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Three Years On, FlexPod is Smarter, Faster, and Better.

This month marks the three year anniversary of Cisco’s partnership with NetApp and our development of FlexPod.  Over the years, we’ve experienced some tremendous growth, more than doubling new installations year-over-year, and now we have more than 3,000 customers globally.

Following the success of FlexPod Datacenter, FlexPod Express and FlexPod Select the solution is capping off the year with several technology enhancements. These include the automation of integrated infrastructure, business continuity solutions, and validation of new products and reference architectures.

Together, Cisco and NetApp are introducing four new FlexPod components that enable our customers’ continuing journey to the cloud:

  1. UCS Director 4.1 deeply integrated with clustered Data ONTAP.
  2. The addition of Citrix to the FlexPod Cooperative Support program.
  3. FlexPod Datacenter with NetApp MetroCluster
  4. FlexPod Datacenter with Cisco Virtualized Multiservice Data Center 2.3

I encourage you to take a look at the short video we’ve created that gives more details of all the new components we’re announcing today.

Our friends at NetApp have written a great  blog post outlining the last two offerings, but I’d like to focus on the first two components – UCS Director and the addition of Citrix capabilities.

UCS Director Integration

New integrations with UCS Director and Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) provide automation and service catalogues, which help customers move toward delivering cloud services. Corporate IT maximizes benefits when its infrastructure can be commissioned within minutes in response to changes in demand. Cisco UCS Director views FlexPod as a single system and allows customers to rapidly deploy FlexPod by leveraging single element managers. UCS Director, in turn, will soon be natively integrated into Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud for a more comprehensive FlexPod cloud management solution.

With the Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) cloud accelerator, UCS Director and FlexPod are integrated as a “node” in the cloud that can be used by cloud administrators to provision NetApp storage into virtual data centers.

Faster with Intel

Rapid deployment will be used to harness tremendous increases in FlexPod computing power. The newest FlexPod deployments will feature Cisco UCS built on Intel’s Ivy Bridge chipset.  We’ve introduced the Intel Xeon Process E5-2600 v2 product family on several servers.

“We like to say that Cisco and Intel are “Joined at the Chip,” because the innovation each company brings is incredibly complimentary. Cisco’s innovation in the data center is an extension of the company’s historic focus: connecting things. Cisco Unified Data Center and products like UCS are the outcomes of our drive to connect the pieces. When we join forces with Intel’s leadership at the computing core, customers see an unbeatable combination.”  -  Todd Brannon, Tick Tock Goes the Server Clock

Coupled with other UCS innovations, the solution has demonstrated great performance versatility and has set record-breaking industry benchmarks.

For enterprises that want to scale out this capacity, Cisco delivers UCS Central. UCS Central software manages multiple, globally distributed Cisco UCS domains with thousands of servers from a single pane.

Adding CItrix

Agile deployment and scale-out performance need the backing of a best-in-class support model. The FlexPod Cooperative Support program brings together the technology expertise of Cisco, NetApp and now Citrix. Citrix XenDesktop, Citrix XenServer and Citrix CloudPlatform are frequently deployed workloads in enterprises today. Customers will have direct access to Cisco, NetApp and Citrix engineers trained to rapidly address any operational issues.  By adding Citrix, FlexPod has the broadest IT and cloud management support, including Citrix CloudPlatform, Microsoft System Center, VMWare vCenter Orchestrator, CA Automation Suite for Clouds, and BMC Cloud Lifecycle Manager.

Combined, these advances in FlexPod technology will enable the platform to exceed the needs of the most demanding private and public cloud deployments.

We’re incredibly proud of the work that Cisco and NetApp have done over the past three years.  We are looking forward to an exciting future together as we use the FlexPod platform to continue delivering significant technology innovations to our customers.

 

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Your VDI Checklist for VMworld 2013

With just a week ahead of VMworld 2013 in San Francisco, there’s a lot of planning to do.  For example:

  1. Saying “thank goodness it’s not Vegas”
  2. Finding a suitable bacon-themed party to attend (I’ll explain)
  3. Checking out some useful VDI content at VMworld

So if you’re earning your trip to SF by doing some VDI fact-finding footwork whilst there, you’ve come to the right place.  I’m going to save you a ton of wasted time trekking across the Moscone center, and spell everything out right here.  But before we go there, some backdrop…

This has been an incredibly busy year for Cisco, and its VDI technology ecosystem, and certainly VMware.  Yes, I know it’s only August.  With the help of our ecosystem and channel partners, we took aim at the most important VDI hurdles that prevent IT from embracing this technology, including:

  • The cost and performance bottleneck associated with VDI storage
  • Expanding the addressable use cases into which VDI nicely fits
  • The complexity of putting a cost-effective yet scalable solution together

