Cisco UCS

As some of you know, Westcon is in the midst of a data center consolidation effort.  We have two data centers, UK and US, and are consolidating them into one managed services center in Cincinnati, Ohio US. 

A major part of the consolidation is the migration to a completely new platform – Cisco’s UCS with EMC Clariions (CX4-480’s and CX4-120’s).   When appropriate, I will definitely post updates (good, bad, ugly, hilarious, scary) about the project.  We were one of the first (actually number 4, I think) to order the equipment and it was shipped this past summer (2009).

Where are we?  Working with Cisco’s AS team, our managed services data center partner (CBTS – Cincinnati Bell), EMC engineers and our own internal team, we stood the equipment up over the Fall of 2009, and put our first production applications on the new equipment December 2009.  We will complete the move in 2010.

We will definitely get into it as we go forward, but a couple of quick observations from a CIO/CTO perspective (as opposed to at a bit/byte/block level):

  • Deployment was good – NIC pools, Clariion integration, and server provisioning was seemless.  It really was smooth and easy.
  • The UCS Manager is really the sexiest part of the whole thing according to our engineers.  Having everything in one place is alot easier than what we previously had, and appears to be industry leading.  The team loves this thing.
  • Truly stateless, the service templates really work. 

Along the way, we have had a few bumps (HBA challenges, Fiber Interconnect challenges), but so far less than I expected.  Sometimes they have been scary, but I have to give Cisco/EMC credit – they have been pretty responsive.  We have had some configuration issues which I believe are more due to being one of the first than to being really a systemic problem.  We had a few minor challenges when we stood the equipment up that were immediately addressed and have had one or two bugs appear since then, but they are addressed in a reasonable time by the relevant manufacturer.  We have the usual misery associated with software vendors who have not mastered licensing issues in the 21st century, ie they can’t give us a reasonable licensing model for a fully virtualized environment, but I will save my frustration on this issue for another post.  And, it is not specific to Cisco/EMC, though the technology really forces you to work through these issues if you want to really exploit the technology fully.  But I digress…

The cool thing here is that as a distributor of Cisco UCS, I really believe that our own employee’s can be some of the best, “tell the truth”, resources for our customers (resellers, service providers and systems integrators) who are working closely with their end-users on making these very complicated decisions.  Westcon is living it, and we have some brutally honest employees (believe me, as CIO, they tell me everyday how IT can be better! 🙂 ).  This experience will benefit Westcon, but can simultaneously help our customers, which I think is great.

Westcon’s savings associated with moving to the new platform have yet to be truly realized, but all indications are that once we are fully migrated we will see all the expected benefits (financial and technological).  We already have started to see improvements in the applications that have been migrated, so everything is looking up.

Don’t misunderstand me, this is not easy.  People are killing themselves working around the clock, but the technology is helping us, doing what it was advertised for the most part. Data Center migrations are the types of decisions that put CIO’s out on the street.  So far, though, I think we are doing well.  The rewards will outpace the risks.  And, so far the UCS Technology is for real.  But stay tuned, as we hit our milestones (or run into hurdles) I will keep you posted.

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One response to “Cisco UCS

  1. Good luck Bill!
    They defiantly have the right man at the helm.

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