit the Cisco booth and talk to the team about Cisco UCS Servers

Well, we are officially deep into the IT and Data Center event and trade show season. 

This is a great time for Cisco and a tremendous opportunity for us to meet and talk with IT professionals about what is important to them.  The discussions range from deployment challenges, to management, networking, collaboration and even failover and Recovery Time Objectives (RTO).  It is very rewarding when new customers stop by to say how great Cisco UCS is, how easy it was to integrate into their data center, and how they are using Cisco solutions (including Cisco UCS) to deliver superior performance for their organizations.  The most fun is when they tell me what server(s) there were using and then evangelize to me the benefits of UCS, wishing they hadn’t waited so long to make the move up to Cisco servers and the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS).

One of the most compelling conversations I have ever had was at VMworld.  A visitor to the Cisco booth (from a major mid-west university) came by to praise UCS and to ask some technical questions.  The most important question for him was the need to verify the correct NIC failover settings for his VMware environment.  {Cisco UCS Manager lets you programmatically specify how failover is handled, either at the individual Service Profile level or at the Service Profile Template level, depending on your setup.}  The customer did not remember what his current settings were and did not have his VPN information with him, but he still needed help.  While he was calling his team to get the access information he needed, I called over one the Technical Matter Experts staffing our booth.  From the event floor, we actually logged into the university’s UCS deployment, inside the data center (view only mode of course), accessed UCS Manager and drilled down into the Service Profile Template for the VMware servers. The end of the story is that the UCS B-Series server NIC failover settings were optimized for his VMware deployment, which in this case was to let VMware handle it.  UCS adapter policies were set to “VMware”.  Even better was the ability that Cisco UCS delivers which enables this degree of visibility and management.  I can tell you it impressed a number of folks that were watching the process and had multiple questions afterward. {For step by step guidance to set the UCS Service Profile and Templates policies discussed above, see Cisco Virtualization Solution for EMC VSPEX with VMware vSphere 5.1 for 250 Virtual Machines.  Figures 71 through 76 are great illustrations of this capability.  They are located in the section titled:  VSPEX Configuration Guidelines -- Physical setup -- Create Service Profile Template}

The “hands on” story above was a one-time experience for me.  The truly amazing thing is that it is an absolutely normal occurrence to be talking with someone about Cisco Unified Computing System, and have an existing customer, who is just walking by, join the conversation.  When this happens it typically kicks off a 10 minute “customer and visitor” discussion.  The UCS customer goes into detail about how much they like UCS and the Cisco partnership, the benefits they are getting from their UCS Solution, and how much better it is than their old (always named) vendor. This is not an unusual occurrence, and the depth of customer appreciation for the UCS solution is amazing.

Cisco UCS Manager

Cisco UCS Manager

The most prevalent reason to switch (but not the only one) I have been hearing from customers who have adopted UCS could be best summarized this way:  Cisco UCS is Cisco Unified Computing System. UCS truly does deliver a solution that unifies data center computing.  The key ingredient, the thing that everyone “digs the most” (1960’s flashback), is management -- try out the UCS Manager Test Drive. Cisco UCS abstracts the server identity (over 120+ configuration parameters) to reside in UCS Manager, so that any like UCS server can easily be designated the host for that specific server identity – and with UCS it could be a Rack or Blade server.  Not only that, you can use a pre-defined Service Profile and duplicate it to generate a UCS Service Profile Template for broader use.  See this excellent blog by my colleague Ranjit Nayak for a brief intro to UCS Service Profiles -- Cisco UCS – Quintessential Fabric-based computing Part 2.  Using UCS Service Profiles drive rapid deployment and potentially more important, screaming fast recovery time objectives (RTO) so data centers stay up and running with the best possible SLA.  It all happens inside a single redundant management tool that enables collaboration and that can span data centers and geographies (Cisco UCS Central) with a lower Total Cost of Ownership.

It is hard for me to leave UCS TCO out of any blog or conversation.  So here you go.  Below is a very short video from EMC World 2012 booth.  It is very relevant to UCS Manager and the IT economic environment, both then and now.

 

We hope to see you at the next event and definitely encourage you to come to Cisco Live.

If you have already been to one (or more) shows and stopped by the Cisco booth, that is fantastic and thanks for your support.

  • If you have upcoming trips on your calendar don’t forgot to stop and see the innovations Cisco is delivering for your IT organization and meet with one of the multiple experts we have staffing the booth. To mention just a few, Cisco is driving significant innovation in:  networking, management, servers (of course) and solutions based designs.  Something for everyone.
  • If you are still working on your schedule and are not sure which event will fit, take a look at our Cisco Global Events Calendar.  There are still multiple shows and events going on worldwide.  Cisco Live, US (late June in Orlando FL) is an incredible opportunity and is always a fantastic event.

 

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Looking for Action? Citrix Synergy or Disneyland – or Both

I am looking forward to next week’s Citrix Synergy conference in Anaheim, Los Angeles with sense of great anticipation. If you are fortunate enough to be attending, I am sure you are looking forward to next week too – and surely not because of the proximity to Disneyland. Whether it’s Mark Templeton’s keynote or the CTO innovations session or the Citrix party – there is always lots to learn and great people to meet.  Just as important for me, we at Cisco have another great opportunity to share and demonstrate the latest innovations in our Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solutions portfolio for Citrix XenDesktop environments. There is something in store for every IT professional, from self-guided demos to a live expo of what’s going on behind the scenes at the conference.  I want to spend the next few minutes taking you through a virtual tour of the Cisco presence at the event.

