The Rise of Cisco UCS and the Cisco Services Data Center Transformation Experience

March 2009 was an exciting time for both for Cisco and for me personally.  Cisco launched the revolutionary Unified Computing System, with many observers across the industry doubting if we’d stay the course (and if we’re honest, some truly misplaced derision — I wonder who is on Planet Zircon now!).  And I joined the Cisco Data Center Services team from the Cisco R&D organization!  So with the recent third generation launch of Cisco UCS, described very well by my colleague Todd Brannon, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on our data center services portfolio around that time, and where we are now.  My previous blogs chronicle part of this journey, however I have to say, the direct comparison I draw here I personally think shows that we have indeed brought a new transformational experience to the data center for our customers. And I’d like to give you my personal recollections on how and what I found out about Cisco’s approach to shaking the incumbents’ lack of innovation in the blade server market.

In January 2009, a few months prior to the launch of Cisco UCS, I’d (as you would expect) no idea that we were about to launch a sustained assault on the blade server market.  I was working in the Cisco R&D team for network management, focused on the server provider market.  I had decided it was time to do something new, and I applied internally for a position in the Advanced Services Product Management team, focused on data center. I previously worked in the IT function of Sun Microsystems in Scotland, which was my data center background (and a fabulous place to work) — however that was a while back (1990-1994 — yes I’m that old! :-) ) and my knowledge of data center challenges was dated.  I started to look around, and I couldn’t believe what I had been missing in the data center.  Every industry magazine I picked up to prepare for the interview, every web site I looked at, talked about the challenges of the data center.  Power requirements.  Green issues.  Sprawl issues.  Domination of the data center market by incumbents who were doing “more of the same” (and in many case still are!).  What had I been missing while working in service provider?!  I was sold and jumped into the new role, working with a whole bunch of fantastic people in the process, in many parts of the world.

I heard about “Project California” (Cisco’s original project codename for UCS).  And to be honest I was shocked to see some of the industry rumours already out there via Google search.   I personally was quite surprised — in a way — that we were about to enter the blade server market.  However I knew from working in Cisco since 2000, that this is what we do in Cisco. Many industry observers (still) think that Cisco doesn’t innovate internally, but uses acquisitions to achieve innovation.  I joined Cisco via an acquisition in 2000.  So I knew, from 9 years as part of Cisco R&D, that such observations were completely off-base — sure we acquire for innovation, but that’s only part of the strategy.   I knew that Cisco invests substantially in internal innovation (I’d see this every day in my time in Cisco’s R&D organization).  And I knew from experience that we were in this for the long haul- and still are.  So when May 2011, IDC reported that Cisco held the number 3 market share position (and number 2 position in the US), I reflected again: this is just what we do in Cisco.

So back to the Cisco Data Center Service capabilities.   At the start of 2009, our data center services portfolio was structured around our core strengths in data center networking, and nascent areas of data center virtualization and data center facilities design, as shown in the diagram below.  Industry observers — perhaps understandably — questioned our launch of Cisco UCS and data center focus in terms of whether we could compete with the services capabilities of some of the incumbents, whether we had both breadth and depth of capability and talent.  They understood that professional services were a key part of a data center player’s offering.  In Cisco, we fully understood this too.  Quite a few of the observers back in March 2009 doubted our resolve in this market.  Too many under-estimated what Cisco can do when we enter a new market.

Cisco Data Center Services Portfolio 2008

Cisco Data Center Services Portfolio 2008

So as we do in Cisco, we focused on the longer term and the market transition.  We worked with pioneering customers across the globe as we built our services capabilities.  We replicated and scaled globally.  We helped many customers transform their data center.  We helped many customers introduce new cloud-based services, helping to transform their business opportunities and competitiveness.  I reflected again: this is just what we do in Cisco.

In the meantime, our competitors told you myths about the “good enough network”.  And over-promised yet under-delivered.  And blustered more about Cisco UCS and their not-quite-good-enough networking.

Fast forward now to 2012.

