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UCS: Foundation for Cloud

December 4, 2012 at 11:44 am PST

A story came out today showcasing the platform built to power Xerox Managed Print Services (MPS), and it’s hard to describe better example of how Cisco’s data center technology comes together to help unlock the full potential of cloud computing.  In the lead-up to this release and the webcast that we’re airing this Thursday, I had the pleasure of working with Tom Force who leads up the architecture team at Xerox that built the MPS cloud.  What I heard him describe illustrates some of the fundamental differences in UCS that come into play for cloud builders:

  1. Fabric-centric design.   MPS is a cloud based service and hosts over a hundred applications.  Many of these are multi-tier apps and they benefit directly from the fact that every server in a UCS environment is connected to a single high performance, deterministic, low latency fabric.  This eliminates hops between servers and opens up the platform to support intense E/W traffic within the servers that collaborate to deliver services.   Contrast this to traditional architectures that put layers of switching between servers with in-chassis blade switching modules.  The performance gains were noticed and communicated by Xerox customers to Tom, and that is the end result that really matters
  2. Form factor agnostic design.  In UCS a server is a server is a server regardless of the shape of the box.  The Xerox MPS cloud leverages blade and rack servers as and where they make sense and the architects and administrators can manage them all in one abstracted pool of resources.  No other platform so fully eliminates the concerns of what shape the sheet metal is.
  3. A unified control plane exposed via XML API.  The MPS cloud is orchestrated with vCloud director.  The deep integration between UCS Manager and cloud platform SW enables automated discovery and configuration of new compute resources as they’re added to the system.  This creates the true elasticity and automation that a cloud of the magnitude of Xerox MPS demands.   Programmable pools of abstracted computing and network elements is what separates a robust cloud from one built on a brittle, manual infrastructure foundation.
  4. UCS Manager Service profiles:  Simplification of server image types and elimination of configuration drift as applications move from development through test, staging and deployment was a big win for the Xerox IT team.  Having a infrastructure that can be reliably and accurately provisioned and maintained, both in the primary and remote DR sites is another area Tom cited in our conversations.
  5. UCS Central:  this is recently released technology that allows customers like Xerox to manage multiple UCS domains across the data center and across geographies.
  6. I’m sure i’m forgetting something but I’ll go with 5 unique attributes for now.

You have to love it when a plan comes together. **

 

**Fictional rendering of Tom Force

This Thursday, the Xerox team is joining us for a dynamite webcast we’ve pulled together to talk about UCS and laying the right foundations for cloud.  James Staten of Forrester, who is THE MAN on cloud, helps us kick it off and we also have architects from FICO joining to talk about their private cloud design.   If you’re in the business of looking at infrastructure strategy for cloud computing this is one you don’t want to miss.

Check also Xerox case study 

 

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Cisco UCS in the Private Cloud

December 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm PST

As an early convert to the virtues of Cloud computing, it is fascinating to see the adoption of the ideas.  Most organizations if not all, are figuring out how to harness cloud technologies to their advantage.   It is interesting to get a perspective from an analyst who talks to users on a regular basis or better still find out what similar organizations are doing.   In a few recent conversation with Mike Spanbauer, Industry analyst at Current Analysis, Cisco Executives, Jim McHugh and Brian Schwarz discussed several topics. One of topics was “Private Cloud”, highlighting the opportunities and challenges that adopters face.

When harnessed cloud technologies should therefore help users reign in IT costs and chaos while helping IT better align with existing business needs.  It should also help IT scale up and down services with changing business needs.  Common use cases for deploying cloud technologies are elasticity, flexibility, normalization and simpler management to address a heterogeneous infrastructure for varied workload demands.  Cloud infrastructure addresses the short-term bursty nature of application development and test very well.

Cisco UCS is an innovative server platform uniquely positioned to help adopters succeed with cloud technologies. The converged server and network infrastructure is a necessity when everything is connected to the cloud. The need for scaling up and down rapidly is enabled by the programmability of the system.  Software configuration of the server with its LAN and SAN connections helps in the reliability and time to value of the server infrastructure.  This is possible with the service profiles supported by the Cisco UCS Manager. Service profiles also help normalize and abstract the physical infrastructure to meet the needs of varying workloads.  The recent release of Cisco UCS Central and the API makes large scale globally distributed infrastructure deployment possible. With virtual machines enjoying direct access to the network with the Cisco VM-FEX technology users can take advantage of server virtualization and get optimal network performance.

