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Observations from London SDN Conference… “Wait, it’s coming…” … But Can You Afford To?

Last week I spent some time at the “Software Defined Networking 2014” conference in London.  It’s a relatively small conference I would say however given the growing interest in SDN and rapid progress of the technology it’s always good to hear alternative viewpoints and experiences.  And I certainly found the previous conference here in December 2013 interesting – in particular one vendor in my view using SDN as the “hammer to crack a nut“.

Cisco wasn’t present at this conference last week, so what are others saying about SDN?  Here is a quick summary of my takeaways (in some cases questions raised in my mind), which I will expand on below.  And let me be controversial in my summary!

(1) Negligible discussion on live SDN deployments.

(2) NFV – at least for service providers – is potentially a quicker win than SDN

(3) SDN “Washing” is alive and well :-)

(4) Is OpenFlow more of an academic pursuit?

(5) Open Daylight excitement

(6) Negligible Discussion on “Making It Happen”

As I say, to some my statements may be controversial – let me explain!

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Agility – A service provider’s Secret Weapon

Tom_Davies_PassportWritten by Tom Davies, Technical Solutions Architect

The world can be a tough place for a service provider in today’s marketplace. Revenue per customer is declining and margins are shrinking. Over-the-top players are delivering services at an ever increasing pace and systems integrators are positioning themselves as end-to-end providers of complex services. It is a potent mix that is negatively affecting the top line growth of many providers.

From discussing these key business issues with numerous service providers, the desire and will to offer new and innovative services on cutting edge technology cannot be doubted. Unfortunately, service providers have large legacy networks to consider, with a multitude of Element Management Systems, Network Management Systems and Operational Support System stacks, which tend to be customised to manage the specific networks and the services that reside on them. These stacks can present a bottleneck to offering new services and adopting new and disruptive technologies in terms of time to market, capital cost and the operational expenditure to deploy and manage them.

Service providers find themselves with reduced top line growth opportunity and stifled capability Read More »

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Next Generation Data Center Design With MDS 9710 – Part II

Note: This is the second of a three-part series on Next Generation Data Center Design with MDS 9700; learn how customers can deploy scalable SAN networks that allow them to Scale Up or Scale Out in a non disruptive way.  Part 1 | Part 3 ]

EMC World was wonderful. It was gratifying to meet industry professionals,  listen in on great presentations and watch the demos for key business enabling technologies that Cisco, EMC and others have brought to fruition.  Its fascinating to see the transition of DC from cost center to a strategic business driver . The same repeated all over again at Cisco Live. More than 25000 attendees, hundreds of demos and sessions. Lot of  interesting customer meetings and MDS continues to resonate. We are excited about the MDS hardware that was on the display on show floor and interesting Multiprotocol demo and a lot of interesting SAN sessions.

Outside these we recently did a webinar on how Cisco MDS 9710 is enabling High Performance DC design with customer case studies. You can listen to that here.

Three Pillars of ReliabilitySo let’s continue our discussion. There is no doubt when it comes to High Performance SAN switches there is no comparable to Cisco MDS 9710. Another component that is paramount to a good data center design is high availability. Massive virtualization, DC consolidation and ability to deploy more and more applications on powerful multi core CPUs has increased the risk profile within DC. These DC trends requires renewed focus on availability. MDS 9710 is leading the innovation there again. Hardware design and architecture has to guarantee high availability. At the same time, it’s not just about hardware but it’s a holistic approach with hardware, software, management and right architecture. Let me give you some just few examples of the first three pillars for high reliability and availability.


Reliability examples in MDS



MDS 9710 is the only director in the industry that provides Hardware Redundancy on all critical components of the switch, including fabric cards. Cisco Director Switches provide not only CRC checks but ability to drop corrupted frames. Without that ability network infrastructure exposes the end devices to the corrupted frames. Having ability to drop the CRC frames and quickly isolate the failing links outside as well as inside of the director provides Data Integrity and fault resiliency. VSAN allows fault isolation, Port Channel provides smaller failure domains, DCNM provides rich feature set for higher availability and redundancy. All of these are but a subset of examples which provides high resiliency and reliability.


