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Scaling the next frontier: Hybrid Clouds, Fabric Innovations and the Cisco Open Network Environment

First, the Internet of Things:

Consider these impressive stats shared in a keynote from Cisco’s CTO and CSO Padmasree Warrior last week at Cisco Live, London:   

  • 50 Billion “things” including trees, vehicles, traffic signals, devices and what not will be connected together by 2020 (vs. 1000 devices connected in 1984)
  • 2012 created more information than the past 5000 years combined!
  • 2/3rd of the world’s mobile data will be video by 2015.  

These statistics may seem a bit surprising, but the fact is, they cannot be ignored by CIOs and others chartered with the responsibility of managing IT infrastructure.

Impact on Enterprise and SP Infrastructure strategies

Further, these trends are not silo’d and are certainly not happening in a vacuum. For example, Bring-your-Own Device (BYOD) and the exponential growth of video endpoints, may be happening in the “access”, but they are causing a ripple effect upstream in the data center and cloud environments, and coupled with new application requirements, are triggering CIOs across larger Enterprise and Service Providers to rapidly evolve their IT infrastructure strategies.   

It is much the same with cloud infrastructure strategies. Even as Enterprises have aggressively adopted the journey to Private Cloud, their preference for hybrid clouds, where they can enjoy the “best of both worlds” – public and private have grown as well. However, the move to hybrid clouds has been somewhat hampered by challenges as outlined in my previous blog: Lowering barriers to hybrid cloud adoption – challenges and opportunities.

The Fabric approach

To address many of these issues, Cisco has long advocated the concept of a holistic data center fabric, heart of its Unified Data Center philosophy. The fundamental premise of breaking silos, and bringing together disparate technology silos across network, compute and storage is what makes this so compelling. At the heart of it, is the Cisco Unified Fabric, serving as the glue.

As we continue to evolve this fabric, we’re making three industry-leading announcements today that help make the fabric more scalable, extensible and open.

Let’s talk about SCALING the fabric first:

  1. Industry’s highest density L2/L3 10G/40G switch: Building upon our previous announcement of redefining fabric scale, this time we introduces a New Nexus 6000 family with two form factors – 6004 and 6001. We expect these switches to be positioned to meet increasing bandwidth demands, for spine/leaf architectures, and for 40G aggregation in fixed switching deployments. We expect the Nexus 6000 to be complementary to the Nexus 5500  and Nexus 7000 series deployments, and is not to be confused with the Catalyst 6500 or Nexus fabric interconnects.

Nexus 6000

The Nexus 6000 is built with Cisco’s custom silicon, and 1 micro-second port to port latency. It has forward propagated some of the architectural successes of the Nexus 3548, the industry’s lowest latency switch that we introduced last year. Clearly, as in the past, Cisco’s ASICs have differentiated themselves against the lowest common denominator approach of the merchant silicon, by delivering both better performance as well as greater value due to the tight integration with the software stack.

The Nexus 5500 incidentally gets 40G expansion modules, and is accompanied by a brand new Fabric Extender – the 2248PQ, which comes with 40G uplinks as well. All of these, along with the 10G server interfaces, help pair the 10G server access with 40G server aggregation.

Also as part of the first step in making the physical Nexus switches services ready in the data center, a new Network Analysis Module (NAM) on the Nexus 7000 also brings in performance analytics, application visibility and network intelligence. This is the first services module with others to follow, and brings in parity with the new vNAM functionality as well.

Next, EXTENSIBILITY:

  1. Industry’s simplest hybrid cloud solution: Over the last few years, we have introduced several technologies that help build fabric extensibility – the Fabric Extender or FEX solution is very popular extending the fabric to the server/VM,  as are some of the Data Center Interconnect technologies like Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV) or Location ID Separation Protocol (LISP), among others. Obviously each have their benefits.

The Nexus 1000V Intercloud takes these to the next level by allowing the data center fabric to be extended to provider cloud environments in a secure, transparent manner, while preserving L4-7 services and policies. This is meant to help lower the barriers for hybrid cloud deployments and is designed to be a multi-hypervisor, multi-cloud solution. It is expected to ship in the summer timeframe, by 1H CY13.

This video does a good job of explaining the concepts of the Intercloud solution:

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Deploying onePK Applications

This post expands on my previous posts about what makes onePK better, and the onePK software architecture. Here I focus on the application deployment options onePK makes available.

The deployment options are summarized in the diagram below.

