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VersaStack Solution: A Foundation for Innovation

The growth of cloud, mobility, and Internet of Things is accelerating change in the data center. The challenge is to have IT infrastructure that can keep pace with this change. IT leaders want infrastructure that is easy to deploy, increases operational efficiency, and offers the versatility to meet the dynamic requirements of the business.

In order to address these challenges, Cisco and IBM are joining forces to introduce the VersaStack solution, a new integrated system that combines the performance and innovation of Cisco UCS Integrated Infrastructure—which includes the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), ACI-Ready Cisco 9000 Nexus switches, Cisco MDS switches, and Cisco UCS Director—with the versatility and efficiency of the IBM Storwize V7000 storage.

Why now?
It’s actually quite simple: market momentum and customer demand. Cisco is the leader in the integrated systems segment based on the tremendous success of Cisco UCS. Integrated systems help customers accelerate the time it takes to deploy IT infrastructure and integrate new technologies while reducing risk. Our mutual customers and channel partners have been asking for an integrated system that combined Cisco UCS with IBM Storewize.

What is available today?
The first reference architecture (or Cisco Validate Design) is targeted at virtualized infrastructure by combining Cisco UCS integrated infrastructure and IBM Storwize V7000 storage with VMware vSphere hypervisor. The solution connects Cisco UCS and networking in a redundant, high available configuration with IBM Storwize V7000 storage delivering real-time compression and data analytics capabilities that increases storage utilization and performance.

What can we expect in the future?
One of the exciting things about VersaStack is that it provides a foundation for innovation between Cisco and IBM. The VersaStack solution will provide a platform to bring our unique capabilities together. Obviously, Cisco and IBM both bring more to the table than network, compute and storage technologies. For instance, Cisco will provide innovative technologies such as Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and Intercloud Fabric (ICF). IBM will contribute software tools for network and information management, big data and analytics, and mobility. Essentially we have the opportunity to innovate together beyond the hardware stack. The goal of the VersaStack solution is to deliver an integrated system that will simplify cloud, big data and mobility deployments.

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Enabling BYOD for your Organization

 

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) technology promises many benefits to organizations.  For example, increased productivity results when users can access data with any device, anywhere, anytime.  By both simplifying and automating security and policy management, IT management costs can also be reduced.  There are equipment savings as well, since organizations can leverage the use of personal electronics that their employees already own.

There’s a lot to enabling BYOD.  IT can’t afford to manage every single device that wants to join the network.  There are also security issues, such as preventing stolen mobile devices from providing unrestricted access to sensitive data.

Cisco has worked with OneNeck IT Solutions to provide a comprehensive BYOD solution for businesses and other organizations.  OneNeck IT Solutions is a Cisco Gold Partner.  They have advanced specializations in mobility and security and are leading the industry in helping companies successfully embrace BYOD technology.

The OneNeck BYOD solution includes:

  • Identity Services Engine: Unifies policy-based service enablement that ensures corporate and regulatory compliance of all devices on your network.
  • Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client: Simplifies the VPN experience with enhanced remote access technology.
  • Intelligent Network infrastructure: Security is embedded into wired, wireless, and VPN access points to provide greater visibility and enforcement.
  • Mobile Device Management: Seamlessly integrates your BYOD strategy with solutions from leading market providers.
  • Virtual Desktops: Provides secure access to desktops from any device.

OneNeck also offers many advanced features to assure the security of both devices and the network.  You can read more about these features in this blog from OneNeck. To learn more about Cisco’s BYOD solutions, visit http://www.cisco.com/web/solutions/trends/byod_smart_solution/index.html.

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Part 3 – SDN Questions to Ask at the Gartner Data Center Conference

My final observation from my days at the London Gartner Data Center Conference is related to SDN and ease of network management – or otherwise.  Hopefully this discussion will give you some ideas for good questions to ask at the Las Vegas conference, which is running as I write this.

Cisco UCS on show at the Gartner Data Center Conference

Cisco UCS on show at the Gartner Data Center Conference

Before I start, if you are at the conference in Las Vegas, please do take time out to visit the Cisco stand #305 to find out more onCisco solutions including Unified Computing and ACI.  Also take some time to say hello to our with new, exciting team members from our Metacloud acquisition – it’s fantastic to have such OpenStack and DevOps expertise in particular part of the Cisco team.

To catch up on my earlier questions, see my part 1 and part 2 blogs – questions you can ask at any SDN conference or of any vendor, since this blog series is not just about the Gartner conference. Now on to more SDN questions to ask ….

 

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Transparently Offloading Data Warehouse Data to Hadoop using Data Virtualization

More data allows for better and more expansive analysis. And better analysis is a critical success factor for businesses today.

But most data warehouses use the once-in-never-out principle when storing data. So whenever new business activities occur, new data is added without removing old data to make room. New data sources, such as data from social media networks, open data sources, and public web services further expand the warehouse. Unfortunately, all this growth comes at a cost.