Cisco Data Center Services Portfolio Evolution 2008-2012

As you can see from the diagram above, since 2009, we’ve added many new globally-scaled service capabilities to our portfolio. We’ve enabled the deployment of Cisco UCS in many of our customers.  We are one of the leading professional services providers for cloud (more on this in a future blog).   We’ve combined internal innovation and capability development with close partner relationships.  We use close partnerships with leading specialists to jointly deliver Data Center Facilities Design and Application Migration Services.

And we’ve continued to deliver customers a data center transformation experience.    We helped theTatts Group in Australia reduce networking outages by 80%, while gaining 10 times in core networking capacity (enabling business growth) via a data center consolidation program.    We helped Savvis set the bar for enterprise cloud, by creating a new class of enterprise cloud services.  We enabled Carecore to progress their vision for evidence-based medicine with the VCE Vblock platform.  At EMC, we transformed the end user experience with the Oracle E-Business suite, replacing a legacy compute platform with Cisco UCS.   We transformed the business model at Italian integrator TSF, where Cisco UCS was the platform for their cloud transformation (a personal favourite of mine since it was the first Cisco UCS deployment in Europe, and the first I was involved in, not long after joining the Cisco Data Center Services team in Europe).   We primed and delivered a substantial data center migration project for Molina Healthcare, reducing network application traffic by 80% in the process. Who says all we want to do is sell more networking gear?  At Cisco, it’s about customer satisfaction.

I could go on.  Suffice to say, this is just what we do in Cisco.  It’s been an exciting 3 years in Cisco Data Center Services.  It’s been an exciting time for me personally, as I hope I’ve conveyed here.  If this is what we’ve done in the first 3 years, what does the future hold?!  Get in touch and we can help you with the Cisco Services Data Center Transformation Experience.

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“You’re going to need a bigger room” NC UCS User Group

The NC UCS UCS Group is a hit! The Users have spoken and with the help of some great speakers, we have successfully completed 2 NC User Group meetings for this quarter. We had very good turnout in both Greensboro and RTP.


We had some great speakers including Jose Martinez for our amazing Technical Assistance Center. Jose covered UCS best practices and UCS troubleshooting. It’s always intresting to hear the questions that come up during the user groups.

“Can I connect a storage device to a fabric interconnect” Absolutely!!

“How does port channeling work with the fabric interconnect?” And when a whiteboard was not available, Jose stayed back with the customer and went the extra mile. See for yourself. No whiteboard…. wait, here’s a paper plate!

Josh Atwell provided a presentation and demo at both the RTP and Greensboro session showing off UCS PowerTool (0.9.7 Just Relased) . There have been some great recents enhancements.

  • Support to generate PowerTool cmdlets for configuration actions perfomed in the GUI — ConvertTo-UcsCmdlet
  • Support for newly introduced MOs in the recent 2.0(2m) release

Josh’s demo included UCS role manipulation. He did a write up on his blog about the process.

Last but not least.

Jason Nash did an update on our newly released UCS M3 B-Series blade and C-series rackmount. Jason has been working with UCS since the beginning and really understands the solution from every aspect. He also did a great blog write up during the official release.

Jason also recently published a TrainSignal video series covering all aspects of UCS. If you are new to UCS it’s a great way to get started.

And if that wasn’t enough! We had some great discussion between customers. We have a “No biting” policy at the user group. We want everyone to feel like they can and should contribute to the conversation. After all it is the UCS “USER” group. When is the next meeting? Not in the NC area? Want to attend a UCS user group?

Check out a listing in your area.

A big thank you to all the speakers and companies that donated giveways!!


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High Density Demand Will Test Your Network’s Readiness for Mobility

I was driving home the other day when I heard a radio report on densely populated California cities. What’s interesting was a mention of a small California city that is ranked as the nation’s fourth most dense urbanized area. I guess that a lot of people don’t know Delano, a central valley city with a population density of 5,483 people per square mile. It’s surprisingly more dense than the New York-Newark, N.J. metropolitan area which is ranked the 5th.

Many people with many devices in a densely populated area can pose a challenge to WiFi networks. I was talking to a Cisco customer in the New York City area a few days ago. He said that deploying WiFi was not as straightforward as it used to be. There are many RF interferences near his office and many new SSIDs that he never saw before.

