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Requiem for a Data Center

Cisco IT has, as you may have heard, been shutting down some of its Data Centers. We’ve closed dozens of older facilities – some large, many small – in the past 10 years, consolidating into purpose-built rooms that better enable our business.

The latest to close was the company’s longest-running Development Data Center, located at Cisco headquarters in San Jose. It’s one of two server environments that I worked in daily when I joined Cisco in the late 1990s. Even after designing, working in, and touring many other facilities since, when someone talks about what a Data Center is that room still appears in my mind’s eye.

I took a final walk around the mostly-empty space recently. I hadn’t been in there in years and it was a bit like visiting my old high school. Things looked slightly smaller than I remembered, and several items triggered unexpected memories.

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Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

As I’ve mentioned in more than one post, I enjoy touring Data Centers.  One detail I pay attention to during these visits is signage.

Are patch panels and structured cabling labeled, so it’s easy to trace connections between devices? Is electrical circuit information provided at each cabinet location, so power feeds can be quickly identified? Do alarms (fire and otherwise) have instructions nearby, telling visitors what their various audio tones and light patterns mean? 

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Cisco Supports User Data Privacy in Landmark Case between Microsoft and the US Government

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard arguments in Microsoft’s litigation with the U.S. government over data stored in its Ireland data center. Cisco joined together with Verizon, HP, eBay, salesforce, and Infor to file an amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of Microsoft’s position. The Government of Ireland along with Apple, the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fox News, and NPR also supported Microsoft’s argument.

The case turns on whether or not the U.S. government can serve a warrant at a location in the United States demanding access to data stored abroad. (The specific facts involve a warrant for the contents of a Hotmail account hosted in Ireland sought as part of a narcotics investigation).

The case is important to Cisco because it demonstrates our commitment to protecting European data privacy.

Here we are supporting the notion that Europeans who store data within their own region can rightfully claim the protections of their own laws against foreign (in this case U.S.) government demands for access.

The brief Cisco joined makes four arguments:

    • There is a presumption against giving U.S. laws extraterritorial reach where Congress hasn’t explicitly expressed that intention or where the law would create significant conflicts of law with other countries. (Both are true here).
    • Allowing the U.S. government to compel data from foreign storage locations would put U.S. providers in a bind—potentially subjecting them to civil and criminal liability abroad for complying with U.S. law.
    • The U.S. government view would ignore Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT) treaties, infringe on the sovereignty of Ireland, and empower foreign governments to compel access to data owned by American citizens and businesses.
    • Even if the law allows the U.S. government to reach data in the possession and control of companies doing business in the United States, it should not reach data owned by Europeans who happen to be customers of such providers.

Important updates to U.S. laws that limit governmental access to electronic communications in criminal cases are needed. We are optimistic that a combination of decisions by U.S. courts and action by Congress can help create a modernized framework for protecting privacy and managing cross-border governmental data demands. We support codifying Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) reform so that U.S. law explicitly requires warrants for content stored in the cloud. Cisco also supports of a proposed legislative fix offered by U.S. Senators Hatch (R-UT), Heller (R-NV), and Coons (D-DE) called the LEADS Act, which would limit the reach of ECPA warrants obtained by U.S. law enforcement and update the MLAT process. These changes will allow governments to seek information necessary to investigate and prosecute crimes in an efficient manner without violating reasonable expectations of privacy—or trapping providers between competing legal requirements.

The Origins of Fast IT

Fast IT – It started in our Data Center, and now it’s everywhere

“Fast IT” started for Cisco as “Easy IT”. It was our data center infrastructure engineers who saw that they could automate a 3-week job (building virtual server infrastructure in the data center) in under 15 minutes, and of course they jumped at the chance. They built a set of scripts to automate these processes and saved themselves a LOT of work.

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Cisco IT’s User Experience Playbook: Content, Search, and Collaboration

Have you or one of your co-workers ever said “I can’t find my stuff!”? We’ve heard it a lot. Chapter 3 of Cisco IT’s User Experience (UX) Playbook is dedicated to never having to hear “I can’t find my stuff” again. 

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