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What does a 4 year old have in common with Cisco?

“Ow mommy, my leg huuuuuuuuuuurts,” complained my 4 year old.  After a quick examination and check-in with the doctor (read: I opened a book written by Dr. Sears and consider that a check- in with “the doctor”), I determined the problem was simply growing pains.

Growing pains don’t apply only to small children and adolescents. They apply to small companies and large enterprises alike. And like the growing pains you experienced when you were 4, 12, and 18 years old, they can cause physical (in the form of operational costs) and emotional (in the form of stress) pain for your business.

For my 4 year old the solution to growing pains is a kiss, hug, and maybe some chocolate ice cream. Most businesses (all businesses? There is always an exception) need more than a band-aid; businesses want a long-term solution to business challenges with measurable results. One of the most common “growing pains” for businesses is controlling operating expenditures.

Recent research shows that up to 75 percent of enterprise IT costs are operating expenditures (Gartner ITKMD, January 2011). Let’s explore how Cisco has significantly grown its infrastructure while reducing operating costs.

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Toyota Tsusho Deploys Cisco Virtual WAAS to Enhance Performance

vWAAS Bandwidth Reduction Chart

A key WAN optimization benefit is the mitigation on bandwidth consumption during the huge traffic burst on Mondays, when employees arrive at work and email attachments come to their mailboxes. This chart shows actual bandwidth consumption well below what applications would have required.

A few weeks back I highlighted a report from VCE about our virtual WAAS (vWAAS) WAN optimization solution running on the Vblock platform. Now comes a new case study of a vWAAS deployment at Georgetown, Kentucky-based Toyota Tsusho America, Inc. (TAI). For the Georgetown data center, TAI decided on vWAAS rather than WAAS appliances. The detailed case study is a compelling argument for virtualizing WAN optimization for improved high-availability and more streamlined operations.

“We were an early adopter of vWAAS,” says Chris Jones, TAI Manager of Infrastructure and Operations, “and we perceived value in placing WAN optimization close to the data rather than near the WAN edge. In particular, we felt we could have lower-cost high availability (HA) for WAN optimization by leveraging the Vblock HA. And we perceived operational simplicity in the event of failure, compared with replacing a physical appliance and rebuilding the cache.” Read More »

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How a Customer Crisis Ten Years Ago Helped Me Understand the Challenges of Cloud Service Creation Today (Part 1)

If you are already offering cloud services from your data center, or are starting your planning to do so, there are some key initial questions I’d advise you consider.  And they’re not about the technical aspects of data center architecture!  You find yourself asking “what cloud services should we offer?” and “How do we evolve what we offer today”.  You may, post launch, also find yourself asking “Why is the take up to our cloud services not as big as we initially forecast?”.  Before you say “aha –  these are questions for service providers offering cloud services” .. I would argue that these questions are fundamental to enterprise and public sector organizations too – assuming that you intend to provide cloud services to your user community that help them do their jobs.  Following one of my colleagues who blogged earlier that, with cloud services, “you need to think like a product manager”, I will assert here that there are some key lessons from product management that can help you in creating cloud services that are actually useful to your customer and/or your internal clients and stakeholders.

As you may have noticed from my previous blogs, I’ve worked in product management of both products and services for a while (since 1997 in fact, when I moved from software engineering into the “dark side” :-) ) …. so what lessons have I learned that may help you address the challenges of creating and defining new cloud services?

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Cisco, NetApp & Microsoft – FlexPod validated with Microsoft Private Cloud

NetApp and Cisco continue to innovate and deliver new popular FlexPod solutions.  These pre-designed and pre-tested Data Center infrastructure offerings are built on a unified architecture comprised of Cisco UCS servers, Cisco Nexus switches, and NetApp storage with Data ONTAP.

We’re pleased to announce FlexPod validated with Microsoft private cloud, a new offering which brings the benefits of the FlexPod architecture to Microsoft Windows Server and Hyper-V environments with System Center integration.

Microsoft Windows Server and Microsoft applications such as Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server, and VDI are key workloads we often find in our customer’s UCS installations. UCS provides an optimum compute solution for these Microsoft applications delivering an agile, simple, and efficient Data Center platform. Please visit the FlexPod validated with Microsoft Private Cloud site here to learn more on how Cisco and NetApp are enabling your journey to the Microsoft Private Cloud.

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Cisco SANs: Where do you begin?

I spent two weeks over at the Ask the Expert forums, and I came to the realization that often our customers are bombarded with facts, figures, speeds, feeds, features, buzzwords, comparisons and functionalities for which they’re not sure which ones they must have while others they can live without or are a convenience.  So I figured I’d toss out what I think are the top features for building an MDS Storage Area Network.   Some may be obvious and others you might shake your head or light up the torches.  They’re not in any particular order as your mileage varies from mine.  I’ll probably skip those that are obvious like “hot swap power supplies” and other oh so exciting abilities…

The first set I usually refer to as the holy trinity of features as they constitute the foundation of the connectivity… VSANs, Port-Channels and TE Ports.  They’ve been around literally forever on the platform and for good reason, they’ve been part of the hardware’s DNA since it’s inception.  Additionally, if you walk down the hall to the folks that manage your LAN, you’ll find out that they’re using pretty much the same concepts and features as you (VLANs, Port/Ether-Channels and Trunking or 802.1q).  So, if those guys are managing hundreds or thousands of switches and routers, there’s probably something worthwhile here.   It’s also a pretty good chance that they are using them for the very same reasons that you are:

  • VSANs: Isolation of fault domains.
  • Port-Channels: High Availability and load-balancing of InterSwitch Links (ISL)
  • TE_Ports: The ability to run multiple VSANs over the same ISL leveraging frames tagged with the VSAN ID and enforced in hardware.

Next on my list is NPV Mode aka N_Port Virtualization.  I grew up in the era of 16 port SAN switches and like rabbits, they multiplied, and so did their domains, and don’t get me started on the upgrades…  You had top of rack designs that involved dozens of small switches and this tsunami of small switches was slowed down by the emergence of the high density directors with hundreds of ports, first 128 then 256 now over 500.  Lots of small switches met their demise..

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