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Our Ecosystem Begins Here @Ciscocloud

As Cisco prepares for Cisco Live Melbourne #clmel, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight our @Ciscocloud Intercloud partnership with Telstra

The following Q&A session between executives of our partnered companies identifies the unique challenges of our current business environment and the rapidly changing needs of our customers. Interviewed by Stuart Robbins, the participants in our inaugural blog are Ken Owens, Cloud Services CTO from Cisco, and Tim Otten, GM Cloud Strategy and Platforms from Telstra.

Q: Cisco’s strategy is to create solutions built upon intelligent networks that solve our customers’ challenges. As a key technology partner, Telstra’s diverse customers present unique opportunities for a new generation of solutions for those customers – can you tell us about how our combined capabilities will help those customers be successful?

[Otton, Tim J] Networks are increasingly important to the delivery of services as we shift to “the Cloud,” and the concurrent profusion of data, workforce mobility, distributed application environments, and the hybrid infrastructures supporting those applications. Both Cisco and Telstra are committed to delivering highly secure, high-performance intelligent network capabilities.

These networks must be thoroughly responsive to an ever-changing set of user and application requirements – adaptive, flexible, and resilient. Both companies have a rich tradition of global insight gained from a relentless focus on customer requirements.

[Owens, Ken] Telstra is one of the industry’s most advanced solution providers, with a noteworthy history of successful technology transformations in telecommunications. From the earliest days of IT outsourcing, and managed hosting, and now as we shift to the Cloud, Telstra has provided true leadership to the industry during these transformations.

Like Cisco, they view their customers’ strategic objectives as Priority 1 and will do whatever is necessary to make their customers successful. For more than 25 years, Cisco and Telstra have guided the market through each new technological shift, with exceptional people leading the way.

Q: One aspect of the changing enterprise landscape is the “blurred” boundaries between large enterprises in business ecosystems. While the basic principles remain important (resilient architectures, reliable networks, responsive applications), what are some of the emerging challenges in this “ecosystem first” world?


[Otton, Tim J] The business landscape has changed. Cloud, Mobility, Social Media, advanced analytics, and open platforms are also changing the landscape for service creation and innovation. Increasingly, service creation will emerge both within and beyond (intra- and inter-organizational) boundaries to better serve a growing number of mobile users and a project-oriented workforce.

In order to support connectivity as well as enable full integration with many external partners and providers, businesses are now required to ‘open’ their IT environment. Increasingly, organizations are choosing to expose their own systems and proprietary data to third-parties, creating “greater value” by encouraging innovative use of a company’s intellectual assets. Software applications are distributed, both geographically and architecturally. All of these factors alter the connectivity/security paradigms of traditional enterprise IT.

[Owens, Ken] Tim is right on, and the exciting element of this model is that it’s driven by the customer! This is not a consumer fad or one-time remodel, this is the pace and speed by which business must adopting to the requirements of their customers and the rapidly changing marketplace. A successful business today requires a flexible set of services and capabilities to quickly adapt to this changing landscape. Together, Cisco and Telstra have a proven track record of enabling innovation to address the changing needs of the businesses we support.

Q: Providing exceptional products and services to Enterprise IT is familiar territory to both Cisco and Telstra, and this common ground is one reason why the Cisco-Telstra partnership makes great sense. As we move beyond IT, we’re also being asked to directly address the needs of business departments (marketing, product management, customer support). How do we adapt to meet those needs?


[Otton, Tim J] We need to develop a deeper understanding of the different “lines of business” within the Enterprise. We need to better understand what drives their business and the market environments in which they operate. In other words, we need to become an enabler of business solutions rather than simply selling more technology. Our focus needs to be increasingly on the business outcomes we can deliver to our customers.
We need equip our sales teams to communicate those solutions, to be able to engage customers in conversations that start with business issues and proceed from there to provision enabling technologies rather than starting (and often finishing with) technology alone.
At the same time, we need to better support IT departments so that these services can be integrated into the overall Enterprise network architecture- – -ensuring that these distributed services are secure, and optimized to perform reliably. Telstra and Cisco need to be seen as enabling partners, and not just suppliers.

[Owens, Ken] The needs of the business can be vast, complicated, and rapidly evolving to meet the needs of a changing marketplace. Cisco and Telstra are leaders in business transformation. The key to success in this ever-changing environment is to provide leadership with speed, agility, innovative leadership to assist each customer’s ability to adapt to the changes. Of course, Tim’s right, we also need to help IT executives quickly transition not only their technology, but also their processes and practices.

