Imagine that you head the leading telecommunications provider in Italy and you are watching traditional service and revenue streams struggle under intense competitive pressure. Customer retention is a major issue because the types of services required by your residential and business clients are changing. Clearly, you need to retain customers and do so by offering new services. It is a generally known business fact that often it is more cost effective to invest in retaining customers than trying to get new ones in such competitive industries.
So, how would you do it?
FASTWEB, a Swisscom company, asked Cisco exactly that question. FASTWEB’s analysis indicated that offering cloud-based service delivery would be an excellent opportunity to retain existing business while capturing new revenue streams from Italian businesses looking for new IT solutions. But FASTWEB struggled with execution due to insufficient resources to develop and deliver these new services.
So, FASTWEB adopted Cisco’s Unified Data Center architecture which includes Cisco UCS Blade Servers and Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC). Cisco UCS servers were selected for performance, reliability, and the ability to integrate smoothly with other heterogeneous elements in their solution stack. They thoroughly analyzed cloud management solutions, and Cisco IAC scored the highest in their evaluation for:
• Openness and flexibility
• Ease of use by users and administrators
• Single management console access to the entire cloud service lifecycle
• Ability to build services without deep technical skills
Teaming with Cisco Services, FASTWEB implemented cloud service delivery across six distinct use cases. Because of UCS they did so with minimum server hardware, gaining a complete cloud infrastructure that consumes only a few racks. With this Cisco Unified Data Center strategy and solution, FASTWEB estimates their customers can save around 50 percent over three years utilizing FASTWEB services compared to on-premises infrastructure.
What’s more FASTWEB relies on Cisco IAC to offer customers a portal that is intuitive with fast delivery thanks to strong automation and orchestration of all cloud elements, including network. None of their competitors in the Italian marketplace has an offering equal to this unified solution from Cisco.
Now FASTWEB’s cloud services are growing smoothly thanks to technology that scales as quickly as their business does. FASTWEB plans to expand its use of Cisco IAC to offer new services as such PaaS and SaaS for their customers.
Earlier this year Cisco announced the Cisco Prime Virtual Network Analysis Module (vNAM), an integral component of the Cisco Cloud Network Services portfolio. While a virtual NAM has been available on the Nexus 1100 Cloud Services Platform (a UCS appliance for virtual services), it has not been available in a generic VM form factor, which now provides greater deployment flexibility for NAM customers, as they look to monitor application and network performance in their virtual data centers. The result is greater visibility at more points in the network.
Cisco Prime vNAM combines application-awareness with the ability to look deeper into various network overlays, such as VXLAN, LISP, and CAPWAP, to deliver rich analytics that help assure services levels, accelerate operational decisions, and increase business agility. Its versatility permits it to be used to:
Monitor workloads in multi-tenant cloud deployments
Analyze network usage by application, host or virtual machine (VM) to identify unusual traffic patterns or bottlenecks that may affect performance and availability
Troubleshoot performance problems consistently across physical and virtual environments
Take advantage of an integrated web-based interface to remotely manage a site
Validate infrastructure updates such as WAN optimization, Cisco TrustSec, and quality-of-service policy changes
Prime vNAM can be deployed in the cloud to monitor hosted workloads, at remote sites to monitor the end-user experience, or almost anywhere in the network to eliminate blind spots.
So what exactly can you do in 16 minutes?Well, you can:
Download and install your preferred tax prep software, because (if you’re in the US or Canada) April is coming
Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame, then reminisce and/or lament about it for exactly 1 minute.
Save 15% on your car insurance (you can supposedly get this done in 15 vs. 16 min.)
Do some really unsavory things not suitable for mentioning on a nice blog post like this one.
Don’t care about any of those things?Neither do I.Let me come back to this in a moment…
If you’re familiar with our architecture portfolio for desktop virtualization, you may be aware that we’re continuing to invest in VSPEX-based reference architectures for Cisco Desktop Virtualization.This week, we just announced the latest addition to the Cisco Validated Design (CVD) portfolio – our solution for VMware Horizon View 5.3 with Cisco UCS and EMC VSPEX available here.
If you’re not already familiar with them, CVD’s provide prescriptive design guidance around how to build solutions with specific outcomes (performance) as documented through a testing/documentation discipline that Cisco’s been doing for years.You’ll find our repository of desktop virtualization CVD’s here.
So now let’s talk about the CVD itself.Our principal author is Ramesh Guduru – he’s a Virtualization Systems Engineer in Cisco’s Data Center Business Group and has extensive experience in Horizon View, virtualization infrastructure and management, Cisco UCS and storage. Ramesh assembled a test platform based on the setup shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Cisco CVD Validation Platform
As you can see the core pillars of the solution are:
Key things we wanted to expose/profile in this effort included:
More with less – more powerful processors and faster memory
System footprint for delivering 2,000 Horizon View desktops, while still retaining room to expand as demand increases
Leverage more economical processors – ex: a 57% lower list price for the Intel E5-2680 v2 10-core processors vs. top bin processors tested in the past = lower server cost = lower per desktop CAPEX
Hosting density leadership (# desktops per compute blade)
End user experience as exercised using LoginVSI with medium workload with Flash
Boot-up and login performance (simulating the Monday-morning boot storm dilemma all VDI implementations face and daily login storms)·
From a design perspective we also wanted to ensure our system provided:
Full n+1 fault tolerance across the stack
Fully virtualized platform, inclusive of the virtual desktops, as well as the infrastructure componentry like vCenter, AD, SQL servers etc.