Since I visited Citrix Synergy Barcelona in 2012 October, Cisco has made significant progress by expanding on the Desktop Virtualization front to help you choose a desktop virtualization solution ideally optimized to your own delivery model, scale, use case and cost requirements Ashok Rajagopalan does a great job describing these solutions in his video blog

 ashok

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Desktop Virtualization On Your Terms – Flexibility and Choice with Architectures That Fit

Desktop Virtualization On Your Terms – Flexibility and Choice with Architectures That Fit

I recently had the opportunity to host several customers in a roundtable discussion, exploring their experiences in deploying desktop and application virtualization, the challenges encountered, and the benefits they’ve reaped.  It was an engaging dialog with organizations spanning mid-market, enterprise to large service prVirt_during Webinar w_Jim Mchughovider environments deploying either Citrix XenDesktop or VMware Horizon View desktop virtualization software.  In case you missed it, you can check out the event here.  I mention this because it provides a valuable backdrop to some important news Cisco is sharing today, centered on helping IT organizations (like those I met with) more quickly achieve success in VDI.

Over the last few years, Cisco UCS has rapidly established itself as a leader among competitors with a much longer history in the server marketplace.  Why is that?  If you talk with anyone who’s implemented UCS in their data center, they’ll instantly tell you about the operational streamlining and simplification that UCS Service Profile Templates offer, the value of a unified data center fabric for LAN and SAN, and the performance derived from a platform that was purpose built for highly scalable, virtualized environments.

It shouldVirt_info graphic_UDC to End User be no surprise then, that when organizations evaluate their options for server infrastructure to host virtual desktop workloads, the same UCS core value proposition extends nicely to desktop virtualization – the benefits of which are multiplied, in fact, given that virtual desktops can consume infrastructure resources and capacity in unique ways compared to other mission critical enterprise applications.  We’ve therefore seen great response from our customers (as demonstrated in our webinar/panel discussion) when it comes to the fitness of UCS in hosting virtual desktops.

What we’ve come to find through our customer’s experiences, is that the vendor marketplace has traditionally taken a one-size-fits-all mentality around VDI architectures that either forces organizations to overspend CAPEX on approaches that are tuned for much larger environments, or wrestle with an economized approach that results in poor desktop user experience.  Clearly, there’s a spectrum of IT implementation use cases that apply, when we’re talking VDI.  Persistent desktops vs. floating, SAN in place vs. greenfield, one-hundred seats vs. tens of thousands, etc. so one size will never adequately fit all!

For this very reason, we’re expanding our portfolio of desktop virtualization solution architectures, along with the ecosystem of technology partners who are helping us accelerate the path to VDI success for environments of all sizes.  While Cisco enjoys a strategic relationship with NetApp and EMC, we’re now  offering desktop virtualization solutions that also include technologies from partners such as Nimble Storage, Nexenta, Atlantis Computing, Fusion-io, Tegile and others in process.

With these partners’ technologies come new capabilities that exploit key trends in the VDI and data center marketplace, including the proliferation of flash-based storage solutions, and appliance based approaches that mitigate the need for embedded SAN infrastructure and expertise (especially in smaller environments).  Additionally, unlike our competitors who are narrowly focused on their own storage portfolio, Cisco can offer our customers the flexibility and choice they desire in selecting the storage technology and solution for VDI, that best fits their environment.

I encourage you to learn more about this exciting new portfolio of architectures by checking out the assets below.

Please also check out the webinar “Customer Insights: Desktop Virtualization On Your Terms

Our featured guests include:

  • Mark Balch, Director UCS Product Management, Cisco
  • David Johnson, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research
  • Charles Rosse, Baptist Memorial HealthCare
  • Udaya Kiran, WiPro Technologies
  • Robert Dixon, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • And myself (Jim McHugh) as your Host/Moderator

Check it out and let me know what you think in the Comments section!

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Architecture Options for Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solutions

Today Cisco is introducing an expanded architectural portfolio and partner ecosystem in support of our successful desktop virtualization solution built on Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS).  Cisco UCS market traction has been phenomenal over the last 3 years. In fact, desktop virtualization has been one of the top workloads deployed on UCS as IT organizations apply the benefits of our stateless, simplified operations model, expansive I/O, and scalable performance to desktop workloads in the data center. Combined with unique product integration and the software eco-system partners such as VMware, Citrix and Microsoft, Cisco has delivered a number of reference designs with our strategic storage partners such as EMC and NetApp. Typically, these architectures were based on designs that easily scale from supporting a few hundred virtual desktops to thousands of desktops.

We have seen an inflection point with the perfect storm of the evolution of storage options, desktop software maturity, and data center architectures. One of the important changes in the storage market is the emergence of flash storage to address performance problems.

Taking advantage of enhanced UCS features and expanding the eco-system of storage partners including Atlantis Computing, Fusion-io, LSI, Nexenta, Nimble Storage and Tegile, Cisco is defining a broader portfolio of data center architectures for delivering desktop virtualization solutions – on-board architecture, simplified architecture and scalable architecture. “Converged” or “Unified” infrastructure stacks such as FlexPod and vBlock have, and will continue to be another successful option for desktop delivery infrastructure.  Let me walk you through each of these architectural approaches.

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