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Your VDI Checklist for VMworld 2013

With just a week ahead of VMworld 2013 in San Francisco, there’s a lot of planning to do.  For example:

  1. Saying “thank goodness it’s not Vegas”
  2. Finding a suitable bacon-themed party to attend (I’ll explain)
  3. Checking out some useful VDI content at VMworld

So if you’re earning your trip to SF by doing some VDI fact-finding footwork whilst there, you’ve come to the right place.  I’m going to save you a ton of wasted time trekking across the Moscone center, and spell everything out right here.  But before we go there, some backdrop…

This has been an incredibly busy year for Cisco, and its VDI technology ecosystem, and certainly VMware.  Yes, I know it’s only August.  With the help of our ecosystem and channel partners, we took aim at the most important VDI hurdles that prevent IT from embracing this technology, including:

  • The cost and performance bottleneck associated with VDI storage
  • Expanding the addressable use cases into which VDI nicely fits
  • The complexity of putting a cost-effective yet scalable solution together

Now you may be saying “Pretend like I’ve been asleep for 8 months, and remind me what you’re talking about, and make it quick or I’ll find another blog to read”.  Ok then testy reader, here goes:

  • We’ve raised the bar on VDI storage performance, while reducing the overall TCO.  With the help of our expanding, best-of-breed ecosystem including solutions from Nimble Storage, Fusion-io, Nexenta, Tegile, and Atlantis Computing, we offer prescriptive design guidance on how to build solutions based on these technologies, combined with Cisco Unified Computing.  These solutions are available as a complete suite of reference architectures and validated designs, here.  These solutions are making the reality of doing floating or PERSISTENT desktops in an affordable way, a reality.
  • When you think of VDI, it’s traditionally been around the low-hanging fruit that’s easily addressable, ie: task workers, such as call center ops and those who have a minimal set of apps they need to use at any given time.  But what about graphics-intensive workstations that aren’t adequately addressed by VDI display protocols?  Employing Cisco UCS C240 M3 Rack Server with the NVIDIA GRID™ solution, we can do virtualized GPU, offloading CPU resources while delivering higher quality graphics rendering at distance.
  • We’re de-risked getting into VDI, especially for pilot / proof-of-concept environments where your organization wants to get their feet wet, quickly, and affordably.  How?  The UCS SmartPlay with VMware Horizon View, that’s how.  These promo bundles begin with a starter for 30, 100 or 300 users, and offer expansion options, as well as storage upgrades like UCS Storage Accelerator (built on Fusion-io).  We call this the “Accelerated Path to ROI with VDI”.

In case you missed it, I cover some of this in my previous post, here.  Now back to VMworld… coincidentally, the stuff I mentioned above, are BIG focus areas for Cisco and its partners at the show, ie: if you want to see these solutions in action, read further.

Also coincidentally, these are the very same technology trends that Brian Madden recently wrote about, associated with the increasing feasibility of doing VDI for “persistent 1-to-1 desktop images” as he puts it, leveraging the storage technologies we’ve incorporated in our reference architectures.   He also makes reference to the importance of virtualized GPU solutions that are making VDI an increasingly good option for CAD, photo/video editing and similar environments.

So if you’re putting your VDI at VMworld SF checklist together, here are some things you MUST add:

1.) Cisco VDI Demos! (akawho doesn’t like hardware, software, and blinky lights?”)

  • Come by Booth 1005 for starters.  Our VDI demos will include:
  • UCS C240 M3 running VMware Horizon View with…
    • UCS Storage Accelerator (built on Fusion-io) delivering low-latency, high-IOPS capacity for non-persistent View desktops
    • NVIDIA GRID™ cards installed so you can see virtualized GPU delivering accelerated graphics in action!
    • We’ll also have a single-wire managed (aka “Single Connect”) cluster of C220 M3’s running VMware Horizon View with EMC VNX5300 storage.  This environment will show 500 desktops running (live) Login VSI 3.7 Medium workloads

2.) Our featured breakout session “#VAPP6408 -- The Next Wave of Virtualization & Fabric Computing with Cisco’s Unified Computing System will share the latest innovations in Unified Computing with a special focus on VDI.