Is there a way you can have your cake and eat it too?

With Hadoop and Cisco Big Data Warehouse Expansion, you can.

Disadvantages of More Data

While everyone understands the business advantage that can be derived from analyzing more data, not everyone understands the disadvantages that can occur including:

  • Expensive data storage: Data warehouse costs include hardware costs, management costs, and database server license fees.  These grow in line with scale.
  • Poor query performance: The bigger the database tables, the slower the queries.
  • Poor loading performance: As tables grow, loading new data also slows down.
  • Slow backup/recovery: The larger the database, the longer the backup and restore process.
  • Expensive database administration: Larger databases require more database administration including tuning and optimizing the database server, the tables, the buffer, and so on.

Three Options to Control Costs

The easiest way to control data warehouse costs is to simply remove data, especially the less-frequently used or older data. But then this data can no longer be analyzed.

Another option is to move the lesser-used data to tape. This option provides cost savings, and in an emergency, the data can be reloaded from tape. But analysis has now become EXTREMELY difficult.

The third option is to offload lesser-used data to cheaper online data storage, with Hadoop the obvious choice. This provides a 10x cost savings over traditional databases, while retaining the online access required for analysis.

This is the “have your cake and eat it too” option.

The Fast Path to Transparent Offloading

Cisco provides a packaged solution called Cisco Big Data Warehouse Expansion, which includes the data virtualization software, hardware, and services required to accelerate all the activities involved in offloading data from a data warehouse to Hadoop.

And to help you understand how it works, Rick van der Lans, data virtualization’s leading independent analyst, recently wrote a step-by-step white paper, Transparently Offloading Data Warehouse Data to Hadoop using Data Virtualization, that explains everything you need to do.

Read The White Paper

Download Transparently Offloading Data Warehouse Data to Hadoop using Data Virtualization here.

 

Learn More

To learn more about Cisco Data Virtualization, check out our page.

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Pros and Cons: Do-It-Yourself Approaches to Monitoring Shadow IT & Cloud Services

Shadow IT is estimated to be 20-40 percent beyond the traditional IT budget. The ease by which organizations can purchase apps and services from cloud service providers (CSP) contributes significantly to this spending. This is an eye-catching number worthy of investigation—not only to identify and reduce costs, but to discover business risks. So, it is no surprise that CIOs and CFOs have started projects to identify and monitor unknown CSPs.

I often get questions from customers asking if it is possible for IT to monitor cloud service usage and discover shadow IT using existing technologies, and what the pros and cons would be.

The first CSP monitoring approach I am asked about is the use of secure web gateways. A gateway captures and categorizes incoming web traffic and blocks malicious malware. The benefit of this approach is that the gateways are typically already in place. However, there are several limitations in relying exclusively on this approach. Gateways cannot differentiate between a traditional website and a CSP which might be housing business data. They also have no way of discerning whether a given CSP poses a compliance or business risk. Most importantly, to use gateways to track CSPs, IT would need to create and maintain a database of thousands of CSPs, and create a risk profile for each CSP in order to truly understand the specific service being consumed.

The second approach I get asked about is whether organizations can use NetFlow traffic to monitor CSPs. Many customers feel that they can build scripts in a short amount of time to capture usage. Simply answered, yes this can be done. But organizations would face a similar challenge as if they were using web gateways. To capture CSP traffic using NetFlow, IT would need to develop scripts to capture every CSP (numbering in the tens of thousands). Then identify how each CSP is being used, the risk profile of the CSP to an organization, and how much the CSP costs to project overall spend. This is just the beginning. An IT department would then need to build reporting capabilities to access the information as well as continually maintain the database; and apply resources to this undertaking on a monthly basis to ensure the database was current.

The good news, Cisco has done this work for our customers! We have developed Cloud Consumption Services to help organizations identify and reduce shadow IT. Using collection tools in the network, we can discover what cloud services are being used by employees across an entire organization. Cloud Consumption includes a rich database of CSPs and can help customers identify the risk profile of each CSP being accessed, and identify an organization’s overall cloud spend.

Cisco has helped many IT organizations discover their shadow IT. For example, we worked with a large public sector customer in North America who was struggling to embrace the cloud, but were concerned about business risks. Employees were pushing for cloud services to improve productivity when 90% of Internet traffic was blocked by the organization’s policy. Despite these restrictions, 220 cloud providers were being used already and less than 1% were authorized by IT. Leveraging Cloud Consumption Services, the customer was not only able to manage risk, but also authorize future cloud services based on employee needs in a controlled manner.

It is a good practice for every IT organization to understand how employees are using cloud services and monitor usage on an on-going basis. I encourage our customers to determine which approach would work best for their organization; otherwise they may face unknown business risks and costs.

To learn more about avoiding the pitfalls of shadow IT and how you manage cloud services, please register to attend an upcoming webinar on Dec 11, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. PT.

 

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