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Global Health IT Services Provider: Cisco ACI Integration

Multi-step proof of concept proves integration feasibility of next-gen compute platform with customer's existing Cisco ACI environment

Intelligent Healthcare Solutions

With IT services on the rise across the industry, health facilities must adopt solid technology foundations to provide excellent patient care while maintaining costs and revenues. A large part of this foundation includes the ability to run workloads on a powerful compute platform.

A global Health IT Services Provider was considering migrating to HPE Synergy as a next-gen compute platform to meet its demanding client-to-server ratio needs. While this move was kickstarted by end-of-life concerns for the provider’s legacy system, an upgraded system would allow it to run more workloads on a much smaller data center footprint. Migrating would also adjust their workloads-to-server ratio from 4:1 to 6:1 and save on data center space, power and cooling costs.

The Provider was concerned that introducing Synergy would impact their existing Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) deployment. As a file and services provider for more than 27,000 health facilities worldwide, the Provider was striving to elevate its customer experience and lower internal cost with this new implementation.

They turned to WWT to evaluate their current ACI environment and discover the best course for integrating HPE Synergy Virtual Connect.

ATC lab services

To fully assess both the benefits and fallbacks of incorporating the compute power of HPE Synergy with Cisco ACI, the Provider’s environment needed to be fully mimicked within our Advanced Technology Center (ATC), with all workloads running at scale.

While recreating customer environments is a regular task for ATC engineers, this engagement covered some new ground. The Provider offered an interface for an electronic medical records database, with over 500,000 customers connected to the system at any given time. Mirroring this environment required bringing together advanced technologies from a variety of vendors (Cisco, HPE, VMware, Citrix) while working with multiple disciplines including compute, virtualization and operations.

ATC engineers were able to architect more than 500 virtual devices that reflected the Provider’s end-user compute footprint and demonstrated how the workloads could be moved into ACI and run on HPE’s platform, with zero downtime.

Multi-step proof of concept

With the Health IT Services Provider's environment built at scale in the ATC, WWT engineers were ultimately able to assess and test several factors related to Cisco ACI integration.

Test 1: Complete workload migration from fabric path to Cisco ACI

The Provider was an early adopter of Cisco ACI but was not yet taking full advantage of the investment. Some workloads were still running on traditional switching methods, or FabricPath, and the ACI network was used mostly in a non-production environment, prohibiting the automation capabilities and ease of support that a complete deployment offers.

The Provider’s end goal was to move all workloads out of the fabric path and into their ACI network. As part of the proof of concept (POC) engagement with WWT, ATC engineers demonstrated the easiest way to make this move with almost zero downtime.

To accomplish this, we leveraged native tools within VMware and Citrix to move large amounts of compute resources from one host to another, using server hardware to reflect both current and future infrastructure designs.

We offer unique insight into any ACI roadmap thanks to our expertise in ACI solution design and architecture.

Test 2: Greenfield implementation of HPE Synergy Virtual Connect

We worked in conjunction with HPE engineers to develop a script that would sync the configuration of Cisco ACI and HPE Synergy Virtual Connect.

Through POC testing and demonstration, we presented how the configuration would be accomplished and determined the limiting factors that would accompany this integration. We found that Synergy had the raw compute strength that the Provider was looking for; however, the connectivity and integration with Cisco ACI needed time to mature before the Provider could achieve full network manageability.

Test 3: Introduction of Cisco UCS

After demonstrating both successes and obstacles when integrating HPE Synergy, we tested the configuration of Cisco UCS as their main compute platform.

As a Cisco product, UCS cleanly integrates into the ACI architecture. However, the platform had less overall compute capability than Synergy and also failed to fit into the Provider’s long-term compute strategy.

Cost-effective outcomes

In the coming year, the Provider will migrate as much as 50 percent of its current compute platform to Cisco ACI. This move positions the organization to then make a decision regarding a next-gen compute platform, since they can integrate the chosen computing power directly into Cisco ACI.

Choosing WWT to perform this proof of concept gave the Provider an advantage to making this decision. Our engineers acted as a neutral third party by bringing together and testing multiple vendors within our ATC lab environment, ultimately allowing the Provider to make an informed choice.

The Provider continues to look at Synergy as their future compute platform and now trusts WWT to test, validate, design and deploy future technology solutions to benefit its customers.