Many businesses are settling down after experiencing the initial Bring Your Own Device or BYOD shockwave. Some of them are adding new wireless access points to prepare their networks for a variety of devices at the workplace: laptops or desktops, tablets, and smart phones.  An effective solution, however, goes beyond just adding new wireless access points. Taking care of RF spectrum related issues is an important element. It is also essential to ensure that mission-critical applications such as business video are working properly even when the network load is heavy. More specifically, the ability to manage network traffic in both wireless and wired networks plays a vital role.

As a mobility and video example, check out this NPR story about what brick-and-mortar retailers might choose to do in order to earn business from their customers.  A combination of WiFi tracking and video can help a store to locate precisely where its shoppers are. Such information can greatly increase its ability to interact with shoppers by offering them specific discounts and coupons based on their physical locations inside the store.

Of course, video is not just limited to locating shoppers. Many businesses, including Cisco, are widely using rich media communication and collaboration tools to interact with employees and customers.

Cisco offers many innovative technologies such as Cisco CleanAir and VideoStream to help navigate through RF and video related challenges in the wireless world. Advanced Cisco IOS intelligence such as Flexible Netflow can help optimize network traffic further once the mobile traffic hits the wired infrastructure.

Do you feel that your network is ready for the test?

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Big Data: Coming Soon to Your Doctor’s Examining Room – Part 2

William Moore is Executive Vice President and CTO for CareCore National, LLC. CareCore’s private cloud is based on the Cisco Unified Data Center.

This is part 2 of Bill Moore’s blog focused on Big Data in the healthcare industry. Read part 1 and related blog, “It’s a Boy!”

In part 1 of my blog I proposed that the cloud is succeeding in enabling new healthcare models where the original electronic medical records (EMRs) vision stalled. The reason is that the cloud has the scale to manage and analyze very large data sets—so-called big data.

Big data and the new analysis tools it demands are changing the game for healthcare. They reveal insights about outcomes across very large reservoirs of patient information that previously weren’t possible to analyze, at least not in real time.  

The vision is giving your doctors an evidence-based clinical tool that factors in your entire history, collected from multiple independent sources. These might include lab results, previous physician input, hospital data, and retrospective claims history. Placing this kind of tool in a physician’s hands at the moment of need is game-changing.

Evidence-Based Clinical Tools in the Cloud

That’s what we do at CareCore. The foundation of our service is evidence-based medicine sourced from panels of leading physicians in their fields. We’ve added workflows to support the physician in collecting patient information that big-data analysis has shown to influence outcomes.

Consider a physician is treating a cardiac patient. Not long ago, the physician had to rely solely his or her own historical training and knowledge, and whatever research a busy practice allowed. Today, that same physician can access real-time data on thousands of similar cardiologists treating tens of thousands of similar patients, and can review various appropriate courses of treatment in the context of efficacy for other patients like the one sitting in the exam room right now.

What Costs Less in Year One May Cost Far More by Year 10

The healthcare industry has used predictive models in the past, but they were based solely on retrospective claims data—for example, that a particular treatment had a 76 percent success rate. Rarely did these predictive tools outperform a good physician’s gut instincts, and they were, by definition, trailing.

Now, with big data in the cloud, physicians can answer the million-dollar question. That is, did a particular approach to the condition for patients similar to this patient beat the 76-percent average that the claims data predicted? Is the approach correlated with more or fewer bed days? More drug interventions?

With this type of cloud service, medical professionals might discover that the most aggressive approach, a $50,000 bypass surgery, provides a better outcome than prescribing pharmaceuticals or drug-eluding stents. Maybe the less aggressive treatment is likely to result in more interventions, ultimately costing ten times as much over the patient’s lifetime while degrading the patient’s quality of life.

What’s more, federating this information in the cloud enables a physician in a rural area who sees only 100 patients a year to make decisions informed by millions of lives.

