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Unleash your Automation for Cloud (Easier than you Think)

In about 2 weeks there will be a great webinar panel discussion on the business and technology architecture concerns in automating your cloud and how to measure the value.   Unleashing automation solutions to do what they do best may make or break a company’s IT strategy over the next few quarters as those cloud journeys begin.

The webinar, IT Automation Unplugged, a panel discussion moderated by Glenn O’Donnell of Forrester will indeed be a cool event to listen in to.  Not only has Glenn followed this space for many years but he also has some really insightful perspectives on the Journey to Cloud.  This webinar has the potential to highlight some really pointed dialog between myself and Brad Adams of rPath, Nand Mulchandani of ScaleXtreme, and Luke Kanies of Puppetlabs.  I bet the sparks might fly as we trade our perspectives on the huge demand for private and public clouds and need for enterprises to show value quickly.

This brings me to a great phrase I heard this week from one of our customers.  It was used in the context of their employees using their company’s private cloud.   It was “High Governance”.  It was seriously lacking in their current solution which highly leveraged their virtualization vendor’s software.  I probed them on what they meant by “High Governance”.  It was mostly around ensuring that individuals that provision services would get  access to only the services, cloud data center locations, and specific providers that they are entitled to.   While this is not a new concept, the element that grabbed my attention was that IT shops have a strong need for different sourcing strategies based upon end user role, organization,  location, and any number of policy settings in their Active Directory or LDAP.

“High Governance” means ensuring that your cloud users get ONLY what they are entitled to in your IT policy.   No more generic UIs for generic users or uber UIs for unknown hypothetical users.  The cloud is now a strongly governed personal experience, what a novel concept.

I wonder what the panel will think about this.  Please attend if you get a chance.

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Save the Date: New Virtual Symposia Coming Soon

I am happy to announce we have a couple of new Virtual Symposia on the books.  We had a ton of positive feedback on the storage session, so I hope you can join us for the two new sessions:

  • July 10th, 8am PT – Software Defined Networking
  • July 24th, 8am PT – Virtual Machine Networking

As before, it will be Greg Ferro, Stephen Foskett and Ivan Pepelnjak along with some smart, cool panelists in a round table format, answering your questions. The one change we made was to shorten the session down to one hour so its a bit more friendly to your schedule. Save the dates for now and we’ll have registration pages up in a couple of days.

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Looking Back on Intelligent Automation at Cisco Live in San Diego

If you missed Cisco Live earlier this month or if you didn’t get a chance to see our Intelligent Automation demos and attend our sessions, you will want to read this blog!

It was the busiest event of the year for Cisco’s Unified Data Center and Unified Management team, with over a dozen breakout sessions and several theater presentations featuring our management software, as well as a call-out in the CTO keynote. Our experts, customers, and partners were actively talking about and demoing our software throughout Cisco Live.

One of our popular demos at the show used Hadoop and Cisco Tidal Enterprise Scheduler to extract data from Twitter with social media activity at the event. This app runs a Hadoop MapReduce job every 5 minutes to track Cisco Live tweets, showcasing workload automation and big data. Check it out here.

The Intelligent Automation for Cloud Starter Edition was another hot demo at the event, with lots of interest from IT departments that want to get started quickly with a private cloud running on Cisco UCS.  Check out the recorded demo here and the theater presentation here.

For more Cisco Live highlights, here are some videos featuring some of the Intelligent Automation team, our partners, and customers:

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Accelerate UNIX to Linux Migrations with FlexPod – RedHat Summit 2012

Over the past years, with the growing success of UCS, the partnership between Cisco and Redhat  has been stronger and stronger. Cisco is a Gold Sponsor of the RedHat Summit 2012 in Boston, and the UCS platform has been once more again praised on stage in front of the 3000 participants . During his keynote address yesterday SAP Sybase’s Irfan Khan, senior vice president and chief technology officer, announced that  in two-tier SAP Sales and Distribution (SD) standard application benchmarks, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and its Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor running the SAP ERP 6.0 application achieved leading performance results  running on… Cisco UCS  servers *.