Weakest link


We are proud of the 9500 family and strong foundation for reliability and availability that we stand on. We have taken that to a completely new level with 9710. For any design within Data center high availability  has to go hand in hand with consistent performance. One without the other doesn’t make sense. Right design and architecture with DC as is important as components that power the connectivity. As an example Cisco recommend customers to distribute the ISL ports of an Port Channel across multiple line cards and multiple ASICs. This spreads the failure domain such that any ASIC  or even line card failures will not impact the port channel connectivity between switches and no need to reinitiate all the hosts logins. You can see white paper on Next generation Cisco MDS here. At part of writing this white paper ESG tested the Fabric Card redundancy (Page 9) in addition to other features of the platform. Remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.


Geschäftsmann hat Wut, Frust und Ärger im Büro


The most important aspect for all of this is for customer is to be educated.

Ask the right questions. Have in depth discussions to achieve higher availability and consistent performance. Most importantly selecting the right equipment, right architecture and best practices means no surprises.

We will continue our discussion for the Flexibility aspect of MDS 9710.



-We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit (Aristotle)


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Next Generation Data Center Design With MDS 9710 – Part I

Note: This is the first of a three-part series on Next Generation Data Center Design with MDS 9700; learn how customers can deploy scalable SAN networks that allow them to Scale Up or Scale Out in a non disruptive way.  Part 2 | Part 3 ]

High Speed (16Gbps) and High Capacity (384 Line Rate ports per Chassis)

Data centers are undergoing a major transition to meet higher performance, scalability, and resiliency requirements with fewer resources, smaller footprint, and simplified designs. These rigorous requirements coupled with major data center trends, such as virtualization, data center consolidation  and data growth, are putting a tremendous amount of strain on the existing infrastructure and adding complexity. MDS 9710 is designed to surpass these requirements without a forklift upgrade for the decade ahead.

MDS 9700 provides unprecedented

  • Performance – 24 Tbps Switching capacity
  • Reliability – Redundancy for every critical component in the chassis including Fabric Card
  • Flexibility – Speed, Protocol, DC Architecture

In addition to these unique capabilities MDS 9710 provides the rich feature set and investment protection to customers.

In this series of blogs I plan to focus on design requirements of the next generation DC with MDS 9710.  We will review one aspect of the DC design requirements in each.  Let us look at performance today. A lot of customers how MDS 9710 delivers highest performance today. The performance that application delivers depend

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Evolution towards the Data-Driven Enterprise

Data has always been important for many (if not all) companies. Today however it is becoming increasingly easier to collect data about customers, business transactions, devices etc…, . This data enables companies to (more dynamically) optimize their business models and processes and differentiate themelves from their competitors. Before embarking on a (Big) data strategy it is important to understand what is driving this evolution and what are basic Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 10.45.42architecture building blocks to take into account when transforming into a more data driven enterprise.

Several trends are fueling the evolution towards a more data-driven enterprise: Price/performance improvements in network, storage and computing and the rise of Cloud computing , make it more cost effective to deploy large IT infrastructures and capture data. New data management technologies and products such as Hadoop (MapReduce) and NoSQL/NewSQL provide scalable and more cost effective solutions than traditional SQL databases for various classes of problems.  The IT consumerization trend results in departments more actively pursuing analytics capabilities. Another important trend is the Internet of Things (IoT): The advent of cheaper sensors and improved connectivity are bridging the gap between the physical and digital world, enabling collecting data from more devices and environments. This sensorization is unlocking the potential to gather enormous amounts of data and details about almost everything.

These trends are creating new challenges and opportunities to harness and understand the data tsunamis, and leverage the analytics for decision making purposes, to better monitor, control, and understand complex systems from business dashboards to IoT eco-systems. Read More »

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