Crowd Sourcing, for Ever Better Evidence-Based Medicine

The beauty of the cloud for healthcare decision-making is that the data set keeps growing, continually improving quality and accuracy. CareCore collected eight billion pieces of data about outcomes in 2011, up from five billion in 2010. And every day we add more data gleaned from more than 45,000 evidence-based clinical patient interactions.

Federating all of this data enables us to run queries to identify the physicians who outperform their peers treating a specific condition under a specific set of circumstances. We use advanced social media and collaboration tools to connect these individuals to our physician panels to share their knowledge. The feedback loop proves or improves evidence-based medicine and increases the velocity of learning. This is crowdsourcing at work in healthcare.

It’s the Science

It’s 2012. Medicine is science, not art, and science is steeped in data. Federating outcomes data in the cloud makes it available to physicians in ways that measurably improve outcomes. The ultimate beneficiaries are patients, who can benefit from big data regardless of their physician’s location or practice size.

To learn more:

Learn about CareCore National’s journey to the Cloud: video testimonial | case study

Read the Cisco Cloud Enablement Services Enterprise White Paper

Find out more about CareCore National’s partnership with Cisco, video

Visit the Cisco Cloud Solutions web page

NBA Fans Point, Shoot, and Score

“In basketball – as in life – true joy comes from being fully present in each and every moment,” says former LA Lakers coach Phil Jackson, and sports fans couldn’t agree more. Today’s followers of the NBA are more present and informed, every minute of every game, than ever before.

In general, the NBA’s outreach, including its websites, mobile apps, TV, and radio broadcasting, saw dramatic increases in activity over the last year.. In 2011, about 75 petabytes of video was posted. Not surprisingly, is now the #3 sports site on the web for video streams.

Watch, Michael Gliedman, CIO, NBA share how they are using technology to fuel their business:

The NBA has some amazing statistics that show its working:

  • Videos played a total of 220 million times per month in the US alone
  • 43 million individual videos viewed per month
  • an average of 4 million daily visits to
  • 21.4 million unique visitors to the site
  • Content available to more than 200 countries and territories
  • NBA TV featured more live games (96) during the regular season than any other network, and increased distribution to 55.2 million US homes.
  • set all-time records with 8 billion page views (a 33% increase over the previous year) and 2.7 billion video streams (an 133% increase over the previous year)
  • NBA GameTime mobile app downloads increased by 90% compared to the previous year

To achieve these numbers, technology is integrated into the NBA’s overall business strategy and addresses their top priorities for staying connected to the fans. The network lets the NBA be, as NBA CIO Michael Gliedman says, “everywhere the fan is.”

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Three Use Cases for Routers You’ve Never Heard Of

Routers are the link to the outside world for retail stores, bank branches, manufacturing plants, small offices, and more. Without them we couldn’t buy our groceries with credit cards, get the banking services we expect, or even do our daily work at our own jobs. As our world becomes more and more connected, the number of use cases for routers continues to grow … as do requirements for performance, security, and availability. At Cisco we are privileged to see the latest and greatest of these unusual deployments, so please read on for three interesting cases that made my head turn, and maybe will turn yours as well.

1. Speeding cameras in Scandinavia

How are Cisco routers related to speeding cameras in Scandanavia? If you’ve ever visited Norway, you know they’re serious about traffic control. Not only must every vehicle entering Oslo pay a toll, currently 26 kroner, but they also have to be very careful not to speed. Today Cisco and TDC have teamed up to connect 700 traffic enforcement cameras run by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.  We did this by placing hardened 819 machine-to-machine routers on traffic poles, using a 3G connection to securely and reliably transmit vehicle photographs.

2. Checking on oil in the Amazon

How are Cisco routers related to oil pipeline monitoring in the Amazon?Oil pipelines must be carefully monitored to ensure a good oil flow. Control centers check the speed, viscosity, and other measurements – problems on these pipelines must be immediately identified, managed, and resolved. One such pipeline in South America runs through dense, tropical jungles, but the oil company still has to take measurements every kilometer regardless of how difficult the terrain may be. The obvious answer is telemetry (remote monitoring), but the tricky part is how to provide high availability in such challenging conditions. We are meeting the challenge with Cisco 881G routers inside a NEMA box that literally have been hung from trees in the jungle, with a protective casing to keep out not just the elements, but also curious monkeys! Now we are testing the Cisco 819 to be used without a NEMA box, given its own ruggedization.

