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How to get more SAN mileage out of UCS FI?

October 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm PST

 

Image Credit: Wikispeed.org

Mileage (miles per gallon) is one of the important criteria while buying any automobile and once bought, it is highly desirable to hit the maximum advertised mileage without significantly changing the driving habits or the routes (highway vs city mpg). Well, I have not been able to achieve that yet, so being a geek, I focused my attention on a different form of mileage (throughput per switch-port) that interests me at work. So in this blog, I would explore a way to get more SAN mileage from the Cisco UCS FI (Fabric Interconnect) without significantly affecting the SAN admin’s day-to-day operations.

Context:

Just a bit of background before we delve into the details -- The I/O fabric between the UCS FI and the UCS Blade Server Chassis is a converged fabric, running FCoE. The usage of FCoE within the UCS fabric is completely transparent to the host operating system, and any Fibre Channel block storage traffic traverses this fabric as the FCoE traffic. So, a large number of over 20,000+ UCS customers, using Block Storage, are already using FCoE at the access layer of the network.

Choices:

Now, the key question is what technology, FC or FCoE, to use northbound on the FI uplink ports to connect to an upstream Core switch for the SAN connectivity. So, what are the uplink options? Well, the FI has Unified ports and the choice is using the same uplink port as either 8G FC -or- 10G FCoE. [Note that when using the FCoE uplink, it is not a requirement to use a converged link and one can still use a dedicated FCoE link for carrying pure SAN traffic].

Observations:

1)    Bandwidth for Core Links: This is a very important aspect for the core part of the network. It is interesting to note that 10G FCoE provides almost 50% more throughput than the 8G FC. This is because FC has a different bit encoding and clock-rate than Ethernet, and so 8G FC yields 6.8G throughput while 10G FCoE yields close to 10G throughput (post 1-2% Ethernet frame overhead)

10G-FCoE-Uplink

FCoE-is-FC

2)   Consistent Management ModelFCoE is FC technology with same management and security model, so it will be a seamless transition for a SAN admin to move from FC to FCoE with very minimal change in the day-to-day operations. Moreover, this FCoE link is carrying dedicated SAN traffic without requiring any convergence of LAN traffic. To add to that, if the UCS FI is running in the NPV mode, then technically the FCoE link between the UCS FI and the upstream SAN switch does not constitute a Multi-Hop FCoE design, as the UCS FI is not consuming a Domain-ID, and the bulk of SAN configurations like zoning etc. need to happen on only the Core SAN switch, thus maintaining the same consistent SAN operational model as with just the FC.

3)    Investment Protection with Multi-protocol flexibility: By choosing FCoE uplink from the converged access layer, one can still continue to use the upstream MDS core SAN Director switch as-is, providing the connectivity to existing FC Storage arrays. Note that Cisco MDS 9000 SAN Director offers Multi-protocol flexibility so that one can Interconnect FCoE SANs on the Server-side with the FC SANs on the Storage-side.

And, we have a winner… Read More »

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Empowering Cisco and Microsoft Partners in the Data Center

Both Cisco and Microsoft are committed to helping partners be the trusted advisors to customers embracing virtualization and cloud computing. Today at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, we made a series of announcements with Microsoft to not only accelerate the deployment of private cloud infrastructure worldwide, but also invest in our mutual channel partners to bring these data center solutions to customers.

Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) is a foundational element of our Unified Data Center architecture, and has continued to gain growth and acceptance in the industry. We’re now recognized as No. 2 in x86 blade servers by researcher IDC and leading this segment of the server market in some parts of the world. Cisco partners, especially, have helped broaden our reach and increase our influencer recognition.

Our most important task now is to provide joint Cisco and Microsoft channel partners with the air cover needed to help customers simplify their IT operations, create more effective cloud deployments and realize the significant cost savings and efficiency benefits of optimized data centers.  Read More »

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Cisco Professional Services for Cloud Ranked #1 in IDC Survey – Announced at CiscoLive!

June 26, 2013 at 3:07 am PST

Having been part of the team who developed the Cisco Cloud Enablement Services, our professional services to help customers enable and adopt cloud computing, I was absolutely delighted watching the CiscoLive! keynote yesterday to hear Padmasree Warrior announce the results of the March 2013 IDC market research study that showed Cisco come out on top for cloud professional services [Source: “2013 U.S. Professional Services Opportunities Related to Cloud Services”, IDC Doc # 239862, March 2013].

In this survey, as  the chart below shows (reproduced with the kind permission of IDC), respondents indicated that Cisco professional services were used most often across all of the three cloud categories that IDC measured: cloud applications, cloud application platforms, and cloud infrastructure.  Ahead of Accenture, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle/Sun, HP and others.

IDC March 2013 - Cisco Leads Professional Services for Cloud

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Meet our Experts @ CiscoLive!

June 25, 2013 at 2:20 am PST

Some of our Cisco Services strategy and design consultants and leaders are at CiscoLive in Orlando this week.  If you are around, please take some time to learn from their hands on expertise.  They are the leading exponents in designing and deploying Cisco data center solutions.   If you’ve following my blog posts over the past few years, especially more recently on Cisco Domain TenSM and Cisco ONE as our solution for the challenges of SDN, you may well indeed be interested to meet some of the people behind the innovation and successful customer transformations.

 

Cisco Domain Ten - Cisco Services Framework for Data Center Transformation

Cisco Domain Ten -- Meet the Leading Cisco Domain Ten Experts at CiscoLive this week

 

We have a few presentations in the Cisco Campus Solutions Theater and also some “Design Centers”.

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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]:

DrivingResults

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