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From Hudson River to Data Center : When Teamwork, Process and Respect Save the Day .

This is my first year as an attendee at the Gartner DC conference.  I’ve been here once before working demos on the tradeshow floor, but this year it’s purely about information gathering.  Tradeshows floors are great.  You get to wander around and chat with a captive audience of your industry peers, partners, and “frenemies” collecting pens and light up bouncy balls.  Based on where the swag really ends up, I think the pen purchasers really need to start thinking about logo branded crayon packs. But there is so much to learn in the conferences even in the most unexpected sessions.

SulleySullenbergerMy primary take aways from the initial keynotes were that Hadoop is a strong early adoption application candidate for cloud in a non-virtual context  (Hadoop in the data center  was recently covered in Jason Rapp’s blog) , that commodity compute is the leader in cloud computing (I cried a little on the inside with this one), and that personnel development and team building/creation is one of the biggest factors in an IT success story.

For day one the celebrity keynote was from Captain Chesley Sullenberger which seemed out of place before listening to him.  His talk about teamwork, process, and respect leading to his success in pulling off that harrowing landing on the Hudson spanned well from the people aspect of organizations, and was a very enjoyable listen.

These take aways seem to me  even more critical as IT organizations have to quickly evolve their data centers to meet demanding  business requirements, without expecting additional resources .

Gartner does a very nice job of interactive polling within their conference.  For the starting keynote the audience poll (~2,000?) revealed that budgets edging up, but for the greatest number of attendees are mainly flat.

It seems that 34% of the audience has to deal with a flat budget, 20% of the attendees benefit from a marginal increase (<5%), and  14% experience a small decrease (<5%)

Talking about data center evolution, as a Cisco guy, I had absolutely to attend (by choice ) David Yen’s presentation.  David is our Sr VP & GM in charge of our DC Technology Group, so he’s the big picture for anything Cisco in the Data Center. He is a Phd, with a very large experience in compute, applications and network, acquired through executive role at Sun Microsystems, Juniper and Cisco. David’s talk was about the evolution of the data center and the relevance of Cisco -You may want to check the blog from Giuliano Di Vitantonio, VP Marketing Data Center and Cloud with slides and videos “ The Evolving Data Center : Perspectives from the Gartner DC Conferences”  In his presentation David Yen covered some of the background for the evolution of the data center model, and the gains to be expected in the fabric model we see through Fabric Path in optimization of the new East/West data patterns.

Multipath

 

This all has a strong relationship to our Unified Computing System solution. Which as a server platform “loaded  with features ” might be perceived at some disadvantage in comparison to commodity compute, we’re happy to see that in reality our customers have placed us at #3 in datacenter compute world wide, and #2 in the US for an implementation that is only three years into the market, thanks to providing strong management capabilities, system agility, and dynamic integrated network functionality, as well as great TCO. As proof points , you may want to check Bill Shields blogs on this topic, but also the Cisco Buil& Price website with promotions of the month.

This Conference gave me also the opportunity to discuss other “more technical ” topics such as security for cloud and virtual services.
So stay tuned, as I will be back in January for additional conversations.

 

 

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The path to mature Infrastructure and Operations is through culture?

As the Gartner Data Center conference in Las Vegas, NV closes, I can’t help feeling a bit of irony in bearing witness to the contrast in culture and atmosphere that this city encompasses relative to the experience many of us have interacting with Information Technology organizations today.

Moving any taboos about Vegas aside, the experience here is about an immersion into a culture of service. From the moment you step into a hotel to the moment you sit down to test your gaming fortunes, your experience is facilitated by professionals whose job it is to ensure you have a good time. Whether greeting you at the door, serving that fine cocktail or dealing your next hand of blackjack, an excellent experience is made possible by people who know how to be of service.

In contrast, many IT organizations today struggle in providing such a positive service experience to those who are seeking to use IT resources for their own productivity. Having some experience of my own in the world of hospitality, I was delighted but not surprised in observing the conference lunch staff have a plan to insure everyone who finished a session around lunch time, was fully accommodated. Each attendee was guided to the next available seat and immediately greeted with a fresh salad, ice tea and warm roll. Careful attention was paid to whether or not I want more or less of something, and if I’m ready for what’s next. Throughout lunch, I experienced a pleasant positive attitude by the attentive wait staff that satisfied my expectations.

What would it take to bring this culture of service excellence to users and organizations? Users of IT resources need the assistance and care of IT professionals so that they can be fully enabled for productivity.

Thankfully, while attending presentations around Infrastructure and Operations, I noticed an ominous theme around what it will take to mature the IT services in organizations today, the message pointed directly to a problem of culture.

In an example of how a change in culture really can transform productivity, Jarrod Green describes in his session, “Kill the IT Service Desk: Create a Business Productivity Team to Transform IT From the Grassroots”, the concept of the Business Productivity Team(BPT). Jarrod discusses business productivity teams having a singular focus on enabling business outcomes through:

1. Extending the capabilities of current and new IT resources
2. Proactive Identification to the solution to a problem
3. Understanding of and alignment with Business Challenges
4. Enabling user self sufficiency and digital literacy
5. Establishing the relationship with the business as a trusted advisor

This savvy service team sounds really excellent! But what does it look like?

consult
It starts with someone who has knowledge of both technical and business processes. Instead of being an expert up the Ivy tower, they meet the user face to face where they are, leading them in solving their technical problems and teaching them about a new feature or way to do their work faster and smarter. Because a Business Productivity team is customer oriented, they earn the ability to influence by building partnerships and driving the consumption of features in current and new technologies that add value.