3. Supporting “solar banking” in rural India

Can Cisco routers play a role in solar banking in India? India continues to expand the reach of community services to its population, but infrastructure – roads, electricity, phone – can be a challenge, with more than half the adult population of India lacking access to formal banking. Some innovative banks are now deploying automated teller machines (ATMs) powered by solar panels. We are currently in the process of testing the ability to safely and reliably run Cisco routers solely by the power of the sun, which has looks good from initial validation within Cisco. We are confident this approach will be successful in promoting Green initiatives. It feels good to have a part in bringing banking services to rural villages in India that may not have a stable power grid.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your interest in Cisco. Please comment below if you have ever seen Cisco routers in deployments that are unusual, weird, or just plain fun!

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Cisco ASR 901: Pioneering Innovation and Product Development from Emerging Countries

Guest post from Dr. Ishwar Parulkar

Dr. Ishwar Parulkar is the CTO of Provider Access Business Unit of Cisco Systems in Bangalore.

The Indian Information Technology sector is coming of age as it focuses on innovation and product development after a couple of decades of success based on service based engineering models. The Asian software and services engineering giant is also trailblazing for the emerging world by bringing in specific technology needs of this part of the world — which often leapfrog the needs in the developed world – into global products.

One such success in this direction is ASR 901, Cisco’s next generation mobile backhaul platform that recently won the New Technology Advancement Innovation Award at the NASSCOM 2012 India Leadership Forum. This product is also a unique case of reverse innovation, where even though initially driven by critical emerging countries’ requirements, it is now a competitive product in developed countries as well.

The product definition, its design tradeoffs, execution and development of ecosystem partnerships are a pioneering model for IT MNCs in the emerging world to innovate and drive end-to-end products development from their remote sites in emerging countries.

ASR 901 addresses the needs of Access, Carrier Ethernet, TDM backhaul and Cell Site Gateway. The features and price point of this product makes it very versatile and fit a range of applications from 2G/3G/4G/LTE cell sites, CE/ME/Business Access, NID to Optical Satellites, resulting in new revenue streams for the company. It is also the first Cisco product to be completely developed from the India site – from conception, architecture, hardware/software implementation, testing and qualification to marketing.

Some of the lessons learned in the development of ASR 901 that can be generalized for other similar efforts from emerging countries are:

1) It is important to define the right product – the product needs to be relevant to the business, the remote site needs to have an advantage in that space either because of proximity to the market or domain expertise and the product has to have the right level of complexity to succeed.

2) The right type and level of talent needs to be groomed or seeded from mature technology markets. Senior technologists/architects and product marketing experts, which are typically not easily available in emerging countries are particularly critical.

3) A work culture of innovation and product development, which is different than a service engineering culture needs to be consciously created through mentoring and work practices.

4) Product development requires a mature ecosystem of partners locally. The local ecosystem in emerging countries needs to be developed via co-development, transfer of knowledge as well building long term relationships.

ASR 901 is one key milestone in the evolution of Cisco’s focus on developing its engineering capability in its second headquarters, referred to as Globalisation Centre East- starting with sustaining work, taking on increasingly complex engineering tasks over time and culminating in an original product being developed from the site. A full-fledged mainstream business unit, the Provider Access Business Unit is now located in India.

Some of Cisco’s key innovative technologies, applicable across company’s product lines, are originating out of this site. The Cisco journey of evolution of engineering capability in emerging countries is well into the next phase of innovation and thought leadership.

It’s a boy!

Related blog: Coming Soon to Your Doctor’s Examining Room by William Moore, CTO of CareCore National

 “It’s a boy!!!” my friend Kim told me just minutes after her 18 week ultrasound. Even though we were texting I could tell her excitement was restrained despite the exclamation points. Later that day she shared “he’s healthy but…[big inhale]…he has a cleft lip [even bigger exhale]”

This unexpected information meant more tests for her and her unborn son, Mason. It meant a series of surgeries starting at 6 months until age 5. It brought a lot of anxiety to Kim’s entire family.

