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Does Your Application Performance Reporting Overcome WOC Distortion?

The first surprise you will get after you consolidate your branch office servers in the data center is that application performance over the WAN falls off and user productivity suffers. To fix this you deploy WAN Optimization Controllers (WOCs) so your applications go much faster and you recover bandwidth that was lost to redundant traffic. After the WOC’s are installed a strange thing happens to your performance reports. Application response appears to be instantaneous. It’s as if the distance between your data center and your branch office shrunk to nothing. We know that you can’t overcome the speed of light and there will always be some latency on WAN links. So what happened?

What happened is that the WOC distortion effect has come in to play. WOCs proxy TCP at each end and send acknowledgments immediately. As result performance monitoring systems lose visibility to the actual round-trip time. WOC distortion poses a challenge to getting accurate end-to-end performance analysis. To understand how your applications are performing you need to know the average response time between client and server, the Network round trip time to move data from one node to another as well as the server’s response time to a request and the data rate that was achieved.
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When is the Data Center Ready for Energy Management?

imageA good report was issued last week from The 451 Group, written by Andy Lawerence. They issued another insightful report last year called Eco-Efficient IT and appear to be an analyst body spending some real cycles on digging past the Green veneer. While we’ve not purchased this most recent report “Data Center Management and Energy Efficiency Software“, the executive summary is worth the very simple registration process. Without giving too much away there are a few key points I thought worthy of highlighting:1) There are already as many as 9 distinct approaches to energy management in data centers2) Traditional organizational structures are being challenged3) The business case is already very attractiveOn this last point, there is a lot of room for real financial savings with very little capital expenditure. To simplify for the sake of blog’eese; the way we are assessing it in the team I lead for Energy Management Services is as follows: Read More »

Will Virtualization Kill Networking?

TRIVIA: The first video MTV ever played was The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star“, which was sadly all too prescient as evidenced by the subsequent popularity of Milli Vanilli. So, a good friend of mine recently pondered if virtualization would similarly marginalize networking, if networking is becoming an inhibitor to innovation–I am not sure who plays the role of Milli Vanilli in his analogy. :)This is kinda curious stance to take. From my perspective, our level of connectedness as a planet is only increasing and we are still staying true to “Metcalfe’s Law” (the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes). Far from the network being an inhibitor, I see the network continuing to be an enabler, whether it is social networking or cloud computing, the interesting things that are going on are very network centric–Twitter is much less compelling if you have to mail your tweets on postcards. Similarly, the iPhone is hit not because it is a great phone, it is a hit because it is an exceptionally well connected phone. Looking at spending priorities and questioning whether budget is better invested in systems that can directly benefit the business, its important to remember that systems only create sustained value for the business if employees and customers can reliably, securely, and predictably access them. OK, so networking is a non-negotiable part of any system, perhaps all we really need are dumb pipes–people won’t notice or care. Well, if you want to test the assertion that end users and consumers view their “pipes” as a commodity, check out the various spirited discussions on the web about the carrier choices for the iPhone to see how opinionated folks actually are about their transport. This is pretty much in line with what we found when introduced our Cisco MDS Fibre Channel switches–once customers were educated, they started to have an opinion. Interestingly enough, there are companies out there that advocate the “dumb pipe” pipe perspective that networking is over-rated are demonstrating it by….investing to enhance their own networking offerings…?!So, the reality is that the data center continues to be three-legged race of technologies–sometimes one leg (technology) is leading the way,sometimes that same leg is being dragged along, but in the end, they all need to stay closely coupled to make any progress. The Cisco Nexus 1000V as a very practical example of this. The rapid adoption of VMware ESX forced us to reconsider how we deliver networking services and led to, among other things, the development of the Nexus 1000V. And now, the introduction of the Cisco Nexus 1000V has paved the way for much broader implementation of virtualization in the data center. And, so the race continues… Read More »

Roles Based Access on the CIsco Unified Computing System

While we are getting a great deal of traction on the vision behind the Cisco Unified Computing System and the idea of an integrated system that combines network, compute, and virtualization in a single platform, folks sometimes wonder if they will have to play “Mother, May I?” with the network team to access the system. So, before we bust that particular myth, let’s step back a bit. One of our design goals is to be operationally non-distuptive. What that means is our goal is to not mess with you existing operational practices and procedures–our ideal is to allow you to manage your new infrastructure the same way your existing infrastructure. The most recent example of this is the Cisco Nexus 1000V. While it delivers an immense amount of new functionality, server admins still use vCenter to manage their virtual machines and network admins manage the Nexus 1000V exactly like their other Cisco switches. This is also one of the reasons we see FCoE continuing to gain traction in the enterprise–when all is said and done, its still Fibre Channel. The other design goal, which I covered in my last post, is that we see the data center staff of the future being loosely coupled–working collaboratively and as peers, but still maintaining distinct responsibilities. Which brings us to the Cisco UCS.In this video, Brian Schwarz, from the UCS team, takes us through the roles based access control features on the platform. One of the cooler aspects of this is the granularity of the controls–to the point that privileges are not just tied to to your log-in, but also to the profile running on a particular server. The other aspect of this, which I think is cool is how flexible the approach is–Brian talks about how our access control model does not force you to adapt to a certain framework, but rather is design to adapt to you how you currently assign roles in you company.

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Are You Getting the WAN Advantage to Your Branch Office?

Are your WAN services, including WAN Optimization, delivered as a part of a comprehensive plan? These days with the need to reduce costs it’s a good time to rethink how you are serving your branch office IT needs. With advances in technology you can do things in new ways. You might find that you can reduce your branch office infrastructure and deliver better services to your branch office workers. There are a few things to consider. Are your branch office routers capable of delivering a suite of services including security? Are you taking advantage of unified communications? Are you supporting increasing use of Video? Are you able to ensure application performance? There are plenty of reasons to rethink your WAN strategy. If your organization is global then your people need to collaborate across greater distances but if you are consolidating branch office servers and data centers they are further than ever from the applications that they use, especially if you have increasing numbers of mobile and home workers. Security is an increasing concern with so many new applications and services being used bringing increasing numbers of exploits. Service delivery can be impacted by inconsistent WAN topologies that were developed over time and don’t take increasing end user traffic in to account. All of these challenges mean that productivity can be impacted unless a consistent plan is executed on.

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