Why more clients will refresh W2K3 servers with Cisco UCS

Cisco UCS for Microsoft Applications

What? A refresh? But servers last longer than ever! That’s true, but unless innovation slows down (ha ha) they will reach an inevitable point where they are more venerable than valuable. In the data center, this means tough and expensive decisions must be made.

In this blog post, I argue for Cisco’s UCS as a stable platform for Microsoft applications. Especially if you’re looking at Microsoft System Server 2012 and especially if you need to migrate from Windows Server 2003.

Hardware upgrade vs. technology refresh

A forced migration is also an opportunity to advance your data center agility through the promise of new data center technologies and cloud. However, progress from IT departments is often cost-limited by rigid infrastructures and agonizing complexity. So how do you decide what’s the better option for you?

As you look at your Windows Server 2003 workloads, you must choose between a server hardware upgrade and a more holistic technology upgrade. (That is, if you’re not also considering options to migrate to the cloud like Office 365, Azure or AWS. In which case look to the bottom of this post for a more comprehensive look at W2K3 EOS migration options.) If you’re going to upgrade the OS, it’s possible to extend the usual three-to-five year hardware refresh cycle. TechTarget does a good job of explaining how you can do this. According to TechTarget, “Adding CPUs or memory can significantly increase a server’s performance. However, not all systems are upgradable, and upgrades don’t always fix poor-performing hardware.” You must think about the purpose of the server and the best way to accomplish that goal.

It’s time to choose: do you want to keep fixing specific problems, or do you want to redefine how your organization utilizes compute resources? If you’re going to stay with on-premise servers – the future direction is integrated (or in Cisco terminology Unified) computing systems.

The promise of Unified Computing Systems (UCS)

The most common question about UCS: is a Unified Computing System worth the cost? Well, it’s not going to be cheap. When you decide to unify compute, networking and management into a single platform, you need to choose hardware that will handle the CPU and memory-hungry virtual machines. In addition, simply provisioning VM’s on a physical server will lead to latency and system instability.

This is why Softchoice’s data center experts rave about Cisco’s UCS. It’s not just about rack and blade servers, it’s about both servers being used as a flexible pool of computing resources. In fact, UCS is built with zero legacy server investment.

To help you accelerate the delivery of IT services, Cisco’s private cloud solutions were built on validated designs in conjunction with a number of infrastructure and application partners such as NetApp, VCE, EMC, Microsoft, RedHat, and SAP, and include OpenStack-based open source implementations. With ACI you can promote consistency of policies for on-premises and private cloud applications, making them easier to manage, deploy, and migrate.

The one thing that makes UCS so unique

Cisco is not the only vendor to present a unified approach to compute resources. This is obvious. It’s how they built their vision of a unified computing system that stands out. Many unified computing systems,  converged infrastructures and all-in-one server, storage and networking architectures layer on additional hardware and software components to manage the underlying component managers, or only manage the blade enclosures. In short, this method assigns one manager to manage the managers.

The difference in Cisco’s UCS is that management is designed into each hardware component.  The architecture pulls the management of LAN and SAN server hardware and chassis into the access layer and it runs on the UC fabric interconnect with a Graphic User Interface (GUI) or Client Line Interface (CLI). This method unifies computing, networking, storage access and virtualization into a stable and perfectly integrated infrastructure. In fact, a commissioned study from Forrester indicates customers can save 30-50% on cost of ownership once up and running. 

Bonus: Since all of the settings contained within a server profile are traditionally configured, managed and stored in hardware on a server, these are now defined in a configuration file the underlying hardware tie is stripped away and a server workload can be quickly moved from one physical blade to another without requiring changes in the networks, or storage arrays.

Why Microsoft and Cisco work better together

Microsoft and Cisco aligned to integrate the operating system, native hypervisor, application, and management software into virtualization solutions. These solutions take full advantage of a unified infrastructure and enable IT-as-a-Service.

Cisco’s Unified Data Center automates and simplifies deployment, orchestration, and management across server, network, and cloud. This creates a highly secure, scalable environment for companies that utilize Microsoft software and technologies.

Top 6 things you’re able to accomplish with Microsoft Applications on Cisco’s UCS:

  1. Implement a secure environment for Microsoft Exchange Server, SQL Server, and SharePoint Server with pre-tested architectural design guides.
  2. Build a private cloud: With the Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track Program, validated designs from EMC and NetApp, offer a central pool of computing resources with storage, networking and servers all in one.
  3. Extend Cisco networking to Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V deployments.
  4. Automate provisioning and configuration tasks with Cisco UCS PowerTool, an big PowerShell library of purpose-built cmdlets. Cisco UCS Manager provides open XML API that works with and extends the System Center 2012 R2 suite of tools.
  5. Access continued innovations as introduces new solutions for the Microsoft ecosystem like Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).
  6. Use Cisco’s high-bandwidth, low-latency, virtualization-aware unified network fabric, Cisco UCS and Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

Why Softchoice?

This partnership between Cisco and Microsoft allows you to holistically manage and orchestrate Cisco server and networking infrastructure the same way you manage your Microsoft server and application software.

Whether your data center needs a refresh or you’re one of the 8 Million instances of Windows Server 2003 that must migrate before July 2015, Softchoice has helped thousands of customers consult, implement, and manage through many Microsoft and Cisco data center projects.

To view a full list of our solutions and services related to Microsoft applications, view our Windows Server 2003 Migration page.

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About Emily A. Davidson

Emily is the Content Marketing Lead for servers, storage, networking, security and enterprise software at Softchoice. She blends her background in creative writing and B2B marketing with an insatiable curiosity about the potential of social and virtualized business.