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XMPP: A Power Tool in Your Tool Box

February 25, 2014 at 3:16 pm PST

Extensive Message Protocol (XMPP) is an open standard protocol based on XML (Extensible Markup Language). XMPP is designed to transport instant messages (IM) between entities and to detect online presence. It supports authentication of IM application and secure transport of messages over SSL/TLS. In XMPP entities can be bots, physical users, servers, devices or components. It’s really a powerful tool that has great potential for system administrators to add to their toolbox because:

  • XMPP is powerful
  • XMPP with Python is only 12 lines of code – trust me, it’s easy!
  • XMPP only requires a single query for multiple nodes
  • Status message can be used to track host presence

The Power of XMPP

For those of you that are not familiar with XMPP, it not only supports one-to-one messaging between entities but it also supports multi-party messaging (which enables an entity to join a chat room for the exchange of messages with several participants). The messages can be text messages embedded in XML format but XML can also be used to send control messages between entities as we will see with the presence stanza in a bit.

XMPP is widely used; Google uses it (for its Hangout application -- formerly google chat) and so does Yahoo and MSN. At Cisco, we use Cisco Jabber extensively to communicate internally. The XMPP client function is now integrated in the Cisco Nexus 5000 series with the release 5.2(1)N1(7) and the Nexus 6000 series with the release of 7.0(0)N1(1). XMPP is an integral part of the single console access for Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA) which is a powerful framework described in my previous blog.

The new Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) 7.0(1) is delivered as an OVA file that can be deployed quickly on an existing VMware-enabled server. Although DCNM comes with a lot of features that simplify the deployment of the Data Center fabric, we can pick and choose any service we want to use independently -- which is great since DCNM comes with Cisco Jabber XCP and is license free. If you already have a XMPP service installed (like Openfire or ejabberd), it will not be a problem because everything discussed here is valid on any standard XMPP implementation.

On NX-OS devices, the XMPP feature is activated by configuring ‘feature fabric access’ and is part of the Enhanced L2 license (ENHANCED_LAYER2_PKG). Once activated, the switch becomes a XMPP client that needs to be registered on the server. In order to register it, XMPP requires the use of fully qualified domain names (FQDNs) to identify the domain server. If the switch does not have access to a DNS service, I recommend that you use the switch management network for messaging and a static host–to–IP address mapping in the switch configuration.

The switch will use its hostname to login to the XMPP service. If your XMPP server does not support auto-registration, you will need to register the switch and the rooms in the XMPP database beforehand. The DCNM OVA requires users and groups to be created via the CLI, and example of this user and group creation is:

[root@dcnm-ova ~]# appmgr add_user xmpp -u leaf0 -p cisco123
User added.
[root@dcnm-ova ~]# appmgr add_user xmpp -u leaf1 -p cisco123
User added.

User added. Read More »

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Cisco Achieves #2 Worldwide in the x86 Blade Server Market

Nobody thought the ‘plumbers’ could succeed in compute …

The numbers are in – across the board Cisco is posting strong results and tracking unprecedented momentum in the server market.  With Cisco’s Q3 financial earnings announcement reporting 77% Y/Y growth in Data Center and now the latest IDC Server Tracker results [view UCS Advantage], Cisco is proving to be a formidable force in the compute space. In less than four years after entering a market with very well-established competitors, Cisco has captured the #2 worldwide share position in x86 blade servers*.

The industry has seen businesses shift over 19% of the global x86 blade market to Cisco UCS, and over 28% in the US.  In the recent earnings announcement, Cisco reported more than 23,000 unique UCS customers worldwide, representing a customer growth number of 89% Y/Y.

This is not luck …

This is about the value that Cisco is providing our customers.  Although we develop products using the same industry standard hardware & software as our competitors, Cisco continues to grow market share.  This is attributed Cisco’s unique & innovative approach to providing an open, standards-based data center network architecture and ecosystem that maintains customer choice. We are increasing business value while substantially decreasing the total cost of ownership (TCO).  With Cisco Unified Computing System, we are truly evolving the way customers approach the data center, focused on consolidating resources, accelerating server deployment, and simplifying management – flexible and scalable for any workload.  It’s that simple.

You hear a lot of buzz words around the industry. But when it comes down to the numbers, Cisco is driving real results for real customers [click to enlarge]:

DrivingResults

Here is just some of what we are hearing from our customers:
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Delivering the Madness: remember to thank your servers and the network

March 21, 2013 at 10:35 am PST

March Madness is here and in full effect.  If you’re reading this post you probably aren’t paying close enough attention to the results pouring in from the round of 64.   Today and tomorrow will make or break your bracket!  Take appropriate action.  As soon as I hit “publish” on this post I promise you that I will.

