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Limitations of a Software-Only Approach to Data Center Networking

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I want to address some questions about VMware’s NSX virtual networking announcement that have been asked of us by the media and social Web commentators in the past few days. Specifically, they have asked  why Cisco did not announce support for NSX and whether the announcement changes the long-standing strategic relationship between our two companies.

First, let me be clear: VMware is an important partner to Cisco, and we expect to continue our close collaboration around private cloud and desktop virtualization.  As we outlined yesterday in a joint news release about Cisco and VMware’s mutual customers, thousands of organizations rely on our combined innovation in their businesses each and every day and I look forward to continued success in this area.

While we share a common vision for private cloud and desktop virtualization, there are significant differences in our visions over the future of networking.

Network virtualization is important. We both agree on that. In fact, over the past several years, we have delivered game-changing innovations in this area particularly with the Nexus 1000v and more recently with NFV solutions, both of which are key elements of the Cisco ONE portfolio. Today, more than 6,000 Nexus 1000v customers benefit from the flexibility delivered by our virtual networking technology.

However, a software-only approach to network virtualization places significant constraints on customers.  It doesn’t scale, and it fails to provide full real-time visibility of both physical and virtual infrastructure.  In addition this approach does not provide key capabilities such as multi-hypervisor support, integrated security, systems point-of-view or end-to-end telemetry for application placement and troubleshooting.  This loosely-coupled approach forces the user to tie multiple 3rd party components together adding cost and complexity in day-to-day operations as well as throughout the network lifecycle.  Users are forced to address multiple management points and maintain version control for each of the independent components.  Software network virtualization treats physical and virtual infrastructure as separate entities, and denies customers a common policy framework and common operational model for management, orchestration and monitoring.

Cisco has a different strategy and that is embodied in the Application Centric Infrastructure.  Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is an innovative secure architecture that delivers centralized application-driven policy automation, management and visibility of physical and virtual networks.  It’s built upon a fabric foundation that delivers best-in-class infrastructure by combining hardware, software and ASIC innovations into an integrated system.

The architecture provides a common management framework for network, application, security and virtualization teams — making IT more agile while reducing application deployment time.  It’s built for multi-tenancy ensuring proper isolation and detailed telemetry of SLAs across different consumers of the infrastructure while also providing a consistent security policy across both physical and virtual applications.  ACI allows IT teams to offer a public cloud experience and economics to their customers while maintaining the associated SLAs and performance requirements for the most demanding business applications.  It’s an open programmable architecture with a comprehensive set of APIs that enables the broadest ecosystem of datacenter management and L4-7 services.  Finally, ACI enables comprehensive investment protection by leveraging existing IT teams’ skillset and infrastructure to lower overall TCO.

I recently wrote a blog post about how Network Virtualization is a Different to Server Virtualization as we think about the next chapter of networking.  It’s key to remember that underutilized compute resources created the opportunity for server virtualization. Underutilization is not a problem in the network. In fact, server virtualization is pushing the limits of today’s network utilization and driving demand for higher port counts, application and policy-driven automation, and unified management of physical, virtual and cloud infrastructures in a single system.  Businesses today are looking for more from their investments as they turn on new services and applications more quickly, in a way that is easier to manage and that can scale with applications needs.

We believe that delivering those benefits requires the flexibility of software coupled tightly with the performance and scalability of hardware and ASICs. That’s what we’re delivering with our Application-Centric Infrastructure vision and throughout the entire Unified Data Center portfolio.

Stay tuned for some exciting news from us in this area in the next few months.

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Introducing Cisco SingleConnect Technology

August 27, 2013 at 1:22 pm PST

singleconnect1

When customers talk about why they like UCS they often sum it up in very concise terms. “It makes things a lot easier,” is a common refrain. But if you ask a Cisco technologist what’s good about UCS you’ll get a much more lengthy reply, probably more than you wanted to hear. :) That’s because when anyone fully describes all of the innovations in the solution, “under the covers,” so to speak, which conspire to bring about UCS benefits, they quickly find themselves reciting a rather long list of complex advancements. As I spend time in our booth at VMworld this week I hear both of these accounts of UCS. The long (how it rocks) and the short (why it rocks.)  As luck would have it, some intrepid UCS product marketers have taken it upon themselves to bridge this yawning gap in the UCS lexicon.

First, remember that UCS is an outcome of starting with a clean sheet of paper and designing a system to rectify all the random acts of system architecture that had come before it. It’s also an outcome of a completely revolutionary way of approaching computing: not from the perspective of the constituent technologies but from the perspective of fusing them all together. UCS was expressly designed to eliminate the DIY integration that customers have been faced with for years. It was designed for a world of virtualization, automation and cloud. Fundamentally, UCS was designed to connect all the dots.

With the connections in mind, we’re introducing a technology ingredient brand into the UCS lexicon: Cisco SingleConnect Technology.

