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Open Source Acceleration for Applications

In previous blogs I have described how organizations are maturing beyond provisioning of individual servers to provisioning of richer cloud-based application stacks.  Known as platform-as-a-service (PaaS), this capability takes cloud technology beyond infrastructure to automate the application life cycle.  PaaS allows developers and IT operations to collaborate and ensure that application stacks are consistent and delivered to your customers — within minutes.

Last summer at CiscoLive Orlando, the Application Stack Accelerator for Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) was introduced and we quickly noticed that PaaS was an extremely popular topic!   This popularity has grown.  The demand for PaaS is heavy as organizations, probably like yours, look to extend cloud automation to the design, configuration and implementation of the application life cycle.       Read More »

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Let Cisco Cloud Work for Your Business

At a recent event I saw a T-shirt that said “Remember when cloud only meant rain?”  In the days before cloud computing, asking someone what they thought about cloud usually invoked a response about an animal-shaped formation or looking at cumulonimbus and predicting precipitation. One thing that today’s IT clouds have in common with their heavenly-based brethren is the ability for IT clouds to make it rain for your business.  When cloud is a part of your business strategy, they can increase business agility and effectiveness that translate into revenue generating opportunities.

Every day customers tell me what keeps them up at night is not how to reduce costs but how to survive. Cloud can take you far beyond survival to thriving  by delivering everything from data center services to applications to even office supplies.  But to get this benefit you need to bring together IT and your business strategy. And you need a new way of managing all these components in a unified manner.

Traditional management strategies and solutions utilize fragmented tools dedicated to specific systems.  They are ineffective in an environment where end users are empowered to request services on-the-fly and expect delivery almost instantly.

A customer told me this week that he believed all cloud management solutions were the same.    This is simply not true and two new reports from EMA and IDC provide supporting evidence.

Cisco’s cloud solution understands that your journey is a multi-step process.  You need to first automate your physical and virtual infrastructure to provide a foundational base for as-a-service, across heterogeneous hardware.  Let’s be honest – how can you increase efficiency when your solution manages a single hardware stack or hypervisor?

Cisco UCS Director delivers unified management and automation across both physical and virtual environments from a single pane of glass.   Designed to manage integrated and converged infrastructures utilizing Cisco UCS and Nexus fabric, UCS Director also manages third-party infrastructures such as HP, Dell and Brocade. Its innovative model-based orchestration tracks configuration changes ensuring that your business workflows run to completion, even if a switch is down or unavailable. UCS Director frees up your IT engineers from mundane daily management tasks allowing them to focus on more advanced projects.

Once infrastructure is automated, you can expand your horizons to automating the delivery of applications or general business processes.   Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) is a full-stack cloud solution that includes embedded application provisioning, governance and usage tracking all from an end-user portal and service catalog that spans multiple cloud platforms and tenants.   Leveraging its networking strength, Cisco IAC simplifies  cloud-based deployment and management of network services with out-of-box templates for firewalls, load balancers and VPNs eliminating the need for manual, trouble-ticket based provisioning.   

Watch these videos to learn more about Cisco UCS Director and Cisco IAC.

Earlier this week, Cisco announced its open, hybrid cloud solution, Cisco Intercloud.  Cisco IAC is one of the management solutions powering this offering and is an example of Cisco IAC’s flexible cloud service capabilities – flexibility that your company needs.

With cloud becoming strategic to your organization’s IT strategy, Cisco’s two step solution of Cisco UCS Director and Cisco IAC gets you on the path to anything-as-a-service and your organization on its way to experiencing those rain making opportunities.    

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With Cisco Cloud Management, FASTWEB Delivers New Value-Added Cloud Services

Imagine that you head the leading telecommunications provider in Italy and you are watching traditional service and revenue streams struggle under intense competitive pressure. Customer retention is a major issue because the types of services required by your residential and business clients are changing. Clearly, you need to retain customers and do so by offering new services. It is a generally known business fact that often it is more cost effective to invest in retaining customers than trying to get new ones in such competitive industries.

So, how would you do it?