If UCS attracts more and more SAP customers, the Oracle customers can also rely on this platform to gain significant performances and reduce cost as they migrate from a Risc migration environment to Cisco UCS .Check the blogs from Cisco Timothy Stack on this topic.

One of the best way to achieve this migration from Unix to Linux, is certainly in deploying a solution such as Flexpod, presented at RedHat Summit 2012 by NetApp, which is a Silver Sponsor (see NetApp activities here) – So I ask  Jon Benedict  (@CaptainKVM) , oVirt board member and NetApp Sr Virtualization Solutions Architect to share with us what Flexpod can provide in this context.

“Anyone who has had to maintain a rigid, outdated infrastructure knows it’s a time-consuming and painful process. Prior to joining NetApp I was a Red Hat solution architect and led a mainframe migration project for a large financial services company running both Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Solaris. We were confronted with an issue that impacted both platforms; getting the issue resolved with Red Hat and the newer Solaris versions was relatively straightforward but custom-tweaked applications running on older, end of life platforms required a ridiculously expensive per system financial investment. A key outcome of the project was the requirement that the IT team create a plan for migrating older Solaris-based applications from UNIX to Linux.

FlexPod would have been a great way to handle this, but unfortunately this project was pre-FlexPod.

The Cisco Unified Computing System represents an ideal computing platform for Linux-based applications while the joint collaboration between Cisco, NetApp and Red Hat is key to accelerating this type of transition. Instead of just upgrading servers and the operating system, our pre-validated FlexPod data center platform enables you to modernize your infrastructure holistically with an integrated solution including Cisco UCS servers, Cisco Nexus switches, and NetApp FAS storage. As my marketing guys love to say, “It’s a platform capable of meeting your needs today and scaling to meet your needs in the future.”  Like me, the comment looks fluffy but it’s solid.

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SDN for Universities: Campus Slicing 101

In the wake of our Open Network Environment (Cisco ONE) announcements, we are continuing our series on software defined networking (SDN) use cases, this time focusing on the primary use case for OpenFlow and universities, campus network slicing. If interested, a more detailed solution brief on this scenario and the Cisco SDN OpenFlow controller can be found here. And check out our demo video below.

Campus Slicing diagramUniversity campus networks offer an increasingly wide array of networking services to one of the broadest user bases of any “enterprise.” Some universities have medical or high-security facilities and must maintain regulatory compliance accordingly. Student networking services vary depending on whether they are on or off campus, and in almost all cases students and faculty bring their own devices. Administration offices must also be able to manage the day-to-day activities of the university. Often event management must include the rapid provisioning of point-of-sale terminal support and back-end payment reconciliation. And faculty must have both data and video access within the university campus, across campuses, and further out to other universities.

As a result, the ability to partition networks (called “slicing”) based on SDN has risen in popularity. Although slicing is being performed today on isolated networks, the need to perform it on production networks is now becoming a priority. Cisco controllers and agents, as part of the Cisco Open Network Environment for network programmability, are aimed at addressing this need.

Much of the early research and collaboration between universities on OpenFlow and SDN has been driven by the adoption of National Science Foundation (NSF) projects such as GENI, an open, collaborative research environment to explore networking at scale.

One of the basic premises of SDN is that the abstraction of control plane management, out of each network device and into a centralized “controller,” can create high business agility through automation with relatively lower OpEx and low risk. SDN is a natural fit for the class of requests universities need to service.

One of the primary components to the emergence of SDN on campuses has been the ability to create logically isolated networks and allow them to be partitioned and programmed using slicing. In SDN, this is facilitated with an abstraction layer in the network device called a flowvisor. Today, many universities use flowvisors within their isolated networks in conjunction with SDN controllers to manage their slicing requirements. In many cases these slicing activities are still performed off the campus backbone, as the software used to implement both the operating systems and slicing functions does not provide the policy management consistency required for production network applications.

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