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Are Overlays the Duct Tape of Networking?

October 9, 2012 at 12:50 am PST

Duct tape is pretty amazing stuff because its versatile and easy to use.  That being said, sometimes, that versatility and ease-of-use means it gets used at times when maybe it shouldn’t.

This thought came to mind a couple of weeks ago at VMworld.  Over the course of the show, I had a number of conversations with folks about tunneling and overlay network.  For many (mostly non-networking) folks, it seemed like the best thing since sliced bread—it gave them the holy grail—flexible, agile, one-demand connectivity without having to talk to the network folks.

From a networking perspective, its kinda funny, since the concept of tunnels is a decades old technology. It’s always played a legitimate role in a comprehensive networking strategy (MPLS and IPsec VPNs for example) so its cool to see an old concept find new applications.

However, lest we be lulled into blissful slumber by the unicorns playing lilting melodies through their horns, its good to remember, as with pretty much everything in IT, there is no free lunch.  While overlays networks make life simpler for the server admin or the virtualization admin, there are a couple of things to bear in mind.

From an operational perspective, the overlay environment becomes a second network that needs to be managed—often a dumber, less instrumented network.  Somewhere, someone still needs to maintain a fully functioning, highly available, secure, properly traffic-engineered network that underpins that virtualized connectivity. Think of this as the difference between your checkbook and your checking account—just because you can write a check doesn’t mean there is money in the account to cover it.

Now, if you are not a networking dude or dudette, your first reaction may be “why do I care?”  Well, when you start seeing performance issues on your tunnel, you start to see intermittent drops on your tunnel, or you need to demonstrate auditable regulatory compliance, then you start to care.  While some folks propose that the underlying network becomes irrelevant once you start using overlays, the truth is that the strengths and weaknesses (performance, availability, security, manageability, etc.) of the underlying physical network are going to manifest themselves in in whatever rides on top.  While overlay technology is undeniably useful, having an approach that leverages the intelligence of the underlying infrastructure (assuming any exists) is going to pay off in the long run.

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Unified Data Center IQ Contest : And the First Weekly Winner is..

October 5, 2012 at 4:17 pm PST

This morning the winner of our first weekly raffle was picked amongst the 200 correct answers! This lucky and smart participant  will receive very soon a congratulations e-mail and in a few days his/her Apple iPad!

 

The race for the grand prize is definitely on! But don’t worry !

If you didn’t participate this week , you can still win points in answering the bonus questions before the end of the week-end ! How ? very simple
Check right away www.Facebook.com/ciscodc for the Unified data center IQ tab – This set of questions are worth 30 points – A great way to catch up if you missed this first week or to boost your Unified IQ if you are already in the race .

Now you may want to know what are the results for the first set of questions
The questions were related to our September 19th low latency data center switch announcement – At this time , we launched a new technology called Algo Boost and a ultra low latency Nexus 3548 , breaking the barriers of 200 nanoseconds !

[] What is Cisco’s Algo Boost?

A new Cisco ASIC, with unprecedented speed, performance and visibility
Check the blog announcement 

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New Nexus 1000V Free-mium Pricing Model

October 1, 2012 at 4:00 am PST

[See Also: Follow-Up Q&A on Freemium Pricing Model]

[Update 11/26/12: the free Nexus 1000V virtual switch is available for download from here.]

Following on the heels of the announcement of our Nexus 1000V 2.1 release last month, Cisco is today announcing a new pricing and packaging strategy for its flagship virtual switch portfolio. Starting with that new 2.1 release, which is now in beta, we will have two editions of the Nexus 1000V, an Essential Edition and an Advanced Edition. The Nexus 1000V Essential Edition will be available for free, plus a nominal annual support fee, in a move that we believe will encourage customers and our partners to proliferate what has already become the most popular virtual switch in the industry with over 6,000 customers to date.

The Nexus 1000V Essential Edition provides all the rich Layer-2 networking features to connect virtual applications to the network and integrate into VMware environments, including: VXLAN capability, Cisco vPath service insertion, integration with vCloud Director, and a plug-in for management and monitoring in VMware’s vCenter Server. This free version will enable rapid, low-risk adoption of Cisco’s virtual network technology environments.

The Advanced Edition, priced at $695 per CPU, the same price as the current 1.5 release, includes:

  • The Cisco Virtual Security Gateway (VSG) for Nexus 1000V, a virtual firewall with visibility to virtual machine attributes for building sophisticated compliance policies, and logical trust zones between applications (VSG was previously sold as a separate product).
  • Support for advanced capabilities, such as DHCP snooping, IP Source Guard, Dynamic ARP inspection and Cisco TrustSec Security Group Access (SGA).

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Cisco Announces New Nexus 1100 Series Virtual Services Appliances

September 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm PST
Nexus 1100 virtual services appliance

Nexus 1100 virtual services appliance

Cisco is unveiling a new beefed up line of virtual services appliances this week called the Nexus 1100 series, the next generation of our Nexus 1010 appliances. These virtual service appliances are integral to the deployment of scalable virtual security and management nodes in the data center, for offloading application servers from running virtual service modules, and for empowering the networking team to retain control of network and security policies in a platform that they manage.

Cisco customers deploying Nexus 1000V virtual switches as the foundation for their virtual networks and virtual overlays typically deploy the Virtual Supervisor Module (VSM), the virtual switch’s management plane, in the Nexus 1100, along with some combination of Virtual Security Gateway (VSG) firewalls, virtual Prime Network Analysis Modules (NAM), Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) for both LAN and SAN networks, and soon, even the  Imperva SecureSphere Web Application Firewall (WAF). The Nexus 1100 is a UCS-based appliance for hosting the service VM’s, but it runs the NX-OS operating system, so it can be managed like a network device and retains policy controls for the networking team.  Read More »

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Making a Case for Programmatic Interfaces in Existing Service Provider Networks – Going Beyond Software Defined Networks

The communications industry has come a long way from fixed, inflexible telephone service optimized for voice to dynamic IP-based connections offering converged voice, data, and video capabilities. Now, both residential and business users are increasingly more mobile and distributed, as are the cloud-based services, applications, and content they want to utilize. Service providers must therefore support a more diverse customer base with more distributed content and applications across multiple geographies, yet still maintain a secure, reliable, and consistent quality of experience regardless of device and physical location.

In the face of greater traffic demands and the risk of becoming lower-margin “commoditized pipes,” network operators must react to three key challenges: Read More »

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