Q: The recipe seems simple enough = one part: exceptional technology with the associated expertise, and one part: an evolved partnership methodology (i.e., Partnership 2.0) that will serve as the foundation for what our companies can accomplish together.

One last question. Imagine what success looks like for the joint Cisco-Telstra effort in two years: what are the core behaviors/values that we’ll be most proud to have embraced, when we glance back? In other words, what are the central organizational principles that will serve to anchor this new style of ecosystem development?


[Otton, Tim J] My vision for the partnership is that we have developed an advanced understanding of the requirements of stakeholders – whether it be IT, LOB, or end-users – within the customers we served and are singularly focused on the business outcomes that we can jointly deliver for our customers.

[Owens, Ken] The demands of Enterprise 2.0 require an infrastructure that is both elastic and reliable, flexible yet secure. Organizations, too, will require those very characteristics. To accomplish this,“Governance 2.0” and “Partnership 2.0” become framework components of that new ecosystem in service of our customer’s transformed world. As Tim stated, the business outcomes and continuously delivering business value are the key principles.

Thank you Tim for you time to discuss the joint journey we are embarking on.

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How a Traffic Jam in Hong Kong Gave Me Hope

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to China and South Korea to meet with Cisco customers and partners. The meetings went well, but it was clear that these countries share what seems like a universal condition afflicting so many cities all over the world: traffic.

I know what you’re thinking, “Traffic? Really?” Fair enough, but bear with me on this one.

Admittedly, the traffic may have been top of mind for me because of a recent advertising campaign Cisco unveiled foreshadowing the last traffic jam. The irony is that sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in Hong Kong gave me time to think about this in a more critical way.

Why, in today’s modern, technology-advanced era, have we not yet discovered a way to avoid traffic or at least control it? Sitting idle in traffic for many is an accepted daily annoyance, but it can also present serious consequences to the welfare and economy of many people and organizations. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that traffic costs $124B in lost productivity, fuel waste and higher prices for goods as a result of higher transportation costs. Multiply this by a global factor, and you begin to get the enormity of this so called “annoyance.”

At Cisco, we’re focused on creating solutions that deliver business outcomes for our customers: faster decision-making, lowering costs, increasing productivity, etc. Being close to Cisco’s data center solutions and the company’s Internet of Everything vision, I got to thinking how we’re not that far off from leaving the traffic jam in the dust.

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The Executive Value of Cisco’s Data Center Day

Cisco IT is excited to be hosting its third Data Center Day in Allen, Texas this year on April 14th. Last September, Data Center Day was attended by 144 customers from 75 companies. With registration now open this event is expected to fill up fast!  Read More »

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VXLAN/EVPN: Standards based Overlay with Control-Plane

Given the tremendous interest in VXLAN with MP-BGP based EVPN Control-Plane (short EVPN) at Cisco Live in Milan, I decided to write a “short” technology brief blog post on this topic.

VXLAN (IETF RFC7348) has been designed to solve specific problems faced with Classical Ethernet for a few decades now. By introducing an abstraction through encapsulation, VXLAN has become the de-facto standard overlay of choice in the industry. Chief among the advantages provided by VXLAN; extension of the todays limited VLAN space and the increase in the scalability provided for Layer-2 Domains.

Extended Namespace – The available VLAN space from the IEEE 802.1Q encapsulation perspective is limited to a 12-bit field, which provides 4096 VLANs or segments. By encapsulating the original Ethernet frame with a VXLAN header, the newly introduced addressing field offers 24-bits, thereby providing a much larger namespace with up to 16 Million Virtual Network Identifiers (VNIs) or segments.




While the VXLAN VNI allows unique identification of a large number of tenant segments which is especially useful in high-scale multi-tenant deployments, the problems and requirements of large Layer-2 Domains are not sufficiently addressed. However, significant improvements in the following areas have been achieved:

  • No dependency on Spanning-Tree protocol by leveraging Layer-3 routing protocols
  • Layer-3 routing with Equal Cost Multi-Path (ECMP) allows all available links to be used
  • Scalability, convergence, and resiliency of a Layer-3 network
  • Isolation of Broadcast and Failure Domains

IETF RFC7348 – VXLAN: A Framework for Overlaying Virtualized Layer 2 Networks over Layer 3 Networks

Scalable Layer-2 Domains

The abstraction by using a VXLAN-like overlay does not inherently change the Flood & Learn behavior introduced by Ethernet. In typical deployments of VXLAN, BUM (Broadcast, Unicast, Multicast) traffic is forwarded via layer-3 multicast in the underlay that in turn aids in the learning process so that subsequent traffic need not be subjected to this “flood” semantic. A control-plane is required to minimize the flood behavior and proactively distribute End-Host information to participating entities (typically called Virtual Tunnel End Points aka VTEPs) in the same segment – learning.

