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Introducing OpFlex – A new standards-based protocol for Application Centric Infrastructure

Continuing on its tradition of contributing and committing to open source and open standards over the last 25 years, today Cisco announced “OpFlex” – a new open standards-based protocol for Application Centric Infrastructure that has been submitted into the IETF standardization process. We believe this will accelerate multi-vendor innovation in data center and cloud networks to drive operational simplicity, lower costs and increased agility.

Why is this required?

Traditional SDN models today function on the basis of an imperative control model with a centralized controller and distributed network entities that support the lowest common denominator feature set across vendors such as bridges, ports and tunnels. As the network scales, the controller becomes a bottleneck due to the need to maintain increased state, and starts to impact performance and resiliency. Likewise, because the applications, ops and infrastructure requirements need to be translated into network configuration, it impacts agility and introduces a manual learning process, requiring app developers to describe their requirements in low-level constructs.

OpFlex1

If we contrast that with the vision of the ACI model with the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), ACI adopts a declarative management approach. This model abstracts applications, operations and infrastructure providing simplification and agility. By distributing complexity to the edges, it also increases better scalability, and allows for resiliency – i.e. the data forwarding can still continue to happen even if there is no controller. It further provides ease of use with self-documenting policies automatically deployed or cleaned up from devices as necessary. All of these help circumvent the issues seen in traditional SDN models.

For this declarative model to work across a multi-vendor environment, to translate and map policy definition into the infrastructure, there has hitherto been no standard protocol to do that across physical/virtual switches, routers and L4-L7 network services. This vacuum has led to the development of “OpFlex” – a new open standard recently submitted to the IETF.

Who is contributing to OpFlex?

Several industry leaders and practitioners are actively involved in the standardization process. These include Microsoft, IBM, Citrix and SunGard Availability Services, in addition to Cisco.

Read More »

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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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The Dirty Secrets of Server Power

Power efficiency remains a top decision point for many customers looking to modernize their data center. Customers searching for an accurate way to compare server power among vendors are often directed to use power calculators without taking into account the many factors that drive power utilization. This notion preys on the simplistic nature of the power beast – lower number is better… but are we missing the (power) bus entirely?

The dirty little secret is that there is no industry standard for power calculators, and vendors can essentially publish a calculator around whatever workload they like (or no actual workload at all). Read More »

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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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