FASTWEB, a Swisscom company, asked Cisco exactly that question. FASTWEB’s analysis indicated that offering cloud-based service delivery would be an excellent opportunity to retain existing business while capturing new revenue streams from Italian businesses looking for new IT solutions. But FASTWEB struggled with execution due to insufficient resources to develop and deliver these new services.

So, FASTWEB adopted Cisco’s Unified Data Center architecture which includes Cisco UCS Blade Servers and Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC). Cisco UCS servers were selected for performance, reliability, and the ability to integrate smoothly with other heterogeneous elements in their solution stack. They thoroughly analyzed cloud management solutions, and Cisco IAC scored the highest in their evaluation for:

• Openness and flexibility
• Ease of use by users and administrators
• Single management console access to the entire cloud service lifecycle
• Ability to build services without deep technical skills

FASTWEB

Teaming with Cisco Services, FASTWEB implemented cloud service delivery across six distinct use cases. Because of UCS they did so with minimum server hardware, gaining a complete cloud infrastructure that consumes only a few racks. With this Cisco Unified Data Center strategy and solution, FASTWEB estimates their customers can save around 50 percent over three years utilizing FASTWEB services compared to on-premises infrastructure.

FASTWEB2

What’s more FASTWEB relies on Cisco IAC to offer customers a portal that is intuitive with fast delivery thanks to strong automation and orchestration of all cloud elements, including network. None of their competitors in the Italian marketplace has an offering equal to this unified solution from Cisco.

Now FASTWEB’s cloud services are growing smoothly thanks to technology that scales as quickly as their business does. FASTWEB plans to expand its use of Cisco IAC to offer new services as such PaaS and SaaS for their customers.

Read more about FASTWEB’s implementation in this case study and this recent CiscoLive Milan presentation.

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Move Past Survival and Thrive

Every area of your business has a stake in the way IT delivers services. Each one needs speed, agility, efficiency, and a clear definition of its relationship with all of the other areas and the business as a whole. In order to get there and create an agile and efficient organization that flows, you need to unify IT with all areas of the business. There is no way around it.

If your company is one of the four out of ten companies moving to a private cloud by the end of 2014, then you know you need a solution that does more than dispense virtual machines in minutes. You need a solution to deliver diverse services across an entire solution stack. You need a cloud partner that can align with the demands of your business today, tomorrow, and well into the future. Always keep in mind that your cloud technology choices are major decisions with business-critical impact.

Selecting a cloud management solution is a strategic decision for your organization. In a previous blog, I wrote about Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) receiving the highest score in the Forrester Private Cloud Wave Report for cloud vision and strategy. What we presented to Forrester, and even more, is now available for your organization through the latest release of Cisco IAC.

How does vision and strategy translate into IT better aligning with your business? Sit back and watch this informative, short video to find out.

Every day customers tell me what keeps them up at night is not how to reduce costs but how to survive. Just as in nature, survival for business depends on intelligence and fast and agile execution of processes. To make these capabilities part of your organization’s genetic composition, so that they are intrinsic, almost intuitive, you need a cloud management solution that sees, understands, and manages your whole environment: physical and virtual, networks, applications, and more – whatever comprises your stacks.

Plus, you need cloud efficiencies to extend beyond your data center securely and encompass business functions such as delivery of development environments within minutes, the ordering of a new laptop or virtual desktop, onboarding of a new employee, or even the ordering of office supplies. And you want to be able to do all of these things from a unified user interface.

That’s exactly what the latest release of Cisco IAC brings to the table:

• The integration of Cisco IAC and Cisco UCS Director delivers a comprehensive private cloud, which frees you to focus on creating differentiated services instead of building your cloud.
• A unified self-service portal and catalog covers your enterprise, providing a modern online shopping experience across all data center and workplace functions.
• Advanced cloud governance offers the ability to manage demand, suppliers, and service consumption tracked to specific budgetary or resource thresholds.

But wait, there’s more. There’s the network. Any NOC expert will tell you that delivering network services in the cloud is a manual, trouble-ticket-based grind. At a time when your business needs speed and agility, manual network service delivery slows down IT and your business.