3.) Cisco Booth Theater Presentation (and maybe win free stuff)

  • swing by Booth 1005, at 5:30pm on the Tuesday (Aug. 27th) to catch Mike Brennan’s presentation “Delivering VMware Horizon View Desktops with Uncompromised Performance and Scalability

4.) Colorado University at Boulder – Featured Breakout Session “#EUC5610 -- Virtualized Inception: Mobility Dream within a VDI Dream; Realized!

  • CU Boulder deployed Nimble Storage for supporting VDI with Horizon View, built on Cisco UCS.  This is a great case study in supporting hundreds of users, supporting BYOD and mobile users in a fully virtualized end-user computing environment.  Check out the written version here.
  • We have a reference architecture (R/A) with Nimble you can review here.
  • and… because Inception is one of my favorite movies ever, you know this session with CU Boulder simply can’t miss!

5.) Nexenta VSA for View (NV4V) Demo Featuring Cisco UCS

  • check out this innovative storage appliance demo, built on Cisco UCS C-Series Rack Server.  You can review our joint R/A here.

6.) Tegile VDI Passport Program

  • Tegile will be running a passport program that provides the opportunity to win an iPad mini by visiting: Tegile, Cisco, and other VDI ecosystem partners
  • We have a joint R/A featuring Tegile Zebi available here.

6.) Atlantis Computing ILIO with Cisco UCS

  • If you’re not familiar with it, the ILIO appliance built on Cisco UCS, provides scalable IOPS capacity without disks,  leveraging UCS’s expansive memory footprint.  Check this Glasshouse Whitepaper for more.

7.) #vBacon !

Ok, so what about the bacon thing?  If you want to get in on probably the best bacon-themed party in SF, you need to be at the Cable Car City Pub by 10pm on Tuesday August 27th.   You won’t be disappointed.  Find out about this and other goodies @CommNinja and the Cisco Social Media Team are putting together, but checking this out.

Well for now, that’s it.  I’ll have more to share next week at VMworld.  Stop by, say hi, and let us help you knock some items off that VDI checklist.  For more information on literally everything I mentioned above, see my handy bookshelf below:

VMware Horizon View Promotion: Cisco UCS SmartPlay Bundle Offer

VMware Horizon View Promotion: Cisco UCS SmartPlay Bundle Offer

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.22.41 AM

Video Whiteboard: Cisco UCS with VMware Horizon View

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.19.27 AM

VDI Reference Arch. with VMware Horizon View, Cisco UCS and NetApp FlexPod

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.11.44 AM

Cisco UCS with VMware Horizon View at Cisco Live

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.06.38 AM

VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and EMC VSPEX

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.04.17 AM

Solution Overview: VDI with VMware Horizon View, Cisco UCS and Fusion-io

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.01.41 AM

VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Nimble Storage

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 8.59.11 AM

VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Nexenta

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 8.55.37 AM

VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Tegile Zebi Storage

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 8.46.16 AM

VDI Reference Arch. for VMware Horizon View with Cisco UCS and Atlantis ILIO

 

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The Golden Key to Any Cloud

As cloud technology and organizations mature, customers are shifting their focus from the provisioning of individual servers to richer cloud-based application platform stacks. Why? Servers usually do not exist as standalone entities but are designed to run something tangible for the business. For example, multi-tier application platform stacks have in their design multi-server elements such as database, application and web servers.

In this era of the cloud, creating golden templates for each of the elements required to configure these multi-tier stacks and the servers they reside on, is not only unwieldy for IT to maintain and manage but they are monolithic. This means if one single element changes, the whole golden image needs to be revised. Golden images are not configurable and frequently require additional manual configuration to complete installation.

What’s the solution? It begins with the concept of DevOps.

DevOps is a software development method that permits better collaboration between software development and IT operations in a way that these multi-tier application servers can be consumed in the cloud without human intervention. There are a number of disciplines included under the DevOps category, but this blog will be focusing on configuration management.

Puppet and Chef are two of the leading configuration management vendors in the DevOps segment delivering the following benefits:

• Elastic and continuous configurations
• Increased productivity to handle hundreds to thousands of nodes
• Improve IT responsiveness by reducing time to deploy changes
• Eliminate configuration drift and reduce outages

There is a lot of buzz about this capability. How much buzz? Watch this video from CiscoLive Orlando.

