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UCS: new innovations in systems management, high performance virtual I/O and server technology

March 8, 2012 at 4:15 am PST

Please don your data center propeller hats and follow me for a tour of third generation fabric computing.  To zoom out to the big picture of what all this new technology means, please take a look at this earlier post.

On the management front we have two new things to talk about:

1)      Freeing the server administrators from the tyranny of sheet metal.  UCS manager delivers total administrative parity across server form factors, and now supports connectivity for greater quantities of C-Series racks in a UCS system.   When you get right down to it, servers are just different combinations of processing, memory, local disk and I/O capability.  Some combinations happen to be best as blades, some happen to be best as rack mounts, but we shouldn’t have to care about the shape of the sheet metal when it comes to systems management.  With UCS you don’t.  Rack and blade all show up together as resources available and managed in a unified, self-integrating system, complete with an XML API.   Unified management in UCS lets us finally think outside the box when we deploy and manage compute infrastructure.

2)      Multi-UCS Manager:  this might be the most important part of this announcement because it takes UCS well over the horizon in terms of scalability.  Multi-UCS Manager, as the name implies, is the capability to manage across multiple instances of UCS.  This allows for synchronization of service profiles, common pools of unique identifiers and centralized visibility and control across many thousands of servers.   Multi-UCS Manager takes the underlying policy based management philosophy of UCS and literally globalizes it, with the capability to manage UCS instances within a single data or around the world.   Scheduled for availability in 2HCY12, this is big news and there will be more to come on this topic.

New UCS I/O components:

1)      Last year we introduced the 6248 Fabric Interconnect, with unified ports, 40% latency reduction and increased system bandwidth.  Here comes its big brother, the 6296, weighing in at 2U, 96 ports, sub-2µs latency and a whopping 2Tb of switching capacity.   That means more flexibility and capacity in an architecture that puts all the servers in the system one network hop away from each other, be they blades or racks.   

2)      A new I/O module for the UCS blade chassis, the 2204XP.   This fabric extender doubles the amount of bandwidth that can be provisioned to each chassis to 160Gb.

3)      Finally, but probably the most exciting for the server geeks among us: the VIC1240.  This is the Cisco Virtual Interface Card now embedded in the new B200 M3 blade server.   The VIC 1240 is a dual 20Gb LOM with high performance virtualization that comes standard.   An expander module can double the trouble to 4x20Gb.  By my math that’s 80Gb to a single slot blade: so how do you use it all?  With Adapter-FEX technology, the VIC can carve that pipe into 256 vNICs or vHBAs that can be presented to a bare metal OS.   VM-FEX technology takes it a step further, allowing those virtual adapters to be connected directly with virtual machines.   The VIC can also be configured to bypass hypervisor switching which offloads that work from your processors and reduces proc utilization up to 30%.   Moving virtual switching to the VIC also improves throughput by up to 10% and improves application performance by up to 15%.   The idea here is to bring virtual I/O to near-bare metal levels and allow more applications to be virtualized -- which means greater operational agility and service resiliency. 

Don’t forget the servers!  By the end of this year we’ll have roughly doubled the number of servers in the UCS portfolio.   Here’s how we’re kicking things off:

1)      Two new rack servers: the C220 M3 and C240 M3.  It’s best to compare at the specs here on the product pages, because these are feature loaded and my fingers are tired.  They are of course based on Intel’s screaming hot new Xeon E5-2600 processor family, which was announced on Tuesday.  We like to say Cisco and Intel are joined at the chip, after all.  In addition to bringing new horse power and efficiency gains, the key differentiator for these machines is that they can be managed right alongside B-Series blades in one big happy pool of abstracted server resources, by UCS Manager.

2)      The B200 M3.   One of the upshots of the UCS architecture is that we’ve pulled all the switches and systems management modules out of the blade chassis.  This leaves more room, power and cold air for computing, which manifests itself here in a single-slot blade with 24 DIMM slots and up to three quarter terabytes of RAM.   Server architecture, much like life, though, is all about balance.   That’s where the Xeon E5-2600 processors and the aforementioned VIC1240 (80Gb of I/O!) come in.    The B200 M3 brings an industry leading set of capability to this class of blade and is a fantastic add to the UCS family. 

One of the best things about UCS is forward and backward compatibility: all generations of product are fully interoperable which yields strong investment protection.  Modular yet unified.  The Zen of computing architecture, if you will.  In fact, we’re putting a stake in the ground:  the dramatically simplified blade chassis Cisco introduced to the industry 2009 will take customers through the end of this decade.   Good through 2020…you heard it here first.   Just think how young Paul will still look in this video by then :) 

My colleagues will post today to talk about how all of this nets out in application performance, and it’s a very good story indeed.   In the meantime we’ve posted up some easy to read performance briefs.    Also, don’t forget that we have a “view 3D model” link right under the product pictures for all these new additions.  If you want to take a close look that’s a fun way to do it.  Thanks for coming along.

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Unified Computing (UCS) Third-Generation Fabric Computing: The Power of Unification

March 5, 2012 at 6:00 am PST

Very soon Intel is going to announce  a new generation of processors. Cisco and Intel partnership increased significantly over the past years with the astonishing success of the Unified Computing Systems, based on Intel processors and the unique technology provided by Cisco.

