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Evolving Cisco’s Unified Computing System for Big Data and the Internet of Everything

Evolving Cisco UCS for Big Data and the Internet of Everything

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In an earlier blog, I discussed the incredible success behind the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) in Darwinian evolutionary terms.  Since I wrote that blog three months ago, we’ve continued to grow rapidly and have strengthened our position as the #2 blade server player worldwide from 19.3% to 21.5% revenue share (per IDC 2CQ2013 server market tracker, September 2013), with 33.9% revenue share in the US.

Prediction – The #1 spot is well within our reach sooner than you may think.

As we grow our installed base with roughly 1,000 new customers every month, our conversations about the future of UCS have taken an interesting turn. Until now in what I’ll call the “UCS 1.0” phase, Cisco focused on virtualization and private cloud as the dominant use cases that were top-of-mind for industry CIOs and we struck a resonant chord based on our growth – just look at our numbers.

We were market makers with expanded-memory 2-socket Intel EX blades (remember the B230’s?), which were gobbled up like candy into large-scale VDI deployments much to the surprise of the industry. We also jump-started a very attractive RISC-to-x86 migration practice, including Cisco IT’s own production environment: a 40TB mission-critical database that ran on HP Superdomes – a “circle of life” moment for me since Superdome was my program from 1999-2003.

We’ll continue leading in customer value for our original design centers, but we are now focusing on market expansion with what we call “UCS 2.0”, expanding into data-intensive, mission critical, analytics and service provider cloud environments with an increased level of R&D funding and strong corporate support from our top executives.

Prediction – You’ll see us more focused on architectural solutions for key industry vertical markets with tuned solution environments that leverage Cisco’s wide portfolio and that of our partners.

One such act of support is the announcement today of our intent to acquire WHIPTAIL, a leading solid-state systems company that boasts the highest scalability in performance and capacity of any scale-out flash vendor on the market today.  WHIPTAIL systems span from single-node entry products to 30-node behemoths that drive almost 400TB’s of flash, 40GB/sec of bandwidth and 4 million random R/W IOPS – for starters.

Prediction: Cisco will unseat Infiniband with low-latency Ethernet fabrics. Check out our USNIC technology for starters…

In our customer interactions it became very clear they view application acceleration using persistent solid-state memory as a use case that belongs in the server tier, not the storage tier.

In an application-centric world, we started thinking not about server vs. storage infrastructure, but how applications viewed data – hot “important right now” data, warm “may be of interest data” and cold “let’s keep it around for background mining or compliance” data.

We arrived at the conclusion that UCS needed to be best-in-class at accelerating hot data layers. Hot data is closest to applications and therefore has high affinity for the server tier.  Hence WHIPTAIL.

Assertion: Flash is a “boundary technology” that can be viewed as part of the memory or storage hierarchy. With respect to storage it’s faster and more expensive per GB. With respect to DRAM memory it’s slower but cheaper per GB. It therefore allows cost/performance arbitrage for applications by applying an accelerated persistent data model that can save on DRAM and de-complicate underlying permanent backing stores.

WHIPTAIL is a great fit with the fabric computing UCS architecture and also complementary to our C-Series rack mount servers and our SingleConnect capability in our UCS Manager that allows mixed-density blade/rack deployments to be managed from a common pane of glass.

Our intent is to fully integrate UCS computing and WHIPTAIL solid-state technologies over a Nexus fabric to create scalable persistent memory systems. That’s our vision.

Why? Because customers will be able to do things they could not before. Such as loading vast amounts of data in seconds and minutes, not hours or days – or – shrinking their performance footprint to a rack vs. 30 racks – or – accelerating Hadoop on all solid-state infrastructure – or – extending in-memory analytics to a scale previously not thought possible. That’s why.

As converged infrastructure advances as an ensemble computing architecture, boundary technologies like solid-state memory can be viewed as part of the memory or the storage hierarchy. Cisco’s point of view is to make it part of the memory hierarchy in the compute tier. That allows customers the best of both worlds – performance acceleration for applications while retaining their investment in permanent backing stores and simplifying their overall data center total cost of ownership (TCO).

