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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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Top Three Reasons Why Cisco UCS is a Better Platform for Big Data

One of the hottest topics in the data center lately is around big data and the actual dollar value that businesses are deriving from making sense from tons of unstructured data.  Virtually every field is turning to gathering big data, with mobile sensor networks, cameras everywhere, and information archives.  New techniques are being developed that can mine vast stores of data to inform decision making in ways that were previously unimagined.   The fact that we can derive more knowledge by recognizing correlations can inform and enrich numerous aspects of every day life.

Cisco is partnering with leading software providers to offer a comprehensive infrastructure and management solution, based on Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), to support our customers’ big data initiatives.  Taking advantage of Cisco UCS’s Fabric based infrastructure, Cisco can apply significant advantage to big data workloads.

There are actually many advantages to hosting big data applications on Cisco UCS infrastructure.  With UCS, Cisco offers a balance of performance, management and scale that sets UCS apart from other industry solutions.  Although we’ll be discussing the benefits in more detail at Cisco Live next week, here is a sneak peak of what you can expect:

Reason #1 to deploy Cisco UCS for your big data analytics: Form factor independence and administrative parity.

 

Cisco UCS

Cisco UCS provides a single point of management for the overall infrastructure—whether it’s blade architecture on the enterprise application side or rack architecture on the big data side, including troubleshooting, monitoring, and alerting capabilities. Customers can proactively monitor the system and keep operational costs down.

In other words, Cisco UCS Rack Servers can be managed the same way as UCS Blade servers with full workload mobility across both blades and racks.  This simplifies the management construct and eliminates the need for additional management silos in the data center.  This form factor independence is made possible by Cisco Unified Fabric with single wire management and Cisco Unified Management that includes UCS Manager with Service Profiles.

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What’s Driving Cisco Innovations in the Data Center?

There are a number of trends that are impacting data centers today, many of which will have a profound impact on how businesses consume data center resources.  These can provide a variety of challenges.  Perhaps most obvious, is the fact that people and businesses are more connected than ever with the proliferation of mobile devices and tablets.  These new devices are driving more applications, more users, and an insatiable appetite for network bandwidth.  This blog will discuss a few of these trends and how Cisco is shaping its data center strategy to enable customers to meet these rapidly changing demands.

IDC Virtualization Trends

 

 

Another major data center trend that is driving change in the data center is the continued adoption of virtualization technologies.  What’s interesting is that although server spending has remained relatively flat for over a decade, there is still a great deal of “head room” for companies to further adopt virtualization.

 

 

IDC Virtualization Adoption

 

 

In fact, IDC studies show that many applications are yet to be virtualized as the chart to the right indicates.  However, virtualization is driving complexity elsewhere including the network, software and storage.  So what has created a more agile server, has not necessarily created a more agile system.

 

The next major trend is that of Cloud Computing, with more business leveraging private, public or potentially even hybrid cloud models.  Some actually forecast that there could eventually be a small number of mega data centers and companies will all leverage capacity exclusively from these since they can offer extreme efficiencies.  The truth is, there are two ends of the spectrum, some customers will prefer to host their own infrastructure and others may choose to use Cloud providers exclusively.  We are finding today that many customers are somewhere in the middle and choose their model based on the application needs.

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Building a Better Data Center with Cisco UCS Solutions, Join us at Red Hat Summit to Hear How

Maybe you’re like me, looking for any excuse to hop on a plane to Boston!  In this case, I happen to have a good one, Red Hat Summit, which kicks off on June 11th.

Red Hat Summit

 

Cisco is proud to be a Platinum Sponsor for the event and we’re showing up in full force with a larger booth, more demos, a Cisco keynote, breakout, and a number of new solution areas that we plan to showcase.  We’ll have a number of product and solution experts available to share our view on how Cisco Solutions, hosted on UCS infrastructure, are building a better data center.

