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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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Cisco Empowered Women’s Network (CiscoEWN) at Cisco Live US enters its second year!

May 8, 2014 at 10:11 am PST

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This blog post was written by Priscila David in collaboration with Anuja Singh and Rima Alameddine

Exactly one year ago, during the launch of the Cisco Empowered Women’s Network at Cisco Live Orlando, we asked the audience: “What would you do if you were not afraid?” On that day, we couldn’t have imagined the incredible journey we would take in answering that question and, ultimately, in building the Cisco Empowered Women’s Network (CiscoEWN).

CiscoEWN was created out of a collaboration between myself, Priscila David (Director, Systems Engineering, US Commercial East); Rima Alameddine (Sales Director, Enterprise NY); and Anuja Singh (Manager, Systems Engineering, Public Sector).  All three of us work in the field sales organization at Cisco and have daily interactions with customers and partners. We realized that Read More »

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Cisco Champion Radio on ACI and Nexus 9000

March 3, 2014 at 11:07 am PST
  • How ACI lets you manage a network cohesively instead of box-by-box ?
  • What a network looks like in ACI mode vs. stand-alone mode ?
  • How ACI works with network protocols like spanning-tree and TRILL ?
  • Upgrading the Nexus 9000 Series to ACI
  • When does ACI make sense for your business ?

For this new episode of the podcast with Cisco Champion, we are fortunate to have a great technical (and casual) dialog between two active members of the data center and cloud social media sphere.

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Colin Lynch (@UCSguru) based in London is a subject matter expert for Cisco UCS, Integrated Systems, Converged Infrastructure and writes also on SDN . Colin has an independant blog at UCSguru.com He was nominated ComputaCenter Consultant of the Year in 2013 .

Colin talked with Joe Onisick (@jonisick) who works for Insieme Networks, now part of Cisco. Joe writes an independant blog at DefineTheCloud.com. He talked about ACI in multiple videos and podcasts.

After attending Cisco Live Europe in Milan, Colin was at VMware PEX to have an in-depth analysis of NSX , and wanted to “challenge ” Joe on several points, which makes this conversation even more lively !

I found this dialog extremely rich, as both participants were willing to address difficult and controversial aspects of the Data Center architecture today and tomorrow,  for instance around layer 2 and layer 3,  network programmability and management, or the future of networking certification ! You will also better understand, why Cisco is heavily investing in ACI solutions, when at the same type keeps developing other paths .
A very exciting 40 mn conversation between two great subject matter experts, really passionate by this topic, spiced  with additional questions from other Cisco Champions and…humor.

Listen now to our guests and enjoy the show hosted by @commsninja.

I also encourage you to read this very didactic explanation from Tom Edsall, Cisco Fellow and CTO of Insieme Networks, in this new blog from Shashi Kiran
ACI Design Principles : The Role of SDN Overlays in Application Centric Deployement . Shashi  will publish the second part tomorrow .

As a reminder, Cisco Champion is a community of  technical professionals who are passionate about sharing their knowledge and expertise. They are ready to offer their time to help others to learn about Cisco and connect with Cisco in unique way
For Data Center and Cloud , we have now more than 40 members, who have been nominated by peers for one year . We invite them to give their opinion on market trends, Cisco solutions and products . We encourage also them to participate to our Cisco Live events , webcasts, podcasts , Google + HOA , blogs and tweet to share their experience and wisdom.

 

 

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IoE: My First Impression

As Cisco is sharing its Internet of Everything ( IoE ) vision today at CES 2014, it makes me reflect on what the future of this technology will look like. We’re in such a connected society now, with more information available to us than ever before. I ask myself, “Will being more connected, with even more information at our disposal be something our society could benefit from?” After evaluating this concept, my opinion is a resounding yes.

Imagine a world where you can have everyday items “speak” to you without having to initiate the action. Our lives are so busy now that having important information alerted to us without needing to query it ourselves is a huge idea. Here are some immediate thoughts on how the Internet of Everything could help solve everyday problems.

How many of us have gotten into our car late for some sort of appointment, and while driving, realized we didn’t have enough gas to get where we needed to go? Having a sensor in the car alert you that you’re low on gas would be a time/stress saver. In my house creating weekly grocery lists can be cumbersome. IoE connected kitchenGoing through cabinets one by one seeing what’s needed, and putting them down on the list. Of course, this always happens right when you’re ready to leave for the grocery store. Imagine going up to your refrigerator and having it email you a list of items needed. That’s huge, and can save you from having to run back to the store more than once because you forgot that important dinner item! Read More »

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Cloud: Are you confused, convinced or converted?

If you are in some way connected to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry, you probably have an opinion on cloud-based services. The past couple of years have seen a frenzy of activity in the business to business cloud services with manufacturers, service providers, and users extolling the virtues of the virtual. Product and service models once confined to the realm of the consumer have started gaining mindshare within the business community. As someone who went through the stages of being confused, then convinced, and finally converted, some of my learnings from partnering with Cisco to launch a Unified Collaboration as a Service (UCaaS) in Canada may be of interest to some of you.Collaboration from the cloud -2

Interest in UCaaS typically stems from one of two areas of the market – providers and users. Irrespective of which side of the business you fall, you are likely to come across some, if not all, of the concerns listed below when considering the deployment of a UCaaS solution. Read More »

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