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Virtualization Everywhere, but not a Cloud in Sight!

Customers have often said to me, “Joann, we have virtualization all over the place. That’s cloud isn’t it?”   My response is, “Well not really, that is not a cloud, but you can get to cloud!”  Then there is a brief uncomfortable silence, which I resolve with an action provoking explanation that I will now share with you.

Here’s why that isn’t truly a cloud. What these customers often have is server provisioning that automates the process of standing up new virtual servers while the storage, network, and application layers continue to be provisioned manually. The result is higher management costs that strain IT budgets, which are decreasing or flat to begin with. With this approach, businesses aren’t seeing the agility and flexibility they expected from cloud. So, they become frustrated when they see their costs rising and continue struggling to align with new business innovation.

If your IT department adopted widespread virtualization and thought it was cloud, my guess is you are probably nodding your head in agreement.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

So then, what are the key elements an organization needs to achieve the speed, flexibility and agility promised by cloud?

1)      Self-service portal and service catalog
The self-service portal is the starting point that customers use to order cloud services. Think of a self-service portal as a menu at a restaurant.  The end user is presented with a standardized menu of services that have been defined to IT’s policies and standards and customers simply order what they need.  Self-service portals greatly streamline resource deployment which reduces the manual effort by IT to provision resources.

2)      Service delivery automation
After the user selects services from the portal service menu, then what? Well, under the hood should be automated service delivery—which is a defining characteristic of a real cloud environment.  Behind each of the standardized menu items in the self-service portal is a blueprint or instructions that prescribe how the service order is delivered across the data center resources.  This has been proven to appreciably simplify IT operations, reduce costs and drive business flexibility.

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The Truth about Cisco UCS Server Service Profiles and Templates

February 4, 2013 at 5:42 am PST

Cisco Unified Computing System Service Profiles and Templates contain over 127 different server identification and configuration settings.  These identity settings are abstracted from the physical server and stored in the UCS Domain where they can be leveraged automating and speeding deployment while reducing errors. Today, this Cisco innovation is still unique in the industry. The reality is that no other server vendor can offer the level of hardware abstraction that Cisco provides with UCS Manager using Service Profiles and Templates.

Unlike Cisco, other vendors must rely on many different tools and methods that are cobbled together to manage their servers.  For some, it can take up to six different tools to configure a subset of what Cisco can do with one and most of these tools are at an additional cost.

Are you concerned about systems management and how it impacts your total cost of ownership (TCO)? Here are some fair questions to ask your current vendor:

  • Can your software templates manage both rack and blade servers using a single tool and interface?
  • Are your templates and profiles limited to specific models and only certain generation of servers, requiring different templates or tools for the same settings for servers from different generations of the same server model?
  • Is server firmware truly integrated into a single tool and supported by policies and profiles?
  • Do the tools use only proprietary orchestration and automation software to manage the infrastructure or does it support an open interface like XML?
  • What is the licensing model – how much is the additional cost per server or per blade chassis to fully manage server profiles, updates to firmware, BIOS, and integration with other tools?

If you have more than one domain, UCS Central will manage them extending all the benefits of UCS Manger globally. You can leverage your templates and profiles across all servers regardless of location.

If you’d like to have a more in-depth discussion on this topic, contact your Cisco account team or Partner.

Want to learn more? Take Cisco UCS Manager for a test drive.

Convinced? Buy now and save with Cisco UCS SmartPlays.

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Microsoft SharePoint 2010 with Microsoft Hyper-V on Cisco UCS

February 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm PST

SharePointLogoRecently our UCS Engineering team published this Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Cisco Validated Design (CVD). This validated reference architecture describes the performance of a medium-sized SharePoint farm using Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor on our Cisco UCS Rack Servers in a three-tier architecture -- web, application, and database.

A load generation framework developed by the UCS Solutions SharePoint engineering team at Cisco performed the load tests and measured the performance metrics while keeping the required response time less than the requested one second service level. Our CVD shares the test results and provides guidelines for better understanding the performance impact of different SharePoint workloads. It also assists in sizing and designing the best farm architecture to support different workloads and recommends the best infrastructure elements for an optimal SharePoint implementation.

Also, this CVD delivers detailed information on how the recommended farm architecture supports up to 20,000 users with 10 percent of the total users working concurrently. It describes how to achieve possible sub-second response time and highlights the performance benefits of the Cisco Servers. The virtualized SharePoint Server 2010 small farm was deployed on multiple virtual machines hosted by the Cisco UCS Rack C240 M3 Servers, using Microsoft® Windows Server® 2008 R2 with Microsoft Hyper-V™ instead of a conventional solution deployed on physical servers. The SharePoint Server 2010 medium farm whitepaper describes how it was built and configured on physical servers.

Learn more on Cisco’s solutions for SharePoint, Exchange, SQL, Hyper-V and more @ www.cisco.com/go/microsoft.

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VDI “The Missing Questions” #1: Core Count vs. Core Speed

January 31, 2013 at 8:40 am PST

Choosing the right compute platform for your VDI environment requires both science and art. You have to balance CPU and memory characteristics against your expected workload profile and your desired density. At the end of the day, VDI has to meet some cost criteria in order to go from a fun science project to a funded program in your company. That means you can’t just throw the top bin CPU at the problem; you have to pick the right CPU. This is further complicated by the fact that there is not one CPU that is ideal for all VDI workloads. There is no magical bill of materials at the end of this series of blogs, but we will attempt to make your VDI decisions based more on science than art.

Strength in numbers? Or strength in speed? As Tony said in his introduction, we had several involved questions related to VDI that we honestly couldn’t answer… so we decided to start testing. This will be a series of blogs that attempts to answer practical questions like “when is processor A better than processor B?” And of course you then have to ask “when is processor B better than processer A?” In this first installment in the series, I will tackle the question of whether the number of cores or the core speed is more important when the goal is to achieve the best desktop density per host. Here is a handy guide to the other posts in this series:

The usual suspects. Throughout this series, we will focus on two processors. We picked them because they are popular and cost effective, yet quite different from each other. They are not top bin processors. Take a look at the table below for a comparison.

Note: Prices in this table are recommended prices published by Intel at http://ark.intel.com and may vary from actual prices you pay for each processor. The SPEC performance numbers are an average of SPEC results published by many OEMs (at http://www.spec.org/) across many platforms. These are not Cisco-specific SPEC numbers.

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From the Front Lines: How IT Is Taking Advantage of the Cloud Today

The cloud is here and here to stay. No one expects a wholesale move to the cloud overnight, but I’ve been hearing recently from numerous customers whose journeys are well underway, and some common themes are emerging as businesses explore various deployment models. Business agility, flexibility and balance sheet liquidity will drive cloud adoption, and, as the popularity of hybrid models increases, users will demand a seamless end-user experience between the cloud and on-premise systems.

A few weeks ago, I included these themes in my predictions about the future of cloud collaboration. This week I had the chance to speak with two Cisco customers about why issues such as flexibility, cost savings and user experience drove them to deploy cloud collaboration technologies and other cloud solutions. Sheila Jordan, senior vice president, communication and collaboration IT, co-hosted the discussion with me and offered her insights from an IT perspective. She also recapped the discussion, sharing some specific tips for how IT managers can best take advantage of the cloud.

John Jackson, vice president of global infrastructure and vendor management for D+M Group, said that he can relate easily to the prediction about business agility, flexibility and cost when thinking back to his company’s decision to move to the cloud. D+M Group employs people in several different operating divisions around the world and grew through a series of acquisitions, leaving the company to globalize shared-services IT team that did not previously exist. Read More »

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