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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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#EngineersUnplugged S4|Ep8: VSPEX 101

December 18, 2013 at 2:14 pm PST

In this week’s episode, everything you wanted to know about VSPEX but were afraid to ask. We’re talking VSPEX 101 with Chris Romano and Chad Dunn. They why, the how, and the use cases to back it up. Complete with a VSPEX unicorn, let’s watch:

**The next shoot is last week of January at Cisco Live in Milan! If you want to be internet-famous, contact me ASAP to talk about being on the show.**

This is Engineers Unplugged, where technologists talk to each other the way they know best, with a whiteboard. The rules are simple:

  1. Episodes will publish weekly (or as close to it as we can manage)
  2. Subscribe to the podcast here: engineersunplugged.com
  3. Follow the #engineersunplugged conversation on Twitter
  4. Submit ideas for episodes or volunteer to appear by Tweeting to @CommsNinja
  5. Practice drawing unicorns

Join the behind the scenes by liking Engineers Unplugged on Facebook.

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Cisco UCS Director is Nominated for a ‘Storage, Virtualisation and Cloud (SVC)’ Product of the Year Award!

I’m happy to report that Cisco UCS Director (formerly Cloupia) has been selected as a finalist for the 2013 Storage, Virtualisation & Cloud (SVC) Awards!  Please take a moment and vote for UCS Director at http://cs.co/SVCAward.

SVCThis finalist nomination recognizes the innovation and differentiation that Cisco UCS Director provides for end-to-end converged infrastructure management — including automation for both virtual and physical resources across compute, network, and storage.

The video below provides a good overview of Cisco UCS Director and its benefits for IT organizations:

 

The sweet spot for Cisco UCS Director is in managing converged infrastructure based on Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) with Cisco Nexus switches and third party storage — focusing on our market-leading integrated systems including the FlexPod solution with NetApp, as well as VCE’s Vblock Systems and our VSPEX solutions with EMC storage.

But the beauty of Cisco UCS Director is that it can also manage heterogeneous environments, including non-Cisco infrastructure and multiple hypervisors. Whether you call it your single-pane-of-glass or one ring to rule them all, it’s a highly innovative and comprehensive infrastructure management solution for your data center operations.  These capabilities and more are highlighted in the award nomination which you can read here.

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SQL Server – Cisco & EMC leading the charge

October 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm PST

Guest post by Txomin Barturen, Senior Consultant – CTO Office, EMC Corporation

SQL Server provides customers with a vast array of technology options to address a diverse range of data and reporting requirements including extremely high throughput OLTP environments to bandwidth and time-sensitive reporting and DSS systems.  With choice comes the inevitable complexity of defining and building solutions.  Customer IT teams are invariably dealing with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) from their in internal customers.  Time and financial constraints often limit the ability of internal IT teams to spend significant amounts of time in defining, testing and implementing the broad range of environments that they need to deploy.

Jointly, Cisco and EMC have partnered with Microsoft to deliver a set of solutions that are pre-validated to deliver the requirements for customer SQL Server environments.  These solutions implement the collective best practices for server, network and storage, ensuring that customers implement a known valid configuration without the guesswork.

Fast Track Data Warehouse

Dealing with data warehouse requirements requires that solutions be designed to meet the ideal balance between performance, DW size, and cost. Design guidance from the SQL Server team dictates that the total data warehouse size be finely balanced by storage system configuration, server system consumption rate (how fast the CPUs are able to process the data) as well as the interconnectivity between server and storage to deliver at the required rate.  To match server configuration, the interconnectivity (including HBAs) and the storage infrastructure requires much design, calculation and testing across a number of disciplines.

Read More »

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Cisco Solutions for EMC VSPEX: Collaboration Helps Build Momentum

Cisco and EMC continue to partner closely to speed our customers journey to the cloud via our “three paths to the cloud’ strategy. The strategy enables customers to implement custom-design infrastructures with best-of-breed products, validated reference architectures via Cisco solutions for EMC VSPEX, and pre-integrated converged infrastructure from VCE.

In the last year, Cisco solutions for EMC VSPEX have generated significant momentum with customers and partners.  In this short period of time we have:

  • Signed up more than 850 channel partners
  • Nearly 1,000 VSPEX customers around the world
  • Published 9 CVD’s focused on virtualization and desktop virtualization
  • 60% y/y growth in viewership on our VSPEX CVD pages

Cisco and EMC will continue collaborating on VSPEX to expand the solution portfolio and accelerate growth. As a preview of future VSPEX CVDs, two new solution briefs have just been released. These solution briefs enable customers to choose their desired hypervisor, Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 R2 or VMware VSphere 5.1, and get a validated configuration for up to 1000 virtual machines based upon Cisco UCS servers and networking with next-generation EMC VNX Series storage. The next-generation EMC VNX Series storage will complement VSPEX solutions by enhancing virtual application performance through multicore optimization software taking advantage of the latest multicore CPUs.

Building your own infrastructure solutions can not only take time and resources but also can introduce additional risk and complexity. This is exactly the problem that Cisco solutions for EMC VSPEX solves by offering presized and validated solutions that give customers confidence that they are deploying the right balance of computing, networking, and storage resources.

Congratulations to the Cisco and EMC teams for their momentum with Cisco Solutions for EMC VSPEX and thank you for making it easy for organizations to quickly deploy a powerful, secure virtualized environment without the expense or risk entailed in designing and building a custom solution.

To learn more about Cisco’s solutions for EMC VSPEX please visit www.cisco.com/go/vspex.

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