To close on a Darwinian note, if UCS existed in the Cretaceous Period it would have been a Velociraptor  (meaning ‘swift seizer’)– sleek, fast and ferocious – eating everything in its path.  Velociraptors are believed to have hunted in packs, which is great considering the strong partner ecosystem that Cisco and UCS have built with industry leaders like EMC, NetApp and VCE as shining examples. We are committed to maintaining and expanding our hunting pack – more on that later!

if Cisco UCS existed in the Cretaceous Period it would have been a Velociraptor

if Cisco UCS existed in the Cretaceous Period it would have been a Velociraptor. Image credit:

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Check the Latest Cisco Unified Computing System Innovations for Virtualization & Cloud– Visit the Cisco Booth at VMworld San Francisco, 2013

VMworld 2013 opens on August 25th, 2013, at the MOs cone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. Cisco is a Global Diamond Sponsor, as we highlight our Cisco Unified Computing System (Cisco UCS), Solutions for virtualization and cloud.

 Cisco’s unique, fabric-centric architecture-Cisco Unified Computing System (Cisco UCS), combines high performance compute, network and storage access bound together by an integrated control plane with embedded systems management. Cisco UCS serves as a common, centrally managed platform that simultaneously supports the unique requirements of the full spectrum of application workloads and a wide variety of operating models for bare metal, virtualized or cloud environments

The best way to quickly learn about latest Cisco UCS innovations and solutions for virtualization and cloud is by seeing them “LIVE IN ACTION”. Come to the Cisco booth #1005 to leverage the Cisco UCS demos, theater sessions and related activities at VMworld San Francisco, 2013.

Learn more about Cisco UCS: Visit Cisco booth # 1005 to interact with peers, Cisco executives, and Cisco partners.

 Ask Cisco UCS Experts: Cisco UCS experts will be available to answer your questions and provide interactive live demonstrations of Cisco UCS.

 Attend Keynote speaking sessions:


1.      Monday, August 26th-3.30-4.30 pm: ATT’s Migration to vSphere with AutoDeploy

Speaker: John Kennedy- CSPG UCS Product Mgmt. and DC Solutions

 2.      Tuesday August 27th-3.30-4.30 pm: Cisco Innovations Enabling Cloud Infrastructures

Speaker: Ram Appalaraju- VP, Marketing

3.      Wednesday, August 28th-11.00-12.00 pm: The Next Wave of Virtualization & Fabric Computing with Cisco’s Unified Computing System

Speaker: Roger Barlow- CSPG UCS Product Mgmt. and DC Solutions


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Attend Cisco UCS Theater Sessions: Visit the Cisco Solutions Theater at booth #1005 to attend the informative Cisco UCS theater sessions.

Location: Cisco Campus Solutions Theater

  • Sunday, August 25th – 4.30-4.50 pm- Pragmatic Approach to Transforming UCS
  • Monday, August 26th -12.30-12.50  p.m.-Managing a Growing UCS environment
  • Monday, August 26th -2.00-2.20  p.m. – UCS Central Best Practices
  • Tuesday August 27th  -12.00-12.20 pm-  vCenter Orchestration plugin for Cisco UCSM
  • Tuesday August 27th  -2.00-2.20 pm-UCS Best Practices in VM Environments
  • Tuesday August 27th  -3.30-3.50 pm-Deploying a Private Cloud with FlexPod and UCS Director
  • Wednesday, August 28th– 10.30-10.50 am- VMware vSAN – Data Center integration with Branch Offices on Cisco UCS and Cisco UCS E” and “VMware vSAN on Cisco UCS – The Cisco Advantage
  • Wednesday, August 28th– 11.30-11.50 am-Unified Infrastructure Management with Cisco UCS Director

 Explore the Cisco Unified Computing Demos:
Simplify Compute, Network and Storage Access Management with Cisco UCS

1.      Simplify Computing with UCS Manager, UCS Central and SingleConnect : Get simplified and cost-effective infrastructure for bare-metal, virtualized, and cloud environments. Reduce cost & complexity with Cisco SingleConnect technology and Simplify management with UCS Central across multiple data centers and geographies.

 2.      UCS and VMware Management Integration: Demonstrates the integration of UCS into VMware orchestration tools, including a vCenter plug-in and monitoring tools.

 3.      Scalable, Higher Performance Virtual Desktops: Demonstrates the performance, manageability and TCO advantages that UCS brings to VMware Horizon View desktops for scalable, stateless/floating desktops and graphics-intensive workstations/applications. 

 4.      Cisco UCS V-Rack Kaon demo: Interactive Kaon demo showcasing Cisco UCS system components and solutions

 I will be at both # 1005 with the Cisco UCs Experts team throughout VMworld 2013. Please stop by to ask questions, and to get a live Cisco UCS demonstration.

Enjoy the show!