Now you may be saying “Pretend like I’ve been asleep for 8 months, and remind me what you’re talking about, and make it quick or I’ll find another blog to read”.  Ok then testy reader, here goes:

  • We’ve raised the bar on VDI storage performance, while reducing the overall TCO.  With the help of our expanding, best-of-breed ecosystem including solutions from Nimble Storage, Fusion-io, Nexenta, Tegile, and Atlantis Computing, we offer prescriptive design guidance on how to build solutions based on these technologies, combined with Cisco Unified Computing.  These solutions are available as a complete suite of reference architectures and validated designs, here.  These solutions are making the reality of doing floating or PERSISTENT desktops in an affordable way, a reality.
  • When you think of VDI, it’s traditionally been around the low-hanging fruit that’s easily addressable, ie: task workers, such as call center ops and those who have a minimal set of apps they need to use at any given time.  But what about graphics-intensive workstations that aren’t adequately addressed by VDI display protocols?  Employing Cisco UCS C240 M3 Rack Server with the NVIDIA GRID™ solution, we can do virtualized GPU, offloading CPU resources while delivering higher quality graphics rendering at distance.
  • We’re de-risked getting into VDI, especially for pilot / proof-of-concept environments where your organization wants to get their feet wet, quickly, and affordably.  How?  The UCS SmartPlay with VMware Horizon View, that’s how.  These promo bundles begin with a starter for 30, 100 or 300 users, and offer expansion options, as well as storage upgrades like UCS Storage Accelerator (built on Fusion-io).  We call this the “Accelerated Path to ROI with VDI”.

In case you missed it, I cover some of this in my previous post, here.  Now back to VMworld… coincidentally, the stuff I mentioned above, are BIG focus areas for Cisco and its partners at the show, ie: if you want to see these solutions in action, read further.

Also coincidentally, these are the very same technology trends that Brian Madden recently wrote about, associated with the increasing feasibility of doing VDI for “persistent 1-to-1 desktop images” as he puts it, leveraging the storage technologies we’ve incorporated in our reference architectures.   He also makes reference to the importance of virtualized GPU solutions that are making VDI an increasingly good option for CAD, photo/video editing and similar environments.

So if you’re putting your VDI at VMworld SF checklist together, here are some things you MUST add:

1.) Cisco VDI Demos! (akawho doesn’t like hardware, software, and blinky lights?”)

  • Come by Booth 1005 for starters.  Our VDI demos will include:
  • UCS C240 M3 running VMware Horizon View with…
    • UCS Storage Accelerator (built on Fusion-io) delivering low-latency, high-IOPS capacity for non-persistent View desktops
    • NVIDIA GRID™ cards installed so you can see virtualized GPU delivering accelerated graphics in action!
    • We’ll also have a single-wire managed (aka “Single Connect”) cluster of C220 M3’s running VMware Horizon View with EMC VNX5300 storage.  This environment will show 500 desktops running (live) Login VSI 3.7 Medium workloads

2.) Our featured breakout session “#VAPP6408 -- The Next Wave of Virtualization & Fabric Computing with Cisco’s Unified Computing System will share the latest innovations in Unified Computing with a special focus on VDI.

3.) Cisco Booth Theater Presentation (and maybe win free stuff)

  • swing by Booth 1005, at 5:30pm on the Tuesday (Aug. 27th) to catch Mike Brennan’s presentation “Delivering VMware Horizon View Desktops with Uncompromised Performance and Scalability

4.) Colorado University at Boulder – Featured Breakout Session “#EUC5610 -- Virtualized Inception: Mobility Dream within a VDI Dream; Realized!

  • CU Boulder deployed Nimble Storage for supporting VDI with Horizon View, built on Cisco UCS.  This is a great case study in supporting hundreds of users, supporting BYOD and mobile users in a fully virtualized end-user computing environment.  Check out the written version here.
  • We have a reference architecture (R/A) with Nimble you can review here.
  • and… because Inception is one of my favorite movies ever, you know this session with CU Boulder simply can’t miss!

5.) Nexenta VSA for View (NV4V) Demo Featuring Cisco UCS

  • check out this innovative storage appliance demo, built on Cisco UCS C-Series Rack Server.  You can review our joint R/A here.

6.) Tegile VDI Passport Program

  • Tegile will be running a passport program that provides the opportunity to win an iPad mini by visiting: Tegile, Cisco, and other VDI ecosystem partners
  • We have a joint R/A featuring Tegile Zebi available here.

6.) Atlantis Computing ILIO with Cisco UCS

  • If you’re not familiar with it, the ILIO appliance built on Cisco UCS, provides scalable IOPS capacity without disks,  leveraging UCS’s expansive memory footprint.  Check this Glasshouse Whitepaper for more.

7.) #vBacon !