In addition, the diagnosis raised a lot of questions such as, “Will Mason be okay? How will my family support him and cope with our baby having surgery? Will my insurance cover all that is needed to treat his cleft lip? Will his treatment be personalized? Will I…will he…be subjected to unnecessary tests? Will there be a lot of tests? Can I trust that his healthcare team is up to date on all the latest treatments? Will there be a team of healthcare experts to support us as Mason recovers from each surgery?”

Kim had a lot to prepare for and wanted to feel confident about Mason’s healthcare team. She wanted to know that the most experienced doctors would provide the best care possible based on leading industry practices.  What she wanted most was peace of mind that her son would be ok.

Improving the outcomes of patients like Mason while simultaneously alleviating the burden on physicians is no easy task. It takes a bold and innovative company to tackle such a challenge, one who is at the forefront of the healthcare industry and can envision improved care, better outcomes, and healthier people.

CareCore National is such a company. The company currently has contracts with more than 25 health plans working with 600,000 physicians providing care to 68.8 million people.

CareCore is committed to applying evidence-based medicine to improve healthcare service delivery. Using their network as the cornerstone for healthcare advances, the company’s doctors and nurses conduct an average of 45,000 medical reviews each day, authorizing procedures based on their historical effectiveness for similar patients. In the process, CareCore continually increases the size and value of decision-support systems that correlate symptoms, treatment pathways, and outcomes.

 “Physicians want to spend time seeing their patients. One of the things that CareCore does is force advances on the healthcare system by applying the latest technology to the actual care process out in the market” say Dr. Bartley Bryt, executive vice president of product & development, CareCore National.

So how do they do it? With a combination of highly rated professional and technical services, industry-leading products, and an ecosystem of partners delivered by Cisco.

Underpinning CareCore’s ability to analyze very large data sets—8 billion new pieces of evidence in 2011 alone—is a next-generation data center platform. Made up of products from Cisco, VMware, and EMC, the data center has helped to reduce time to launch new lines of business from six months to two weeks. Furthermore, software engineers can now devote 80% of their time to development versus the 50% prior to the new data center.

 “If you think of the data center as carpeting, we wanted wall-to-wall carpeting, not area rugs with gaps between,” says William Moore, chief technology officer, CareCore.

 Mapping technology investment to business objectives can be a challenge. CareCore looked to Cisco Services to help. “We are continually changing our technology, and Cisco Services provides continuity to make sure we don’t have isolated solutions deployed in a fragmented manner,” says Matt Cunningham, senior vice president of IT , CareCore.

Mason certainly didn’t care about the technology infrastructure his healthcare team invested in. His mom, who works at Cisco and is entrenched in technology didn’t care much about it either. But they are both grateful for the end result: a healthy 2 year old boy who is excited to turn 3 soon.

Hear directly from CareCore:

Related blog: Coming Soon to Your Doctor’s Examining Room

Care Core National Advances Evidence-Based Medicine [video]

Care Core National Moves Business to the Cloud [video] | [written case study]

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Cisco UCS Ecosystem for Oracle: Extend Support to Big Data and Oracle NoSQL Database

Many Big Data related innovations have been developed by Web 2.0 companies, resulting in a growing collection of open source technologies that dramatically change the culture of collaborative software development and the scale and economics of hardware infrastructure. These technologies enable data storage, management and analysis in ways that were not possible before with traditional technologies such as relational database management systems, in a cost-effective manner.

NoSQL is one such technology that has emerged as an increasingly important part of big data trends for applications that demand large volumes of simple reads and updates against very large datasets (Hadoop is the other innovation, a generic processing framework designed to execute “read only” queries and batch jobs against massive datasets). NoSQL is often characterized by what it is not, and definitions vary. It can be Not Only SQL-based or simply Not a SQL-based relational database management system. NoSQL databases form a broad class of non-relational database management systems that are evolving rapidly, and several solutions are emerging with highly variable feature sets and few standards. 