Unchain your business with Cisco IAC’s out-of-box templates that automate the delivery of VPNs, firewalls, and load balancers. We’re not talking about a single configuration applied to every organization, but the ability for each tenant to define its own unique network service configuration.

Cisco understands that cloud management is more than dispensing virtual machines. The latest release of Cisco IAC allows IT to align with your business, so that you’re free to not just survive, but to thrive.

Take the next step and watch this technical video overview of Cisco IAC.

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Things You Can Do in 16 Minutes: Pushing the VDI Performance Envelope with Cisco UCS, VMware Horizon View and EMC VSPEX

So what exactly can you do in 16 minutes?  Well, you can:

  • Download and install your preferred tax prep software, because (if you’re in the US or Canada) April is coming
  • Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame, then reminisce and/or lament about it for exactly 1 minute.
  • Save 15% on your car insurance (you can supposedly get this done in 15 vs. 16 min.)
  • Do some really unsavory things not suitable for mentioning on a nice blog post like this one.

Don’t care about any of those things?  Neither do I.  Let me come back to this in a moment…

If you’re familiar with our architecture portfolio for desktop virtualization, you may be aware that we’re continuing to invest in VSPEX-based reference architectures for Cisco Desktop Virtualization.  This week, we just announced the latest addition to the Cisco Validated Design (CVD) portfolio – our solution for VMware Horizon View 5.3 with Cisco UCS and EMC VSPEX available here.

If you’re not already familiar with them, CVD’s provide prescriptive design guidance around how to build solutions with specific outcomes (performance) as documented through a testing/documentation discipline that Cisco’s been doing for years.  You’ll find our repository of desktop virtualization CVD’s here.

So now let’s talk about the CVD itself.  Our principal author is Ramesh Guduru – he’s a Virtualization Systems Engineer in Cisco’s Data Center Business Group and has extensive experience in Horizon View, virtualization infrastructure and management, Cisco UCS and storage.  Ramesh assembled a test platform based on the setup shown in Figure 1. 

Cisco UCS VDI VSPEX with View

Figure 1: Cisco CVD Validation Platform

As you can see the core pillars of the solution are:

Key things we wanted to expose/profile in this effort included:

  • More with less – more powerful processors and faster memory
  • System footprint for delivering 2,000 Horizon View desktops, while still retaining room to expand as demand increases
  • Leverage more economical processors – ex: a 57% lower list price for the Intel E5-2680 v2 10-core processors vs. top bin processors tested in the past = lower server cost = lower per desktop CAPEX
  • Hosting density leadership (# desktops per compute blade)
  • End user experience as exercised using LoginVSI with medium workload with Flash
  • Boot-up and login performance (simulating the Monday-morning boot storm dilemma all VDI implementations face and daily login storms)·

From a design perspective we also wanted to ensure our system provided:

  • Full n+1 fault tolerance across the stack
  • Fully virtualized platform, inclusive of the virtual desktops, as well as the infrastructure componentry like vCenter, AD, SQL servers etc.

I’ll leave it to you the explore the methodology Ramesh followed for the CVD, but let me point to a couple interesting things gained from this effort:

  • With our B200 M3 blade, we increased our desktop workload capacity (across the system) by 30% compared with full-width blades used in prior analyses
  • We collapsed the footprint from 30 RU down to just 12 RU.
  • The combined effect of the selected CPU (Intel Ivy Bridge), high-bandwidth, low-latency unified fabric, and our VIC 1240 converged networking adapter yielded exceptional user experience at under 1.75 sec at full load.
  • The EMC VNX5600 provided outstanding storage performance for both file and block, using EMC Fast Cache technology.
  • VMware Horizon View 5.3 with Sparse Virtual Disk gave us better disk performance and disk space efficiency.

And as for the 16 minute thing?

  • That’s how long it took for the full population of 2,000 virtual desktops to get booted and ready to login (under 16 minutes).  And in an additional 14 we had all of them running user workload with no sign of exhausting the system.

Get the details by digging into the CVD posted here

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