Ok, so what about the bacon thing?  If you want to get in on probably the best bacon-themed party in SF, you need to be at the Cable Car City Pub by 10pm on Tuesday August 27th.   You won’t be disappointed.  Find out about this and other goodies @CommNinja and the Cisco Social Media Team are putting together, but checking this out.

Well for now, that’s it.  I’ll have more to share next week at VMworld.  Stop by, say hi, and let us help you knock some items off that VDI checklist.  For more information on literally everything I mentioned above, see my handy bookshelf below:

VMware Horizon View Promotion: Cisco UCS SmartPlay Bundle Offer

VMware Horizon View Promotion: Cisco UCS SmartPlay Bundle Offer

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.22.41 AM

Video Whiteboard: Cisco UCS with VMware Horizon View

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.19.27 AM

VDI Reference Arch. with VMware Horizon View, Cisco UCS and NetApp FlexPod

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.11.44 AM

Cisco UCS with VMware Horizon View at Cisco Live

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.06.38 AM

VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and EMC VSPEX

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.04.17 AM

Solution Overview: VDI with VMware Horizon View, Cisco UCS and Fusion-io

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.01.41 AM

VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Nimble Storage

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 8.59.11 AM

VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Nexenta

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 8.55.37 AM

VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Tegile Zebi Storage

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 8.46.16 AM

VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Atlantis ILIO

 

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#EngineersUnplugged S3|Ep7: NetScaler and the Application Driven Data Center

August 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm PST

In this week’s episode of Engineers Unplugged, we send the marketer in to chat with the technologist. Steve Shah (@steveshah) quizzes Nisarg Shah (@nisargcisco) around the use cases for NetScaler including load balancing in the Application Driven Data Center. Less talk, more TLAs! All will be explained, just watch and see:

The moral of this story, marketing and engineering finally agree, unicorns are hard to draw.

The moral of this story, marketing and engineering finally agree, unicorns are hard to draw.

Welcome to Engineers Unplugged, where technologists talk to each other the way they know best, with a whiteboard. The rules are simple:

  1. Episodes will publish weekly (or as close to it as we can manage)
  2. Subscribe to the podcast here: engineersunplugged.com
  3. Follow the #engineersunplugged conversation on Twitter
  4. Submit ideas for episodes or volunteer to appear by Tweeting to @CommsNinja
  5. Practice drawing unicorns

Thanks as always for joining us. Be sure to catch up on all of your favorite topics by watching previous episodes. Watch this space, we’re going to be voting on the best of all of the seasons soon!

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Citrix and NetScaler 1000V Taking Cisco Cloud Network Services to the Next Level

 

CiscoCitrixWith Cisco Live! in Orlando on the horizon, we are kicking off the news cycles and technology innovation a little early.  Today we’re teaming with our friends at Citrix to announce the expansion of our virtual networking portfolio and provide clarity around our strategy for application delivery controller solutions.

There are two key elements of this strategy:

First, Cisco will begin reselling and supporting a customized version of the popular Citrix NetScaler virtual application delivery controller (ADC) as part of our Cloud Network Services portfolio. Branded Citrix NetScaler 1000V, the Cisco version of the product will be fully supported by the Cisco Technical Assistance Center.  We will begin selling the NetScaler 1000V when available in Q3 CY 2013.

Secondly, Cisco and Citrix have worked on joint development to tightly couple the NetScaler ADC into Cisco’s virtual networking framework.  This joint development includes integration of NetScaler 1000V with the Cisco Nexus 1100 Cloud Services Platform, and the Nexus 1000V services integration technology, vPath.

Cisco’s Cloud Network Services strategy bridges IT to application architects, and with this Citrix NetScaler 1000V announcement, we integrate virtual applications to Cisco Unified Fabric, delivering scalable, reliable application services to users.

Why is NetScaler 1000V the right solution now?

Advances in cloud computing, data center consolidation, mobility and big data are imposing new demands on the network, along with a drive for greater network simplification and automation.

As virtual networking and programmable overlay networks evolve to meet these challenges, an equal evolution needs to take place in Layer 4-7 application networking services and security to support widespread virtualization, application mobility, cloud architectures and network orchestration.

Cisco’s solution to this challenge is Cloud Network Services, a portfolio of integrated, application-aware network services and security offerings designed for virtual and cloud environments. The Cloud Network Services framework eliminates the obstacles of physical service appliances to accommodate the requirements of virtual applications and cloud deployments, such as:

  • Limited scalability of physical services in fixed locations
  • Inconsistent application performance based on workload location relative to services
  • Difficulty in inserting security and network services into virtual networks
  • Lack of control over services and policies for applications deployed at cloud service providers

NetScaler1000V

The NetScaler 1000V virtual ADC

NetScaler 1000V fills an important void in Cisco’s virtual product architecture for an application delivery controller solution to give applications critical performance enhancements, offload application servers, and to help guarantee quality of service and improve end user experience. These requirements are growing exponentially with the increases in bring-your-own-device (BYOD), client mobility, and cloud migration.