We have some fun things going on here during the tournament.  If you’re watching the games you may see some UCS ads (yes, server ads from Cisco on TV…believe it!)   We teamed up with CDW and Charles Barkley to celebrate the soothing hum of the data center in this spot, and there are a couple more that touch on Cisco Data Center more broadly.

Barkley

These ads come on the heels of a big push we’re making at Cisco to spread the good word about Unified Computing.  We have print and digital ads running across the big tech pubs that talk about the very real application performance and IT operations benefits the UCS brings.

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Re-defining Fabric Scale: Thinking Beyond the “Box”

Today we are making a significant announcement with several new innovations across our data center and switching portfolio that showcase how our customers can build large scale-up and scale-out data center networks.  While the press release does a great job (thanks Lee!) of highlighting all the innovations across the Nexus Unified Fabric portfolio and the new ASA 1000v, two aspects of the announcement stand out quite prominently:

  1. Cisco is delivering the highest density 10GbE modular switching platform in the industry
  2. Cisco is delivering the most scalable fabric in the industry and, by extension -- on the planet! (we’re told planet sounds much cooler)

No. 1 above is fairly straightforward. With our new 2nd-generation F2 line card and Fabric 2 module, at 768 ports of 10GbE line-rate switching ports running NX-OS, the flagship Nexus 7018 in a fully-loaded configuration is simply the epitome of switch scale.

No.2 is where things get interesting, because we’re no longer thinking about just the “box” but rather, how we can weave different elements across the data center into a holistic “fabric”.  This systems-based approach focuses on multi-dimensional scale transcending the box and even the data center LAN, to span between data centers, while providing feature-rich fabric capabilities.  At 12,000+ 10GbE nodes supported as part of one Fabricpath-enabled system, and with the ability to support Fabric Extender (FEX) technology (plus L2 and L3 capabilities), this approach re-defines fabric scalability at 2X the scale and half the cost point of the next best claim in the industry. More important, it achieves this in an evolutionary manner for our 19,000+ NX-OS customers, offering investment protection for brownfield deployments while raising the bar for greenfield environments!

The Nexus platforms have been around for 3+ years, and over 500 customers have deployed FabricPath on the Nexus 7000 alone since its introduction about an year ago. It is a proven technology. With Fabricpath now coming onto the Nexus 5500 platforms, the momentum is likely to spike up with a mix of both size and scale. Like I said, things get interesting.

To make it more fun, our technical experts from the product teams have taken a data-driven approach and compared Cisco’s new innovations and our box and system-scale with others in the industry.

They looked at a couple of representative examples -- the first being, what it would take any other vendor to build a non-blocking 768-port 10GbE “switch”, with capabilities similar to what the Nexus 7000 could provide in a single chassis. The second example takes a look at what it takes to build a “fabric” with Cisco leveraging its Nexus portfolio and NX-OS to build that.

Take a look and let us know what you think. It is useful to note that most vendors in the industry today have no fabric capabilities to speak of, and the few that are attempting a systems approach, have really limited to no customer traction thus far. Our customers and key analysts tell us that Cisco has a multi-year innovation lead in this space, even as Cisco continues to focus on bringing the network, compute, storage and application services together with integrated management to drive productivity and efficiency across traditional IT and organizational silos.

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Others make promises. We deliver.

It is great when the chief sales guy feels pretty good about the innovation a company delivers enough to blog about it. It gets even better when customers feel good about the innovation and value that a company like Cisco brings, to get up in front of the camera and share the benefits they are deriving.

Such customer confidence comes from trust. In the case of Cisco, we have earned this trust over decades, providing our customers not just with the best networking technology but by providing the right support model, the lowest TCO  and simply the best investment protection in the industry.

This has been borne out many times even as we’ve led numerous industry transitions - from enabling the ubiquity of Ethernet and IP; driving the voice, video and data inflection points, and the more recent trends around data center, virtualization and cloud.

Speaking of inflection points - over the past three years - we are leading perhaps the biggest networking transition in history, as we introduce the Nexus switching and NX-OS platforms into the data center and make it a foundational element for fabric-based infrastructure. In just over three years, we have over 19,000 NX-OS based customers with a sustained #1 market leadership across a variety of categories including revenue and port share. As the chart below depicts, we’re nearly 3X the 10GbE revenue of all our competitors combined! The 10GbE port shipments are equally strong compared to the rest of the industry.

Needless to say, all this has made the job for our competition much harder; to keep up with Cisco’s pace of innovation  has not been an easy task.

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