So guess what ? We are of course ready to announce a third generation of Unified Computing Systems, which are taking advantage of the new features delivered by Intel, combined with the latest innovations from Cisco.

So please join us on March 8th at 9:00 am PST (12:00 pm EST) to understand how Cisco is delivering on the vision of Gartner, which identified Fabric Computing as the preferred infrastructure for virtualization and cloud to make your  data center architecture more agile, scalable, and adaptable.

What can you expect from this 60 minutes webcast ? Well Cisco CEO John Chambers,  VP Server Access and Virtualization Soni Jiandani,but also Intel senior executives, and CEOs from large organizations (manufacturers, services..)  will detail the financial and organizational benefits that you will get in deploying these new systems.

John Chambers

Soni Jiandani

To register immediately  to this live broadcast

and learn how you can improve significantly now your infrastructure  click here

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Celebrating a milestone: 10,000 UCS customers worldwide

This week we are celebrating a milestone by announcing that 10,000 customers worldwide have deployed our new Unified Computing System. In just over two years UCS has captured the attention of data center managers and CIOs alike, despite skepticism from industry observers that a new computing technology could take hold in this highly competitive market.

According to a recent Servers and Virtualization Study by TheInfoPro,™ Cisco took the lead among server vendors in vision, technical innovation, product performance, and sales force.

Many have asked “how did UCS become successful so rapidly?” The answer lies with our customers: they selected UCS because the architecture drove a transformation of their data centers, while delivering advantages for their business and lowering IT costs. And we see a growing number of these customers, including half the fortune 500 companies, using UCS as the foundational building block to move towards private and hybrid clouds.

Bottom Line
We hear from our customers on a daily basis that UCS is transforming their IT practice and significantly contributing to their business. Thanks to all our UCS customers– may you continue to grow your businesses in 2012!

Here’s a small sampling of the passionate testimonies we receive:

Steven Senecal, manager of Global Server Engineering for Travelport
“Although we were successfully meeting customer needs, the infrastructure needed to be much more scalable and resilient to handle the demand expected to occur in the next few years. For example, the Cisco Unified Computing System service profiles are a benefit to data center IT managers, allowing us to create and store a unique identity for every blade. Our team can query this information for asset management and it enables us to truly rip and replace a blade in minutes if necessary.”
Travelport, a global leader in transaction processing for the travel industry supporting transaction services in 160 countries and over 60,000 travel agencies, deployed UCS to increase business agility, scalability and efficiency for its primary data center.

Dan Hein, director, Global Shared Services, Columbia Sportswear
“The integration of compute, network, and storage into a single stack is transforming the way we, as IT professionals, view these environments.” We anticipate a significant reduction in the overhead required to manage the Vblock platform environment, because we’ve taken three separate disciplines and combined them into one. Because Vblock is preconfigured and pretested by VCE, we can move forward with our SAP deployment quickly and with confidence that the infrastructure will deliver the robust performance and availability we need out of the gate.”
Columbia Sportswear, a global leader in the manufacture and wholesaling of sports apparel and outdoor clothing with offices in 45 countries worldwide, selected VCE Vblock Infrastructure Platforms to support a new deployment of SAP to run its most critical business applications, including financial, product development, manufacturing, and shipping.

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UCS is Common Criteria Certified!

January 13, 2012 at 9:21 am PST

The Global Certification Team is  pleased to announce that UCS has been awarded a Common Criteria EAL4 certification!

We certified the Cisco UCS 5100 Series Blade Server Chassis, B-Series Blade Servers, C-Series Rack-Mount Servers, 2100 and 2200 Series Fabric Extenders, and 6100 Series Fabric Interconnects, running UCSM 1.4(1m).

More information can be found at: http://www.niap-ccevs.org/cc-scheme/st/vid10403/

“The Cisco Unified Computing System is a next-generation data center platform that unites compute, network, storage access, and virtualization into a cohesive system designed to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) and increase business agility.”

Common Criteria is an international standard for evaluating IT product security and reliability. It is recognized by over 26 countries around the world including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, UK, South Korea and the United States. Many government customers around the world consider Common Criteria a mandatory requirement for purchasing network security products.

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Are you ready? – Convergence and Cloud calls for changes to how IT operates

I was at Gartner Summit in Las Vegas last week after missing the prior year.  One thing that struck me this year was the increased dialogue around changes IT organizations need to make in their people and processes in order to prepare for both the convergence of IT infrastructure and the move to cloud.  Now I know that analysts have talked about the area of IT operations management for some time but what was different was that customers were talking about it too.

At Cisco Services, we’ve had an increasing number of customers asking us to help them better align their people and process to take full advantage of Cisco’s innovative data center technologies.  This growing interest in change was on full display at Gartner Summit, as both analysts and customers were discussing what change would mean to them.

So what are some of the things you should consider to get your IT organization best prepared for change?  First, you need a leader committed to changing the way your IT runs.  The CIO at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Drex DeFord, says he started by re-setting his organizational purpose, identifying patients as their customers, not employees.  He then focused his strategy on removing complexity from his IT organization, not just on the technology side but in his people and processes as well, to allow IT better flexibility to understand and deliver against their customers’ expectations.

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