 

Ram AppalarajuOne presentation you should be sure not to miss is the Cisco Keynote on Wednesday, June 12th at 9:30 AM with Ram Appalaraju, Vice President of Technology, Products and Solutions Engineering at Cisco.  It’s safe to say, Ram has an important role at Cisco.  He is essentially responsible for delivering Cisco’s Unified Data Center strategy in the form of products and solutions.  This will certainly prove to be a presentation not to be missed!

 

Han YangIn addition, Han Yang, Product Manager for Cisco Nexus 1000V, will discuss the Nexus 1000V on KVM with OpenStack Integration.  Since Han was one of the original Engineers developing the Nexus 1000V, this makes him uniquely qualified to present this breakout.  This session will be held in room 312 on Thursday, June 13th at 1:20 pm.

 

Please see below for the four key solutions that Cisco is showcasing at the Partner Pavillion:

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Cisco UCS – Quintessential Fabric-based computing – Part 1

In the last fiscal quarter Cisco UCS reached another milestone with 20,000 (87% Y/Y growth) customers. The (no longer) new data center paradigm of fabric based computing must be resulting in unique customer benefits, and hence the market traction. Gartner defines Fabric based computing as follows:

Fabric-based computing (FBC) is a modular form of computing in which a system can be aggregated from separate (or disaggregated) building-block modules connected over a fabric or switched backplane. Fabric-based infrastructure (FBI) differs from FBC by enabling existing technology elements to be grouped and packaged in a fabric-enabled environment, while the technology elements of an FBC solution will be designed solely around the fabric implementation model.

In this video Gartner analyst Donna Scott and Cisco CTO Paul Perez discuss the adoption of Fabric-based computing and the benefits that customers experience with it.

I will dive deeper into why customers experience benefits with the Cisco Unified Computing System.  So lets start with the term “Fabric”.   A Lippis report helps us understand the data center fabric.  In this tech target article by Michael Brandenburg we get some more background.

Excerpts:

Legacy three-tiered data center architecture was designed to service the heavy north-south traffic of client-server applications, while enabling network administrators to manage the flow of traffic.  Engineers adopted spanning tree protocol (STP) in these architectures to optimize the path from the client to server and allow for link redundancy. STP worked well to support client-server applications and its traffic flows, but proved inefficient for server-to-server or east-west communications associated with distributed application architecture.

…Server virtualization compounds the problem with spanning tree and the three-tiered architecture.

… data center fabric, a network where traffic from any port can reach any other node with as few latency-inducing hops as possible.

This is eye opening for those of us who live in the server and application world. Bottom line – the data center fabric will result in fewer hops and lower latency for servers communicating with each other in the data center.

So how is this achieved within the Cisco Unified Computing System? This is done with the Fabric Interconnect, which is the I/O hub and the very soul of the system. The Fabric interconnect consolidates three separate networks: LANs, SANs, and high-performance computing networks.   The Fabric Interconnect provides consolidated access to both SAN storage and network attached storage (NAS) over the fabric. This means the Cisco Unified Computing System servers can access storage over Ethernet, Fibre Channel, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), and iSCSI. It also lowers costs by reducing the number of network adapters, switches, and cables.

Screenshot_2_22_13_10_28_AM

 

The Cisco UCS Manager, which is the embedded device manger software in the Fabric Interconnect, gives users the ability to slice and dice this big chunk of physical network capacity of the system into much smaller subunits, with the ability to do it flexibly and to change the decisions with software configuration. With Cisco UCS, IT organizations can now deliver dynamic network infrastructure or network services across all types of applications—from applications like Oracle, SAP, three tier J2EEE, and Microsoft to virtualized applications from VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix.

In his blog John McCool ,Cisco SVP and CTO, defines Fabric as “… a highly available, high performance shared infrastructure built with integrated, intelligent compute, storage and network nodes that can be rapidly and simply organized around the requirements of a given workload.” In part 2 of this blog I will detail the automation and management of the fabric-based compute nodes (upto 160) connected to a single pair of UCS Fabric Interconnects.

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