Control-plane protocols are mostly employed in the layer-3 routing space where predominantly IP prefix information is exchanged. Over the past years, some of the well-known routing protocols have been extended to also learn and exchange Layer-2 MAC addresses. An early technology adoption with MAC addresses in a routing-protocol was Cisco’s OTV (Overlay Transport Virtualization), which employed IS-IS to significantly reduce flooding across Data Center Interconnects (DCI).

Multi-Protocol BGP (MP-BGP) introduced a new Network Layer Reachability Information (NLRI) to carry both, Layer-2 MAC and Layer-3 IP information at the same time. By having the combined set of MAC and IP information available for forwarding decisions, optimized routing and switching within a network becomes feasible and the need for flood to do learning get minimized or even eliminated. This extension that allows BGP to transport Layer-2 MAC and Layer-3 IP information is called EVPN – Ethernet Virtual Private Network.

EVPN is documented in the following IETF drafts

Integrated Route and Bridge (IRB) – VXLAN-EVPN offers significant advantages in Overlay networking by optimizing forwarding decision within the network based on Layer-2 MAC as well as Layer-3 IP information. The decision on forwarding via routing or switching can be done as close as possible to the End-Host, on any given Leaf/ToR (Top-of-Rack) Switch. The Leaf Switch provides the Distributed Anycast Gateway for routing, which acts completely stateless and does not require the exchange of protocol signalization for election or failover decision. All the reachability information available within the BGP control-plane is sufficient to provide the gateway service. The Distributed Anycast Gateway also provides integrated routing and bridging (IRB) decision at the Leaf Switch, which can be extended across a significant number of nodes. All the Leaf Switches host active default gateways for their respective configured subnets; the well known semantic of First Hop Routing Protocols (FHRP) with active/standby does not apply anymore.

Summary – The advantages provided by a VXLAN-EVPN solution are briefly summarized as follows:

  • Standards based Overlay (VXLAN) with Standards based Control-Plane (BGP)
  • Layer-2 MAC and Layer-3 IP information distribution by Control-Plane (BGP)
  • Forwarding decision based on Control-Plane (minimizes flooding)
  • Integrated Routing/Bridging (IRB) for Optimized Forwarding in the Overlay
  • Leverages Layer-3 ECMP – all links forwarding – in the Underlay
  • Significantly larger Name-Space in the Overlay (16M segments)
  • Integration of Physical and Virtual Networks with Hybrid Overlays
  • It facilitates Software-Defined-Networking (SDN)

Simply formulated, VXLAN-EVPN provides a standards-based Overlay that supports Segmentation, Host Mobility, and High Scale.

VXLAN-EVPN is available on Nexus 9300 (NX-OS 7.0) with  Nexus 7000/7700 (F3 linecards) to follow in the upcoming major release. Additional Data Center Switching platforms, like the Nexus 5600, will follow shortly after.

A detailed whitepaper on this topic is available on In addition, VXLAN-EVPN was featured during the following Cisco Live! Sessions.

Do you have appetite for more? Post a comment, tweet about it and have the conversation going … Thanks for reading and Happy Networking!

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Capitalize on the Windows Server 2003 Migration Opportunity

Infographic. Modernize Your Data Center with Windows Server 2012 R2. July 2014-1Today’s IT leaders want more from their data centers – and their technology partners. Customers want their technology partners to work together to deliver integrated solutions that enable business innovation. They can’t be limited by aging infrastructure and legacy platforms. With the end of support for Windows Server 2003 rapidly approaching, Cisco channel partners have an opportunity to help their customers migrate to a modern data center solution based on Cisco UCS and Windows Server 2012 R2.

Microsoft will end support for Windows Server 2003 on July 14, 2015. After this date, security updates will no longer be available and customers will be exposed to significant compliance and security risks. With millions of Windows 2003 servers still in production, channel partners have an opportunity to grow their UCS and Microsoft revenue with value added services including:

  • Design and manage the migration of customer environments from Window Server 2003 to Widows Server 2012 and Cisco UCS
  • Design and manage server consolidation projects
  • Plan, build, and manage the transition to Microsoft Private Cloud on UCS integrated infrastructures

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