Wow, I must have stepped into an imaginary organization whose culture expects nothing less and rewards its professionals well! A pretty serious culture change is necessary in order to facilitate this unique capability.

In working with customers during services engagements, I am often asked by CIOs and IT Management how they can facilitate maturing their organization into   becoming a strategic differentiator in the business they support.  When focused on the evolution of customer service, support and the improvement of end-user experience I often refer to the “Fanatical” Customer Support that differentiates Rackspace in being a market leader of data center and cloud services.   Rackspace’s support model encompasses the spirit of enabling productivity and success as the outcome for its customers.

We can speak endlessly about novel technologies that create all kinds of efficiencies and time saved for users. In order to get the most out of the investment in technology, an evolved IT Service desk that drives productivity and end user satisfaction is needed for that next step toward an extraordinary IT organization.  Within the Operate Practice in Cisco’s Advanced Services,  we strive to help customers achieve the goal of operational excellence in the planning, building and management of their IT Investments.

In my coming posts I will share more about what I think the IT organization of the future, enabled by new cloud tools and processes, will look like. More importantly, I want to bring forward what I think a proactive, inspiring and value-creating culture looks like for both IT teams and the organizations who depend on them.

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The Evolving Data Center : Perspectives from the Gartner DC Conferences

I have just come back from the Gartner Data Center conferences in London and Las Vegas where I got to witness the increasing relevance of Cisco in the data center. The critical role of the network to enable the world of many clouds has becomes evident, and Cisco continues to establish itself as an innovator in the server market.  Our vision and solutions really grabbed the attention of the analysts and customers at a level that I certainly didn’t see last year.
Data center consolidation, server virtualization, and converged infrastructure continue to be chief concerns among decision makers.  Emerging topics such as fabric –based infrastructure, hybrid cloud, and network programmability were definitely the focus of numerous presentations and endless conversations.

Cisco continues to innovate on all these fronts, and we had a lot of progress to present to the audiences in London and Vegas.

Three Insightful Conversations 

I’d like to share with you three conversations I had at the Gartner DC Conference in Las Vegas. Two are with the sales and engineering leaders for Cisco Data Center, Frank Palumbo (@fpalumbo) and David Yen, and the third is with one of our partners, Siki Giunta from CSC, who participated on a panel on Cloud that I moderated.

Frank Palumbo on convergence, virtualization, network programmability, and SDN

In the first conversation, Frank Palumbo, VP Global Sales, reports some of the major concerns of the IT organization.  Our conversation covers:

  • The new role of the “cylinders of excellence” — servers, network, storage and security teams — when the goal is to implement a convergence infrastructure;
  • The benefits of deploying unified computing in environments where virtualization coexists with “bare-metal” workloads; and
  • Network programmability and SDN.

David Yen on the evolving data center

My second conversation was with David Yen, Cisco SVP & GM, Data Center Group, who gave a great presentation to more than 600 attendees called “The Evolving Data Center:  Past, Present, and Future.”

David — who brings in-depth knowledge of IT technologies from his years working with Sun Microsystems, Juniper, and Cisco – provides new perspective on the evolution of the data center.
In his presentation David explains how the convergence infrastructure, on the one hand, and network programmability, on the other hand, reshapes the data center landscape to make the world of many clouds possible.
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New Virtualization and Cloud Computing Capabilities at the Allen, Texas Data Center

Cisco IT continues to improve upon virtualization and cloud computing capabilities in its Allen, Texas data center. We have added new capabilities in recent months that improve the self-service features available to users. On the Cisco IT Elastic Infrastructure Services (CITEIS) platform, Cisco’s private cloud, users now have the capability to create virtual machines. Additionally, they can enable middleware such as Apache web servers and WebLogic app servers.

To learn more about what Cisco IT is doing in the data center, check out the quick video below.

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Cisco Validated Designs for Cloud -Part 4-Virtualized Multiservice Data Center 3.0

Over the past weeks, Tom Nallen introduced the concept and benefits of the Cisco Validated Design , then Laszlo Bojtos,  illustrated this concept with the Cloud Service Assurance for Virtualized Multi-Services Data Center 2.2 Cisco Validated Design, with a specific emphasis on the integration with Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud . Finally John Kennedy shared with us the latest news on Flexpod.

jotungThis week , I met Johnny Tung, Systems Marketing Manager for Data Center Solutions, to talk about a very interesting announcement : The Virtualized Multiservice Data Center

” Johnny , can you tell us what Happened to Cisco’s Unified Data Center on Dec 3th?

Well…it just got more interesting! You may have heard of Virtualized Multiservice Data Center. Let me remind you. It is Cisco’s reference architecture for the Unified Data Center. The big news here is that we have just released the 3.0 design. We are introducing Cisco FabricPath into the Unified Data Center network in order to simplify and scale Cloud Ready Infrastructure designs for Private and Virtual Private Cloud deployments.

VMDC

FabricPath simplifies and expands existing data center network design by removing the complexities of Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), and thus enabling more extensive, flexible, and scalable Layer 2 designs. This release marks the introduction of FabricPath-based designs into VMDC;  further FabricPath-related VMDC releases will follow as Cisco develops and evolves its FabricPath offerings.

 What does it mean for our customers ?

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