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


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

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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Balancing Innovation and Evolution: Cutting Through the Noise

Thinking back to how much the data center has transformed in the past ten, five, or even two years is enough to make your head spin. Keeping pace with these changes has been nearly impossible for IT departments, and it’s not getting any easier. When looking ahead, consider what changes the Internet of Everything (IoE), application-centric architectures, software-defined networking (SDN), and everything-as-a-service (XaaS) will bring. Confused? It’s no wonder.

My recent blog post described what every IT leader already knows: Running a data center is hard. Making matters worse are high-tech vendors who aren’t focused on addressing near-term customer needs. I feel that our industry, including Cisco on occasion, confuses customers with too much hyperbole around vision and strategy.

I spend a lot of time with customers all over the world, and there’s been a reoccurring theme: What customers tell me they need are solutions that will work for them today. Balancing innovation and evolution is important, but that burden needs to be carried by us—the tech vendors—not by our customers. It’s rare that customers have the time to slow down to sort it all out. Even as their IT operations are evolving, they need to “keep the planes in the air.”

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Hard Choices !

Sorry .. I did not mean to steal the title of Hillary Clinton’s book. It so happened that we had to deal with “hard choices” of our own,  when we had to decide on the management approach to our new M-Series platform. In the first blog of the UCS M-Series Modular Servers journey series, Arnab briefly alluded to the value our customers placed on UCS Manager.As we started to have more customer conversations, we recognized a clear demarcation when it came to infrastructure management. There was a group of customers who just would not take any offering from us that is not managed by UCS Manager. On the other hand, a few customers who had built their own management framework were more enamored by the disaggregated server offering that we intended to build. For the second set of customers, there was a strong perception that UCS Manager did not add much value to their operations. We were faced with a very difficult choice of whether to release the platform with UCS Manager or provide standalone management. After multiple rounds of discussions, we made a conscious decision to launch M-Series as a UCS Manager managed platform only.  Ironically enough, it was one such customer discussion that vindicated our decision. This happened to be a customer deploying large cloud scale applications and did not care much UCS Manager. During the conversation, they talked about some BIOS issues in their super large web farm that surfaced couple of years back. After almost 2 years, they were still rolling out the BIOS updates !

UCS Manager is the industry’s first tool to elegantly break down the operational silos in the datacenter by introducing a policy-based management of disparate infrastructure elements in the datacenter. This was made possible by the concept of Service Profiles, which made it easy for the rapid adoption of converged infrastructure. Service Profiles allowed the abstraction of all elements associated with a server’s identity and rendering the underlying servers pretty much stateless. This enabled rapid server re-purposing and workload mobility as well as made it easy for enforcing operational policies like firmware updates.  And, the whole offering has been built on the foundation of XML APIs, which makes it extremely easy to integrate with other datacenter management, automation and orchestration tools. You can learn more about UCS Manager by clicking here.

UCS M-Series Modular Servers are the latest addition to the infrastructure that can be managed by UCS Manager. M-Series is targeted at cloud-scale applications, which will be deployed in 1000s, if not 10s of 1000s of nodes. Automation of policy enforcement is more paramount than the traditional datacenter deployments. Managing groups of compute elements as a single entity, fault aggregation, BIOS updates and firmware upgrades are a few key features of UCS Manager that kept surfacing repeatedly during multiple customer conversations.  That was one of the primary drivers in our decision to release this platform with UCS Manager.

In the cloud-scale space, the need to almost instantaneously deploy lots of severs at a time is a critical requirement. Also, all of the nodes are pretty much deployed as identical compute elements. Standardization of configurations across all of the servers is very much needed.  UCS Manager makes it extremely easy to create the service profile templates ahead of time (making use of the UCS Manager emulator) and create any number of service profile clones literally at the push of a button. Associating the service profiles with the underlying infrastructure is also done with a couple of clicks. Net-Net: you rack, stack, and cable once; re-provision and re-deploy to meet your workload needs without having to make any physical changes to your infrastructure.

Storage Profiles is the most notable enhancement to UCS Manager in order to support M-series. This feature allows our customers to slice and dice the SSDs in the M-Series chassis into smaller virtual disks. Each of these virtual disks is then served up as if they are local PCIe devices to the server nodes within the compute cartridges plugged into the chassis. Steve has explained that concept elaborately in the previous blog. In the next edition, we will go into more details about Storage Profiles and other pertinent UCS Manager features for the M-Series.

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