Isilon, UCS, Nexus get the nod for UK Community Cloud Infrastructure

(Point of note: I work for Eduserv, this is my technology take on my current project deployment).

Eduserv are building a new cloud service called ‘The Community Cloud Infrastructure’, with the first service to be deployed being the ‘University Modernisation Fund Cloud Pilot‘. (Subsequent public and hybrid clouds are planned for deployment on the platform in the future, to support Education, Health, Public Sector and other public bodies).

As part of this project, there are some exciting choices and this post is to provide some background information about the technology stack to be used in the infrastructure, and here is the technology stack outline. The purpose of the platform is to be both scalable and resilient, whilst providing down the line multi-site availability zone protection for cloud customers without a major re-design. The aim is to be able to scale the platform to support to 5,000+ physical servers (10,000+ VMs) in the first instance with a lower price point than Amazon EC2 equivalent at launch.


Cisco UCS chassis with B-series blades, fabric extenders and fabric interconnects provide the computing power to the platform. Multiple fabrics provide the pod scalability, with the UCS fabric being designed with enough north-south connectivity to find a happy medium between bandwidth and scalability. Fabric commissioning takes account of the products offered for the platform, which has bearing on the amount of contention from each physical blade.

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After much calculation, Cisco Nexus 7k and 5k switches form the backbone of the network, and form the core of the UCS infrastructure. Resilience and scalability with a 7k core and 5k distribution layer combine to produce the right amount of uplinks from the UCS chassis, plus north-south and east-west connectivity, plus connectivity to the storage. The entire network stack for cloud provision is based on 10GB connectivity, with out-of-band management connectivity connecting in at 1GB.

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Here is the exciting technology choice. Isilon X-series and NL-series storage will be used to power the cloud, with SATA disk technology and 10GB connectivity to the core switches providing massive scalability via modular architecture to 14PB! For those not familiar with Isilon technologies, there is an excellent post from arstechnica here:

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The software stack comprises a mixture of enterprise and open source options. VMware vCloud Director provision is being aimed at large institutions, IT departments, colleges and schools who wish to outsource IT operations to cloud providers for a variety of use cases, whilst OpenStack is being targeted at individuals. Options for consumption include PAYG and fixed per-month billing, with access via a portal for customer service and support.

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As time passes, I will post more information on the interesting technical and operational aspects of this project. If you have any queries or questions, please feel free to contact us for more information or leave a comment!

Jeremy loves all things technology! Has been in IT for years, loves Macs (but doesn't preach to others about their virtues), loves virtualization (and does shout about it's virtues), and sometimes skis, bikes and directs amateur plays!


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