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Decoding UCS Invicta – Part 2

Solid State Drives (SSD) 101

In part one of this series we covered the internals of HDDs and some basic techniques manufacturers use to increase performance. In part two we are going into a deep dive of Solid State Drives (SSD), how they work, and some caveats.

Solid State Drives (SSD)

The solid-state drives (SSDs) have a simple unit where one or more bits are stored: the “NAND Flash Cell”. So, this should be easy! Right! Lets see.

The SSDs are constructed like a Lego where the smaller piece is the “Flash Cell”. We aggregate multiple “Flash Cells” into a “4KB Page”. The amount of “Flash Cells” in a “Page” depends on the amount of bits the “Flash Cell” can manage. Now, here is the first caveat, a “Page” is the minimum writable unit in SSD. Even if you need to write a single bit, you would have to write an entire “4KB Page”.

We take “Pages” and group them into “512KB Blocks”. Here comes the second caveat, “Blocks” are the minimum erasable unit in SSD.

This causes a phenomenon known as the “write amplification” effect in SSD. If you need to erase a single bit, you need to modify and entire “Page” (the minimum writable unit), but you can only erase a “Block”. The drive needs to read the “128 Pages” that made the “Block”. Next it erases the “Block”, then write back the 127 unmodified “Pages” plus the 1 modified “Page”. Read More »

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Summary: Decoding UCS Invicta Part 2

Solid State Drives (SSD) 101

In part one of this series we covered the internals of HDDs and some basic techniques manufacturers use to increase performance. In part two we are going into a deep dive of Solid State Drives (SSD), how they work, and some caveats.

The solid-state drives (SSDs) have a simple unit where one or more bits are stored: the “NAND Flash Cell”. So, this should be easy! Right! Lets see.

Click here to learn more.

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Summary: Decoding UCS Invicta Part 1

Storage 101

Less than a year ago, October 29th 2013, Cisco acquired Whiptail {http://newsroom.cisco.com/release/1279074}, a high performance scalable solid-state memory system. Shortly after its acquisition, the product lines were renamed UCS Invicta.

The idea behind UCS Invicta and its market positioning is application acceleration. This is not to be considered a traditional storage but instead a solution to enhance application performance. In fact, Cisco has made it quite clear that they have no plan to target the traditional storage market:

“This acquisition is really about the server market. It’s a significant opportunity, but distinct from the portion of the market served by traditional stand-alone storage systems. As a result, our continued engagements with NetApp on FlexPod, EMC on VSPEX and VCE on Vblock will not change. We have no current plans to expand into the broad based, traditional storage market.”

Now, just as it happened in 1998 when Cisco got into the VoIP market, and then in 2009 when it got into the server market, we need to learn a new lingo and we need to understand the pains of that market.

In this blog series, I’ll be covering some of the lingo, highlighting some of the pains the users have and describing what UCS Invicta brings to the table. Learn more here.

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Decoding UCS Invicta – Part 1

Storage 101

Less than a year ago, October 29th 2013, Cisco acquired Whiptail , a high performance scalable solid-state memory system. Shortly after its acquisition, the product lines were renamed UCS Invicta.

The idea behind UCS Invicta and its market positioning is application acceleration. This is not to be considered a traditional storage but instead a solution to enhance application performance. In fact, Cisco has made it quite clear that they have no plan to target the traditional storage market:

“This acquisition is really about the server market. It’s a significant opportunity, but distinct from the portion of the market served by traditional stand-alone storage systems. As a result, our continued engagements with NetApp on FlexPod, EMC on VSPEX and VCE on Vblock will not change. We have no current plans to expand into the broad based, traditional storage market.”

Now, just as it happened in 1998 when Cisco got into the VoIP market, and then in 2009 when it got into the server market, we need to learn a new lingo and we need to understand the pains of that market.

In this blog series, I’ll be covering some of the lingo, highlighting some of the pains the users have and describing what UCS Invicta brings to the table. Read More »

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The IT Organization Relay Race

“Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition,” voiced Jim McKay in the Wide World of Sports introduction. In two years, the world will tune in to Rio de Janeiro as the Brazil hosts the human drama of the next Summer Olympics.

The IT Organization Relay RaceI enjoy both the Winter and Summer games, but I’m particularly drawn to the Summer’s 4x100-meter relay race. My connection to the sport harkens back to summers at Fordham University in Bronx, NY. While my dad coached a summer league basketball team, I took to the track and the 4x100. It was the irony of the sport that intrigued me. In 100-meter sprints the fastest runners always lead the pack across the finish line. However, winning the 100-meter relay requires four sprinters to collectively run the fastest 400-meters, 100 meters at a time. Easy enough, one might think, just pick the four fastest sprinters and go, go, go! Of course, it’s not that simple.

The 4x100-meter relay requires acceleration, speed and coordination. A pair of sprinters must exchange a baton within a 20-meter changeover box. Both sprinters are running during the exchange. The sprinter receiving the baton races forward with his hand extended behind him. Upon feeling the baton in hand, he must quickly accelerate to full speed towards another sprinter or the finish line.

Fumble the baton exchange and the race is over. Breach the changeover box before receiving the baton and the race is over. Run out of the lane and the race is over. Having the four fastest individual sprinters does not guarantee victory.

Victory goes to the team with the fastest end-to-end performance: fast out of the blocks, quick hand off, accelerate to the next sprinter, quick hand off, accelerate to the next sprinter, quick hand off, and finally, accelerate to the finish line. Every step matters and every hand off matters. No slips, no stumbles, no drops, no falls, and most of all, no excuses.

While fundamentals of the 4x100-meter relay have remained the same for a hundred years, training and the technology beneath the sprinters have evolved. Track surfaces advanced while performance footwear adopted lighter flexible materials. As a result, today’s fastest relay teams complete the 400-meter race in under 37 seconds!

This relay shares striking similarities to IT organizations. Such organizations are involved in a relay beginning with adding assets to data centers, followed by provisioning the resources for applications and then those applications consume the resources and run as quickly as they can towards the business goal. If any leg in the relay trips, stumbles or falls, the race to transact, analyze or process data takes longer or fails. Too often the initial legs of the IT-organization-relay complete only to pass the baton to an application running too slowly to win or even finish.

IT runs a relay for businesses all day, everyday. The winners are those who are able to quickly pass the baton with agility and accuracy (Tweet This). Similar to the advancements in training and technology supporting 4X100-meter sprinters, the technology around IT must advance in order to increase overall performance.

Let applications bolt as swiftly as Usain

UCS Is the new surface and the lighter flexible material. From the start, computing fabric enables the fast deployment of resources while flash memory lets applications bolt as swiftly as Usain (Tweet This). Today’s fastest sprinters don’t win in yesterday’s rubber soled sneakers. The real-time business must run applications on the fastest, easiest to manger infrastructure. Runners, take your mark!

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