Virtual services can be more flexibly deployed to cloud service providers without modification, while relying on the same infrastructure and policies that they might have with corresponding physical appliances in their on-premises data centers. With NetScaler 1000V, customers can have consistency across their physical, virtual and cloud infrastructures, along with the Citrix NetScaler physical appliances.

The Cisco Cloud Services Platform

With the evolution to Cloud Network Services as the Layer 4-7 framework for virtual and cloud networks, organizations are increasingly looking for a flexible platform to deploy these virtual service nodes rather than use existing application servers. Cisco has created the Nexus 1100 Cloud Services Platform to address this need.

The Nexus 1100 Cloud Services Platform is a series of UCS-based appliances dedicated to running Cloud Network Service nodes. In addition to the virtual services listed above, the Nexus 1100 runs the management platforms for the virtual network, the Virtual Security Module (VSM), and the Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) application. The Cloud Services Platform can be dynamically configured to allocate its virtual CPUs to each service as needed based on current application and performance requirements. Current models of the Nexus 1100 series include the Nexus 1110-S and 1110-X.

vPath: The Secret Sauce to Enabling Services in Virtual and Cloud Networks

vPath is a component of the Cisco Nexus 1000V virtual switch which directs traffic to appropriate virtual service nodes, such as firewalls or ADCs, in the right order for each application, independent of the topology of the network or the location of the network services. This allows for greater application mobility and more reliable service delivery. NetScaler 1000V will be integrated into the Cloud Network Services framework via vPath and will be a key differentiator against other ADC products.

As part of the Cisco-Citrix collaboration in next generation data center and cloud architectures, the Citrix NetScaler MPX line of high performing application delivery controllers will also attach to the Cisco Nexus 7000 Series switches.  This capability will provide customers the benefits of higher resiliency, plug and play installation, improved agility, and increased leverage of both their switching and ADC investments.

All of the Cisco Cloud Network Services, including the Citrix NetScaler 1000V, will be on display next week at Cisco Live! Along with other announcements we have planned for data center and cloud networking, it promises to be a great event and we hope to see you there.

For more information, check also the press release here 

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Don’t Take Your Eyes off VDI – We’re Certainly Not!

This blog post promises to avoid telling you about all the fantabulous (I know that’s not a woUCSrd) growth expected in the number of hosted virtual desktops to be deployed by 2016.  What I do want to share, is how Cisco is ramping up our investments in accelerating your path to virtual desktop success, and how we’re tapping into the fundamentals of our Unified Computing System (UCS) to deliver new VDI efficiencies; the same efficiencies that have made Cisco the 2nd most preferred x86  blade server vendor* worldwide, in just 4 years!  So why are so many organizations moving away from their legacy compute solution, and choosing UCS for VDI workloads and more?

Differentiated capabilities that address VDI pain points: TCO and Manageability

It’s no secret to anyone that VDI is not simple to deploy.  You essentially have to bring together multiple seemingly disparate solution elements (server, storage, virtualization, broker, network, security, etc.) and make them work in a cohesive manner, and then be certain that your implementation will scale from a small pilot of 50 users to hundreds, thousands, or more!  Clearly with such complexity, the last thing you need is a complex compute infrastructure underneath it all.  There are 3 key things at the heart of this, that speak to why UCS is better for VDI:on-board

1.)    Server-resident flash.  Our “On-Board” Architecture for VDI intercepts the rapidly proliferating use of flash based storage solutions that offer expansive IOPS capacity and huge performance.  UCS takes it a step further by offering an integrated solution leveraging our partner Fusion-io.  We’ve additionally delivered reference architectures that extend the use cases and attractiveness of flash-based solutions with appliance approaches (that direct-connect the storage array to our fabric interconnect) as well as more traditional multi-tiered architectures.  More on that in a moment…

service profile2.)    We’ve made it easier to provision and manage the hosts for your virtual desktop deployments.  UCS Service Profile Templates enable rapid deployment from bare metal, creating a zero-touch, mistake-proof, stateless operations model.  Now, when you add the On-Board, server-resident flash to the configuration, you extend the reach of this management model to include high-performance, economical storage, completely provisioned and managed as part of the blade configuration/profile!  No SAN or associated expertise required!  Perfect for floating, non-persistent desktops.VIC

3.)    Granular visibility across the virtualized infrastructure.  With user desktops now running amidst other mission-critical workloads in the data center, there’s more reason than ever to ensure that you can impart QoS, security and manageability across the multitude of virtual machine traffic flows traversing the data center.  Cisco Virtual Machine Fabric Extender (VM-FEX) and Cisco Nexus 1000v provide the visibility and controls that make this possible, extending physical world policy and administration to virtual.

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