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On Moving, Home Renovations and other Natural Disasters

Last week I was without Internet.

Compared to the people who have been without a home over the past several months through floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and tornados, it sounds rather trivial. I was only dealing with some renovations which involved moving my home office and waiting for the cable guy.

Still, to my 7 and 9 year old, not being able to connect to Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin was a big deal. As for me, I managed to get by, tethering to my iPhone and physically going into the office more than usual.

But it got me thinking about our reliance on the physical and what that means in the context of the cloud.

Following the floods up in Queensland, Australia, I heard a story about a cloud-based managed service provider. As the floodwaters receded, they hired a bunch of sales folks who went around to every small office and retailer in the region and told them to call before they spent their insurance money buying new computers.  Why buy a bunch of servers to run MYOB or Quicken and risk floods, fire and theft, when you can run everything including your POS out of the cloud?

But when you don’t have an Internet connection, the cloud is of little use.

Google is facing this exact dilemma with its upcoming Chromebook release, and is providing offline support for Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs—something they apparently have been running internally for the past several months. Interestingly though, based on both the Cr-48 pilot release and earlier internal conversations, it would seem that there is a view within Google that begins with the assumption of always-on connectivity to the cloud.  “When people use our Google Docs, there are no more files. You just start editing in the cloud, and there’s never a file.” And so offline support becomes the exception, instead of the rule.

Of course, when you hit that exception, knowing exactly how your business will continue to run is crucial.

Clearly, there are trade-offs to be made. Without an Internet connection, I can’t access my cloud based applications and data, but neither can I send and receive email or verify credit card transactions. What do I need to be able to do even in an offline state, and what applications are useless to me unless I’m online?

What are the options for WAN redundancy? When I learned about the Japanese earthquakes and tsunamis, I knew my friend was safe was from his Facebook postings. While he didn’t have power, his phone still worked. For individuals, perhaps tethering is the right solution; for a small branch, 3G backhaul as a failover option in the router may be more cost effective.

Ultimately, the answer will be that there is no single answer.  Not only is every business different, but each application and its use will be different. It’s only when you take stock of those applications that you understand where your own requirements lie.

I needed to stay connected to do my job while the renovation work was being done. But my kids… they read a book instead.

Stay mobile. Stay secure.

—Mark

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Cisco Has a Cool New Network Management Solution – Really?

I recently staffed the Cisco booth at Interop, Las Vegas where we introduced Cisco Prime for Enterprise, a new network management strategy and product portfolio.  I had buttons made that said “Ask Me About Cisco Prime for Enterprise” to help facilitate questions and because I’m a tech marketing geek who likes to wear buttons.

Interop was my first tradeshow since I transitioned to Cisco network management from the Cisco wireless/mobility team where I recently led WLAN management marketing.  I’ve always believed in the value of network management – especially when it’s done right.  As I talked with Interop attendees, two questions kept repeating:

  • What is Cisco Prime for Enterprise?
  • Are you sure Cisco has an innovative network management solution – Really?  As of when?

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IPv6 Automatic Addressing

Can anyone remember a time before DHCP?

In those dark days, some poor IT technician maintained a document mapping specific IP addresses to individual devices.  People had to ensure that they connected a new device to the correct subnet cable and that they entered address parameters carefully since a simple typographical error could knock an important server offline.  While protocols like BOOTP emerged to help provision devices, the manual tedium of mapping users to fixed IP addresses remained.

It was this environment that inspired the IPv6 Stateless Address AutoConfiguration (SLAAC) protocol.  The size of the IPv6 address space made it possible for a device to autonomously create a unique address once it learned the local router’s IPv6 prefix.  No requests, no central server, and no manual management.  Any IPv6 device dropped on an active IPv6 network could start communicating right away.

IPv4 users took a different path to “plug and play” networking.  BOOTP evolved into DHCP, where one-to-one mapping gave way to a system in which a server could dynamically hand out time-limited IPv4 address “leases” to devices on a subnet without any user intervention.  In addition, DHCP could administrative parameters (options) to these devices.  Finally, the server provided centralized tracking and administrative control over IP address assignment. Read More »

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On The Edge: Innovations that Break Down Borders

The best way to predict the future is to create it.” -- Peter Drucker

In 1989, a couple of amazing changes occurred that are still affecting our world today. The Berlin Wall fell, and a little company called Cisco developed the Border Gateway Protocol so routers could eventually connect the entire world. These developments still reverberate through our lives as outdated social, political, and economic borders continue to break down, and we enjoy more freedom than ever to connect and interact with virtually anyone.

While the public debate on the abstract value of these freedoms continues, most private organizations see very concrete value in giving their employees, partners, and customers the ability to connect globally using any type of device or media. And they’re investing accordingly.

For example, more than half of all companies surveyed* have already spent some of their precious I.T. budgets deploying video or collaborative applications, allowing personal devices for work use, or adopting software as a service models. Of course, these new innovations also require more bandwidth and more security; but leading organizations are minimizing additional costs and earning ROI sooner by integrating these new technologies directly into their routing infrastructure, which in turn can actually reduce overall traffic loads and complexity.

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EX90s rock InteropNet help desk

Ran into Dave Mattlin here at Interop, and he was really enthusiastic about how the EX90s I had mentioned in my previous post are being used here. Here’s what Dave had to say:

EX90 at the InteropNet Help Desk

Cisco EX90 at the InteropNet Help Desk

“Cisco EX90 is more than just a sexy desktop. When you are setting up a network, everyone wants to speak with an expert. But that is usually someone far away. This is the case at Interop 2011 in Las Vegas. Setting up  Interop is a long process with many hurdles, one of them being access to IT/Technical support quickly. At shows like this one a show management company has a few people they can reach out to in order to get network links up and working. At Interop the Network is HUGE, technical and very complex so specialized support has to be in place.  So how does someone setting up for the show get the expertise they need, when they need it?  Easy, by using an EX90 which provides real time face to face communications for quick resolutions.

Cisco has placed several EX90’s around the show floor which provide real time access to a qualified help desk to assist companies with their technical questions and needs. This has proven to be very successful and relieved exhibitor services  from the daunting task of understanding the very complex show network.

I had an opportunity speak with the show management. They are very impressed with the technology and say that having the EX90’s actually improved their customer service.  They did not have to send their customers away to get technical help. Instead, they could just call up the help desk and get their questions answered immediately. Many of the show vendors who used these systems reported that the enjoyed  the video clarity and easy to use interface.”

Thanks Dave, for that story. And I would be remiss if I did not mention that the video clarity is aided by the Cisco Medianet technology we have deployed on the Cisco Catalyst switches we have deployed on the show floor and in the core.