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Cisco Live – It’s All About Networking

We are just a few weeks away from what has become my favorite event of the year: Cisco Live. I’ve been attending Cisco Live consistently for the last several years and this year I will be attending as a NetVet for the first time. What has kept me coming back year after year and, this time around, on my own dime and time? Well, there’s the World of Solutions where you can see all the new devices with the latest blinky lights, there are the incredible amount of brain melting tech sessions, the keynote sessions, and of course the much anticipated Customer Appreciation Event (really, it’s all about the hat). At the end of it all though, the reason I keep coming back year after year are the people I meet, both new and known, that are my peers in the industry.

The Year was 2008…

My first Cisco Live was in Orlando, FL in 2008. It was, in a word, overwhelming. So many people, so many sessions, and so much information coming at you. Others have said it’s like drinking from a firehose and I would agree completely. It was both awesome and intimidating (especially being of the introverted type as a lot of us are). Twitter and other social media platforms were in their infancy at the time and other than the CAE, WoS, and meeting with your account team it was hard to connect with people. You know how they say New York City is the place where you can be among millions of people at once but be utterly alone? Yeah, it was kind of like that just on a smaller scale. Read More »

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Upcoming Technology Trends at Cisco Live

Cisco Live in San Diego is right around the corner. It’s the place to be to meet with people, learn and to stay current with the technology trends of the industry. What are some of the upcoming technology trends to watch out for at Cisco Live.

Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN)

There is a lot of buzz about Software Defined Networks (SDN), Software Defined Data Centers (SDDC) and everything you can possibly think of and then adding software defined in front of it. Many of these technologies are not mature yet but SD-WAN is a viable technology as of now.

Cisco is realizing the SD-WAN through its technology called IWAN. IWAN is used when connecting to multiple Service Providers (SPs) and can more effectively work in such a setup than with vanilla routing. IWAN can choose the best exit, based on metrics such as latency, jitter and packet loss, which is not feasible with normal routing. It does this through a technology called Performance Routing (PfR). This technology was very complex in the past but has evolved to a much simpler configuration in its current revision. It can also help organizations save money by running DMVPN over the Internet instead of buying more costly MPLS circuits from the SP. Read More »

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Where to learn ACI

I remember walking through Cisco Live last year in San Francisco and hearing all about ACI and the Cisco DevNet program. To be totally honest, I shrugged it off as just something that was trying to get hyped up and would not have any real impact on what I do.

Well…that has changed over the last year for me. What made it change? I guess a desire to learn and grow. I have also seen how learning to code is becoming very important to any IT position. There is a lot of power in the software layer and learning to harness that power is very important to be able to accomplish our jobs. So, with that in mind I have started to learn Python. Why python? I come from a scripting language background with my years as a Windows admin. I never jumped in with both feet, but I did enough to be dangerous. And learning to write code has always really interested me, I just didn’t have a good reason to do it. Now, with ACI and SDN showing promise and no longer buzz words to me I am going to dive in and learn. Read More »

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Importance of naming standards in Cisco Unified Communications Manager

In network engineering I have learned that the biggest lie I tell myself is that “I do not need to write this down.” That being said, when you are in the heat of troubleshooting a production issue I really try to design my systems so that I can tell what the heck something does by a label or good name. This does not replace the need for other documentation, but it does help when you are in the heat of troubleshooting a system problem. As I started supporting Unified Communications applications, I discovered there are lots of opportunities to really create a mess when you are configuring things if you do not keep supportability in mind. I want to share with you some tips that I have found helpful in naming objects specifically in Cisco Unified Communications Manager; however, similar concepts can be used for other network components such as Access Control Lists on traditional network equipment too.

When you are starting with a fresh Cisco Unified Communications Manager install, you have a blank slate. This is both good and bad. Good in that you have a lot of flexibility in the system to configure things, but bad because if you don’t put some thought into naming it can get confusing quickly. Spending some time up-front will save you some headaches down the road. Even if you don’t have a fresh Cisco Unified Communications Manager installation, you can start cleaning things up as you provision new services and go back and adapt what is in the other systems when you have time to do so.

Some of the common things you will configure in Cisco Unified Communications Manager will be: Partitions, Calling Search Spaces, Route Groups, Route Lists, Route Patterns, SIP Trunks, Device Pools, etc. First let’s get started with some basic definitions of what some of common objects are. I will also share some examples of how I like to name things to keep them easily sorted so objects of similar function are grouped together in a long list. These are just examples, and your naming convention will have to be something that works for you, your team and your specific environment. Read More »

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A Tour of Cisco’s Allen Data Center

As a consultant I have seen many different ‘Data Centers’, from Co-location facilities, to in house and well thought out, to a dirty closet that no one was using. Douglas Alger gave us a tour of Cisco’s Data Center in Allen, TX about a month ago. I was expecting to be impressed and I was not disappointed. Cisco has made a commitment to all of their Data Centers at least Leeds Silver certified. The Data Center in Allen, TX is Leeds Gold certified. Also, Cisco tried to use as much off the shelf components as possible so that this model can be replicated to every Data Center.

Outside of the Data Center building

When driving up to the Data Center it was not the usual look of a Data Center. You really have to know where you are going to find it. The building is surrounded by berms 15-20 feet tall. This is doubles as a camouflage for the building, but it’s primary purpose is to deflect tornados from hitting the building directly. If a tornado is heading for the building, the base would have to climb the berms which in turn would cause the tornado to ‘jump’ over the building.

The roof of the Data Center has a high level of wind tolerance, but the building is constructed in several layers. A tornado could take off several of these layers and the Data Center could continue to operate.

There are the typical barriers expected in a secure facility such as fencing, vehicle barriers, cameras, and a bicycle rack. Yeah, a bicycle rack. Part of the Leeds certificate is the ability for alternate modes of transportation to the office. Installing a bicycle rack and shower inside was an easy way to get additional points for the Leeds certification. Read More »

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