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Acxiom uses ACI to transform their private cloud

May 5, 2014 at 3:00 am PST

Acxiom is a well-known Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company providing data analytics and data processing solutions to Fortune 100 companies for running and analyzing their marketing campaigns.  Recently Cisco spoke to Acxiom’s senior managers Kamal Kharrat, and Chuck Crane, about Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) strategy and how it helps them address their Data Center challenges. In this blog, I will present a brief summary of our discussions. Acxiom is experiencing exponential growth in its customer base, running millions of transactions every week in their hybrid-cloud based data centers.  But this growth has brought in its wake several challenges. Acxiom stores confidential, compliance driven data in their private data center infrastructure, and is currently facing elastic scalability problems. Second, they want to transition from a high CAPEX, fixed infrastructure utilization model towards a dynamic model, in which workloads can be seamlessly moved across the private and public infrastructures. Besides, Axciom has a heteregenous mix of L4-L7 vendor devices, multi-hypervisor and security systems and has a pressing need for an open, policy based extensible foundation for their AOS SAAS to bring these services together.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Acxiom is excited to consider Cisco ACI as the best solution to address these problems and are looking to automate their compute, storage and security infrastructure provisioning and achieve the elasticity requirements in their private cloud similar to what they are achieving in the public cloud.  Also, Acxiom plans to move the workloads in and out of compute and storage platforms while changing the security zones on-demand increasing the resource utilization to upwards of 80%.  Mr. Chuck Crane is quick to point out that Acxiom makes more than 20,000 network and security configuration changes every year and feels the only way to keep up with the growing customer base is to eliminate the labor intensive man-hours and costs that go with them, and hopes to achieve significant reduction in these inefficient processes via automation. He says ACI is the key to arm the network operations to automate the operations and ultimately attain the competitive advantage of agile IT resulting in faster time to market and capitalizing new revenue opportunities.

Today, depending on the solution, it takes about 7 days to 3 weeks for a full provisioning of the resources and the goal is to bring the provisioning time down to hours. With ACI, they say, Acxiom aims to achieve 24-hour turnaround in end-end infrastructure  provisioning for application deployments Acxiom will realize a significant reduction in OPEX with this automation.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Last, let us look at how ACI’s Openness helps Acxiom’s data center operations. When looking at repatriating an application (Figure 2) into a private data center, one of the critical challenges is the ability to port the same tools and automation from the public to the private cloud and the network infrastructure is a critical layer in realizing this goal. The open standards based ACI helps Acxiom to use their existing tools and expertise in working across public and private clouds in building infrastructure quickly and achieving the business goals of faster time to market resulting in increased revenue potential.

In conclusion, the Acxiom executives assert that ACI allows their private datacenters to integrate best of breed technologies with their existing infrastructure and achieve full automation seamlessly using service stitching from compute through load balancing through the security platforms -- all from a single point of control. This helps Acxiom to optimize costs, reduce turnaround times and at the same time work seamlessly across private and public clouds.

Related:

Acxiom Executives share customer insights on Application Centric Infrastructure (video)

The Promise of an Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI)

Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) Includes Strong Partner Ecosystem for Security and Network Services

The Dynamic Security Model of Cisco ACI (video)

New Applications Are Knocking: Is your Data Center OPEN for Business? (video)

Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI): Application Network Profiles for Security and Network Services

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6 Healthcare IT Transitions: The Hackers delight

May 4, 2014 at 10:15 pm PST

From FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to FBI (Federal bureau of Investigations), they see a core issue bubbling up: The vulnerability of Healthcare systems to cyber-attacks. Both agencies have issued an advisory in this regard in the last 1 year.

Source: DataLossDB.org

Source: DataLossDB.org -- Healthcare amounts to 17% of incidents in 2013

FDA Advisory was focused on medical devices and hospital networks, while the FBI’s communication is focused on hackers attempting to hack personal medical records and health insurance data and even goes to calling out the gaps in resiliency to cyber-attacks as compared with other sectors such as financial and retail sectors.

In addition, looking at statistics from datalossdb.org, Health Care sector has consistently been in the top 3 sectors that have had the most incidents.

But the question is, why now?

This is where the correlation with the Health Care IT transition time lines adds up. It’s the other side of Health Care IT transitions that we looked at in the previous part (At the security cross roads of Healthcare reforms and IoE – 6 Health Care IT Transitions) of this blog series – the threat that have emerged from open anywhere, anytime, any device access which has enabled convenience and transformational experience to patients and care teams.

Let’s see an example of the changing dynamics of some of these transitions from a Hackers perspective by analyzing one of these transitions: Transition from Paper charts to EMR and enabling anywhere anytime, any device access to my care teams and my patients.

