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Facilities Is From Mars, IT Is From Venus

March 14, 2012 at 10:00 am PST

How well do the IT and Facilities people get along at your company?  Do they work well together or seem at times to be from different planets?

I’ve been in the Data Center industry for 15 years now, always based in IT but focused on physical infrastructure design and operations.  A key part of my job has been helping IT and Facilities understand one another’s goals, challenges and technologies.  That – as I like to joke – means I have great job security. Read More »

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Intel and Cisco Partnership : Hello Cisco UCS™ M3 series!

March 14, 2012 at 4:00 am PST

I invited today  Eoin McConnell, who is the Intel Xeon Processor E5 Family Product Line Manager within Intel’s DataCenter and Connected Systems Group, to comment on Cisco Third Generation of Fabric Computing‘s launch.

“Three years ago Cisco timed its entry into the compute side of the data center with the launch of the Intel® Xeon® 5500 series when it introduced Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) to the world.  Few outside the walls of Cisco would have suspected that in such a short time Cisco would have grown significantly in this space. It now has nearly 11,000 UCS customers and has risen to No. 3 in MSS in the blade market, according to IDC.

Cisco has partnered with Intel in delivering innovation in the data center around UCS from the beginning.  On March 8, 2012, Cisco launched the UCS “M3” server line.  The company coordinated this introduction to follow immediately on the heels of Intel’s introduction of the Intel® Xeon® processor E5 family. The three stellar offerings that are available immediately are the Cisco UCS B200 M3 Blade Server, the Cisco UCS C220 M3 Rack Server, and the Cisco UCS C240 M3 Rack Server.

Intel Dylan Larson and Cisco Scott Ciccone had recently  a quick conversation about the features and the benefits of this new offering

This third generation sets the mark, and definitely has Cisco delivering new innovation for the cloud.  Cisco has always looked to Intel to deliver world-class foundational building blocks that allow the company to innovate. The M3 series will in fact be the first UCS series to implement Intel l® Trusted Execution Technology, which many believe is fundamental to securing cloud architecture.

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Got A Question For @CiscoSystems?

March 12, 2012 at 11:58 am PST

Answers To Your Frequently Asked Questions

With over 100,000 followers to our Corporate Twitter Page, @CiscoSystems, we receive a decent amount of questions from the community. To help get your questions answered, we’ve outlined some frequently asked questions here for you.  If you do not find the answer you’re looking for, please send a tweet to @CiscoSystems and we will do our best to get your question answered in a timely manner. Thanks for engaging with us and happy tweeting!

Q: What is Cisco’s data center strategy?

A: Cisco is helping customers to unify their data centers with integrated compute, network, storage access, virtualization and management. Our end goal is to help organizations simplify operations, reduce costs, and improve business agility so they can better accomplish their business goals. With a Cisco Unified Data Center, customers report dramatic operational and cost improvements up to: 30 percent lower infrastructure costs, 90 percent reduction in deployment times, 40 percent improvements in application performance, and 60 percent reductions in power/cooling costs.

Q: What is Cisco’s collaboration philosophy?

A: From IP communications to mobility, customer care, Web conferencing, messaging, enterprise social software, and interoperable telepresence experiences, Cisco brings together network-based, integrated collaboration solutions based on open standards. These solutions offered across on-premise, cloud-based or virtualized platforms, as well as services from Cisco and our partners, are designed to help promote business growth, innovation and productivity through anytime, anywhere, any device communication. They are also designed to help accelerate team performance, protect investments, and simplify the process of finding the right people and information. For more information, visit http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps10680/index.html

Q: What is Cisco’s service provider video strategy?

A: Cisco’s service provider video strategy is to enable a new generation of TV experiences via Cisco Videoscape, a comprehensive TV platform for service providers that brings together digital TV and online content with social media and communications applications to create a truly immersive home and mobile video entertainment experience.   Videoscape is unique in that it  utilizes the cloud, the network, and client devices to deliver new multi-screen video experiences over the Internet.

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Automate Getting the UCS SNMP MIBs

March 9, 2012 at 5:22 pm PST

I like the command line, I’ll admit it, it’s old-school but l am old-school. Clicking around a graphical interface is all well and good but if you want to get something done the command line is the way to do it. My high school years, college years and early career were a variety of Unix flavors, VMS, DOS, CP/M with an assortment of editors, programming languages and shells.

What I love is when a graphical interface can be managed via a command line.  This way I know that I can use all my favorite tools (old and new) to get done what needs to be done. What needs to get done sometimes is taking the point and click out of a task. That’s my focus today.

Here’s the scenario, download SNMP MIBs for UCS. Go to that web page and you need to get very clicky, perhaps even right-clicky and select the “save as” option. More clicks, with potentially over 100 MIBs to download that’s 200 plus clicks, and the repetition is as mind numbing as a top 40 radio station.