Deployment

Process hosting means that the onePK application is running within a container on the same hardware as the network operating system (NOS). Read More »

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Cisco Open Network Environment – Introducing the Knowledge Portal

Over the last several months, since Cisco announced its Open Network Environment strategy, there has been considerable progress on multiple fronts:

– Early field trials (EFTs) with several Enterprise and Service Provider customers

– Proof-of-concepts (PoCs) and customer feedback providing more insight into use-cases and product evolution

– Several acquisitions have been announced that complement the strategy we outlined

– Our engagement and leadership in all the standards bodies around various aspects of open networking continue to grow

During all of these activities and customer interactions, what stood out was the considerable appetite amongst customers and others to learn about these emerging concepts in a more structured way. They expressed a strong desire to break through some of the hype cycle that has pervaded the industry around some of these topics, causing some degree of confusion. They also asked Cisco to present information in an easily consumable manner.

Given the breadth of our portfolio and the diversity of our customer base,  this was a bit of challenge for us.  A lot of this information was  disbursed across different landing pages, blog sites etc.  So we had to take a fresh approach to accede to this request.

Based on efforts over the last several weeks, the team has built two foundational portals that serve the purpose of both information aggregation as well as hopefully a watering hole for knowledge seekers –

The Cisco ONE Knowledge portal: This is a centralized aggregated information repository of all the content that we are generating around the topic of open networking across the portfolio, whether it is more formal and structured, or more informal and social. The information here is organized in a more structured way, based on type of content and the chronology.

Check this out at www.cisco.com/go/one and click on the “Knowledge Portal” tab.

What you will see is some quality content manifest itself over time, as we bring the consolidated efforts from various Cisco thought leaders, customers, analysts etc. and assets including more demos, deployment use-cases, case-studies etc. We are also initiating a series of webcasts on this topic to do a deeper dive on technology topics with roughly a 4-6 week cadence, with Cisco CTOs across various technology groups mostly leading the sessions.  The intent is to Educate in a more structured manner. For example, we’re kicking off the first of these Cisco ONE webinars with “An Introduction to OpenStack”. (If you have not registered for the webcast yet, please do so).

We sincerely welcome your feedback on how to continue to improve the content as well as experience with the Cisco ONE knowledge portal.

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SDN: Are We There Yet?

True Story:  When my son was about 3, I took him to go see his first movie  in an actual movie theater.  They had just built a brand new theater near our home and he was suitably impressed with all the bright shiny lights.  Anyway, we got our popcorn and grabbed our seats just as the lights were dimming (you never really go anywhere quickly when an inquisitive toddler is involved). We got through the movie trailers, then, to my surprise, my son popped out of his seat and said he was ready to go home.  Being his first movie-going experience, he thought the trailers were the big deal and did not realize we had not yet gotten to the featured attraction.

I was reminded of this after watching some conversations around SDN and programmability unfold over the last few days.  If you believe to some of the folks out there, SDN is a settled matter–the technology is done, use cases nailed, and winning vendors already crowned.  All that’s left is for the janitors to sweep the popcorn off the floor.

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OpenStack, Cisco ONE and You

So, with our announcements around OpenStack this week a few folks have asked me how OpenStack fits into our broader strategies like Cisco Open Network Environment. The short answer is “quite well, actually”, the longer answer follows. :)

If you look back our original introduction of the Cisco Open Network Environment, we made a couple of points—there is a plurality of use cases and as a result, there need to be a plurality of enabling technologies. While there are common objectives such as agility and programmability to better handle the macro trends like cloud and virtualization, the truth is, everyone has their own design objectives and priorities. To that sentiment, I might add that folks have varying operational objectives and priorities—the appetite for the amount of risk and complexity they want to take on.

With the three-pillar structure of the Open Network Environment, we feel like we have given folks the flexibility to choose the right technologies for the job. With initiatives like OpenStack we now support a different kind of flexibility.

While a segment of the market seems to want to start writing their own protocols and hand-wiring flow tables, a different segment of the market is moving in the other direction, expressing a desire to get out of the infrastructure business and focus their time and efforts on their apps and their users—this has traditionally been the Vblock and FlexPod crowd. With OpenStack, they now have another option—they get the programmability we talk about with the Open Network Environment, but at the stack level, instead of at the box level. The idea behind something like the Cisco Edition of OpenStack is simplify the task and reduce the risks of standing up a cloud stack. You have the full Folsom release of OpenStack, some Puppet recipes to simplify deployment and validation against the relevant Cisco hardware (follow that last link for details).

To get more insights into our OpenStack announcements this week, check our this blog by Lew Tucker, our VP/CTO for Cloud Computing and this post by Kyle Mestery, one of the many Cisco folks who has invested a great deal of time and effort in OpenStack.

One final thought. We are a long way from being done yet. In just the last few days, I blogged about how our Virtuata and vCider acquisitions fit into a multi-cloud strategy, we have had the aforementioned posts related to this week’s OpenStack announcements, and Rodrigo Flores just posted about our Multi-Cloud Acceleration Kits for our Intelligent Automation for Cloud solution. While cloud is the destination, there are many ways to get there as we have customers and we will continue to innovate and partner on a number of fronts and in a number of ways that will likely surprise some folks. Stay tuned.

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