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Application Centric Infrastructure: A New Era in the Data Center

Today, at Cisco Live! in Orlando, we shared a vision for a revolutionary networking architecture that will transform data centers and usher in a new era of Application-Centric Infrastructure.

The realization of this vision will optimize data center infrastructure for the new breed of mobile-cloud era applications that has evolved around the massive proliferation of connections between people, processes, information and devices that we call the Internet of Everything.

Big Data applications such as Hadoop, cloud applications such as Salesforce and Cisco WebEx, and massively scalable consumer video applications such as NetFlix and YouTube are typical of this new breed. 

The challenge with these applications in particular, is that they need to be able to run across multiple servers and data centers, be able to parallel process asynchronous tasks, and be continually available, globally.  These applications rely on both physical and virtual infrastructures and, as a result, place new demands on the data center to deliver applications at scale, with the level of availability, quality of service and flexibility that today’s businesses demand. 

Through our Application Centric Infrastructure vision, we will help IT departments dramatically simplify how they provision their data center resources (networking, servers, storage and services) that are critical to the performance of their applications.  It’s a key component in the evolution to the model for next generation IT that I detailed in my keynote at Cisco Live! Orlando.

In order to meet these demands, the infrastructure must evolve. It must become application-centric.  Network, compute, and storage need to be able to operate as one high-performance resource pool that can be provisioned instantly and automatically according to the needs of the application and related IT policies with security pervasive throughout. This type of dynamic, automated infrastructure provisioning requires a single point of management for the integrated needs of application, network and security administrators that replaces the fragmented, siloed views they have today.

And it’s this vision for the next generation data center that we will deliver, to the market, while helping customers evolve their existing investments for the future.  The Application Centric Infrastructure will give our customers the agility to deliver applications to end-users where they want, when they want, and to any device they want  – securely, rapidly, and at a lower cost. 

Why Isn’t the Traditional Model of Networking Sufficient for the Cloud, Mobile and Big Data Era?

We’ve made huge strides and delivered phenomenal innovations with our Cisco Unified Fabric that brings together LAN, SAN, and converged networks.  And I’m excited that we can continue to bring operational simplicity and scale across physical and virtual environments with Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA) and the new switching platforms we also announced today. 

But we’ll only meet future demands when we can bridge the gap between applications and infrastructure, in addition to unifying the siloes of infrastructure.  The fabric is extremely valuable in bringing together disparate systems, and the logical next step would be convergence for applications deployment and performance.  Let me use an analogy to explain.

In the consumer world, if you buy an approved Android App, you know it’s going to run well on your mobile device because the developer used an Android development toolkit to optimize the app for the O/S. Once bought, the App doesn’t need to know the details of your device, the O/S simply ‘tells’ the device which resources it needs to run really well.

No such abstraction layer exists in the data center today.  To make applications run really well, apps need to be programmed to the individual networked elements at the command line level.  Imagine if every time you bought a new smart phone app, you had to manually configure your device’s screen resolution, graphics card, keyboard, broadband connection etc. In the data center, the process is this manual, complicated, slow, and thereby expensive.

And why SDN is not the answer…

While it might seem that SDN is supposed to solve this exact challenge, I want to share my thoughts on where it falls short.

SDN promised to meet the needs of new apps by delivering greater scale, programmability, centralized management and automation.  But SDN, to date, can’t meet the needs of applications because it mimics the old model of networking. It doesn’t unify physical and virtual. It is flow-based (focused on individual networking elements), and not object-oriented (creating a configurable system of all IT resources). It can’t offer dynamic centralized policy management, programmability because it is constrained by old proprietary-standards model.

And with the changing applications world, we need more.  We need an approach broader than what’s been defined as the separation of the control and data planes.  Beyond SDN, the next generation data center must:

  •  Be created with an object-oriented design
  • Provide a single point for dynamic policy management across physical and virtual resource pools
  •  Be a system that is deeply programmable for rapid application provisioning and placement
  • Incorporate an open source approach to ensure total integration with RESTful interfaces into system-level management software
  • Enable multi-tenancy and virtualization, without performance penalties
  •  And have deep ecosystem support from application, management, and services vendors.

That is precisely the type of Application Centric Infrastructure Cisco will deliver with our new networking architecture.

A Complete Solution: Application Centric Infrastructure

In the second half of 2013, Cisco will begin to introduce the elements of this new secure architecture, starting with best-in-class infrastructure components, and followed by software that enables centralized, application and policy-driven automation, and unified management of physical, virtual and cloud infrastructures.

Accelerated to market by Cisco’s investment in the data center start-up Insieme Networks, we think the benefits to customers will be huge, and include:

  • Application Velocity (Any workload, anywhere): Reducing application deployment time through a fully automated and programmatic infrastructure for provisioning and placement. Customers will be able to define the infrastructure requirements of the application, and then have those requirements applied automatically throughout the infrastructure.
  • A common platform for managing physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure: The complete integration across physical and virtual, normalizing endpoint access while delivering the flexibility of software and the performance, scale and visibility of hardware across multi-vendor, virtualized, bare metal, distributed scale out and cloud applications
  • Systems Architecture: A holistic approach with the integration of infrastructure, services and security along with the ability to deliver simplification of the infrastructure, integration of existing and future services with real time telemetry system wide.
  • Common Policy, Management and Operations for Network, Security, Applications: A common policy management framework and operational model driving automation across Network, Security and Application IT teams that is extensible to compute and storage in the future.
  • Open APIs, Open Source and Multivendor: A broad ecosystem of partners who will be empowered by a comprehensive published set of APIs and innovations contributed to open source.
  • The best of Custom and Merchant Silicon: To provide highly scalable, programmatic performance, low-power platforms and optics innovations that protect investments in existing cabling plants, and optimize capital and operational expenditures.