While these technologies are attractive from the standpoint of the innovations they can bring,  not all products meet enterprise requirements. Many organizations require robust, commercially supported solutions for rapid deployments and the ability to integrate such solutions in to existing enterprise applications infrastructure. 

To address these needs, Cisco and Oracle are the first vendors collaborating to deliver enterprise-class NoSQL solutions. Exceptional performance, scalability, availability and manageability are made possible by the combination of the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) and  Oracle NoSQL Database. Together, this powerful solution provides a platform for the quick deployment along with predictable throughput and latency for most demanding applications. 

Best of all, this solution blends with Cisco UCS infrastructure for enterprise applications. This is enabled by the unique capability of Cisco UCS to transparently integrate and manage infrastructure for running traditional enterprise applications including Oracle RAC on Cisco UCS B-Series Blade Servers (typically deployed with enterprise SAN storage arrays) with infrastructure for deploying Oracle NoSQL Database on Cisco UCS C-Series Rack Servers (with internal storage capacity and bandwidth). In addition, this solution provides data integration between Oracle Database and Oracle NoSQL Database with no additional hardware requirements.

A joint white paper is available at

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Big Data: Coming Soon to Your Doctor’s Examining Room – Part 1

We invited William Moore, CTO at CareCore National to share his thoughts on how cloud and big data are impacting the healthcare industry. Read related blog, “It’s a Boy!”

Now that the initial frenzy of the cloud revolution is settling, solid applications are providing a glimpse of the potential of cloud computing to change daily life for the better. In my industry, healthcare, the cloud is not simply transforming existing processes, but actually enabling new decision-making models that simply weren’t possible before.

Why Electronic Medical Records Fell Short

The healthcare industry earlier tried for transformation with electronic medical records (EMRs). The original notion was that individual physician practices could justify the investment in servers, software, and maintenance based on efficiency gains. Then we’d bubble up the health records data from multiple organizations and it would be a Shangri La moment for chronic disease models, coordinated care, care duplication, and more.

But reality fell short of the mark. Many physicians’ offices are really small business at heart. They were hard pressed to afford EMR infrastructure and all that went with it. Efficiency gains are minuscule at best if you simply print out patient charts each morning, place them on that same old clipboard, mark them up with a ballpoint pen, and then have the office manager enter the new information into the EMR system to print out next time.

Without a critical mass of EMR infrastructure, developers lacked the incentive to create standards and unifying protocols. And the lack of protocols prevented meaningful sharing of data.

Even if some of your healthcare providers do use EMRs, it’s rare that all of your providers can see yours. Connecting EMRs among more than a handful of physician practices is not technically feasible, nor is it appropriate.

Enter the Cloud and Big Data

Today, the cloud and new analysis tools are succeeding where the original EMR vision failed.

The new approach is for constituents—providers, payers, and even healthcare services organizations—to join federations, where each member contributes certain types of patient data. Rather than attempting to synchronize members’ EMRs with each other, a service provider stores this targeted data using cloud design principles. Any healthcare professional or payer who is part of the federation can access protected health information about their patient under the appropriate circumstances.

Big Data in Action: Beyond Gut Instincts

Big data, the child of the cloud revolution, does even more to advance medical science. Ever-growing data sets and more powerful analysis tools provide predictive data about the efficacy of different treatments for patients with certain characteristics.

Today we’re on the threshold of a true breakthrough in evidence-based clinical support by bringing the results of big-data analysis directly to the examining room. Imagine it: Deciding between two or three courses of treatment, your doctor has access to claims history, medical images, and past and current lab results, all wrapped in evidence-based guidelines. It comes together for one patient and one physician in one medically significant moment. As technologists, we call this the “mash-up” model.

I’ll blog more about that in part 2, available on March 29.


To learn more:

Learn about CareCore National’s journey to the Cloud: video testimonial | case study

Read the Cisco Cloud Enablement Services Enterprise White Paper

Find out more about CareCore National’s partnership with Cisco, video testimonial

Visit the Cisco Cloud Solutions web page