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Cisco Data Center Planning

November 17, 2008 at 12:00 pm PST

imageI recently has the opportunity to sit down with Doug and chat about the process Cisco goes through to forecast and size capacity of our data centers.

Application Delivery Metrics

We’ve been working to support a large customer over the last several months in driving up operative efficiency around IT Processes. We’re to the point where we’ve helped them benchmark their operative electrical efficiency (using Green Grid’s PUE and DCiE) and we’ve provided them with a Watts per transaction metric. This customer is a retailer so in this case the transaction model is fairly straightforward, input from the cash register all the way to the back end storage in one of several regional data centers.So to build the watts per transaction model, all we did was inventoried the infrastructure that supports the creation, transmission and storage of each transaction and normalized it to provide an average Watts per transaction metric. This allowed us to take the next step which was to analyze each infrastructure set at each stage to determine what “energy overhead” was there. No surprise we found servers vastly underutilized and in branch environments when they didn’t need to be, we found extra switch/exchange points and storage that was geographically “siloed”. So in this case we were able to make a simple set of recommendations covering changes in the IT architecture that reduced the total Watts per transaction by roughly 12% (to be validated as we are also implementing energy monitoring post redesign).So this is a simple case of looking at systems and architectural level operative efficiency. And I can tell you this operation is run well and has simplicity and efficiency as pervasive mindsets in IT. Oh that and they work really well with their facilities department. So, a Watts per transaction model can be infinitely more complex under a different use case. So, fast forward to what we’re looking at next that I’m hoping to get some input on.Has anyone developed or seen what they believe to be a telling (realistically accurate within 1-3%) metric that would apply to application energy requirements? For example, if we look at a typical web transaction (say buying your new Klean Kanteen to get of bottled water) there are estimates that say the information stream that is generated by this order hits separate transaction points ~120 times. In many cases these transaction points also hit different infrastructure sets (i.e. spinning up multiple severs, VM or physical to handle part of the transaction, core, access and storage switching, etc). When we position a streamlined application delivery model with only ~20 touch points there is of course an energy benefit to that.What I’m having a hard time determining is a normalized Watts per application model that can provide an indicative figure across the server, storage and appliance sets that can be correlated to a larger application delivery architecture. The biggest challenge here is not the power required by chips to process transactions, it’s the very high degree of customization we see across different IT architectures, Like the old quote “we want to control the wheel, therefore we reinvent it”.I have some what I would call defensible estimates but wanted to check with you all to see if anyone has seen any work in this space that is compelling. A second question, would an application delivery model showing energy allocation be of interest if we were to publish? It of course gets me all giddy to think of the implications…Thanks, happy Greenin’

Hear From Some of Cisco IT’s Best

October 30, 2008 at 12:00 pm PST

One of our goals for our blog is to bring in some different perspectives to you. As you might have noticed, our first foray is with a couple of new folks from Cisco IT: Doug Alger and Sidney Morgan. Both Doug and Sidney live with the challenges of the evolving data center on a regular basis.imageThe initial blog posts lets each guy explain what they do in their own words. This should evolve into a weekly feature-if you want follow-ups on topics or would like us to address specific topics, let us know via the comments feature.imageDoug AlgerimageSidney MorganAt this point, I would also be remiss if I did not point out our Cisco-On-Cisco website ( This is a great website that really digs into how we are applying information technology here at Cisco. You can read about IT’s perspectives on technology and business trends, see how we are deploying technologies and review our best practices-all good info that will help you make more informed decisions about your own organization.

Are you a Guppie?