SingleConnect is a term intended to encapsulate the aggregated benefits of several key UCS technology components as they relate to server connectivity: Cisco Fabric Interconnects, Fabric Extenders, Virtual Interface Cards and Virtual Machine Fabric Extender Technology (VM-FEX.) Related technologies like the Nexus 1000v suite and Cisco’s virtualized network services also come into view when we talk about connecting physical and virtual servers in the data center.

Each of these deeply sophisticated products plays a specific role, but taken altogether they create an elegant result: a simplified, uniform and extremely powerful connectivity model for servers and virtual machines. SingleConnect is way for us to describe how all of these together result in one connection for:

• LAN, SAN, and systems management

• Rack servers and blade servers

• Physical servers and virtual machines

SingleConnect, very simply, is the easiest, most intelligent and efficient way to connect and manage computing in the data center.

SingleConnect is Easy: UCS is a “wire once and walk away” solution that eliminates many of the traditional time-consuming, manual and error-prone tasks required to connect servers and virtual machines in the data center. UCS with SingleConnect is self-integrating, with automated and dynamic configuration of server I/O and networking components over a common connection. UCS centralizes administration, eliminating dozens of switching and server management points found in traditional environments while radically reducing cable management complexity.

SingleConnect is Efficient: SingleConnect Technology combines three network layers into one: top of rack, blade chassis and hypervisor switching. It also combines LAN, SAN and server systems management networks on a single fabric. Modular fabric extenders deliver capacity from a centralized fabric interconnect (single point of management) to as many as 160 servers, replacing all the Ethernet and FibreChannel switches typically deployed in much smaller server increments. Server I/O adapters (NICs, and HBA’s) are consolidated onto a single Virtual Interface Card, eliminating cost and simplifying administration.

SingleConnect is Intelligent: SingleConnect technology creates a virtualization-aware system, providing seamless VM mobility and advanced security capabilities for multi-tenant environments. I/O capacity is dynamically allocated across physical and virtual machines in the system in accordance with QOS policies, eliminating the need for manual administrator intervention and simplifying troubleshooting. Deterministic, low latency switching delivers industry leading bare metal and virtualized performance for traditional multi-tier application environments and cloud workloads alike.

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Cisco SingleConnect Technology is not a specific product or feature, it is a way to describe how a deliberate roadmap of innovation solves against one of the oldest computing problems in the data center: “how do I connect all this stuff together?”

With SingleConnect!

If you’re at VMworld in San Francisco this week, stop by the Cisco booth and we can give you demo of how SingleConnect brings it all together.

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Cisco vPath Technology Enabling Best-In-Class Cloud Network Services

vPath, a Cisco innovative technology developed within Cisco Nexus 1000V, has been shipping for more than 2 years, enabling customers to seamlessly create policy-based multi-tenant / multi-container Data Centers across multiple hypervisor environment. Increasingly, customers are implementing network services into their virtualization and cloud networks in order to meet regulatory, security and service levels. To this end we are seeing increased deployments of virtual firewalls, load balancing, routing, WAN optimization & monitoring tools. Cisco’s vPath technology allows customers to deploy these best-in-class network services seamlessly in their Data Center and Cloud deployments. So, what makes vPath so unique in this industry?

#1 -- vPath Powered Service Chaining at a tenant level: For customers to create multi-tenancy architecture today, they have to configure the different network services and manually “stitch” them together for every unique combination. While this method provides the goals for regulatory compliance, security and service levels it often increases application provision time, and does not easily support application mobility. Additionally most applications have to follow the same manually stitched network services.

With Cisco Nexus 1000V vPath technology, the customer’s Data Center becomes very agile by enabling policy based services chaining at the application or tenant level. Customers can create policies and select the L3-7 virtual services appropriate for the application at the time of VM or Tenant creation. These policies are then dynamically instantiated and fulfilled in the Nexus 1000V distributed virtual switch.  If the particular application VM moves, the Nexus 1000V network policy moves with it and hence the service chain remains intact.

Figure 1: Policy based dynamic service chaining through vPath

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 #2 -- vPath enables Distributed Cloud Network Services: As noted in the picture above, vPath controls the packet flow through all Services that are chained for that particular policy. Once the first few packets of the flow is inspected by each Service node, vPath offers the capability to off load flow decisions of the particular Service to the local host such that the subsequent packets of the same flow are locally inspected at the host. Through this mechanism, vPath improves the performance of the particular service since the subsequent packets of the flow are no longer required to be inspected by the individual Service node and hence enabling distributed behavior of the particular service.

Figure 2: Distributed Cloud Network Services through vPath Fast Path Offload

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#3 -- vPath offers Best-In-Class Cloud Network Services across multiple hypervisors: vPath enables the customers to use the best-in-class Cloud Network Services from Cisco such as Virtual Security Gateway, ASA 1000V & virtual WAAS, and best-in-class ecosystem partners such as Citrix NetScaler 1000V & Imperva Secure Sphere Web Application Firewall.  This vPath enabled architecture will be supported across all major hypervisors such as VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM and Xen. 