Girish Kulkarni

Sr. Marketing Manager-Cisco UCS

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Cisco Achieves #2 Worldwide in the x86 Blade Server Market

Nobody thought the ‘plumbers’ could succeed in compute …

The numbers are in – across the board Cisco is posting strong results and tracking unprecedented momentum in the server market.  With Cisco’s Q3 financial earnings announcement reporting 77% Y/Y growth in Data Center and now the latest IDC Server Tracker results [view UCS Advantage], Cisco is proving to be a formidable force in the compute space. In less than four years after entering a market with very well-established competitors, Cisco has captured the #2 worldwide share position in x86 blade servers*.

The industry has seen businesses shift over 19% of the global x86 blade market to Cisco UCS, and over 28% in the US.  In the recent earnings announcement, Cisco reported more than 23,000 unique UCS customers worldwide, representing a customer growth number of 89% Y/Y.

This is not luck …

This is about the value that Cisco is providing our customers.  Although we develop products using the same industry standard hardware & software as our competitors, Cisco continues to grow market share.  This is attributed Cisco’s unique & innovative approach to providing an open, standards-based data center network architecture and ecosystem that maintains customer choice. We are increasing business value while substantially decreasing the total cost of ownership (TCO).  With Cisco Unified Computing System, we are truly evolving the way customers approach the data center, focused on consolidating resources, accelerating server deployment, and simplifying management – flexible and scalable for any workload.  It’s that simple.

You hear a lot of buzz words around the industry. But when it comes down to the numbers, Cisco is driving real results for real customers [click to enlarge]:


Here is just some of what we are hearing from our customers:
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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:

Read More »

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Cisco UCS at EMC World 2013

new button

We handed out a stack of these buttons for the Cisco booth staff to wear this year and that sums up my favorite part of EMC World:  it’s an infrastructure party.  This is a place where you’re going to talk with people at the heart of the data center and IT, and the conversations all start there.

Our alignment with EMC couldn’t be any clearer than what we had on display last week. VBlock continues to rock and roll and Trey Layton of VCE summed that up quite nicely here.   On the VSPEX front, Cisco recently released 7 new and updated integrated infrastructure designs that combine UCS, Nexus and VNX Storage.  Moreover, Cisco offers these as single-part-number SmartPlay Solution Pak bundles that make them even easier for our partners and customers to order.   Cisco’s VSPEX offerings span the gamut on choice of virtualization platform and application, paving that second of the three paths to cloud we talked about at EMCworld.

Cisco Virtualization Solution for EMC VSPEX with VMware vSphere 5.1 for 50 Virtual Machines

Cisco Virtualization Solution for EMC VSPEX VMware vSphere 5.1 for 100, 125, and 250 Virtual Machines

Cisco Virtualization Solution for EMC VSPEX with Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V for 50 Virtual Machines

Cisco Solution for EMC VSPEX: Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track 3.0 Enterprise Medium M250

Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solution for EMC VSPEX with VMware View 5.1.2 for 500 and 2000 Desktops

Cisco Desktop Virtualization Solution for EMC VSPEX with Citrix XenDesktop 5.6 for 500 Desktops

Cisco Solution for EMC VSPEX: Microsoft SharePoint 2010


On a product front the big news for Cisco was the new MDS 9710 and that brought a lot of visitors into the booth.  I was also really happy by the amount of people that came by to talk with us about UCS and the things we’re doing around data center automation.  Each year the conversation has changed and the evolution has been fun to experience:


Customer: “What’s that funny looking switch there?”

Me: “That’s the Unified Computing System, are you familiar with Cisco’s new server platform?”

Customer:  “What? No, really, what’s that funny looking switch there??”


Customer:  “Do you have any UCS on display here?  Our team in XYZ division just deployed it and I’d like to take a look”

Me: “Certainly, let me take you through an overview of the system


Customer:  “Hey, I really like what you folks did with the switch-based Fibre Channel zoning in the last release of UCS Manager.  When does version 2.0 of UCS Central come out? We’re deploying UCS in three more data centers and I want to talk about implementing global ID pools”

Me:  “Fantastic.  Let me find our systems management expert.”

I speak geek pretty well, so when customers come in and want to go deeper than I can on operating the system instead of asking me “Cisco sells servers?”…I know we’re in the right place and on the right vector.   Thanks to the EMC and Cisco teams for putting on such a great event.

I’ll leave you with a photo here for a caption contest.  Leave your ideas in the comment section and try your best to keep it clean.  My first take is “I loved EMC World 2013 thiiiiiiiiiiiis much!”


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