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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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The One and Only Cisco UCS Manager

I am often asked by customers why UCS has been so successful in such a short amount of time. My response is always the same in that it comes down to two things – 1) Cisco and our partners’ ability to understand and execute against customer needs and 2) A fundamental difference in the underlying architecture.

You may know that Cisco invented UCS service profiles and built the entire system around the notion of hardware state abstraction. Cisco’s approach has been so successful because every element of the system was designed from the beginning to have its configuration set through software, without any licensing requirements. Whether customers are running bare-metal, virtualized, or any combination therein, Cisco UCS service profiles have revolutionized computing and have challenged competitors to try and replicate the simplicity and increased productivity that UCS Manager policies and templates provide. It’s no secret that Cisco UCS Manager has revolutionized the way customers deploy and manage servers, but here are a few things about UCS Manager that you may not be aware of.

Did you know that Cisco UCS Manager is embedded software running within the Fabric Interconnects in a highly available clustered configuration? This is an important distinction from traditional architectures as Cisco UCS Manager is a fully redundant management engine right out of the box the moment the system receives power, without special clustering software or additional licensing fees. Read More »

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Cisco UCS Outperforms HP and IBM Blade Servers on East-West Latency

Virtualization, Private Cloud, Big Data, HPC, etc. have been steadily changing the landscape of data center architectures. Lower latency and higher performing server-to-server data traffic (East-West) have become key discussion points as customers look to modernize their infrastructures.  Cisco specifically designed UCS unified fabric for this type of traffic to create a highly-available infrastructure with reduced latency and unmatched consistency as the solution scales. Without providing any supporting data, HP and IBM have been incorrectly asserting that Cisco UCS unified fabric would increase latency and slow blade-to-blade traffic. Cisco ran the tests, and the results were simply amazing.

Cisco UCS Outperforms HP Blade Servers on East-West Latency
Cisco UCS Outperforms IBM Flex System Blades on East-West Latency
Read More »

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The Balance Between Technology and Humanity is Fueling Technology’s Popularity

July 3, 2013 at 4:07 pm PST

Balance_between_TechandhumanityWe are living in arguably the most exciting time in human history, and I’m mesmerized by how fast our world is evolving thanks to brilliant technologies and the sheer volume of inanimate objects that are connecting to the internet on a daily basis, forming the internet of everything (IoE).

As much as it seems everything is digital these days, our world is almost entirely analog. However, digital technology (and its massive potential to revolutionize our world) is trending toward mainstream popularity, in spite of traditionally being relegated to the minds of the ‘geeky’ few. The reason for this trend is simpler than it might initially appear and it’s the topic of this post. Read More »

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Cisco UCS vs. IBM Flex System: Complexity and Cost Comparison

June 25, 2013 at 3:29 pm PST

Complexity and Cost Comparison: Cisco UCS vs. IBM Flex System is report recently published by Principled Technologies.

They evaluated both the technologies and costs of each solution and found a UCS solution is both less expensive to deploy and less complex to manage than an IBM Flex System.

Off all the ways Principled Technologies shows how UCS is a superior solution, I wanted to touch on just one: highly available and scalable management. A UCS management domain consists of a pair of Fabric Interconnects and supports up to 160 blade and/or rack servers. In contrast, IBM is limited to 54 blade servers plus a non-redundant Flex System Manager node. Quoting from the paper:

Because IBM Flex System Manager nodes do not failover automatically like the Cisco UCS solution, administrators must manually connect to a backup node and bring it online. Each target system has an OS agent that remains registered to the original FSM node and does not recognize the new FSM. Admins must manually unregister each of these agents from the failed node and then register the new FSM node. [page 7]

Read the full report to learn the many additional ways which UCS is shown to be superior solution and why Cisco has leapt ahead of IBM and is now the #2 blade server vendor worldwide1

Principled Technologies Complexity and Cost Comparison Cisco UCS vs. IBM Flex System from Cisco Data Center

 

Would like to learn more about how Cisco is changing the economics of the datacenter, I would encourage you to review this presentation on SlideShare  or my previous series of blog posts, Yes, Cisco UCS servers are that good.

  1. Source:  IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, Q1 2013 Revenue Share, May 2013

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