And of course, it is very important to see how industry peers are using the Cisco UCS to solve the very challenges Cloud adopters face. Tune in to a webcast on December 6 at 9:00 am PST  to hear from Cisco UCS customers Xerox and FICO Corporation, about how and why they used it in their Cloud environments.

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Cisco IAC Availability, Scalability, and Geographic Distribution

When building a cloud, scale it out.

Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud architecture and topology options enable scalability, availability, and geographic distribution. This white paper discusses several options, their strengths and uses, and the technical details underlying these options.”

Cisco IAC Availability, Scalability, and Geographic Distribution White Paper is available in the Cisco support community (log in needed)

Here’s an excerpt:

 

Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) is a software-based solution for managing hardware infrastructure tasked with delivering various IT services as-a-service (XaaS). Cisco IAC provides configuration “content” to help customers rapidly deploy service-delivered, self-service enabled IT services on certain hardware architectures. Consulting services from Cisco Advanced Services or Cisco delivery partners can use the IAC infrastructure to create custom services for customers. This white paper discusses the software underpinnings of these services and options for deployment that provide scalability and resilience for large enterprises or service providers.
The major platform products which make up IAC relevant to a scaling and resiliency discussion are:

  • The Cisco Cloud Portal – The dynamic, tailored end-user web site where customers and administrators can browse available services and options, and order new services or changes to existing services. This element consists of a web tier which interacts with the browser to expose the Portal UI and an application tier which includes the Portal and Service Catalog. The Service Catalog provides the menu of available services, including new-service and update-service requests, as well as definitions and configurations for roles, business rules, dynamic form rules, and entitlement.
  • Cisco Process Orchestrator  – The delivery engine that makes the Move/Add/Change/Delete (MACD) changes to the steady-state configuration of the computing, network, storage, and application infrastructure (“Infrastructure”) needed to deliver the requested new service or service change. Orchestrator processes automate workflows which interact with applications, systems, and devices in the environment.
  • A database stores configuration, state, and runtime information from the above systems.
  • Cisco Network Services Manager (NSM) Server – a specialized engine for network provisioning. Cisco Network Services Manager’s policy-driven approach allows clouds to be created within single or multiple network Points of Delivery (PoDs), each with potentially different and unique offerings and operational behaviors.
  • Cisco NSM Controller – a local element near network devices within a network PoD which performs direct device interactions to achieve network provisioning at the direction of the NSM Server.
  • Cisco Server Provisioner – provides bare metal provisioning (remote installation) of an OS or hypervisor on a physical or virtual server, as well as bare metal imaging for system cloning and backup.

 

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Customers Sprint and CSC Share Their Cloud Transformation Best Practices

Cloud service providers, Sprint and CSC, collaborated in a joint webcast hosted by Cisco to share their cloud transformation best practices. I find it impressive to see how far the conversation around cloud has come along in the last few years. It’s no longer a question of “Should we?” but it has evolved to become a “What’s the best way?” mindset. There are many routes to success in a world of many clouds, and Sprint and CSC are two examples from the supply side of the equation. Read More »

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What Is Cisco UNIFIED FABRIC? Why Should You Care?

Is your network ready to help you transform and be the strategic partner that you can be? Let’s face it… Today’s data centers are challenged with siloed resources and facilities… Limited scalability… Poor resource utilization… Growing complexity…Perhaps the biggest challenge is time.  When 80% of your resources are dedicated to “keeping the lights on” and managing all what you have, there is very little time left for innovation that benefits the business.

And the reality is that the role of IT has to change – from a cost center to a business strategic partner!  Why? Because there are increasing demands on IT to help your business differentiate in order to survive and grow in these rough economic conditions. And let’s not forget that the increasing cost pressures, technology changes, and the advent of game-changers like cloud are forcing IT executives to look at how to deliver IT differently. 

These growing demands put even more pressure on the shoulders of IT especially given the current state of your Data Centers. The data center network sits at the core of IT and is key to how IT can deliver services and provide value back to the business.

So what do you do?  The good news is that …

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