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UCS: new innovations in systems management, high performance virtual I/O and server technology

March 8, 2012 at 4:15 am PST

Please don your data center propeller hats and follow me for a tour of third generation fabric computing.  To zoom out to the big picture of what all this new technology means, please take a look at this earlier post.

On the management front we have two new things to talk about:

1)      Freeing the server administrators from the tyranny of sheet metal.  UCS manager delivers total administrative parity across server form factors, and now supports connectivity for greater quantities of C-Series racks in a UCS system.   When you get right down to it, servers are just different combinations of processing, memory, local disk and I/O capability.  Some combinations happen to be best as blades, some happen to be best as rack mounts, but we shouldn’t have to care about the shape of the sheet metal when it comes to systems management.  With UCS you don’t.  Rack and blade all show up together as resources available and managed in a unified, self-integrating system, complete with an XML API.   Unified management in UCS lets us finally think outside the box when we deploy and manage compute infrastructure.

2)      Multi-UCS Manager:  this might be the most important part of this announcement because it takes UCS well over the horizon in terms of scalability.  Multi-UCS Manager, as the name implies, is the capability to manage across multiple instances of UCS.  This allows for synchronization of service profiles, common pools of unique identifiers and centralized visibility and control across many thousands of servers.   Multi-UCS Manager takes the underlying policy based management philosophy of UCS and literally globalizes it, with the capability to manage UCS instances within a single data or around the world.   Scheduled for availability in 2HCY12, this is big news and there will be more to come on this topic.

New UCS I/O components:

1)      Last year we introduced the 6248 Fabric Interconnect, with unified ports, 40% latency reduction and increased system bandwidth.  Here comes its big brother, the 6296, weighing in at 2U, 96 ports, sub-2µs latency and a whopping 2Tb of switching capacity.   That means more flexibility and capacity in an architecture that puts all the servers in the system one network hop away from each other, be they blades or racks.   

2)      A new I/O module for the UCS blade chassis, the 2204XP.   This fabric extender doubles the amount of bandwidth that can be provisioned to each chassis to 160Gb.

3)      Finally, but probably the most exciting for the server geeks among us: the VIC1240.  This is the Cisco Virtual Interface Card now embedded in the new B200 M3 blade server.   The VIC 1240 is a dual 20Gb LOM with high performance virtualization that comes standard.   An expander module can double the trouble to 4x20Gb.  By my math that’s 80Gb to a single slot blade: so how do you use it all?  With Adapter-FEX technology, the VIC can carve that pipe into 256 vNICs or vHBAs that can be presented to a bare metal OS.   VM-FEX technology takes it a step further, allowing those virtual adapters to be connected directly with virtual machines.   The VIC can also be configured to bypass hypervisor switching which offloads that work from your processors and reduces proc utilization up to 30%.   Moving virtual switching to the VIC also improves throughput by up to 10% and improves application performance by up to 15%.   The idea here is to bring virtual I/O to near-bare metal levels and allow more applications to be virtualized -- which means greater operational agility and service resiliency. 

Don’t forget the servers!  By the end of this year we’ll have roughly doubled the number of servers in the UCS portfolio.   Here’s how we’re kicking things off:

1)      Two new rack servers: the C220 M3 and C240 M3.  It’s best to compare at the specs here on the product pages, because these are feature loaded and my fingers are tired.  They are of course based on Intel’s screaming hot new Xeon E5-2600 processor family, which was announced on Tuesday.  We like to say Cisco and Intel are joined at the chip, after all.  In addition to bringing new horse power and efficiency gains, the key differentiator for these machines is that they can be managed right alongside B-Series blades in one big happy pool of abstracted server resources, by UCS Manager.

2)      The B200 M3.   One of the upshots of the UCS architecture is that we’ve pulled all the switches and systems management modules out of the blade chassis.  This leaves more room, power and cold air for computing, which manifests itself here in a single-slot blade with 24 DIMM slots and up to three quarter terabytes of RAM.   Server architecture, much like life, though, is all about balance.   That’s where the Xeon E5-2600 processors and the aforementioned VIC1240 (80Gb of I/O!) come in.    The B200 M3 brings an industry leading set of capability to this class of blade and is a fantastic add to the UCS family. 

One of the best things about UCS is forward and backward compatibility: all generations of product are fully interoperable which yields strong investment protection.  Modular yet unified.  The Zen of computing architecture, if you will.  In fact, we’re putting a stake in the ground:  the dramatically simplified blade chassis Cisco introduced to the industry 2009 will take customers through the end of this decade.   Good through 2020…you heard it here first.   Just think how young Paul will still look in this video by then :) 

My colleagues will post today to talk about how all of this nets out in application performance, and it’s a very good story indeed.   In the meantime we’ve posted up some easy to read performance briefs.    Also, don’t forget that we have a “view 3D model” link right under the product pictures for all these new additions.  If you want to take a close look that’s a fun way to do it.  Thanks for coming along.

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