Cisco Speeds OpenStack Infrastructure

Cisco offers three accelerator packages for OpenStack implementations as it seeks to give its Unified Computing Systems servers role in private clouds.

Charles Babcock

November 4, 2013

3 Min Read
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Cisco announced three accelerator packages to make its Unified Computing Systems (UCS) servers part of future OpenStack private clouds. The three accelerator packages -- High Density, Mixed Workload and Storage Intensive -- for common data center cloud configurations were unveiled Monday.

The move suggests how some large compute and networking suppliers will try to stay relevant if large segments of their customer bases decide to move to a deeper implementation of virtualized resources. OpenStack offers management of virtualized servers, storage and networking, with the OpenStack Neutron Project working toward a fully software-defined approach to virtual networks. Many Cisco competitors are contributing to that project, in hopes of disrupting established network providers.

That makes the stakes high for Cisco's bid to insert its UCS, with its converged data switching fabric, into the mix as OpenStack infrastructure. UCS offloads storage and network traffic from the hypervisor's virtual switch and moves it through a Cisco Nexus 2000 fabric extender card to a parent Nexus switch. Some OpenStack adopters, particularly heavy Cisco network device users, will find it an easier pathway to private cloud.

"You know we've been a participant in and contributor to the OpenStack project," said Lew Tucker, VP of cloud at Cisco and vice chairman of the OpenStack Foundation board, in an interview. Cisco programmers have contributed to load balancing, firewalls and virtual private networks in the project. Cisco is willing to support different implementations of OpenStack, such as those offered by Ubuntu, Red Hat and Suse, and different hypervisors within an OpenStack environment. "We're really adding OpenStack as one of our pillars" or supported enterprise environments, said Tucker.

[ Want to learn more about OpenStack implementations? See Google App Engine Swings, But Open Stack Is King. ]

The High Density Accelerator pack is built around six Cisco UCS C220 M3 rack servers. Each server contains two Intel Xeon E5 CPUs, 128 GB of RAM and two 900-GB disk drives. The rack components also include two Cisco 96-port network fabric interconnects and two Nexus 10 Gigabit Ethernet fabric extenders.

The Mixed Workload Accelerator pack also consists of six rack servers, similar to the High Density package, with two 600-GB disk drives. It also includes two additional UCS rack servers, both C240 M3s, each with two Xeon E5 processors with 256 GB of RAM and 12 900-GB disk drives. Compared to high-density compute, it has two CPUs with large memories for memory-intensive workloads, with a large amount of storage attached.

The third offering, the Storage Intensive Accelerator pack, consists of eight UCS C240 servers, each with two E5 processors, 256 GB of RAM and 12 900-GB disk drives. They serve as six storage nodes and two control nodes.

The Mixed Workload, Storage Intensive and High Density packs all have the same fabric interconnects and network interface cards to a Nexus 1000 switch. They can handle a mix of network and storage traffic, offloading it from virtual machines to switches in the network fabric.

Tucker said the three acceleration packs are meant to server as "infrastructure building blocks" for whatever type of OpenStack cloud an enterprise wants to build out.

Cisco provides a UCS OpenStack installer that implements a copy of OpenStack on the UCS hardware. The combined Cisco offering allows an OpenStack implementer with a virtualized data center "to move from a virtual machine point of view to an application-centric point of view" in managing the environment, Tucker said.

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