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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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SAP IT Process Automation Powered by Cisco Software

Cisco’s Intelligent Automation  software helps our customers to achieve benefits such as lower TCO, greater efficiency, and greater business agility—without compromising stability, manageability, and security. Our automation software can be used for a broad range of IT processes, but we have a very unique and differentiated solution for the automation of SAP-related tasks. Last week, we announced a global reseller agreement that allows SAP to sell our Cisco Intelligent Automation for SAP software solution.

SAP views Cisco’s software as the preferred data center automation tool for SAP customers, and they are branding and selling our solution as SAP IT Process Automation by Cisco . With nearly 42,000 SAP customers worldwide, this is a great new channel opportunity for our automation software—and a great complement to SAP Solution Manager and Run SAP methodology.  It’s also a powerful example of the strong partnership between Cisco and SAP to meet our customers’ needs.

This video with my colleague Flint Brenton (senior vice president, Cisco Intelligent Automation Solutions) and Stephen Spears (senior vice president, SAP Application Lifecycle Management Software) provides an overview of the importance of this agreement and the value to SAP customers:

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Nexus 1000V and Microsoft Windows Server 2012

We’ve talked about this before but given some of the recent visibility from Microsoft, it is worth mentioning again: our Nexus 1000V offering is integrated into Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V.

At Microsoft Tech Ed 2012 in Orlando a few days ago this integration work was demonstrated in the Day #1 Keynote. To view Nexus 1000V in action on Windows Server 2012, go to this link, scroll down to and select the Tech Ed Day 1 Keynote’ … the Nexus demo pops up around the 24 minute mark. The Nexus 1000V solutions help to deliver highly secure, multitenant services by adding virtualization intelligence to Windows Server 2012 and your data center network.

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Some Afterthoughts on Open Network Environment, SDN and Overlay Networks

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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