A good segue to Fabric-Based Infrastructure is Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Blade Servers (March 2012), by Andrew Butler and George Weiss. To fully understand the tie in with Fabric-Based Infrastructure I suggest reading the section on Cisco UCS. Their observations are important because they tie directly to the subject of this blog. You will also get a better feel for why Cisco UCS is having such rapid customer adoption worldwide.
The emphasis for Fabric-Based Infrastructure is delivering value-add functionality that enables data centers to operate more efficiently and cost effectively. A good place to start is by looking at this Gartner report by George Weiss and Donna Scott -- Fabric-Based Infrastructure Enablers and Inhibitors Through the Lens of User Experiences (April 2012). In this short research note, George and Donna go into the key drivers and reasons for the FBI architecture and the benefits that their clients have seen. My take away for the key benefits of Fabric-Based Infrastructure are:
OpEx and CapEx savings
Increased VM density
Time-To-Deploy reduced from months to hours via automation and standards implementation;
Reduce cost and complexity and improve agility;
Improved resiliency by recreating servers and connectivity in minutes using profiles and templates
While reading about a technology innovation is helpful, actually listening to experts discuss the architecture and give their individual perspectives can be more so.
I suggest that you make time to listen to this 34 minute video with featured guest Donna Scott (a VP and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner) and Paul Perez (VP and CTO for the Data Center Business Group at Cisco Systems) -- Fabric-Based Infrastructure (FBI) in Today’s Data Center. Donna looks at the motivations and impact of customers moving to a Fabric Based Infrastructure with an eye toward what is important to adopters. Then Paul discusses Cisco UCS innovations and how they let FBI adopters achieve their goals. If you would like, you can download a podcast of the video from theCisco Analyst Reports page.
From my perspective the truly compelling part of this story is the extent to which Cisco UCS makes the promise of Fabric-Based Infrastructure a reality, while emphasizing safety, security and the risk reduction. These are critical considerations in today’s IT environment. Cisco continues to be a key innovator in data center technology and is continuing to grow from strength to strength, delivering value and benefit for your long term application solution needs.
Below is how I think a Fabric-Based Infrastructure should look. Of course I am predisposed. Cisco UCS architecture provides the ability to define and manage over 120 different server identity parameters via service profile templates, using a native tool with Roles Based Access Controls and across geographies. UCS enables you to have a distributed environment that is centrally managed. Your admins can also use CLI, custom designed tools / scripts, or third party tools as they choose to meet the needs of their current management structure.
Cisco continues to roll out innovations that will enable the next generations of multi-cloud computing. I’m a product manager working on Cisco’s Cloud Management software, and we’re all about the high-level, self-service, automatic provisioning of services that the end-user cares about. The network just moves ones and zeros, and all protocols of interest (HTTP, SSH, RDP, SQL, etc.) work fine over TCP/IP. The hypervisor takes care of putting that pesky motherboard chipset and storage bus into a black box, right? The end-user doesn’t care about that stuff, or at least doesn’t want to have to care about it.
A common perspective, except among the engineers who manage the network, is that network infrastructure is a bunch of mysterious plumbing that “just works” and how it does what it does doesn’t matter. Indeed, many vendors in the “cloud” arena would like to perpetuate this perspective on the network. They would like you to believe a bunch of dumb pipes can carry traffic and that determination of the traffic (content, flow, etc.) is determined at higher levels in the stack.
In some cases, this is true, but operating this way doesn’t unlock anything new. The model they describe would be brilliant if all of your network requirements were defined in 1998. Few companies can afford to operate technology today like they did in 1998 and remain competitive.
Cisco is announcing a newNexus 1000V(N1KV), and this one changes the game.In brief, the Nexus 1000V is the foundation of the networking services that Cisco brings to virtual computing. The N1KV can be managed using the same NX-OS commands and practices used to manage the Nexus 5K and 7K switches, and extends network control down to the VM and virtual port into which a VM is “plugged in”, even across different vendors’ hypervisors.
The N1KV is also the platform for additional L2 and L3 network services such as those provided by the vASA Firewall, vNAM, and VSG. The new Nexus 1000V InterCloud extends this ability to cloud service providers, such as Amazon, but is “cross-provider” (in fact, it doesn’t even depend on the Cloud Service Provider). For me, in my role as a Cloud Product Manager, this is an important new addition to basic networking capabilities, and is exactly the kind of thing that Cisco can and should do in its role as “Networking Giant” to open up the promise of hybrid or multi-cloud.