 As we prepare to write the next chapter in the evolution of the data center, I couldn’t be more proud of our team.  It is the true realization of Cisco’s innovation principles – build, buy, partner and integrate. We’re delivering a fundamentally new vision with disruptive, breakthrough innovation.

I look forward to telling you more in the fall!


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Introducing Cisco Unified Fabric Innovations: Cisco Dynamic Fabric Automation, Nexus 7700 Switches, and F3 Modules

Cisco today introduced Application-Centric Infrastructure as the vision for Next Generation Data Center architecture, built for both today’s physical and virtual workloads as well as tomorrow’s highly dynamic Cloud-based, and performance-intensive big data application environments. Please check out Padmasree Warrior’s blog or Cisco Unified Fabric to learn more.  

What I would like to share with you is how we are evolving the Cisco Unified Fabric to deliver operational simplicity through superior integration.

Introducing Cisco Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA)

Delivering Operational Simplicity through Superior Integration

As organizations accelerate private and public cloud deployments, IT organizations and data center networks must evolve to meet rapidly changing and growing requirements.  Virtualized and cloud environments require more agility and simplicity to quickly deploy and migrate virtual machines. IT organizations, on the other hand, are challenged with operational complexity, architectural rigidity and infrastructure inefficiency with manual processes, disjointed provisioning, deficient software overlays, static resource allocations and disruptions when growth is needed.

The good news is that Cisco continues to evolve its Unified Fabric to address these needs. The new Cisco Dynamic Fabric Automation delivers unsurpassed operational simplicities through superior integration. It does this by …. Read More »

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Cisco UCS vs. IBM Flex System: Complexity and Cost Comparison

Complexity and Cost Comparison: Cisco UCS vs. IBM Flex System is report recently published by Principled Technologies.

They evaluated both the technologies and costs of each solution and found a UCS solution is both less expensive to deploy and less complex to manage than an IBM Flex System.

Off all the ways Principled Technologies shows how UCS is a superior solution, I wanted to touch on just one: highly available and scalable management. A UCS management domain consists of a pair of Fabric Interconnects and supports up to 160 blade and/or rack servers. In contrast, IBM is limited to 54 blade servers plus a non-redundant Flex System Manager node. Quoting from the paper:

Because IBM Flex System Manager nodes do not failover automatically like the Cisco UCS solution, administrators must manually connect to a backup node and bring it online. Each target system has an OS agent that remains registered to the original FSM node and does not recognize the new FSM. Admins must manually unregister each of these agents from the failed node and then register the new FSM node. [page 7]

Read the full report to learn the many additional ways which UCS is shown to be superior solution and why Cisco has leapt ahead of IBM and is now the #2 blade server vendor worldwide1

Principled Technologies Complexity and Cost Comparison Cisco UCS vs. IBM Flex System from Cisco Data Center


Would like to learn more about how Cisco is changing the economics of the datacenter, I would encourage you to review this presentation on SlideShare  or my previous series of blog posts, Yes, Cisco UCS servers are that good.

  1. Source:  IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, Q1 2013 Revenue Share, May 2013

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Cisco Live 2013 Shows Life in 2023, Thanks to the Internet of Everything

Join the conversation with @DaveTheFuturist #IoE2023

Join the conversation with @DaveTheFuturist #IoE2023

It’s probably no surprise to you that my favorite part of Cisco Live is discussing future technology. This year, there are so many ways the Internet of Everything (IoE) is connecting people, process, data and things.

For example, we are looking at a world where our clothes, our glasses, even the pills we swallow, will be connected. In the business arena, IoE enables new processes and creates new value. The data we consume and create is providing new insights. And we are connecting things at record rates. Today there are about 10 billion things connected to the Internet, a little more than one for each person on the planet. By 2023, there will be five times as many—50 billion things—connected. And there is $14.4 trillion of potential economic “value at stake” for global private-sector businesses over the next decade, as a result of the emergence of the Internet of Everything.

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Smart Trade: Cisco Is Helping Revolutionize Legacy Trade Practices Around the World

Trade (also known as “commerce,” “financial transaction,” and “barter,” among other terms) involves the transfer of ownership for goods and services from one person or entity to another by receiving something in exchange from the buyer. A network that allows trade is called a market.

Trade originated with the start of communication in prehistoric times. Trading was the main facility of prehistoric people, who bartered goods and services long before the introduction of modern-day currency. Peter Watson traces the history of long-distance commerce to 150,000 years ago (source: The Mediterranean in History, David Abulafia, Getty Publications, 2011).

Practices in modern cross-boundary/country trade have remained relatively static for the past 150 years. The only widespread implementation of technology to facilitate trade has been the advent of phone, fax, and (since 2002) EDI – Electronic Data Interchange (source: “Integration of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI): A Review,” Gengeswari, K. and Abu Bakar Abdul Hamid). More recently, widespread use of email has augmented phone- and fax-based communications.

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