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Introduction to “Cisco Datacenter Interconnect (DCI)”

As I continue to ramp up my understanding of Cisco’s innovative datacenter technologies and joint solutions with our open ecosystem partners, I had opportunity to sit down with Jake Howering, Product Manager for Cisco’s Data Center Interconnect (DCI) solution.

DCI technologies are key to connecting data centers, and simplifying the mobility and scalability of physical and virtualized application workload to address various real world scenarios.

Jake’s one of the very sharp Product Managers I’ve met. Good news is that Jake has joined the blogosphere and will be actively involved is discussions around Cisco DCI solution. Welcome Jake!

Within 30 minutes of discussion, Jake and I touched upon the basic concepts of DCI and the innovative solutions we have brought to market jointly with partners like EMC, NetApp, and VMware. Here is the summary of our discussion around DCI and what it means to the customers:

Abhinav: Why do customers need data centers that are connected over distance?

Jake: Connecting Data Centers over distance increases the service opportunity footprint from a single Data Center, to one that includes multiple Data Centers.  That is, the services that were self-contained within a single DC can now be distributed and offered to internal and external clients across multiple DC’s, increasing the opportunity for shared expenses and possibly new and greater revenue. The customer use cases currently center on being able to rapidly migrate and distribute live applications and enhance or augment existing business continuity and disaster recovery scenarios.

Abhinav: What is Cisco’s solution to achieve seamless inter-datacenter connectivity?

Jake: Data Center Interconnect (DCI) is Cisco’s solution portfolio that allows connecting Data Centers over distance.  The term DCI is relevant in all scenarios where different levels of connectivity are required between two or more data center locations in order to provide flexibility and elasticity for seamlessly deploying applications and resiliency schemes.

Abhinav: What’s the customer benefit here?

Jake: Connecting Data Centers together allows for shared resource utilization that enables new services and operations for internal consumption as well as an external service offering.  In a virtualized environment, servers and applications are de-coupled from the physical infrastructure and this also allows for additional service opportunities, including the ability to distribute the virtual machines (VM) between Data Center locations.  This can take the form of a distributed cluster or the support for VM mobility across data centers. Increasing the footprint from a single Data Center to a footprint that covers multiple Data Centers enables various customer based solutions, including workload mobility that is part of a disaster planning solution.

Abhinav: What encompasses or makes up the Cisco DCI solution portfolio?

Jake: We’ve placed the concept of DCI into four main components for a complete framework. Please note, though, that a DCI solution does not require all four components to exist for an identified use case and again, this is a framework from which to use as a reference and/or build upon.

Cisco DCI solution has four main components:

  • LAN Extensions – Stretching the Layer 2 or Layer 3 network between Data Centers. This includes various technologies like Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV), MPLS, VPLS and native Ethernet extensions.
  • Storage Extensions – Extending Storage protocols (FC, NFS, iSCSI, etc.) between Data Centers. This includes the Cisco MDS Storage Networking Solution.  Additionally, it includes our strategic partners like EMC using their VPLEX technology, and NetApp using their FlexCache technology to provide seamless data availability across data centers.  We expect the storage extensions to continue to play a critical role in DCI and will continue leveraging our partners leading edge developments.
  • Virtualization – Integrating virtualized servers and applications into the Data Center design. For example, Cisco has the Nexus 1000v for a virtualized networking layer and we work with our strategic partners like VMWare ESX hosts for the hypervisor layer.
  • Routing Optimizations – Ensuring efficient and optimized traffic forwarding to active physical and virtual machines.  This includes the latest technologies like LISP (Locator/Separator Identification Protocol), and some of Cisco’s existing routing and forwarding technologies using Cisco ACE (Application Control Engine), or the GSS (Global Site Selector) technology.

Abhinav: Do we have any architecture(s) that showcase the Cisco DCI solution?

Jake: Absolutely, we do!

We have detailed DCI collateral available in the Data Center Design Zone, readily available for customers and channel partners.  We’ve created detailed Cisco Validated Designs (CVD) as well as whitepapers.  The initial list can be found here. There is also a short YouTube video that may be interesting to check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D53AK4pRja4

Abhinav: What are you guys currently working on now? What are the enhancements over whats already available?

Jake: First, it is important to note that this is an evolving solution that is being enhanced and augmented as new use cases around solving customer needs are identified, feedback from customers, or as new products and technologies are developed.

That said, we are currently focused on Virtualized Workload Mobility (VWM), which really is the ability to migrate a virtual machine’s workload to a new Data Center location, and in the case of DCI, over distances.  Additionally, this solution addresses various customer concerns, including storage replication, the distance between Data Centers, and ensuring optimization traffic flow. Innovations around different customer use cases will be unveiled at upcoming industry events and tradeshows…hint, hint!!!.

Abhinav: Final question…anything else to add Jake?

Jake: I appreciate the time to have this conversation and I’d like to invite your readers to check out my DCI blogs here on the Cisco Datacenter site.  Thanks very much !

Abhinav: Thanks Jake, looking forward to your blogs around Cisco DCI!

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. I would highly reading Jake’s blogs as we have lot of new and exciting stuff lined up around DCI and our open ecosystem partners like VMware, EMC, etc.

As always, we highly appreciate your comments and suggestions.

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