Last week I was in London for the Gartner Data Center Conference. As always there was a wide range of interesting topics being discussed, all very useful. Working in Cisco Data Center Services, I am interested in many data center topics, however this year I was interested to hear perspectives on SDN, how the market is evolving, and how the attendees -- including many senior IT practitioners -- are considering SDN adoption.
London’s Big Ben at Night
From a Cisco perspective, we were showcasing the recently launched Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which generated a lot of interest. There is growing awareness among our customers that ACI could do for networks and applications what the Cisco UCS has done for the server market (with UCS server profiles in the latter proving a good analogy to help customers understand the potential of ACI).
So what were some of my key takeaways from the SDN discussion I heard here? And what were the questions that in my view are still not being discussed sufficiently across the industry?
The Microsoft ecosystem continues to be an important area of focus with our Cisco Datacenter product and solution teams. UCS, Nexus, UCS Management, and ACI teams have continued to innovate and launch new offerings during the past few months. Let’s take a look at our recent happenings and launches that can help enable your organization to deliver an optimal datacenter environment for your Microsoft platforms:
1. PASS, Microsoft SQL Server, and Cisco’s Unified Datacenter…
We’ve ramped up our focus on Microsoft’s SQL Server platform! Investments in PASS (Professional Association of SQL Server), Pass Summit 2013, and the PASS Virtualization Chapter afford us the opportunity to educate this world-wide BI and Data Management audience on UCS, Nexus, FlexPod, and VSPEX. Stay tuned for more from us, too as Microsoft gets closer to shipping their SQL Server 2014 platform.
2. Cisco and the Microsoft Cloud OS Launch…
Occurring around the world during the November 2013 to January 2014 timeframe is Microsoft’s Cloud OS launch – the coming out party for Windows Server 2012 R2 as well as System Center 2012 R2. Cisco will be a local sponsor at many of these events – in fact as of this writing we have wrapped up our participation at multiple events in Canada, Germany, and South Africa. Please stop by your local Microsoft Cloud OS event and visit the Cisco booth to learn more as well as listen to Cisco’s Chief Technology & Strategy Officer Padmasree Warrior on our Microsoft alliance and datacenter solutions.
3. Cisco, Microsoft, and the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI)…
Microsoft was a key strategic partner at our recent New York City ACI launch with strong support from key Microsoft leaders such as Satya Nadella, Executive Vice President of their Cloud and Enterprise business unit. Satya shared the stage with Cisco CEO John Chambers in announcing ACI to the public. In addition, Microsoft’s Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President, System Center blogged on the event and created a video on his ACI thoughts. Microsoft -- with their key platforms of Exchange, SQL Server, and SharePoint – sees ACI as a way to deliver ‘…datacenter without boundaries for our customers…’
By now, given all the launch and blogging activity activity over the past week or so, I am sure your understanding of and interest in Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) will have grown. Many of you will be asking “how do I get started as quickly as possible?”, and “how can I free up some time and resources to investigate?” You understand the “what” - now, as I blogged recently on SDN, it’s time to understand more about the “why” and take action on the “how”. How then do you get off that start line as quickly as possible?
Get Set To Go With ACI
As with many things in life, it helps if you get help from someone who has “been there” and “done that”. And that’s where Cisco Services comes in, as Scott Clark, the VP for our Data Center Services team, introduced last week. So let’s talk about why Cisco Services should be your partner in this application centric world, and what services can help you.
We’ve been getting a lot of great questions about ACI since our launch as people try and better understand the value of an application-oriented approach. I got the following questions on my blog post about the Application Virtual Switch that probed on some of the thinking behind an application-aware architecture, and why now was the right time to release it (after all, John Chambers called it the most disruptive Cisco innovation in a decade!). Anyway, on to the Q&A:
I’d like to know more about the path that Cisco pursued to evolve towards an “application aware” architecture. This back-story (how Cisco arrived at this juncture) would be very helpful to industry analysts, customers and institutional investors. Here’s some of the key questions on my mind.
- What were the primary roadblocks that inhibited the adoption of this innovative approach in the past?
I would say that the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) was a combination of a Eureka! moment, that people just never thought of it before, and that it was also an insightful evolution from early SDN technology. So, it might be fair to say that SDN had to come along, and then we realized, here might be a better way to program the network (with an application-oriented model, rather than a network-centric model).
That might be another way of saying that the lack of SDN as a precursor to ACI was a roadblock. But I think of it as networks were just built on hardware that were optimized to pass packets and other very specific tasks. And the limitations of historical networking protocols and traditional network designs, coupled with very limited ways in which you could manage a network and tell it what to do, all served as roadblocks to implementing anything like ACI. So the roadblocks that had to be cleared included the ability to program switches through software interfaces, and to centrally manage the software applications or controllers to orchestrate the broader network, not an individual device. Those are some of the things SDN brought along.
Wow ! The Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) Launch was one of these amazing events which can only rejoice a social media leader like me .
13K+ registants for the webcast ! A Twitter storm (#ACI, #Insieme) Over 4000 mentions in a few hours ! A blog editorial plan including so far more than 10 Cisco blogs, 15 Technology partners blogs , and numerous articles from 3rd party, analysts and journalists -- A festival of videos, podcast, broadcast and infographics.
On the top of that I am pleased to welcome Cisco ACI a fast growing and independent LinkedIn group -- And I’d like to thank over 5500 professionals who already follow our brand new Cisco Data Center page on LinkedIn !
These series of facts show us how much interest our customers and partners find in this breakthrough vision and products announcement . So I figured out that a “little ” list of what’s available now will not hurt anybody !
This blog is designed to grow over the time thanks to your contribution -- So please feel free to post a comment with links (blogs, video, infographics , slideshare deck ) that I could have missed -- Or simply tell us what blog(s) or video(s) inspired you the most and why . And don’t hesitate to follow me @drombaut to make sure that I promote your suggestions:)