I’ll leave it to you the explore the methodology Ramesh followed for the CVD, but let me point to a couple interesting things gained from this effort:
With our B200 M3 blade, we increased our desktop workload capacity (across the system) by 30% compared with full-width blades used in prior analyses
We collapsed the footprint from 30 RU down to just 12 RU.
The combined effect of the selected CPU (Intel Ivy Bridge), high-bandwidth, low-latency unified fabric, and our VIC 1240 converged networking adapter yielded exceptional user experience at under 1.75 sec at full load.
The EMC VNX5600 provided outstanding storage performance for both file and block, using EMC Fast Cache technology.
VMware Horizon View 5.3 with Sparse Virtual Disk gave us better disk performance and disk space efficiency.
And as for the 16 minute thing?
That’s how long it took for the full population of 2,000 virtual desktops to get booted and ready to login (under 16 minutes).And in an additional 14 we had all of them running user workload with no sign of exhausting the system.
Get the details by digging into the CVD posted here
As you have probably noticed, the Cisco and SAP partnership keeps growing -- Here is some of the recent news
 Unisys, RealTech and others install SAP HANA on Cisco UCS
” Manufacturers are struggling with the provisioning of applications into the infrastructure” In this video, Joachim Weide, Director Transformation Services, Unisys talks about SAP HANA on Cisco UCS and explains how the unique capability of UCS helps to run complex SAP landscapes in a virtualized environment .
 Cisco SAP Competency Center Expansion
Recently Cisco expanded its SAP Competency Center in Walldorf Germany to an entire floor in the SAP Partner Port. As part of that expansion, Cisco invited customers and partners to that expansion and offered a customer led workshop while there. Over 200 customers and partners attended this coming out party for Cisco in Walldorf.
This opening also provided an opportunity to gain some valuable insight from these customers and partners, including SAP, about their decision to install SAP HANA on Cisco UCS.
In this video , SAP VP Kevin Chew shares with Jim Mc Hugh, Cisco VP UCS Marketing the importance of the partnership with Cisco for SAP customers
 SAP HANA on Cisco UCS
During the opening , Jim McHugh had also a conversation with the head of the Cisco SAP Competency Center Dr Michael Missbach, about the services that Cisco can offer to customers
In this video Dr Missbach talked about the “secured shared network implementation ” of HANA , a new and unique feature provided by the Cisco UCS environment , which allows customers to run several solutions on one UCS platform .
 Cisco Executive Vice President Sales and Development Rob Lloyd and SAP
In the recent SAP Field Kick-Off Meetings in Singapore, Barcelona, and Las Vegas, SAP had three main focus areas: SAP HANA, Cloud, and Simplicity. Cisco’s Rob Lloyd was featured in that keynote citing Cisco’s #1 position as a cloud company and their #2 position worldwide for blade servers.
You may have caught this week’s announcement from Citrix on the availability of XenDesktop 7.5 (see announcement here). With this release, desktop virtualization implementers can tap into new elasticity and efficiencies of provisioning, managing, and scaling-up/down their deployments in real time, while also tapping into the simplicity and performance of Windows app delivery with XenApp 7.5 .
If you’ve followed Citrix and Cisco’s journey in this space, you know that our two companies enjoy an extensive track record of collaboration and innovation in breaking down the CAPEX, complexity and performance barriers associated with delivering virtual workspaces to users, on any device, anywhere. We’re continuing to innovate on this front, bringing together a combined vision and architecture for desktop virtualization and enterprise mobility. Cisco and Citrix continue to accelerate the ROI and performance of desktop virtualization, and are making it easier than ever for environments of all sizes to get into VDI and app virtualization quickly and cost-effectively. Our new Solution Accelerator Paks for Citrix XenDesktop are a great proof point of that.
I want to now turn to a couple concepts that are central to this latest announcement. The notion of an elastic infrastructure approach for these deployments, that straddles public and private cloud to enable ‘capacity-flexing’ in terms of virtual desktop scale. If you look at the underpinning, you see this notion of stateless, elastic provisioning present in the very core of our joint solution – the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS).
Give UCS Manager a Test Drive
The DNA of the UCS architecture is based on answering the question “how would you build a server to deliver a pervasive virtual infrastructure that flexes in real time to changing, shifting workload capacity demands?” Cisco answered that question four years ago with a compute platform purpose-built to deliver the goods, founded on our stateless provisioning and operations model. This wire-once, touch-less environment for flexing desktop virtualization capacity up and down, is a foundational pillar for the Citrix announcement. If you haven’t had a chance to test-drive UCS Manager and Service Profiles, check out the UCS Advantage.
Equally important is the reality that our customers need and want a balanced portfolio approach to how they consume IT services both via the public and private cloud. This hybridized approach provides insulation, security, and eliminates dependency and risk associated with any one delivery model. This is central to Cisco’s “World of Many Clouds” – and on that note you may have seen the news coming out of Cisco Live Milan on Wednesday January 28th– available here.
If you’re at Cisco Live Milan this week I encourage you to stop by our Data Center booth and learn more about:
UCS provisioning and management of workloads like VDI and app virtualization
Desktop virtualization solution architectures with ecosystem partners