Health Care IT Transitions and their Security Implications 1-3 of 6

Health Care IT Transitions and their Security Implications (1-3 of 6)

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Don’t Gamble with Your EMC World Schedule: A Helpful Guide

May 2, 2014 at 5:30 pm PST

Has it actually been a whole year? Yes, it is time for #EMCWorld again, and Cisco has a lot to talk about this year.

Find the complete listing of Cisco sessions, speakers, demos, and more here.

geek_regatta

A few items to note:

  • Cisco Booth: #202 — visit for great sessions, whiteboarding with experts, and for a “I <3 UCS” hat, then wear your new hat, show your love, and win!
  • Wednesday, May 7: 11:00 am -- 11:30 am, #CiscoChampion Jonas Rosland (@virtualswede) presents High–Performance Splunk on EMC Scale–Out Storage, Cisco UCS Servers, and VMware in the Cisco Booth Theater
  • #EngineersUnplugged: Take your shot at Internet fame! 2 Engineers, 1 Whiteboard, 10 Minutes of Tech. We’ll be shooting episodes Monday -- Wednesday. Or drop by for a lightning challenge with the all-new 60SecondTech:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkMTd9L3gxs

  • Demonstrations at Cisco Booth #202 include the following:
    • Management and Automation for Integrated Infrastructures
    • Cisco Solutions for VSPEX
    • Data Center Networking
    • Multilayer Data Switching Solutions
    • Unified Data Center Rack
    • VCE Vblock Rack
    • Cisco UCS 3D Virtual Display

Last but not least, did we mention the remote-controlled boat racing? Yes, you read that correctly. When the learning for Tuesday is done, join us for the first annual Geek Regatta!

The Geek Regatta Customer Appreciation Reception

Date: Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Time: 6:30–10 p.m.
Boat race time: 7–9:30 p.m.
Location:   Tao Beach | The Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas

This event is invite-only, and you’ll need your event badge and a sticker to attend. Visit the booth for registration information if you haven’t already signed up! Don’t worry, we have field-tested the boats, and they are fully operational.

No geese were harmed in the making of this video: 

Looking forward to seeing you in Vegas! Follow us @CiscoDC or Tweet my way @CommsNinja if you’re there or watching virtually.

 

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South of Several Borders

Let me tell you a little about a country I’d not been to before until recently: Chile. Beyond its abundant natural resources and terrific terroir for wine grapes, Chile has become a hub for banking and retail companies with operations that span Latin America. Through the continued growth of business and the Chilean public sector and government leadership going through a period of change, Chile continues to adopt cutting edge technology to become more connected. In short, Chile is quite amazing.

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Attending Cisco Live 2014? Nine Internet of Things (IoT) solution demos you must see!

If you are like many attendees visiting Cisco Live US 2014 this year, you’ve probably experienced at least one or more power failures that significantly impacted the quality of your life and work lasting for days or weeks.  We frequently read about the impacts of power failures, but unless you work in the utility industry you probably have never heard in detail about why and how problems occur and what can be done to prevent them.

Utility Substation

Thermal Pattern of Utility Substation indicating a problem, Photo courtesy of Brady Inspections, Inc.

According to industry subject matter expert, James Brady, Level III Certified Infrared Thermographer, Brady Infrared Inspections, Inc., the applications of infrared/thermography can help to easily identify and solve many problems in 1) power plants, 2) substations, and 3) transmission and distribution equipment that can prevent outages, improve safety, security and reliability of services while also helping to prevent injuries to utility workers and citizens.

While most utility companies have active maintenance programs to conduct inspections of transformers, switches, oil-filled tank equipment including breakers, voltage regulators, lightning arrestors, feeder lines, get-a-way poles and other equipment, they frequently do this only periodically, not continuously across all their operations since they do not have the resources, expertise or tools.  Today this is changing even more rapidly as new technologies such as infrared are allowing for greater situational awareness. As James Brady points out in his article Infrared Inspection of Electric Utility Equipment: Documenting Common and Not-So-Common Thermal Exceptions, “the bottom line is infrared is a powerful tool that can identify problems quickly, accurately, and safely in the electrical utility industry.”

A Warm Utility Pole Lighting Resistor

A Warm Utility Pole Lighting Resistor, Photo courtesy of Brady Inspections, Inc.

Using infrared is a great example of a technology that can be enabled in sensors such as thermal cameras, to help utilities more effectively identify, detect and prevent problems.  Imagine if utilities could more easily harness the power of infrared technology across their operations. This is the opportunity of what is possible with the Internet of Things (IoT) and why so many IT and operational technology industries are excited about the benefits that are available.

So, today, what do you think most detracts utilities, or any business with similar operational needs, from deploying new technologies such as infrared more pervasively to optimize the utilization of their assets?

A) Lack of expertise?
B) The cost of deploying the technology economically everywhere it is needed?
C) The shortage of and abilities of people to make decisions quickly enough?
D) All of the above?

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