Since 2006 Cisco IT has been using Cisco Services (both Advanced and Technical Services) to design, implement, operate, and optimize the network. Now Cisco IT has also begun using Cisco Services to manage IT applications.
Cisco supports more than 60 percent of its global employee population in the United States, and Cisco network traffic is growing on the North American backbone WAN at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world. Cisco’s North American backbone connects the company’s San Jose, California, headquarters with other large Cisco locations, including Richardson, Texas (our new primary production data center), and Raleigh, North Carolina (a key development location and our primary data center disaster recovery site). In addition, there are seven other locations on the North American backbone that serve as WAN aggregation hubs for more than 120 regional WAN sites, as well as interconnects to backbone locations in Europe, Asia, and South America.
The WAN backbone in North America has grown from three hub locations connected via DS3 (45 Mbps) in 1999 to 10 locations connected via OC-48 (2.488 Gbps) in 2007. In 2009, The Cisco OC-48 backbone was stressed by both ongoing data center migrations (thousands of applications and petabytes of data) and rapidly increasing voice and video traffic. Utilization on several individual backbone circuits routinely reached 80 percent or higher. High utilization created periodic performance issues and put the business at risk of significant impact should a backbone circuit fail during peak traffic hours.
A big part of what we do in the IT Customer Strategy and Success organization is talk to customers. They’re drawn to the Cisco on Cisco message, specifically what they can learn from our own experience deploying Cisco products and solutions. I’d say about 80 percent of the customers we talk to are struggling with how to leverage a Web 2.0 platform in the enterprise and how they can use it to conduct business more efficiently.
Cisco IT’s global WAN has a two-tiered architecture. Tier 1 is a DWDM/SONET/SDH-based global backbone that connects 22 Cisco facilities and WAN aggregation hubs in 11 countries. Tier 2 regional WANs connect at the hub sites. The regional WANs are built based on the most appropriate technology for the region, including MPLS VPN in several locations. In North America the regional WAN is currently a TDM-based private-line network with eight WAN aggregation hubs in the United States and one in Canada which we recently evaluated for possible migration to MPLS VPN.
Our evaluation highlighted the fact that MPLS VPN service offerings and cost models vary from region to region across the globe. Conditions that make MPLS VPN the WAN technology of choice in one part of the world do not necessarily apply elsewhere. In 2001, when we reviewed our SONET/ATM/Frame Relay/TDM-based WAN in Europe, we found that a service-provider-based MPLS VPN network solution was the best option for us. We were able to increase our WAN bandwidth by more than a factor of four for about the same cost. We were also able to meet our requirements for QoS for real-time voice and video applications, and native multicast needed for streaming Cisco TV broadcast of companywide and other meetings. (We support seven QoS classes, as described in Cisco IT case studies on QoS and Medianet.)
The meteoric rise and popularity of Web 2.0 tools and technologies presents several business and technical challenges for corporate IT. Before the benefits of Web 2.0 can be fully realized in the enterprise, IT needs to accept and embrace them. Following are what I see as the four overarching IT challenges from a business perspective.