Within the next month, Cisco will be releasing a cloud accelerator that delivers configuration management of multi-tier application stacks. Based on the TOSCA-modeled graphical user interface, customers utilize a canvas that simplifies the design of these stacks into templates. Each element: server, network device and storage; is represented on the canvas with a graphical icon. Behind each icon are configuration details for each component. For example, network device configuration may include firewall rules and load balancing algorithms. For servers, Cisco is leveraging Puppet and Chef or home-grown scripts. The result is a blueprint that allows for consumption of the complete application stack by end users, on demand, delivered by the cloud.

So now we have blueprints. Where’s the real advantage?

Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) is the golden key that gives you the advantage because it unlocks this new approach to cloud efficiency. Providing blueprints for multi-tier application stacks on their own do nothing if they cannot be ordered by customers from a standardized menu of services and acted upon by an orchestrator to automatically deploy the entire configuration. Extending functionality for DevOps is just another example of Cisco IAC’s ability to go beyond IaaS without requiring a solution rip and replace or major push-ups by customers.

Why just provision servers and continue to increase IT costs with manual “last mile” provisioning?
Cisco IAC and the configuration management accelerator simplify the delivery of multi-tier application stacks through self-service ordering and repeatable delivery. Cloud accelerators are designed to follow the vision and strategy of Cisco IAC eliminating code islands that become problematic when you upgrade to the next generation Cisco IAC edition.

To browse through the current cloud accelerators, go here. First time visitors will need to sign the register.

If you would like to learn more or comment, tweet us at: http://twitter.com/ciscoum

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Virtualization Comes to the Oracle user Community

Virtualizing Oracle Databases – The Time Has Come!

Overall, virtualization of IT applications and databases is quite pervasive.  Estimates from industry analysts show that some applications and databases have virtualization penetration rates of 80 to 90%.  Overall the estimates for datacenter virtualization range from 60 to 70%.  One curious exception is the rate of virtualization for Oracle Databases.  Some estimates put the Oracle Database virtualization rate below 20%.  The big question is why so low for Oracle Database?

While I have never seen any formal research documenting the reasons, ad-hoc discussions with many DBAs and Architects and other Oracle users indicates that some of the major reasons for their reluctance to virtualize include:

  • Fear of performance degradation
  • Concern over availability and stability
  • And an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” view

And for mission critical Oracle Databases those are valid concerns.  Any outage or performance degradation is costly.  Status quo is the safest approach.  But what I am hearing from customers and the Oracle community at large is that the time has come for virtualization.  The improvements in configuration flexibility, reduced deployment times, dramatically improved disaster recovery and cost savings are great motivators for virtualization by themselves. One of the early adopters for virtualizing and Oracle infrastructure was EMC. lets hear what EMC’s Chief Database Architect, Darryl Smith, has to say about the benefits of EMC’s virtualization efforts with EMC’s Oracle Infrastructure.

So EMC found great performance, improved availability and a reduction in database licenses all because of their move to virtualize their Oracle infrastructure. Here is more of Darryl talking about Oracle virtualization and the cloud.

EMC took the next logical step from initial virtualization and moved their Oracle infrastructure to a full cloud implementation with even more benefits thanks to the improved Oracle workload mobility.

EMC is a great example of why there appears to be a growing tide of Oracle users who are ready to ride the wave of virtaulization.  To learn more about EMC’s virtualization efforts and results, these two whitepapers on Cisco.com will provide a more complete overview of their journey:

EMC Transforms Their Oracle Infrastructure

EMC’s Journey to the Cloud

For more information on Cisco’s Oracle Solutions and how Cisco Unified Computing can accelerate your virtualization plans, please click here.

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Don’t Take Your Eyes off VDI – We’re Certainly Not!

This blog post promises to avoid telling you about all the fantabulous (I know that’s not a woUCSrd) growth expected in the number of hosted virtual desktops to be deployed by 2016.  What I do want to share, is how Cisco is ramping up our investments in accelerating your path to virtual desktop success, and how we’re tapping into the fundamentals of our Unified Computing System (UCS) to deliver new VDI efficiencies; the same efficiencies that have made Cisco the 2nd most preferred x86  blade server vendor* worldwide, in just 4 years!  So why are so many organizations moving away from their legacy compute solution, and choosing UCS for VDI workloads and more?