I have a mental image of what this can do, and I tried to put this into images to the right. Animation would have been better, I just don’t have the Flash skills to put it together for a quick blog post. I envision a virtual machine as a ghostly “physical” server tower with network cables plugged into it. These network connections can come from end-users in a client-server model, or any of our web-and-mobile constructs. After all, we still are end-users connecting to machines. Of course, the “client” for a compute function could be another compute function, so there is a network cable coming from another nearby ghost server. These ghost servers can today float from blade to blade thanks to most mainstream virtual machine managers (VMM) and a virtual switch like the N1KV, and the cords stay connected throughout. With the new N1KV, that VM can float right out of that VMM and into another VMM (such as across VMware datacenters, or even from VMware to Hyper-V), or out to a public or hosted provider. The cord just magically uncoils to remain connected wherever that machine goes! I love magic.
The N1KV provides that cable that can float after its ethereal virtual machine. It also provides the platform to maintain monitoring by the vNAM, even as the machine moves. You simply can’t economically achieve this using basic dumb pipes. Add to this the new Virtual Network Management Console (VNMC) InterCloud management capabilities. In order for that cord to stay connected, there do have to be network switches or routers along the way that understand how to make that network cable follow the machine. VNMC InterCloud manages these devices, but adds another particularly important capability: actually moving the workload.
VNMC InterCloud adds the ability to discover virtual machines, and convert them to a cloud-provider’s instance format, move what could possibly be a fairly large set of files, and get that machine started back up in a far-away environment, with seamless network consistency. VNMC InterCloud is like a puff of wind that pushes the ghostly VM from my corporate VMWare-based cloud to float over to my hosted private cloud. Remember, ghosts can float through walls.
This is groundbreaking. Workload mobility is one of those hard-to-do core capabilities required for all of us to realize the promise of multi-cloud, and it requires a network that is both dynamic and very high performing. I’ve been looking forward to this from Cisco for some time now.
Guest Blogger: Yair Dolev (@CiscoCloudY) brings extensive experience in enterprise application development and management of advanced data center virtualization technology products to Cisco’s Cloud and Systems Management Technology Group. Prior to Cisco, Yair was Director of Product Management at data center automation authority Tidal Software, and managed the groundbreaking Azul Virtual Machine products at Azul Systems, which enabled data centers to run large Java workloads on highly scalable, optimized hardware.
At the core of every cloud initiative there always lurks a concern about the sustained viability of such a comprehensive transformation – and this applies to adoption of a new cloud operating model as well as to the deployment of the new technology required. It boils down to two things: trust and cost. Can I trust that this solution will still fit me in the future, and how much will I really have to pay for this fit?
One of the things I really like about Cisco IAC is that it’s built around a core software platform that allows for an amazing level of flexibility and extensibility. Our software can be configured and adapted to closely fit what your IT organization wants to offer to meet your unique business needs. The user portal can be made to look different and behave differently for a variety of users, and it can enforce your organization’s policies and controls. The orchestration engine is adaptable to model a wide range of customer processes, and it’s extensible to communicate with other IT operations management software, OSS/BSS tools or infrastructure systems. Our solution can be extended beyond infrastructure services, to encompass a broad range of IT and business services at the platform and application layer (more on this later). The best news is: you can protect the investment you made so that the changes persist through future product updates. Let’s review some of these key capabilities:
If you haven’t heard about Unified Management, it refers to our portfolio of data center and cloud management software products. Cisco’s data center and cloud management software helps our customers to deliver IT services faster, more efficiently, and with lower total cost of ownership.
This year we’ve made it even easier for you to learn about these software solutions, with several demo stands on the expo floor and more than 17 breakout and theatre presentations.
We invite you to join us at Cisco Live London and learn more…
I introduced the Cisco Domain TenSM framework for data center and cloud transformation back in December, and after my previous blog discussing “Domain 4: the User Portal“, it’s now time to discuss Domain 5, which considers Service Catalog and Management. In this post, I’d like to illustrate the important, central role the service catalog has in data center transformation, and also discuss some of the key challenges, considerations and deliberations you should go through as you specify the requirements for, and ongoing evolution of, your IT service catalog. I’ll also point you to a free white paper from our Cisco Services experts.
Cisco Domain Ten -- Highlighting Domain 5: Service Catalog and Management