One size does not fit all. Our customers’ needs differ greatly and they need solutions to address their unique business model. A good example of this is what I experienced recently. While I was at the coffee shop the other day, the owner came up to me and asked me a question about the network he uses to provide his customers with free Wi-Fi and keep his cash register and inventory systems on line. While talking with him about the needs of his particular local coffee shop, I was again struck by how different his needs were compared to that of a large national chain shop or other businesses. In I.T., we tend to lump customers into big buckets. Coffee shops, general retail chains, health care, manufacturing…the thought is that each bucket has enough similarities to allow for a generic solution for each vertical market. It’s a reasonable thought but it tends to break down when we get into the specific business needs of each company.
Each company has its varying operating models. The difference in their operating models allows them to create competitive differentiation. That differentiation can be anything from lower prices to more generous service offerings to a greater variety of products. At Cisco, we recognize that the way our customers do business is a prime enabler to their success. This is more than the operational end of the business; it goes all the way into the data center and the data center network.
Right now, there is a plethora of new ideas for the data center network, each one with it’s own merits and demerits. One is the idea of the flat network. Flat networks eliminate the layers of networking found in a traditional data center environment. Additional layers of networking add to costs, cabling and the overall complexity of the network. Traditional multi-layer networks also are not particularly suited to facilitating a virtualized server environment where east-west traffic and workload moves are prevalent. Multi-tier networks tend to also be less adaptable for converged networking, where storage and general data traffic all flow on Ethernet with protocols like iSCSI and FCoE. Flat networking may solve many of these problems while lowering costs.
But as we said, not every business is the same. Not every customer can afford a rip and replace to install a flat network. Customers need a solution that fits their unique business model, not the networking vendor’s preconceived notions of what their network should look like. For some specific use cases, it may be the flat network and for most, that means they need more than a single-solution prescription from their networking vendor.
At Cisco, we have the industry’s largest and most diverse portfolio of data center networking equipment and the decades of experience necessary to help implement a solution that fits your needs. We provide architectural flexibility, with no pre-conceived prescriptions for your data center network. Not only can we help you meet your business goals for your data center network, we can help you refine those goals to better serve your business. No matter what your needs are, we can craft a solution that allows you to succeed in your business.
We think this little animation sums up or position on flat networks and how we can help pretty well.