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The 2014 Automation Conference – IoE and Beer

The 2014 Automation Conference (TAC) was held March 20-21, 2014 in sunny Chicago (Yes, sunny Chicago!! I made sure to pack some California sunshine for the Windy City) attracted a diverse group of automation and manufacturing thought leaders and subject matter experts from leading machine builders, system integrators, manufacturing end users, standards bodies and educational institutions. The focus and objective of the conference was to have peer to peer discussions and dialogue around the technologies and next generation automation strategies that are enabling and driving the Internet of Everything (IoE).

“This conference is designed not only to make you think about the application of automation, but also to help you take action” -- David Greenfield, Automation World, editor in chief and TAC event director

The conference achieved this goal and more.  The framework of the sessions encouraged audience collaboration and dialogue around the challenges and practical steps and strategies being designed and deployed to achieve an integrated and scalable IoE architecture that drives value across the entire manufacturing value chain, as depicted in the video below:

I can “wax poetic” around all the great individual sessions held at the conference around Big Data, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), mobility, virtualization, cloud computing, cyber-physical security, network switching, CPwE (Converged Plantwide Ethernet), safety systems, workforce retention and optimization, but I think its more fun and interesting to summarize the highlights of the conference through the  context of a use case that was shared at the conference.

What better way to meet that objective than to leverage a manufacturing use case around beer!!!!

Automating Brewing Operations from Two Different Perspectives

I attended this session where Highland Brewing, Sierra Nevada and Vicinity Manufacturing gave an interesting perspective around the challenges and strategies in deploying their next generation manufacturing operation.

Highland Brewing is a regional brewer of craft beers based in the Southeast and Sierra Nevada is a larger brewer with more of national brand.  The interesting contrast between the two is that Highland Brewing is designing more automation into their operational facility and Sierra Nevada is scaling their automation and IoE strategies across all their facilities.   Both perspectives and approaches have the same objective.  How do I effectively integrate all the various technologies into an intelligent, flexible and scalable system/architecture to meet the following business outcomes:

  1. Increase Customer Loyalty
  2. Supply Chain Optimization
  3. Operational Excellence
  4. Energy Sustainability
  5. Disruptive Innovation

To paraphase Kevin Wheeler, Director of Operations, Highland Brewing Co,“Our core competency is crafting great beer. We have an opportunity to drive efficiency into our operation by an integrating IoT/IoE platform … the challenge is figuring out the best approach.”

Like Highland Brewing, manufacturers must begin to transform existing business processes and fundamentally rethink how they create, operate, and service smart, connected products in the IoE. For those that get it right, the future represents a huge opportunity to create product and service advantages.

Are you having challenges putting together the “IoE technology puzzle?”  Is security the main barrier to IoE adoption?

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The Evolution of the Mobile Service Provider – A Five-Stage Strategy

dan-kurschnerWritten By Dan Kurschner, Senior Manager SP Mobility Marketing

Over the past decades, Mobility has advanced from a mere curiosity (remember those “brick” phones?), to a convenience and today being an indispensable part of our everyday lives.  Businesses are leveraging the internet and the cloud to deliver new services and capabilities – via the mobile network.   While we can access the internet and cloud-based services from almost anywhere, most people do so with barely a thought of the complexities it takes to deliver this ubiquitously connected experience.

Mobile service providers have long been building and upgrading their networks to meet growing demand for capacity and capabilities to stay competitive.   Recently, a new type of competitor has emerged to threaten Read More »

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Next Generation Data Center Design With MDS 9710 – Part II

EMC World was wonderful. It was gratifying to meet industry professionals,  listen in on great presentations and watch the demos for key business enabling technologies that Cisco, EMC and others have brought to fruition.  Its fascinating to see the transition of DC from cost center to a strategic business driver . The same repeated all over again at Cisco Live. More than 25000 attendees, hundreds of demos and sessions. Lot of  interesting customer meetings and MDS continues to resonate. We are excited about the MDS hardware that was on the display on show floor and interesting Multiprotocol demo and a lot of interesting SAN sessions.

Outside these we recently did a webinar on how Cisco MDS 9710 is enabling High Performance DC design with customer case studies. You can listen to that here.

Three Pillars of ReliabilitySo let’s continue our discussion. There is no doubt when it comes to High Performance SAN switches there is no comparable to Cisco MDS 9710. Another component that is paramount to a good data center design is high availability. Massive virtualization, DC consolidation and ability to deploy more and more applications on powerful multi core CPUs has increased the risk profile within DC. These DC trends requires renewed focus on availability. MDS 9710 is leading the innovation there again. Hardware design and architecture has to guarantee high availability. At the same time, it’s not just about hardware but it’s a holistic approach with hardware, software, management and right architecture. Let me give you some just few examples of the first three pillars for high reliability and availability.

