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Some Afterthoughts on Open Network Environment, SDN and Overlay Networks

June 25, 2012 at 11:04 am PST

After our Open Network Environment (Cisco ONE) announcement at Cisco live!, where we unveiled our strategy for network programmability, Jim Duffy at NetworkWorld had a very interesting article that asks a key question, “What are the killer apps for software defined networks?” While SDN technology is very exciting and holds a great deal of promise, the answer to that question will ultimately determine how quickly it is adopted and by who. The consensus is that network virtualization or virtual network overlays are one of the early killer apps that software defined networks can certainly enable (when coupled with other technologies), which is exactly why Cisco made virtual overlays one of the three solution pillars of its ONE announcement. As I mentioned in my TechwiseTV video on virtual overlays, the primary use case for SDN/OpenFlow research in universities is also campus network slicing or creating virtual network partitions for test and production environments, e.g., to share a physical network. As noted in Duffy’s article, virtual overlays can be done with or without OpenFlow.

Open Network EnvironmentIn the aftermath of a major launch, after reading the press and analyst coverage of the news, I always ask what we could have made clearer, what could have been highlighted better, or how could we have made the complexity of some of the details easier to understand. One such point that probably could have been clarified is just how “open” the Open Network Environment (what’s in a name anyway?). Specifically, regarding our Nexus 1000V virtual overlay framework, there were some comments and questions about how open and interoperable this overlay framework was, especially compared to other vendors touting programmable overlays. One financial analyst firm even stated that our overlay networks had some great advantages, but only worked with Cisco switches.  Read More »

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Cisco Live 2012, San Diego – A perspective

Cisco Live in San Diego with a record breaking 17000 attendees was a blast, as you can tell from the video montage below.  I unwittingly ended up in the video for a brief second.

The tag line “What you make possible” was prominently displayed at the conference.  For me it was a great opportunity to talk to Cisco UCS users and partners who make a whole lot possible in their respective organizations.  The keynote by Cisco CEO, John Chambers featured moving a computation workload from a Cisco UCS server in the data center to an E-Series server in a branch office and it created a buzz.

In a customer appreciation event, I got to talk to a prominent service provider and Cisco customer who had been a user of the Cisco UCS when it was just introduced in the market three years ago.  We talked at length about how they wanted to set up a common server Read More »

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Smart Zoning and UCS for ISR

Everybody is resting and recovering from a week at Cisco Live. I’m recovering from a week at Microsoft Tech Ed in Orlando, Florida. I had the privilege of talking to customers at Microsoft Tech Ed about our new Cisco UCS E-Series x86 blades for the Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR). The Cisco ISR is our branch office router line that comes in fixed configuration and modular configurations. The ISR is commonly used to consolidate branch office services. The Cisco UCS E-Series brings serious x86 power to the modular ISR models further consolidating branch devices into the router itself. The E-Series even supports VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V bringing virtualization goodness at the branch. A common configuration is to load a simple Windows Server Core onto the E-Series with read-only ADS in case you lose connectivity to the main office. But that’s just an easy example. The E-Series has many more uses, and our customers are discovering more every day. If you are unfamiliar with the Cisco ISR, check it out, it’s a great product for branch offices.

Getting back to some of the goodies announced at Cisco Live. With NX-OS 5.2(6),  MDS customers get a new feature called Smart Zoning. In order to discuss what Smart Zoning is, we need to talk about zoning in general and today’s best practices in zoning.

Today when we set up a zone on our SAN, all devices within a given zone can talk to any other device in the zone. While this is all well can good, in large SAN environments it can lead to the depletion of a hardware memory resource known as ternary content addressable memory or TCAM. Every device in a zone takes up a TCAM entry and multiple large zones can use up TCAM. In order to get around this, today many large SAN administrators do 1 to 1 zoning. With 1 to 1 zoning two devices are both assigned to a single zone by themselves. This preserves TCAM resources by excluding all the other possible devices that could be in that zone. But this comes at a price. With so many zones it becomes onerous to keep track of them all and even simple storage changes may require yet another zone change. Storage administrators spend too much time maintaining and documenting zones with the 1 to 1 model.

With Smart Zoning, you can establish a one-to-many relationship between devices. Thus a single storage target with 20 servers connected get only the connection between the storage and the target, not the additional server to server SAN connections that happen with traditional zoning. This allows SAN managers to create larger zones, based on task without worrying about depleting TCAM resources. However the big savings comes in administrator time. Instead of creating multiple 1 to 1 zones, administrators can now use a smart zone and with a single command add a member. A more logical zone structure emerges as well, more closely aligned to the application/cluster.

These features are available in NX-OS 5.2(6) and can be enabled on a per-VSAN basis on the MDS product line. Check it out, it could save your company time and help simplify the SAN network.

A New Type of Publication

Jon Ashley, the editor of the newish publication, Cisco Services Dynamics recently asked me if I’d be interested in providing an article on Cloud Computing.  I gladly agreed and after a quick briefing from Jon was off and typing.  While none of this is all that unusual, it turns out that Cisco Services Dynamics is a different sort of publication.

The first thing that sets Dynamics apart is the emphasis placed on having the articles be informative, concise and, focused on Services.  Since I was planning a piece on Cloud it seemed this would be a bit of a “no brainer”.  However, I found my first draft lacking in a couple of areas.   For starters I was not all that concise; I was frankly a bit long winded.  Secondly I missed the mark on being informative.  Seems I, like many marketers, confused informative with selling.   However with a bit of coaching from Jon I was able to re-work my piece and submit it for publication.

Recently I received an email letting me know Cisco Services Dynamics Edition 3 was officially available; and thanking me for my contribution.   This is where another nice feature of the publication came to light.  You can choose to receive the publication in a printed format, on-line, or both.   I choose the on-line version and found that it takes advantage of its on-line format and provides much more than a pleasing interface that allows you to “turn the pages”, share via Twitter and LinkedIn, and integrated video and expanding text boxes.

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Desktop Virtualization Perspectives at Cisco Live 2012

At Cisco Live, I had the good fortune to sit down with Steve Kaplan of Presidio (@ROIdude), and Sreekanth Kannan of VMware, to discuss the current landscape of desktop virtualization as seen through the experiences of our customers, key enabling technologies we’re excited about, and some thoughts about what to expect looking forward. Watch the session 

Desktop Virtualization Panel with VMware and Presidio at Cisco Live 2012

Clearly our friends had a lot to share, and were excited about the transformation happening in our customers’ desktop IT environments.  Some highlights from our chat:

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