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Announcing Cisco UCS Director 5.0 – with Support for Application Centric Infrastructure

May 16, 2014 at 6:40 am PST

It’s that time of year again. Next week in San Francisco, an estimated 22,000 customers and partners will convene for our annual Cisco Live user conference in the U.S. It’s also when we make big announcements … and this year is no different. The event hasn’t even started and we just made our first major announcement this morning.

In today’s press release, we announced that Cisco is delivering on our vision for Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) – including the release of the new Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) later this summer. In that same time frame, we’ll be releasing version 5.0 of Cisco UCS Director – including APIC integration and support for ACI.

Cisco UCS Director is unique in the industry because it offers the ability to automate the provisioning of both virtual and physical data center infrastructure resources – including compute, network, and storage – from a single management console. Building upon other recent releases, this major new release of UCS Director provides richer automation, greater extensibility, and broader device support. Some of the new capabilities in UCS Director version 5.0 include:

  • Support for APIC and the Nexus 9000 Series to provide automated deployment of application-ready infrastructure across both traditional and ACI-based data center networking from a single user interface.
  • Enhancements to the core platform including a new software development kit and open APIs that allow third party hardware and software vendors to integrate directly with UCS Director.
  • Expanded support for Cisco’s complete UCS and Nexus product portfolio; third-party compute, storage, and virtualization vendors’ products; and integrated infrastructure systems including NetApp FlexPod, VCE Vblock Systems, and EMC VSPEX.
  • Rapid customer deployment and even faster time-to-value with over 800 pre-built tasks in the updated UCS Director task library.

You can learn more about what’s new in UCS Director 5.0 in this “at-a-glance” overview:

At-a-Glance: Cisco UCS Director version 5.0 from Cisco Data Center

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Summary – Network Design for Automation

There has been a lot of recent online discussion about automation of the datacenter network, how we all may (or may not) need to learn programming, the value of a CCIE, and similar topics. This blog tries to look beyond all that. Assume network configuration has been automated. How does that affect network design?

Read my full article to find out more..

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Network Design for Automation

20140519-CISCO-spine-and-leafThere has been a lot of recent online discussion about automation of the datacenter network, how we all may (or may not) need to learn programming, the value of a CCIE, and similar topics. This blog tries to look beyond all that. Assume network configuration has been automated. How does that affect network design?

Automation can greatly change the network landscape, or it may change little. It depends on what you’re presently doing for design. Why? The reason is that the programmers probably assumed you’ve built your network in a certain way. As an example, Cisco DFA (Dynamic Fabric Automation) and ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) are based on a Spine-Leaf CLOS tree topology.

Yes, some OpenFlow vendors have claimed to support arbitrary topologies. Arbitrary topologies are just not a great idea. Supporting them makes the programmers work harder to anticipate all the arbitrary things you might do. I want the programmers to focus on key functionality. Building the network in a well-defined way is a price I’m quite willing to pay. Yes, some backwards or migration compatibility is also desirable.

The programmers probably assumed you bought the right equipment and put it together in some rational way. The automated tool will have to tell you how to cable it up, or it  might check your compliance with the recommended design. Plan on this when you look to automation for sites, a datacenter, or a WAN network.

The good news here is the the Cisco automated tools are likely to align with Cisco Validated Designs. The CVD’s provide a great starting point for any network design, and they have recently been displaying some great graphics. They’re a useful resource if you don’t want to re-invent the wheel — especially a square wheel. While I disagree with a few aspects of some of them, over the years most of them have been great guidelines.

The more problematic part of this is that right now, many of us are (still!) operating in the era of hand-crafted networks. What does the machine era and the assembly line bring with it? We will have to give up one-off designs and some degree of customization. The focus will shift to repeated design elements and components. Namely, the type of design the automated tool can work with.

Some network designers are already operating in such a fashion. Their networks may not be automated, but they follow repeatable standards. Like an early factory working with inter-changeable parts. Such sites have likely created a small number of design templates and then used them repeatedly. Examples: ”small remote office”, “medium remote office”, “MPLS-only office”, or “MPLS with DMVPN backup office”.

However you carve things up, there should only be a few standard models, including “datacenter” and perhaps “HQ” or “campus”. If you know the number of users (or size range) in each such site, you can then pre-size WAN links, approximate number of APs, licenses, whatever. You can also pre-plan your addressing, with, say, a large block of  /25′s for very small offices, /23′s for medium, etc.

On the equipment side, a small office might have one router with both MPLS and DMVPN links, one core switch, and some small number of access switches. A larger office might have one router each for MPLS and one for DMPVN, two core switches, and more access switches. Add APs, WAAS, and other finishing touches as appropriate. Degree of criticality is another dimension you can add to the mix: critical sites would have more redundancy, or be more self-contained. Whatever you do, standardize the equipment models as much as possible, updating every year or two (to keep the spares inventory simple).

It takes some time to think through and document such internal standards. But probably not as much as you think! And then you win when you go to deploy, because everything becomes repeatable.

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#EngineersUnplugged S5|Ep10: Automation Demystified!

May 7, 2014 at 10:43 am PST

Welcome back to an amazing episode of Engineers Unplugged, featuring Alan Renouf (@alanrenouf) and Patrick Carmichael (@vmcarmichael) demystify automation in the modern data center in less than 10 minutes: built-in, scripts, workflow, and policy-based. Answers to your most answered questions about how to start, where to simplify, and elimination of human error. Don’t miss this tutorial.

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Attending The Automation Conference Should be an Automatic Decision

MFG TACWebHeader

Last week, I got a great response to a blog on ‘Making Smarter Manufacturing and IoT a Reality Today’, where I illustrated some use-case business scenarios and strategies to leverage the IoT industry trends now. One way savvy manufacturers, industrial companies and supply chain and operations teams stay current with evolving trends like IoT is to send their key players to industry educational and networking opportunities. One such opportunity to learn how to better leverage IoT for improved real-time decision support, amongst many other benefits, is coming up. The Automation Conference is a professional, educational event hosted by the editors of Automation World and Packaging World and is happening at the Chicago O’Hare Marriott from May 20th to 21st.

Cisco is proud to be one of the sponsors at this event, which is focused on delivering practical application advice and visionary insights for automation and control engineers, operations and engineering management, manufacturing systems/IT and networking professionals, as well as industrial systems engineers, machinery designers and software development professionals involved with discrete and process industries and production operations.  Many of these industry leaders are wrestling with not just how to leverage IoT, but also key manufacturing issues and opportunities around industrial cybersecurity in production operations, reducing costs, improving efficiences, building new business capabilities and revenue streams and addressing skills gaps.

I hope to see you in Chicago on May 21st.

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