Differentiated capabilities that address VDI pain points: TCO and Manageability

It’s no secret to anyone that VDI is not simple to deploy.  You essentially have to bring together multiple seemingly disparate solution elements (server, storage, virtualization, broker, network, security, etc.) and make them work in a cohesive manner, and then be certain that your implementation will scale from a small pilot of 50 users to hundreds, thousands, or more!  Clearly with such complexity, the last thing you need is a complex compute infrastructure underneath it all.  There are 3 key things at the heart of this, that speak to why UCS is better for VDI:on-board

1.)    Server-resident flash.  Our “On-Board” Architecture for VDI intercepts the rapidly proliferating use of flash based storage solutions that offer expansive IOPS capacity and huge performance.  UCS takes it a step further by offering an integrated solution leveraging our partner Fusion-io.  We’ve additionally delivered reference architectures that extend the use cases and attractiveness of flash-based solutions with appliance approaches (that direct-connect the storage array to our fabric interconnect) as well as more traditional multi-tiered architectures.  More on that in a moment…

service profile2.)    We’ve made it easier to provision and manage the hosts for your virtual desktop deployments.  UCS Service Profile Templates enable rapid deployment from bare metal, creating a zero-touch, mistake-proof, stateless operations model.  Now, when you add the On-Board, server-resident flash to the configuration, you extend the reach of this management model to include high-performance, economical storage, completely provisioned and managed as part of the blade configuration/profile!  No SAN or associated expertise required!  Perfect for floating, non-persistent desktops.VIC

3.)    Granular visibility across the virtualized infrastructure.  With user desktops now running amidst other mission-critical workloads in the data center, there’s more reason than ever to ensure that you can impart QoS, security and manageability across the multitude of virtual machine traffic flows traversing the data center.  Cisco Virtual Machine Fabric Extender (VM-FEX) and Cisco Nexus 1000v provide the visibility and controls that make this possible, extending physical world policy and administration to virtual.

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Wristwatches, Bicycle Helmets, and VDI…

A long time ago, it used to be comforting, to hear the words “One Size Fits All”.  As though our interests were surely represented within that catch-all, assuring us that we weren’t going to get left out in the rain.  You could safely make that impulse-driven purchase, bring it home (or have it delivered), and know with certainty, that you wouldn’t be disappointed.  It’s almost laughable to think that we subscribed to this way of thinking for about 50 years.  But thankfully, we live, work and play in a world where it’s not about one-size-fits-all, and the only things we’ll accept as such, are wristwatches, and bicycle helmets! (unless you have a gargantuan sized cranium)

And so it is with your IT environment – “One-Size-Fits-All” feels too much like hand-cuffs (which coincidentally are also one-size-fits-all).  We’ve done away with the notion that a solution that’s optimized for a Fortune 500, is going to be at all suitable for a medium-sized business with almost 1,000 employees.  While both organizations might have a strategic imperative around workspace mobility, and have set out to virtualize the desktops of say, 5% of their workforce, they’ll approach this problem in two completely different ways.

  • One of these organizations will have an extensive , multi-tiered networking and security infrastructure, optimized for virtual machine traffic, the other may not.
  • One of these organizations will have a mature SAN infrastructure in place, with embedded resources and expertise, and lots of existing mission-critical data already housed there.  The other may not.
  • One of these organizations will have a high percentage of virtualized workloads and a highly automated/orchestrated environment for rapidly spinning up new infrastructure.  The other may not.

Carchpicertainly these two environments are not going to take the same solution approach to deploying virtual desktops?  They will however, share many of the same key objectives/demands: future proof scalability, resiliency, streamlined provisioning and operations, consistent user experience for the 1st user as well as the 1000th.  And they’ll want all of this with the lowest possible TCO.

 

Last month, Cisco introduced our expanwebcastded suite of solution architectures for desktop virtualization.  This portfolio was struck with the objective of ensuring our customers would never have to settle for a One-Size-Fits-All approach to deploying VDI, recognizing that they’re deploying this solution from a multitude of possible starting points in their IT maturity.  With four new solution architectures, each built on Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), and each backed by design guides and reference configurations co-developed with industry-leading partners in storage and storage-optimization technologies, we’ve taken the risk and guesswork out of choosing the deployment methodology that’s right-sized for your organization.  Check out my friend Ashok’s more detailed post on the new reference architecture portfolio.

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