#4 -- vPath to become a standard based Network Services Header: In traditional fashion, Cisco creates innovative solutions to help solve our customer’s IT challenges. Once proven, we offer these technologies such as VXLAN through standards bodies to allow greater interoperability and choice. Recently, vPath header format has been submitted to the IETF as a Network Service Header draft.  In the future customers will be able to leverage dynamic policy based services chaining including both virtual and hardware based solutions that support Network Services Header! 

To learn more about Cisco Nexus 1000V and Cloud Network Services, please visit our community site. Create a Cloud Lab account and checkout out the vPath in action today!

Lastly, if you are at VMworld, make a point to attend our sessions PHC6409 and NET6380, or stop by at the Cisco booth.

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Speaking proposal submissions for OpenStack Summit – Voting is Open!

Cisco celebrated OpenStack’s 3rd birthday recently by releasing the Cisco OpenStack Installer for Grizzly. This blog post has more details.

The OpenStack foundation organizes a four-day OpenStack Summit every six months for contributors, enterprise users, service providers, application developers and ecosystem members. It facilitates the community to gather, discuss and present on several different streams ranging from keynote presentations and general sessions to workshops and developer sessions for planning the next OpenStack release. The next OpenStack Summit will be held in Hong Kong from November 5th to the 8th 2013 at the Asia World-Expo. The number of attendees for the Summit is expected to be around 5000 people.  More information on the Summit and how you can register to attend is available here.

Speaking proposals are submitted by the community from anyone with an idea or topic they would like to present. The proposals are voted on by the community to secure a slot in session track. Submissions for the OpenStack summit general sessions closed on July 31st 2013 and are now available for vote.

As compared to the Portland summit that had 250 proposal submissions [you can view session videos from OpenStack Portland Summit here, the Hong Kong summit has more than 600 submissions. There are a lot of great proposals but only the best and most popular will make it to the Summit. The approved sessions typically get recorded and are available for viewing online as well.

Cisco’s OpenStack team submitted several proposals that highlight our involvement and contributions to OpenStack. The table below lists the proposals along with a link to the abstract and speaker details.

Products & Services
Technical Deep Dive
Apps on OpenStack
Getting Started
Operations
Community Building
Workshops
Related OSS Projects

Community voting is open now and if you are interested in any (or all) of the above proposals, please vote for them here. The voting is open until Sunday, August 25th 2013. Please note that you do need to be an OpenStack Community member in order to vote; If you are not currently a member, you can easily register for membership via the OpenStack website.

Stay tuned for more updates, as we get closer to the OpenStack summit.

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CISCO UCS BLADES DEPLOY 77% FASTER THAN HP BLADES

August 16, 2013 at 9:52 am PST

Deploying new servers is a routine task in data centers. Whether it is tied to server refreshes, net new compute initiatives or to an expansion of existing compute capacity, adding new servers can be a time consuming activity for IT personnel.  This server deployment process has historically been very manual, with many solutions requiring:

  • Multiple tools or scripts
  • Repeated human interaction by the server team throughout the deployment process
  • Coordination of activities across server, networking and storage administrators for every server deployed.

All of these add to complexity, increase time to production, increase costs, and unavoidably increase the potential of human error.

What is needed is a dependable, repeatable process that automates and streamlines server deployment activities. This lets IT staff to devote their time to more value added activities which improves operations and productivity, yielding a much better TCO picture. Automated, fast, efficient, scalable management and infrastructure -- this is where Cisco UCS and UCS Manager excel.

The efficiency of Cisco UCS server deployment is tied to UCS Manager. Cisco took a unique approach to computing and focused on the common  point of interaction, the fabric. Servers don’t operate in isolation. They are part of a total environment that at the minimum encompasses servers, networking, management and storage – a Fabric Based Infrastructure .  Cisco’s comprehensive and efficient architecture is the key to why customers worldwide are rapidly adopting UCS.

This detailed paper (below) does a side by side “time to deploy” evaluation of the Cisco UCS B200 M3 and the HP BL460c Gen8. The strength of UCS and UCS Manager for automation is clear in the ease of use and lack of complexity.UCS Deploys 77 Percent Faster
Below is a new time lapse side-by-side video --  B200 M3 is 77% Faster Blade Deployment vs. HP BL460c Gen8.This new video (July 2013) illustrates the Business Advantage of the Cisco UCS Unified Compute, Unified Fabric and Unified Management -- Cisco’s Unified Data Center. Comparing this video to the one we did for the B200 M2 is 47% Faster Blade Deployment vs. HP BL460c G7 (May 2011), Cisco UCS Manager has shaved a full minute off the deployment time for two blade servers and still only takes 14 steps to set up the automated process. HP’s time to deploy increased dramatically and is still very serial nature with lots of manual inputs.

For information on how UCS and UCS Manager integrates with other major systems management tools follow this link UCS Manager Ecosystem Partners and for interoperability see the UCS Interoperability page.

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