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The Wake-Up Call

You remember those television advertisements about the “3 AM calls”, don’t you ? Yes, the ones showing the cherubic children fast asleep as the phone rang incessantly and the announcer’s baritone asking you which presidential candidate you really wanted to answer that call at 3 AM. Well, I actually got one of those calls. No, I wasn’t running for public office and there was no nuclear meltdown -- I was the CIO of a mid-sized organization, and the meltdown that was imminent was simply an application that refused to restart after a “routine” maintenance upgrade. 

What ran through my mind in those few minutes at 3 AM as my Ops team was rapidly bringing me up to speed was not how I had a fully redundant, resilient infrastructure (I did) or had meticulously assembled a best-of-breed software platform, tested and tuned for scalability and performance (I had);  my first thoughts instead zeroed in on the fact that in an hour, the first of six call centers we supported would start humming to life, and hundreds of agents would be unable to log in to their system.

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Myths and Restrictions of the Cisco UCS

In statistics courses, we learn about the perils of using very small sample sizes to extrapolate possible trends or predictions. But in today’s fast paced, 24x7, 140 character world, we know that “information” spreads and morphs quickly. So spotting trends from small samples and small bits of information maybe a knee-jerk reaction, but it’s also a critical skill if you want to properly educate the market. I put information in quotes because there is a difference between FACTUAL information and speculative/FUD-driven information. Nevertheless it’s all information.

This week’s “trend” is the recent misperception that Cisco UCS only works with VMware and VCE Vblocks. I’ve heard this at least a half-dozen times this week, while qualifies as a trend in my world. Let’s correct this right now -- CISCO UCS is NOT RESTRICTED to only VMware and VCE Vblock. I can imagine where this misinformation may have come from, but today I only want to focus on the FACTS.

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Advanced Virtual Private LAN Services

Advanced VPLS, or ‘Cisco’s enhancements to its standards-compliant VPLS’

How many CLI commands will you need to enable VPLS? You will be pleasantly surprised. But before that, a bit of historical context:

Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS) -- a layer 2 VPN technology providing Ethernet connectivity over packet-switched WANs, supports the connection of multiple sites in a single broadcast domain over a managed IP/MPLS network. By presenting an Ethernet interface, VPLS simplifies the LAN-WAN boundary for enterprises and enables rapid and flexible service provisioning.

Now Cisco’s Advanced VPLS (A-VPLS) adds several innovations to these table-stake benefits, advancing the VPLS technology frontier:

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How do You Consolidate Data When You Manufacture at Locations around the Globe?

This is the question that VF Corporation was faced with. They are a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel with more than 30 brands, including Wrangler, The North Face, Lee, Vans, and Nautica. They sell through retailers in 150 countries and their workforce is distributed across 770 global offices. To reduce IT costs they were consolidating branch office servers and applications in centralized data centers, but this created a challenge with transferring large CAD image files.

VF Corp used a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) application for apparel design that was hosted on servers in the branch office. The IT department wanted to deploy a new application in the data center to reduce the costs of maintaining it and give them better control over data. The designers use this application all day every day and need access to the large CAD image files that it creates, so this move presented a challenge to the WAN over which these files would have to travel.

“When we tested the new application during development, downloading images over the WAN took an average of 2 to 3 minutes, and up to 5 minutes,” says Billy Yawn, the network architect, for VF Corporation.  “Before deploying the application to branch offices, we needed a WAN acceleration solution.”

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VCE VBlock – When is the right time to start?

In talking to many people at VMware, I’ve often heard them say,”..almost anyone can virtualize the first 300-400 servers, but after that it takes a true mix of skill, technology and planning…”. I bring up this anecdote for a couple reasons. First, I’ve heard several people ask if Vblock was only useful for the largest customers or largest deployments. It’s not a coincidence that we target a Vblock 0 (the smallest version) to begin around 300 VMs. Vblock operates differently

The second reason is that I was reminded of this again this morning as I spoke with a large Enterprise customer. The customer is an early, existing Vblock account, with several thousand servers yet to be virtualized. Their technical staff had engaged the VCE team in weeks/months of rigorous technical debate about the inner workings of Vblock. They had already deployed just north of 400 VMs and were pushing back at a different operational model. So when I asked their leadership why they finally decided to more towards a VBlock architecture, their answer was, “We got to 400 VMs through far too many exceptions in process. We couldn’t move to the next level without a forcing function to align our business needs with our technology organization.” In essence, they needed a solution that combined the right technology with the right process. They didn’t believe they would get there with the current model.  

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