 

Reliability examples in MDS

 

Picture6

MDS 9710 is the only director in the industry that provides Hardware Redundancy on all critical components of the switch, including fabric cards. Cisco Director Switches provide not only CRC checks but ability to drop corrupted frames. Without that ability network infrastructure exposes the end devices to the corrupted frames. Having ability to drop the CRC frames and quickly isolate the failing links outside as well as inside of the director provides Data Integrity and fault resiliency. VSAN allows fault isolation, Port Channel provides smaller failure domains, DCNM provides rich feature set for higher availability and redundancy. All of these are but a subset of examples which provides high resiliency and reliability.

 

Weakest link

 

We are proud of the 9500 family and strong foundation for reliability and availability that we stand on. We have taken that to a completely new level with 9710. For any design within Data center high availability  has to go hand in hand with consistent performance. One without the other doesn’t make sense. Right design and architecture with DC as is important as components that power the connectivity. As an example Cisco recommend customers to distribute the ISL ports of an Port Channel across multiple line cards and multiple ASICs. This spreads the failure domain such that any ASIC  or even line card failures will not impact the port channel connectivity between switches and no need to reinitiate all the hosts logins. You can see white paper on Next generation Cisco MDS here. At part of writing this white paper ESG tested the Fabric Card redundancy (Page 9) in addition to other features of the platform. Remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

 

Geschäftsmann hat Wut, Frust und Ärger im Büro

 

The most important aspect for all of this is for customer is to be educated.

Ask the right questions. Have in depth discussions to achieve higher availability and consistent performance. Most importantly selecting the right equipment, right architecture and best practices means no surprises.

We will continue our discussion for the Flexibility aspect of MDS 9710.

 

 

-We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit (Aristotle)

 

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Breaking through Performance Barriers: Desktop Virtualization at Cisco Live

We’re halfway into Cisco Live!  Each year I find more and more attendees are coming to talk to us about running various desktop delivery models on UCS.  Some observations from folks I’ve chatted with:

More and more of you are asking about NVIDIA GRID solutions for graphics intensive use-cases.  I had several in fact, from the oil and gas industry who were especially interested in our C240 M3 solution with GRID – which conveniently we’ve been demo-ing here, remoted out of our San Jose lab.  If you’re not familiar with it, check out our solutions for both Citrix and VMware.

CAPEX-friendliness with great performance, for small seat count environments is key.  Lot’s of folks asking about solutions that are optimized for 100-200 seats of Horizon or XenDesktop, that are completely self-contained, including compute, storage, broker and the infrastructure assets.  I’ve shared this brand new whitepaper on our C240 200 seat config with everyone I talk to – just a single rack footprint that includes the LSI Nytro MegaRAID Controller with 200 GB of flash for write-caching, plus 12 x 600GB SAS drives.  Here’s what’s been tested:

Hardware Components:

  • Cisco UCS C240-M3 Rack Server (2 X Intel Xeon processor E5-2697 v2 @ 2.70 GHz) with 384GB of memory (16 GB X 24 DIMMS @ 1866 MHz), hypervisor host
  • Cisco UCS VIC1225 Converged Network Adapter/Rack Server (Optional for 10GB Connectivity)
  • 2 x Cisco Nexus 5548UP Access Switches
  • 12 x 600GB SAS disks @ 10000 RPM
  • LSI Nytro MegaRAID Controller 8110-4i

The infrastructure/user file volumes are on the 1st 4 drives set up in a RAID 5 config, and the 2nd and 3rd groups of 4 drives (combined in RAID 10) are for XenDesktop MCS (Citrix) or Floating Assignment / Linked Clones (VMware).  Extremely cost-effective for 200 seats with great performance that doesn’t max out the system and has plenty of room to breathe.  Check out the Citrix and VMware configs of this “in-a-box” solution.

Flash – Flash and more Flash.  It’s hard to move around SF without seeing a Cisco UCS / Flash-Forward advertisement promoting UCS Invicta Solid State Systems.  Invicta is changing the economics of desktop virtualization with industry-leading wear life rating, expansive write-IOPS capacity, and superior manageability within the UCS fabric with UCS Director.  We’ve got a nice demo of 600 XenDesktop seats booting off an Invicta appliance, in under 9 minutes.

There you have it – great performance that goes beyond the traditional barriers associated with cost-effectively delivering desktop virtualization.  Definitely check out these three solutions if you have some time remaining at Cisco Live this week.

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How FCoE Helps Cisco Reduce Data Center Infrastructure

What a difference a networking cable can make in a data center’s infrastructure requirements and costs…especially when that cable uses Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) technology. An industry-standard, FCoE carries Fibre Channel over Ethernet links, which reduces the number of I/O adapters, cables, and switches in the data center.

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