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Cisco UCS Five Years On: The Right Solution at the Right Time

March 25, 2014 at 12:06 pm PST

I knew we were on to something good when a customer told me “This is so easy, it’s CTO proof.”

Early in the business, I was talking to a front-line server admin who had found that Cisco UCS made server deployment so reliable, automated and simple that he was convinced even his CTO could pull it off without breaking anything.  The enthusiasm was real, and infectious, and it changed the face of the data center market.

Thinking back five years to March of 2009, when Cisco introduced UCS, the economy was still spiraling into the worst recession of our lifetime.  IT budgets were being slashed.   Many wondered if it was the right time for Cisco to enter a new market with deeply entrenched competitors.

As it turns out, it was the perfect time.  Because change occurs fastest when times are hard.

looking for change

In the decade leading up to 2009, computing innovation had stalled.  The incumbents still had tunnel vision on the power and cooling challenges that arose out of multi-core processing in the mid-2000’s.  Innovation was essentially focused on mechanical packaging:  blade servers for mainstream IT and  “skinless” boxes for the hyperscale crowd.   Overlooked was the real problem for the vast majority of customers:  operational complexity. Remember that server virtualization was rapidly spreading in nearly every data center.  Again, this was originally a response to a hardware problem: processor utilization; but as everyone recognized the operational benefits, virtualization was taking hold very fast.  As was cloud.  Combine all this with the disaggregation of data storage from the server, which had already moved out onto the network as NAS and SAN many years before, and you had a perfect storm of complexity threatening to outpace the capacity of many IT organizations.  The individual technologies in the data center were not overwhelmingly complex but tying them all together, into a system where you could land and scale an application in a very secure and available way, became the all-consuming job of the customer.   Collectively, the industry had failed.   In 2009, more than ever, customers needed something to help them slash OPEX in the data center and free people up to face the challenges of the day.  This was the innovation vacuum that UCS had been designed to fill.

Think of UCS as the Turducken of the data center:  the sum is much, much greater (and tastier) than the parts.   A lot of true innovation has gone into UCS in the areas of server I/O and in fundamental advancements to server management technology.   The latter is especially critical, because what is often overlooked in virtualization and cloud discussions is the underlying issue of deploying, managing and scaling the physical infrastructure itself (details, details…)   The advent of UCS completed the total abstraction and automation of hardware in crucial ways that hypervisor and cloud technology still can’t acheive on their own.   API-controlled data center hardware is a foundational element of modern IT innovation, and UCS started it all.  This may be Cisco’s greatest contribution to the industry and charted the course for Cisco ACI in the broader data center.

Cisco Unified Computing System Five Years of Data Center Innovation from Cisco Data Center

 

Cisco’s not stopping.   In the intervening five years, new innovation opportunities have appeared.   Most recently, the addition of flash systems to Unified Computing in the form of UCS Invicta, which opens up a whole new chapter for what customers will be able to achieve with the System.  UCS Director is taking on a pivotal role for automation across Cisco solutions and the integrated infrastructures that we construct with our storage partners.  The future is so bright, our partners need sunglasses.

UCS timeline

The team has put together this interactive timeline that commemorates many of the milestones in the first five years of UCS.   Looking back over it, I can only feel proud and humbled to be associated with the team here at Cisco, our technology and channel partners, and most importantly with our customers, who have clearly proven that UCS was (and is) the right solution at the right time.

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#CiscoChampion Radio S1|Ep6 UCS

#CiscoChampion Radio is a podcast series by Cisco Champions as technologists, hosted by Cisco’s Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja). This week we’re talking about UCS.

Listen to the Podcast

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Featured Guests:
Cisco Champions: Robert Novak (@gallifreyen), AJ Kuftic (@ajkuftic)
Cisco Subject Matter Experts: Scott Hanson (@CiscoServerGeek)

Highlights:
How Scott Hanson discovered the value of UCS
Advantages of new B460 M4 Blade Server
UCS 2.1 and 2.2. firmware
When to switch to new firmware updates
When UCS is (and is not) a good fit

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Market Dynamics and Cisco’s Unified Computing System

Innovation.  Change.  Market transitions.  This is the natural order when it comes to IT.

Today’s accelerated rate of technological change is disrupting all areas of IT, while at the same time creating new possibilities for our data center customers.  As a CIO, you’re tasked with capitalizing on the benefits of new technologies to enhance operations, but with minimal disruption to your business.  That’s not easy do to when the world is moving so quickly.

Innovation brings new players to the marketplace, and sometimes compels existing vendors to adjust their strategies.  Earlier this year, in a move that will have a significant impact across the IT landscape for technology providers and customers alike, IBM announced an agreement with Lenovo for the acquisition of IBM’s x86 server and associated networking business including Flex System.

Five years ago, Cisco made a strategic move by announcing a data center innovation and putting into motion a market transition.  Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) led the converged data center transformation by integrating high-performance networking, compute, and storage into a single, unified platform. Cisco UCS created a new value proposition for the data center in virtualization and cloud computing, achieving measurable cost savings and technology gains.

Now the number two worldwide vendor of blade servers, our vision and ability to execute delivers value that clearly resonates with our customers.  Cisco UCS changes the economics of the data center by increasing operational simplicity and improving business agility.  This is a great time for you to take a closer look to learn why over 30,000 customers have made the move to Cisco UCS.

As the inevitable change takes place across the IT landscape, Cisco remains committed to the data center.  We are also committed to our long-time collaboration with IBM, one of Cisco’s most successful partnering relationships.  Our plan is to move forward, build on this relationship and continue to deliver solutions of high value for your data centers across technology, service, and support.

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#CiscoChampion Radio S1|Ep5: UCS Invicta

#CiscoChampion Radio is a podcast series by Cisco Champions as technologists, hosted by Cisco’s Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja). This week we’re talking about UCS Invicta.

Listen to the Podcast

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Featured Guests:
Cisco Champions: Trevor Roberts (@vmtrooper), Matt Oswalt (@mierdin)
Cisco Subject Matter Experts: Maxwell Riggsbee, Todd Brannon

Highlights:
How Invicta will allow UCS infrastructure to deliver resourcing
Four elements that will allow Invicta to transition into UCS in short and long term
Details on integration to date
Storage/bandwidth plans for Invicta going forward
When further integration will be available
Applications ideal for Invicta Read More »

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Management implications of large scale data centers.

February 26, 2014 at 7:17 pm PST

As data center workloads grow we hear about new large-scale mega data centers being built.  According to a recent report Microsoft is planning on building a $9 Billion data center in Korea.

msdc

 

This photo shows one of Microsoft’s large-scale data centers in Dublin.

(courtesy datacenterdynamics)

 

 

atxdc

 

Cisco’s own Allen data center in Allen Texas is 38000 square feet.

You can take virtual tour of the data center.

 

 

As more of these large data centers are built, managing them efficiently will have to both from a facilities, and an IT point of view. The research firm, IDC has started tracking a category of software called DCIM or Read More »

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