Greening your CollarimageimageGuppie?! In this age of soundbite information, we have to have our labels right. So my father who is a long time data center manager and up until very recently leaned very much to the “right” in politics asked me about this whole “Green” thing. His question was to the effect of “how did you get into all this Green stuff”? As I dug further what he was really asking is how can I be a Greenie when I don’t look or act anything like the traditional American stereotype of a “Treehugger”. For those unfamiliar, starting in the 1980′s a sort of a branding exercise began by the ultra-capitalist base to paint those with environmental concerns as being socialist, hippie, unemployed owl lovers. I find this misconception is still strong among many people born before 1975 in the US.So fast forward to today, where are we? Well, anyone can see that an unbridled “charge it” first, let the free market figure it out second posture is catching up with us. And what has been the response, a pendulum swing to a socialist answer, the partial nationalizing of US financial institutions. Sounds like a system screaming for balance no?Ok, political history and considerations aside…who and what type of people are making their white and blue collars a deeper shade of Green? Its hard to speak in generalities with any authority so let me simply offer my observations of how roles are changing in business and how personal passions come into play. Over the last couple of years I have probably spoken ~100 times to well over 1000 people on how Cisco is approaching Green in data centers and beyond. I always try to anticipate what an audience would like to get out of a session and for most, if not all of 2007 it was about learning the basics to help define what Green meant to them in my opinion. Fast forward to today and I think we’ve begun the transition to “how do I apply that knowledge”. I think one of the unspoken challenges here in adopting Green considerations in general is the label thing. You may find many in the business world might be dismissive of a Green point of view even though you have a personal passion for it.Don’t be frustrated if you are made to feel like a silly Treehugger for throwing your 2 Green cents in. Part of it is the entrenched perception, part of it is the flood of Greenwash marketing out there, part of it is pure taxonomy. What I will typically try to do is this:1) Dispel the notion of that you have to be a hippie type to care about the environment (I for example am the son of a retired US Naval Chief, a former NCAA athlete and data center architect, no dreadlocks, shaved and deodorized)2) As quickly as possible move past the term Green. You can start with the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). In our case we talk Reduce. Reduce what? Reduce $’s, Watts and C02 through energy efficiency. This will help a lot as Green is political and social in nature and far too nebulous for the typical business planning meeting.3) Show your stuff and don’t be shy about the fact that energy efficiency, infrastructure consolidation, simplification of architectures, etc. are all a good thing by any traditional business measure if planned and implemented correctly.4) Don’t go to far down the black-hole of circular math. This can be an unfortunate side effect of a subjective value measure of energy efficiency. Green and in general the value that is placed on an IT work unit for a particular service will be specific to an operation. Stick to what is understood and can be cited like electrical efficiency, PUE and DCiE from The Green Grid as examples. This is not to say you should stop there as you do have to form your own value metric specific to your operation. However, you have to get there through building consensus and that consensus can be achieved by starting with an objective foundation of data sets.What I’m seeing is a group of IT professionals that is growing bigger by the day, the Eco-Herd Freidman might call them? What I have seen most of my colleagues doing is learning about Green issues in their spare time (we all have a lot of that!) and getting themselves to a point of confidence where they can be credibly conversant and in time, drive a Green agenda. Whatever your tactics, the strategy of getting to know Green is a smart thing from a professional development standpoint. In my case, I am a more valuable employee being a Green expert than I would be as a pure networking specialist, especially considering I have 20 years experience in “Green” and maybe 5-7 in networking. A Green skill set will be even more compelling if we see more regulations roll out in the next 2 presidential terms…So, Guppy? Greenie+Yuppie = Guppie. While I’m not a fan of labels and these 2 are more or less diametrically opposed, its the best one I could think of to describe the emerging Green IT professional. One who considers economic and ecologic considerations with somewhat equal weighting.Are you?PS -- Check out to see the changing face of Greenies

Happy Birthday to Online Gaming, a day late, many dollars short, and their name is MUD

I just read what I thought was a very interesting write-up on the evolution of online gaming. As someone who played MUDs, tried to write and code for one once, dabbled with games like Galactic Empire on 1200bps dial-up BBS systems, then evolved to Ultima Online, Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Warhammer Age of Reckoning, and then back to World of Warcraft with the add-ons… yep, am a bit of a gamer. In fact sitting on my desktop is the link to WoW Burning Crusade.But what started it all, was the Multi-User Dungeon. I played on one in college off of the DUC VAX named Mallard at Auburn University. But that was years after this one first came up, MUD-1. A good read…, these are a wonderful driver of Internet and Data Center architectures and bandwidth….