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I <3 Fibre Channel

I was reminded this week of how much perception is driven by perspective.  In this case, it was because of our advocacy of FCoE.  I was exchanging messages with one individual who interpreted this as an attempt to undermine Fibre Channel (FC) and send it to an early grave.  At the same time I was exchanging messages with someone else who felt we should not be wasting out time on FC and be spending more time and effort on IP-based storage.  Needless to say, I found the contradiction entertaining, but I thought it might be worthwhile exploring these sentiments a bit.

“Doesn’t Cisco want to get rid of Fibre Channel?”

This one is easy–nothing could be further from the truth.  We are committed to FC for the long haul because, simply, our customers are committed to FC. At the end of the day, in the enterprise, FC is still the standard against which other solutions will be judged for performance and availability. Even if customers make the decision to adopt IP-based storage, there is going to be a huge amount of data thats going to stay in the FC domain.  It may stay put or be migrated slowly as part of normal refresh, but the end result is that FC is not going away anytime soon. From our perspective, we will continue to invest in FC as long as our customers tell us its important.  Lest you doubt that, look at the updates to our Cisco MDS family over the last year and also remember that we still sell gear with Token Ring interfaces.

“Why spend time on Fibre Channel protocols?”

This is a fine question.  To paraphrase bank robber Willie Sutton, we’re investing the time in FCoE because that’s where the data is.  One of our primary data center design tenets is a unified fabric at the access layer for its TCO and functional benefits. We are agnostic about how you do that, whether its via IP-based storage or FCoE.  From a practical perspective, as noted above, for most enterprise customers, their data is sitting in an FC domain, so any convergence strategy needs to take that into account. And while the storage folks may not care what we are doing at the server access layer, they are certainly not looking for their lives to be made any more complicated.  Hence, we have FCoE.

At the end of the day, storage strategy shouldn’t be technology-dependent.  The next-gen data center is going to need to support the ability of apps to grab data wherever it happens to be sitting: on IP-based storage, FC-based storage, or in a cloud somewhere, which is what we are ultimately helping our customers prepare for.

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Holiday Gifts from the UCS Elves

So the UCS elves have been busy and just released version 1.4 of our UCS firmware.  Instead of summarizing the elements of 1.4 here, I’ll refer you to a most excellent post by my cohort M. Sean McGee (@mseanmcgee) which you can read here.  A couple of my favorite new features include integration of the C-Series rack servers into UCS Manager, chassis and multi-chassis power capping on the B-Series, and a number of networking enhancements.  You can find the full release notes here, but I’d suggest you start with the blog post first–kinda the Cliff Notes version.

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Holiday Gift Ideas for Your CEO

So, regardless of how demanding or finicky your CEO might be, I can guarantee three things he or she wants to find under the metaphorical tree this season:  faster growth, higher margins and lower risk.  Now, many IT are going to respond to this list by saying a) that someone else’s job and/or b) I can’t effect that stuff anyway.  To response “A” I would argue that its everyone’s job.  As far as response “B”, I would argue that you most definitely in a position to impact growth, margin and risk, but its a matter of connecting the dots.

One of the driving forces behind Data Center Business Advantage was to help the CIO and his/her organization link their IT investment to business impact.  From my own personal experiences, I find that IT folks tend have a great handle on technical benefits (32% brighter and shinier) and operational metrics (five-nines uptime) but often fail to establish how they have made life better for the company: what is the difference between four-nines and five-nines in terms of revenue impact, customer sat, or regulatory policy exposure–and is the return worth the investment.  Case in point:  a couple of years ago, I come home with a new AppleTV.  Now I am a geek at heart and my wife puts up with me showing up with a lot of new gear, so I have a pretty good idea of how this will play out with her:

  • Eye-roll
  • Question: “How much did THAT cost?”
  • Muttering about growing up and finding better things to spend the money on like new curtains or cat beds

However this time, things looked a little different… Read More »

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Digging into Cisco Data Center Business Advantage

About a month ago, Cisco announced our Data Center Business Advantage architecture. Within the architecture, we highlighted several areas:

  • Business Value which can be derived from IT investments in the Data Center
  • The breadth of our Open Ecosystem that helps us deliver solutions to customers today
  • Solution Architecture that brings together Unified Fabric, Unified Computing and Unified Network Services
  • Cisco Technology Innovation across multiple Data Center domains
  • A complete set of Data Center Services that can rapidly drive customer success

Now that the fall trade show season is complete and people are done watching headlines and back to running their businesses, we thought it would be useful to take a deeper dive into Data Center Business Advantage. Read More »

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What does a Company look like with Cisco’s Data Center Business Advantage architecture?

[Part I of our blog series on Cisco Data Center Business Advantage. Part  II, III, IV, V, VI]

The IT department plays an interesting role for most companies. They deliver the digital face of the company via the corporate website. They process orders, collect revenues and manage corporate assets via the ERP, CRM, SCM and other 3-letter acronym systems. They enable collaboration within the company via Phone Systems, IM, Video Conferencing and Wikis. And they enable users to watch clips on YouTube on the iPad brought in from home because HR told them they needed to create a more Gen-Y friendly environment to aid in recruiting.

As we read the lists of the most admired companies, it’s easy to see that almost all of them use technology at the core of their business to drive innovation or differentiation themselves from their competition. These businesses realize, in the 21st century, technology is no longer a supporting function. Technology is a strategic competency that can drive change faster than any element of the business.

But when we put these two things together, why are so many people frustrated with their IT department? And why is the IT department so frustrated with their own ability to deliver the capabilities that create headlines and move companies to the top of admired lists? Read More »

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