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How Do You Plan for 2011 – Part 2: Think Outside the Box about Cloud

January 14, 2011 at 8:14 am PST

In my previous post on virtualization, I discussed the potential to make greater use of this technology beyond just better server utilization. If you have already done a lot of virtualization projects, you would likely agree that eventually virtualization alone is not enough. Read this interesting story to see how a tech company reached this conclusion based on their multi-year experience with virtualization. The next stage, from an IT architectural perspective, is to incorporate automation, elasticity and governing to deliver on-demand and pay-per-use computing services. As you guessed it, we are talking about cloud computing here.

Much has been written to describe the business advantages, various service types (SaaS, PaaS and IaaS, to name a few common ones) and deployment models (public, private and hybrid) about cloud computing. But, where do you start to plan for cloud?

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On The Edge – A new blog on transforming the branch experience with Borderless Networks

“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

-      William Blake.

Looking back, the first decade of this millennium could ultimately be viewed as an age of excess. From securities, SUV’s and PDA’s to business travel, there was arguably too much focus on quantity and not enough on quality. This “more is better” attitude was also visible in the world of I.T. – particularly when it came to branch offices. But that’s all changing now.

I.T. people know all too well how many services are required to run remote sites in a growing business: routing, switching, applications, security, voice, mobility, and more recently, virtualization and video. During the “go-go years” from 2000-2008, some just kept deploying more and more dedicated appliances in more locations to deliver ever more functionality to try to keep their companies’ top lines growing faster than their competitors.

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Good, Fast, or Cheap – Pick Any Two

There’s an old saying, “Good, Fast, or Cheap -- Pick Any Two” that I’ve liked for years. It still generally holds true for those of us who can work with our hands. When I’m not helping Cisco expand its wireless universe, I like to work with my hands.

I’m actually pretty good at it, I’ve installed hardwood, tile, and marble floors and showers in our house, recently remodeled one of our bathrooms after ripping the previous one out right down to the studs and concrete pad. I can build a pretty mean V8 engine, and most things you’d see in a house or small business by hand.

The problem is I’m slow. Really slow. Like, measure three times before I cut once kind of slow. I doubt I’d last even a week as a professional contractor because of this. So, the tag line “Good, Fast, or Cheap” applies pretty well to me.

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Take the SBA-Train

As someone who grew up riding the Boston MBTA, and later the New York City subway system, I have an affection for that gritty form of public transit. So I loved the New York Times article from some weeks ago that detailed the results of the city’s subway survey. My favorite quote:  “Please.  I’ve lived in New York for 20 years — I’ve seen more bizarre things on the trains than I can remember.  That’s why we live here.” 

When you zoom out from that passenger experience, though, there’s a lot that goes into building a subway system to carry all that humanity. Just look at this site dedicated to dreaming up a better MBTA for Boston. Clearly people rely on subway systems for different things and have very subjective needs when it comes to the design of the overall system. And that’s why Cisco’s new Smart Business Architecture (SBA) subway system is so cool. It’s designed to help you navigate easily from Point A to Point B as you move through the modules that help you turn a Borderless Network Architecture into a reality.

Each module—or subway stop—represents a prescriptive, step-by-step guide for a specific aspect of the Borderless Network Architecture. And when you zoom in to explore that guide, you find a clear point of orientation.

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Business Video Increases Demands on the Network

The use of video in enterprises has been growing rapidly as many enterprises are realizing the value of video. Many enterprises use video for multiple aspects of their business operations including corporate communications, team meetings, e-learning, digital signage and the use of video assets within their business processes. Likely a combination of video technologies and tools are required to meet the enterprise needs.

Different video applications will behave differently and put different demands on the network. The chart below illustrates a range of business video applications with different characteristics and network requirements.

Telepresence is two-way real-time video while streaming video is one-way broadcast video. Telepresence has stringent network requirements and it is highly sensitive to latency, jitter and loss, whereas streaming video can better tolerate delays; by buffering a larger amount of content before rendering it, in order to smooth out the video experience and compensate for network jitter.

Generally speaking, it is straight forward to provision the network for Telepresence as long as you know how many rooms are in your network, the typical usage pattern (e.g. 60% usage between office hours) and the traffic characteristics. In contrast to Telepresence, it is much harder to provision the network for desktop collaboration video as the usage pattern is not as well defined. Worst yet, do you know how many users are equipped with high definition web cameras built into their laptop on your network? The situation is exasperated by new collaboration tools with one click away, what started as a low bandwidth instant messaging session could end up be a high bandwidth video desktop collaboration session.

These are just some examples of the challenges associated with deploying, managing and assuring quality of business video applications. As more types of video applications that pose different demands into the network are deployed, the need for intelligent networks like medianets become critical. Medianets can simplify and reduce costs of deploying video, as well as efficiently use network resources and dynamically adapt to changing network conditions and demands from different video applications to deliver optimal video quality.

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